Are you a single Catholic? Meet Your Match Today [close]

Dating & Relationships

I am a textbook introvert. On the CatholicMatch temperament spectrum, that makes me some combination of melancholic and phlegmatic. After reading a discussion about temperaments in the forums, I read a few books and articles on introversion. I began to see just how misunderstood I’d been for most of my life — particularly when dating.

The most fundamental separation between introverts and extroverts is how they gain energy, feel most comfortable and creative and are best able to concentrate. Extroverts fulfill all those needs through interactions with others. They are the ones who are upbeat and outgoing, embracing a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. Introverts, on the other hand, tend to have a small circle friends who are much closer than, and distinct from, their acquaintances. Introverts gain energy in quiet spaces, preferably in a state of contemplation and intense concentration. The introverts among us are the artists, writers, researchers and mathematicians who need solitude to work. 

I found out that there aren’t many of us. Introverts make up only about 25 to 30 percent of the population. That means the dominant personality values its own qualities: social, bubbly, loud, high-spirited.

The problems start when one temperament doesn’t understand the other. And I find that while many introverts understand the extrovert, simply because it’s the prevailing temperament, the reverse is not always true. Here are a few of the misunderstandings about the introvert:

  • Myth: Introverts are shy. This appears to be true to some extent because they are often the wallflowers who decline invitations to get into the mix. 
  • Reality: Introverts often prefer to be the detached observer. I find people-watching fascinating, so while it may appear that I’m gazing at the crowd like a lonely outcast, I’m actually having a great time.
  • Myth: Introverts are anti-social.
  • Reality: Introverts are hesitant to engage in needless social interaction. Some don’t like small talk and prefer to tackle subjects with depth and meaning. Others simply prefer their internal world to trivial talk. If you’ve ever been chatting casually with someone whose eyes are glazed over, it’s likely that you’re talking to an introvert who would rather discuss 19th-century aesthetics or the future of new media.
  • Myth: Introverts are daydreamers who can’t handle reality.
  • Reality: Introverts understand the usefulness of their own imagination.

One of my dearest friends gave me a compliment that I treasure. She said, “You live in the world of ideas.” Our imaginations can be used to solve problems, be creative, explore possibilities and — perhaps most importantly — empathize with others.  

 

Troubles with men

One way all of these myths affected me was in my dating experiences. Over the years, I’ve heard “Why so quiet?” and, “Are you upset? Something must be wrong if you’re not talking.” I have never understood that correlation. 

I’ve also heard things akin to  “Where are you?” “What are you thinking?” and the occasional (and infuriating) “What’s going on in that pretty little head of yours?”

“What are you thinking?” has become a loaded question for me. I figured out, through trial and error, that if I talked about what I was actually thinking, most people would lose interest or not understand or think I was crazy. I was right about that most of the time.

When I did respond, I’d hear things like, “Why would you think about that?” with an almost accusing tone. Sometimes it was simply, “That’s…interesting”, accompanying a blank stare and a moment of dead silence.

My personal favorite: A man I was seeing was always inquiring about my thoughts because he claimed I was the smartest person he knew. So I told him.

His response? “You think too much. You’re overthinking things. You need to get out of your head.” First, excuse me? Second, thinking too much? How else does one become the smartest person you know? 

Here are three perfect examples of how my introversion led to dating disasters:

 

1. On a first date, we cozied up with a bottle of red in a bar. We were in a booth next to a window that overlooked the busy streets and it was pouring rain. People were ducking and darting everywhere in a rushed panic. I began to wonder what would make them slow down instead of speed up. The property of the rain itself would have to be different.

So when he asked, “What’s on your mind? You look deep in thought.” I blurted out, “What if it, like, drooled instead of rain? I mean, what if rain was the consistency of drool, or something more…gelatinous?”

His reply: “Ew! What’s wrong with you? That’s disgusting!” I tried to explain that I didn’t mean actual saliva, rife with germs. But he’d already mentally packed up his toys and went home. We drained that bottle of red quickly! And if it wasn’t obvious, he never called. 

