Boyfriend wears out his welcome FAST – can this introvert have a normal relationship?

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Dear IntrovertZone,

I’ve always been an introvert and this was all well and fine till I came of the age where romantic relationships get more serious.

My problem is that I start to get anxious and irritable if I’m around my boyfriend for more than five hours at a time. I begin to pick out tiny faults or physically withdraw from him basically, I’ll do whatever I can to get him to leave with out saying it. The poor guy has to drive an hour to see me so, I find it hard to say the words, “Please just leave me alone”.

It is very “jekyll and hyde-esque”; I’ll be bubbly and happy when he first arrives and suddenly it’s like a switch has been turned and I just want him to get out. Believe me, this is not an issue of him doing something to irritate me that sets me off.

All of my relationships have been like this. In my last relationship living with my ex wrecked the relationship. At one point he said something that is still haunting me, “how can you ever expect to be married or have kids if you don’t even like sharing a bedroom and being around the one you love?”. And I wonder to myself, “how can I?”.

My lovely extrovert takes me with a grain of salt but I can see that it’s hurting him. I feel so guilty about not being the standard “I-want-to-spend-every-minute-with-you” girlfriend. When I googled phrases like “why do I need time away from my boyfriend” all that came up was posts about girls being upset about their boyfriends wanting time away….yeah not a great feeling.

And before you ask; yes I have had (and am on) medication for my anxiety and yes I have had a therapist. There’s no history of abuse in my life, I had a normal childhood…I’m just stupidly introverted(

Signed,
An introverted girl in her midtwenties

Photo credit: polandeze

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24 Comments

  1. There is nothing stupid about being introverted. I have told my partner that I will not share a bedroom with him. I need my own space period. That is just how I am. He needs to be around his family all the time…I need my own space. If he cannot take the time to read and study and learn more about your introverted needs then both you and him need to move on. He needs to be around a lot of stiumuli…you need your space and quiet. I don’t expect to share that which I need to function…my own room with a door that closes. You are comparing yourself to other typical relationships and no relationship is the same. Just like there are no two people who are alike. Nor are there any two plants, animals, etc, who are exactly alike. Normal does not exist. You need to communicate this to your boyfriend. That you cannot tolerate spending but a few hours every week with him. That if he needs to go out and see other people…that it’s ok. Encourage him to spend time with his friends. Just because we are in a relationship does not mean that we can ditch our friends, nor does it mean that we have to change our extra activities to match those of our partner, nor does it mean that you and your partner have to spend all of your time together. You need your space. You need your own room with a door that closes. So what if he travels an hour just to see you. that is his choice, not yours. do not take responsibility for others choices. Like I said, you need to find a way to communicate your introverted needs to your current boyfriend.

    • So what if he travels an hour just to see you. that is his choice, not yours. do not take responsibility for others choices.

      I think that this is a little harsh. Yes, the boyfriend decides to travel to see her, but I’m assuming that the letter writer doesn’t have an issue with this. And also, she has chosen to be with someone who has to travel to see her, at this point, so the both of them have made their decisions to be in this relationship. And if the boyfriend is taking that time to travel to see her, he does deserve to get some attention, but like you said, she also needs to communicate that he should maybe have other things planned to do while there, so that they won’t be spending every minute together, in each others spaces.

      • Well, my first thought is: have you told him, straight out: “I am an introvert. I can only handle five hours of togetherness at a time”?

        If you haven’t told him that, then you are not playing on a level field, because you know what’s up, and he doesn’t!

        “Introvert” does not equal “bad person,” and you have a right to the way you feel, all of which comes with being an introvert, but you really don’t have a right to let him continue to wonder what’s going on if you don’t tell him! Well, I suppose you have “a right” but is that a good thing to do? Nope.

        Looks like your choices are: suck it up and put up with the longer weekends when you dread every hour past five (this is guaranteed to eventually crash and burn), or speak up and let him in on the secret of why you are acting the way you do. You might be surprised at how adaptable he is to this idea, but you will never know if you don’t tell him.
        gharkness´s last post ..Concordia Disaster Brings Out the Lawyers!

  2. Hi, I actually think that it is great that you are thinking about this issue. What your ex-boyfriend said to you, also stuck out to me, because I really do think that it is something to think about, especially the part about having kids. If you are the type of person who needs a lot of time to yourself, maybe having kids is not the way to go. Kids take up a lot of a person’s time and energy, and this is especially true if the child/children are high spirited and have a lot of energy, like my daughter. If you have a strong need to be alone a lot, then having kids puts a damper on that, right from the get go, and it’s better to think about this and the things that you will and won’t be able to deal with, BEFORE deciding to have a child. And also, not having a child is not a bad thing. If you decide that you don’t want children because of your personality traits and over all temperament, then that is your decision to make. People try to make others feel guilty about deciding that they don’t want children, but at the end of the day, those people won’t have to deal with the children on a daily basis, you will. And to be really real, there are parents out there who regret having children, because they realize some of the things I mentioned, after having kids.

