Question from a reader:
"My partner and I are both working from home right now. It's great to spend more time with each other but our personalities are very different. That used to be a good thing but right now, they are driving me crazy. He is more extroverted and is missing spending time with friends. I'm introverted and need my alone time, which I feel like I can't get right now! Because as soon as I'm done working for the day, he's ready to hang out. And I know he is needing that people time so I feel like I have to do it. But what's missing is time for me. But when I say that, it hurts his feelings. What do I do?"
Great question! We're obviously living through a weird time and it's putting unique pressures on our relationships.
One thing that I've found amongst my couples is that people usually choose a partner that has a complimentary personality to their's. You know how they say opposites attract? It's kind of like that, but a little less extreme. You and your partner probably have a lot of similarities and things in common, but your core personality types are probably different. Hence, the "opposite." If you are more of a homebody type, you probably are with someone who is more social and extroverted. Part of the reason why you chose that person is because when you are with them, they bring out that more social, outgoing side of you and that makes you feel good. The reverse is true is well. You brought out that stay-at-home, cuddle, Netflix and chill side of them, and that makes them feel good too.
However, when your forced together in this unique time of having to stay home all the time and neither of you are fully getting your needs met, then a discrepancy occurs. He's not getting his outgoing social needs fully met and you aren't getting your alone, quiet time needs fully met. So you are both living in a state of feeling that loss.
Here's what I would suggest. Have a frank conversation about it. Say just what I said above. "I'm more introverted than you and what re-charges my battery is time alone. It seems like what re-charges your battery is time together. I love you and want to help you get what you need right now. So let's think of ways we can do that."
Then, create plans for how you will each get your needs met. Some ideas off the top of my head are everyday when you "get off work," you spend an hour alone in your room. During that time, he could be on a video call with friends or family. Then when you come out, maybe the plan is you make dinner together and then go for a walk together.
People ask me all the time if creating plans like this is "okay." I think what they are suggesting is that it might mean something negative about their relationship if they have to create a plan for how they will be together. From what I've seen with my couples, when they have a plan, they are far more likely to rise to the occasion and have a good interaction. They have problem-solved for common issues that come up in their relationship (we all have them!) and they both know 1) how to be and 2) what to expect. They have set themselves up for success.
So have a conversation and create a plan. Don't let your different personality types come between you, embrace them. It is a good thing you are different. With a little planning, you can figure this out.
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Corrin Voeller is a couples counselor in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. She does in-person and online counseling and coaching with couples and individuals to improve the relationships in their lives. She specializes in couples counseling, marriage counseling, discernment counseling and sex therapy. She lives with her husband, two children, and extremely fat dog.
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