 

2. Another date, another guy: We went to a bar after seeing a concert, where he asked what I thought of it. My critique was that the band was a watered-down version of themselves. I likened it to Baudrillard’s simulacra — at which point I was interrupted by the slam of his pint of beer onto the bar. He yelled, “I don’t want to know about any simulacra!” and prompted departed to the men’s room. I still have no idea what warranted such hostility.

 

3. And my all-time favorite: We’d had a great time at the Metropolitan museum, followed by dinner at a local Italian place. I ordered the potato gnocchi. It was so delicious, and I was marveling at the incredible versatility of potatoes…and then he asked it.

I said, “Don’t you think potatoes are, like, the Meryl Streep of the root vegetable kingdom?”

Dead silence.

His face lost all evidence of joy and he glowered at me, “No. I don’t.” He didn’t speak to me unless it was practical information, like how I was getting home.

 

So when it became a pattern for all my dates, I concluded that something was wrong with me, not them. I’d also concluded that “What are you thinking?” is the equivalent to “How are you?” It’s small talk, a social nicety. People want simple answers; they really don’t care about innermost thoughts.

Other patterns I’d come to see as issues in my relationships centered around the introvert/extrovert clash.

A big point of contention is the introvert’s need for quiet and stillness. Unless I’m actively engaged in listening, I can’t stand having music on as background noise. I don’t own a TV – which is often a deal-breaker in itself – but if I did, I would never have it on just for the sake of sound. I cannot tolerate the extra stimulus; to me, it’s distracting and irritating.  

Also, if I was really honest about where I wanted to go on dates, it caused problems. My staunch refusal to go to loud bars or nightclubs, and my disdain for huge, raucous parties, crowds, chaos and noise was met with hostile resistance or utter confusion. So I often conceded, and within an hour, I would suffer from sensory overload. I needed days of solitude to recover! 

Once I was past dating and into a serious long-term relationship my beaus never understood that need for solitude. They’d taken it as some kind of alienating, passive-aggressive mixed-signal thing.

It’s not.

I just need time alone to regain energy, refocus myself and preserve my spiritual core. It has nothing to do with the other person. But it had become a grave misunderstanding many times. 

My marriage was a prime example of this clash of temperaments. In our home, the TV was always on, a radio always played in another room. There was a constant stream of family or friends visiting; our guest bedroom was never empty. A bottle of wine was always open; food was always on the table, and the sounds of chatter and laughter was constant. Even our wedding night was accompanied by 15 other people!

As much as I loved my ex-husband and his crew – and still do, as close friends – I don’t think we spent more than a few days alone during our entire marriage. It was an extrovert’s dream.

Meanwhile, I was constantly having to answer, “Why are you so quiet? What’s wrong?” My need for solitude drove me to take up long-distance running. My marriage ended with me still gravely misunderstood but in the best shape of my life.

The most important thing I learned while reading about this clash of temperaments was I shouldn’t have taken any of the negative reactions personally. It was simply a failure to understand a different temperament, not a criticism of me as a person. After years of feeling misunderstood, I am finally comfortable in my selectively quiet, still self.

I now know that the friends to seek out, and the man to hold onto, are the ones who are comfortable with my silence and are also genuinely interested when I want to talk – and perhaps, God willing, even have a real conversation with me. 

 

 

Post script

On the very first phone conversation I had with someone new – an artist – I asserted that brussels sprouts should always be BFFs with fennel. He didn’t agree, but he fully understood what I meant.

On our first date, I re-told the rain/drool story, and he replied, “See, I think that’s a very cool thought.”

Could it be? Here’s hoping!

(This post has been read 5,814 times)

25 Comments

  1. Donna-124681 April 10, 2012

    As a former paid member I found it frustrating that someone could not read what I wrote if THEY weren’t a paid member. If I pay to have the opportunity to write….. then that should include having it being read. And IF the other person wants to write back – then they can pay for membership. This is one of the reasons I haven’t renewed my membership.