    About your romantic relationships, I think that as an introvert who needs a lot of time to yourself, you need to establish with the man in your life, that needing time a lone is a need that you have, so the person that you are with, needs to have hobbies, interests, a social circle outside of the relationship, and basically things to do that don’t necessarily have to include you. So when you need time to yourself, he can go off and do something on his own or with friends. The two of you don’t have to do everything as a couple. It’s better to have separate interests, as well.

    • JW,
      I agree with your response to kgm’s comment above and 100% support and agree with your post here. I have been married for 5 years to an extrovert and we are slowly but surely figuring out a good balance of together and alone time…and I am finally comfortable with him going out and have fun while I stay home…it is so nice to finally be at peace with this because I used to feel guilty and embarrassed about it. We fortunately both agree that we do not want kids. I am astonished at how many people assume that everyone who is married will have kids and flat-out ask me when we will be having kids. We are very excited about what life will bring us without children…travel, hobbies, and moving into a condo downtown with huge windows and a great view. 🙂 Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Don’t panic! You just need to stop dating extroverts, that’s all. My husband and I fit together perfectly; when I come home from work, I like to watch TV, eat, workout, shop, whatever. My husband works 12 hour days and when he comes home, he likes to read the paper, do a crossword puzzle, work some more, etc. We get along swimmingly, since he wants to be away from me just as much as I want to be away from him, lol. Another thing that helps is not having kids, and not living in a small space. Our house is fairly large, so he can do one thing while I do another and we never even have to see each other. Plus we have two bathrooms so he can leave the seat up as much as he wants and I can leave my hair on the floor as much as I want without us losing our minds. Mealtimes are when we chit chat and what-not, but it’s not a constant annoyance.

  4. Well, I have to admit, I’m an introvert but not quite at this level. I can be social and all but eventually need to take a breather to recharge.

    I know it might be hard since he travels to see you, but have you tried asking, “How can I spend time with my boyfriend while still getting my alone time?” Yeah, it sounds stupid and simple, but I’ve found just asking a more constructive question can give better answers sometimes.

    Maybe you decide that “structuring” your time with your boyfriend might help. What I mean is that every 3 hours or so, you are able to go off on your own to recharge. Then after 10 or 20 minutes you are ready to be social with him again. I don’t know all your situation, but I’m sure you can find some ways to do this. It’s great to get suggestions and advice, just don’t sell your own intuition short. People have lived successfully as introverts for all time. You can do this too if you find a way that works for you!
    Dean @ Conversation Skills Core´s last post ..Free Video Series Now Live: “Secrets to Rockin’ Social Skills & Self Esteem”

  5. The OP of this post on

    First of all, I just wanted to thank everyone for responding (I didn’t expect to get so much good advice so fast-please keep it coming!).

    I probably should explain that why he has to drive so far is because I go to college in a rural town and I live in the dorms there. When I’m not in school I live pretty close to him. My dorm is a single bedroom (obviously since I knew couldn’t handle having a roomate) so, there isn’t anywhere for him to “go”.

    If I am lucky enough to have an hour after five hours I happily recharge and return back to my normal self. I could see him every day if I had these intervals.

    I am with an extrovert because he brings me out of my shell. I’m in the animal medical field (trying not to give too much info as I don’t want to be recognized) and it is the hardest program in the school. To academically survive you basically have to have your nose in the books six-eight hours a day (perfect for an introvert!). There is so much pressure that it’s not uncommon for people to drop out due to nervous breakdowns. I NEED my extrovert to make me laugh, make me get out of my dorm room, and help me understand extroverted people (the fact that his skill area is the animal that makes me piss-frightened also helps).

  6. Hi OP,

    I’m also extremely introverted, and I get the draw of dating someone more extroverted than yourself. It brings a balance to the relationship and can add things to your life that wouldn’t otherwise be there. Granted, there are people who mesh better romantically with other introverts, but I always find that I’m drawn to people toward the other side of the energy scale.

    That said, I think it’s key to find ways to be around my partner without actually draining my social energy. For example, I’m way happier when I’m with someone who’s okay with being in the same room but not engaging in active conversation. If I can sit for a bit and read a book or do work while my partner does some activity of their own, that really increases the amount of time I can be around someone without a break. I had a very long-term relationship that ultimately ended in part because she wasn’t able to have that kind of together-but-independent time. Is that something you and your boyfriend attempt at all? Some extroverts really hate it, and in my experience that’s the key that makes me either compatible with someone or not.