    • Donna-83441 April 10, 2012

      @Donna… In the early days the recipient could read your message. The problem was that you as the writer could put your personal information into your correspondence and have the recipient contact you off site…I can tell you this happened a lot.. It is not safe for one thing. But people did it anyway. I have free memberships on several sites and some of them are so tight these days that you cannot even see the identity of who has browsed you without a paid membership, let alone read a message.

  2. Claudia-490212 April 10, 2012

    I also have learned never to reveal what I’m actually thinking

  3. David-364112 April 10, 2012

    Rain as drool???? Ack!!! Do introverts like gross stuff?

    Have you read this? http://www.thepowerofintroverts.com/

  4. Stephanie-746866 April 10, 2012

    Wow! Explains so much about what I’ve dealt with over the years! Thanks Kate!

  5. Ramona-738757 April 10, 2012

    Once again Ms. Perry I thank you!
    You’ve described some of my past relationships to a “T.” The funny thing about us introverts is that we can sense another early on. And, it almost makes one uncomfortable. It is like, “How dare you intrude on my private space.” LOL. The introvert is very sensitive to generalizions and assumptions because, this is their life 24/7. And, when they try to explain their feelings or ideas on a topic be careful if you are explaining to an extrovert. You are taken as ‘barking mad’ or not liking them.
    I will treasure this blog…to bad I can’t use it in my profile. It explains so very much about me. Thanks, once again.

  6. James-17080 April 10, 2012

    Hi Catherine et alia,

    As another textbook introvert, I can relate to what you’re saying. I’m one of those people who always has his head in a book, or am doing something on my computer, when I’m not enjoying a migraine. My interests are not literary, but scientific and historical. This may surprise some who think I live just to crack heads in STM. It’s true, I do get pleasure out of doing that. For me, a day without beating someone up in STM is like a day without sunshine. But I was always interested in science, ever since I opened up that wonderful Time-Life book The World We Live In, 50 years ago. I was a wide-eyed 7 year old yongster, and I devoured the book, without fully understanding everything.

    Cate, you mentioned how men acted when you sprung your metaphors on them. I can relate to that. Whenever I was on a date and started talking about science, my date would get all glassy-eyed on me. It happened almost every time.

    Ladies and gents, we introverts are the ones who developed the hardware and software which allows you to enjoy the fruits of our labour. We may be quieter than you, but we love just as deeply, if not more, than you. Please cut us some slack.

    James ☺

  7. Ramona-738757 April 10, 2012

    Oh, and on another note:
    Sometimes it is difficult for others to discern when we are sad or simply wish to be alone. No matter how quiet we may become. It can be misunderstood as drama, brooding etc. How about asking? “Assuming” one is really concerned.

    • Claudia-490212 April 10, 2012

      I’ve been accused of “spacing out” or “going off in my own little dream world” even my parents don’t get it which forces me to be even more quiet and spend even more time on my own.

    • Carol-737878 June 16, 2013

      Thank you Cate for sharing these thoughts and especially for sharing your personal experiences.
      In reference to what Ramona shared, I would add that this one guy kept asking whenever I was quieter than usual, “Are you dumping me?” It finally came to the point where I could truthfully respond, “Yes!” I found it intrusive when he would ask, “What are you thinking?” especially when it was at the very beginning of our relationship.
      During my marriage, my spouse just couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to continue celebrating if we went out to eat on our anniversary, etc. or that I just wanted to go home before midnight (when he was just getting wound up) when we were at a party, etc.
      It’s true, we introverts should not take it personally when the extroverts simply don’t get it (us)! Yes, we might need an extrovert for balance, but, please, God, one who UNDERSTANDS & appreciates us for our uniqueness.

  8. Donna-83441 April 10, 2012

    This brought to mind my youngest child constantly asking me “Are you mad?” as we would be on a long drive somewhere.. I would be lost in my own thoughts and go “HUH?” MAD?.. He never got it then and still doesn’t..

  9. Stephen-725391 April 10, 2012

    For those who have read my posts on the forums and WONDER, this is a perfect place to inform you of my temperament as determined by the CM questions on the subject and found in my profile. Before I do, you can be certain that I DO endeavor to form human and spiritual foundational control over my temperament, with that said – read what CM has determined my temperament to be:

    Choleric / Melancholic cm

    The choleric-melancholic mixture combines two passionate and persevering temperaments to create a strong leader with the ability to envision a great plan of action — someone who is both meticulous and strategic. The tendency of the choleric to make hasty, often sweeping judgments will be tempered by the melancholic’s careful analysis and reflection. The tendency of the melancholic to be moody, hyper-critical, and slow to act will be counter-balanced by the optimism and practicality of the choleric. Thus, the choleric-melancholic will be capable of decisive — yet well-thought-out— action and will be thoroughly productive.

    If you are a choleric-melancholic, you will have a quick, analytical mind, possibly with a great attention to detail, with a strong sense of order and discipline. You will be more extraverted than a pure melancholic or a melancholic-choleric, and you are able to take on more projects and accomplish more things than a pure melancholic would be capable of. Furthermore, your pragmatism will receive the additional value of noble and high ideals, so you will likely be a very conscientious employee. You will likely have a strong analytical mind, holding other people and institutions to high standards. Both the melancholic and choleric temperaments retain their impressions for a long time—so you will have the capacity to persevere in achieving your goals—as well as holding onto to a grudge and being unforgiving!

    Driven, yet self-sacrificing and a lover of truth, the choleric-melancholic can accomplish great things. Without human and spiritual formation, however, this mixture can result in an individual who is proud and obstinate, with deep anger and resentment. They can be opinionated, critical, and judgmental. The quick intelligence of the choleric combined with the tendency to think they are always right, might make those with this temperament mixture autocratic, moody, arrogant, and anti-social.

    We imagine that St. Paul was choleric-melancholic: He was intense, focused, driven. He was not one to value relationships above rules. He disagreed with St. Peter on several occasions (as he wrote to the Galatians (2:11): “And when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he clearly was wrong”) and even parted ways from his fellow missionary Barnabus, because Barnabus wanted to bring along John Mark, whom Paul said had deserted them at Pamphylia (Acts 15: 37-39).

    If your temperament is choleric-melancholic, for a better understanding of your temperament it is recommended that you read the full descriptions of the choleric and melancholic.

  10. Tessa-694373 April 11, 2012

    If dating doesn’t work out…you could always become a monk-:)

    • Stephen-725391 April 11, 2012

      In the history of the Church when it DIDN’T grant annulments, that is how a lot of monasteries and convants were filled!

  11. Ramona-652361 April 12, 2012

    Great post, I loved everything. Thanks for sharing. I too am in introvert and have had some of the same experiences with others. I like myself, but I sometimes wonder why am I an introvert, why am I different. Then I think, I like being different, I wouldn’t be happy not being me. Yes, here’s hoping that “the artist” will be the one and that rain will remain rain.

  12. John-49562 April 23, 2012

    Thank you for this wonderful article, Cate! I, too, am an introvert! I’ve always preferred being alone in my room with a book, than many other endeavors! I’ve also seen myself. Thanks again, for writing this article. It was so insightful.

    • John-49562 April 24, 2012

      Ooops! In my reply I said “I’ve seen myself!” What I meant to say was that I see myself in many of your descriptions! I also don’t look upon reading as an endeavor, simply as an activity.!

      But overall, your blog was very interesting. I’ve just finished reading a book called “Quiet” The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. Great book; very insightful! Have you read it?

      Anyway, thanks, again, for writing this blog.

      John

  13. Elizabeth-865631 June 17, 2012

    Amen!

  14. Angela-304987 July 11, 2012

    Looks like I’m an introvert as well. And I agree with the author – there is a big difference between being shy and just being quiet or introverted.

  15. Suzy R. August 28, 2012

    “Once I was past dating and into a serious long-term relationship my beaus never understood that need for solitude. They’d taken it as some kind of alienating, passive-aggressive mixed-signal thing.

    It’s not.

    I just need time alone to regain energy, refocus myself and preserve my spiritual core. It has nothing to do with the other person. But it had become a grave misunderstanding many times. ”

    Oh. My. God. This is EXACTLY the root of my failed marriage and I wish I could have found a way to impress on him that it wasn’t some slight against HIM, just that I NEED alone time in order to decompress. He never got that, and it always became a blame game where he accused me of not loving him anymore, not finding him “attractive”, that I was cheating, etc.

  16. Mary-439715 September 1, 2012

    Thank you, Catherine. I could SO RELATE to what you wrote. It comforts me that I’m not alone, as an introvert, in this very busy (and noisy) world. Outnumbered, but not alone.
    You helped me to accept who I am and to recognize how to protect my need for peace and quiet.

  17. Debbie-514749 June 16, 2013

    Die hard, double introvert here too…. *sigh* …

    It’s taken nearly my whole life to learn how to understand & work with this awkward temperament, but now I am very grateful Our Good Lord made me the way I am… There is a wealth, a beauty, a richness & understanding in the interior life. Also, once I got past the sensitivity that can drive a soul crazy… that same quality allows one to instantly empathize with others to offer true solace & relief. It allows for visions of beauty where none are readily apparent.

    But most important… that comfort with silence makes it a little easier for us intros to hear “the small quiet voice” where God speaks directly to the soul. It’s a struggle alright… this introverted temperament, but oh so rich & worth while…

    Thanks for the very insightful article Cate…
    His Peace to all…..

  18. John-260388 June 17, 2013

    Great article. I was recently at a Bible study, it was running long, and people were begging for a break (to go to the bathroom, or just have a mental break). Finally, we reached the natural break in the video, we all gave a sigh of relief, and the host immediately put on a long video of the Pope’s visit to Detroit. I actually got angry inside! “You promised us a break, that includes a break from all background noise, distractions, or topics of conversation! We want to shut down our brains from processing input for a few minutes, or talk 1-on-1 with someone.” OK, that is what I was thinking but didn’t say it. Then after about 45 min. of that, I asked “When are we going to finish the study?”. They responded, “Oh, it’s too late, we will do the second half at our next meeting”. Then they kicked us out because they had an early start the next day. Me, in my head, said “You made me sit through 45 minutes of that for nothing”. Because for an introvert, hours and hours of group talk with no quiet and no 1-on-1 serious deep conversation is pure hell. But thanks to this article, I don’t think I am nuts for thinking that.

  19. Mark-1073273 April 28, 2014

    Very interesting…My temperament test shows me as 88% choleric and 12% melancholic. I find that, based on the descriptions, my 12% melancholic nature seems quite understated. I’ve generally been comfortable in larger groups and even a significant contributor. However, I will always leave any such event – whether professional or personal – feeling absolutely drained and exhausted. I would often fight against my nature and force myself to attend these social functions and, admittedly, often enjoy myself and being glad that I went but the fatigue and sense of being spent ALWAYS followed. I’m no true introvert but, perhaps am an even more unusual and misunderstood type. I’m one who is PERCEIVED to be very extroverted and outgoing when, in fact, I’m much more comfortable and “powerful” on my own. The seemingly extreme contradiction is one that people have a very hard time understanding and accepting. One advantage that it has provided me, however, is a much better appreciation of both true introverts and extroverts. We all are different mixes of various temperaments that make us all unique. What I find utterly critical in any relationship – professional, parental/sibling; friendship or spousal – is the ability and willingness to communicate (both listening AND speaking) in an effort to help those with whom we interact to better understand “what makes each of us tick” and to help eliminate so many of these misunderstandings that many of you have mentioned. Good Luck to all of you!

Post a comment

To post your comment please login:

-OR-