  7. I’m pretty introverted, more so as I get older. I still can’t figure out my husband as far as introverted vs extroverted. I think he’s just less introverted than I am with some extrovert tendencies. Anyway, we’ve been together 7 years now and we’re still figuring it out. Like another commenter said, not every relationship is the same so don’t compare any of yours to anyone else’s. I have never wanted to be around anyone all the time, so I can’t relate to those who are like that, but whatever. To each his own. I don’t worry about it. I didn’t start out this introverted at the beginning of our relationship, so be prepared to change and be prepared for your partner to change as well over time. You just have to adapt. You are who you are and if you need space, you need it and if the guy can’t accept it, then he’s not a good fit for you, period. There’s nothing harsh/wrong/weird about that. No matter what, whether you are introverted or extroverted, acceptance is part of a healthy relationship. If you talk to him about your needs as an introvert and he tries to change you or wants you to change, then it’s time to bail. There is nothing wrong with your need for time alone. The one for you will understand and have no problem with your need for space.

    • This is such good advice. So many people think that the relationship comes first, and individual personality comes second. If the two personalities don’t mesh, then the thing to do is try to shoehorn one or the other of the people – or both – into the personality. In actuality, to achieve maximum happiness for both parties, it’s the other way around.

      It’s so true that it may be possible this is not the person for you. Or, you may not be the person for him! Neither of you should feel guilty or upset. You are what you are and the person who understands this – THAT is the person you are looking for 🙂
      gharkness´s last post ..Concordia Disaster Brings Out the Lawyers!

  8. Sounds really a big problem for both of you. Anyway, if he really loves you he will extend his patience and understand you but had you already asked yourself if you’re really happy with your relationship with him because if its not better to have your separate ways.

  9. I think the first step is becoming comfortable with who you are. It is obvious that you aren’t.

    The second step is to find someone who understands who you are. I’m the same way with my wife and kids. I NEED them to go away at times. It’s not that I WANT it, I really need it.

    Once you become comfortable, everything else will fall into place.

    Do you think this guy is the one? If not, dump him and work on your relationship with yourself before getting into one with someone else.
    John | Married (with Debt)´s last post ..Thought Leader: What Makes One?

  10. This sounds like a hard situation, but I agree with one of the statements above. If you boyfriend is coming to visit you, he must be okay with it. I think as long as he accepts you for who you are, things can work. It just might require some extra patience on his part.
    Lee @boiler repair charlotte´s last post ..Hello world!

  11. OH, MY, GOD. I really appreciate your post! I sound a lot like the male version of you! My girlfriend is a bit on the high energy side, and she constantly needs to be around people (usually me). And she just doesn’t understand that I need time for me – And just me. So we constantly fight. She leaves, I feel bad and convince myself that I’m overreacting, she’s a great girl, and I want to be with her. But then a few hours later I’m being driven nuts again! Nothing I’ve tried has helped… And I’m at a loss. Any advice you learn would be greatly appreciated.
    Ryan@How to Improve English´s last post ..Five Effective Tips for Improving Your English Grammar

  12. I’m highly introverted, probably around your level, and I live in a house with five other people. Granted, I’m not in a romantic relationship with any of them but I completely agree with something someone (I think Mary) said, and I think it applies to any close relationship that an introvert has. I find it far easier to be around my family for long periods of time if we can be in the same room without interacting the entire time. I can work on my writing or read a book, or do the other things that I enjoy doing by myself, and my energy is not drained nearly as fast. I’m still satisfying their needs to be around me while getting my alone time without actually having to be alone.

    As far as the other person (in this case your boyfriend) goes, it’s just a matter of establishing those boundaries and making him understand that if he wants to be with you a lot then he needs to respect your need to withdraw every now and then, even if it’s only mentally. Let him watch something on TV while you sit and read a book or do whatever it is you like to do. I even find it helpful simply to sit on the opposite side of the couch to get a little physical distance every now and then. If all of this doesn’t work, and if you have an ipod or mp3 player, put it on and close your eyes and take yourself out of the room for a while. But make it clear to him that during these times you would appreciate it if he wouldn’t disturb you.

    A quick caveat here. Be sure to let him know that this has nothing to do with him because you wouldn’t him to take it the wrong way. Tell him straight out that it’s just the way you are and alone time is what you need. If you don’t explain why you pull away he might begin to think he’s doing something wrong, and when an extrovert is involved it’s been my experience that their reaction to this misunderstanding is to cling to you even harder rather than backing off a little, and that won’t be good for either of you.

    As far as the comment from your ex goes, it might be something worth thinking about. I have no intention of having kids because I know how demanding they are and I know I don’t have the capacity for it. But many people live fulfilling lives without ever having children and its nothing to be ashamed of. If, however, you do want kids someday then you’ll adjust to that demand. You’ll recalibrate yourself and you’ll figure out a new balance and you’ll be fine. But I think getting your personal dynamics of a romantic relationship down first is probably key.

    It’s not supposed to be easy. Above all, talk to your boyfriend. Communicate. Extroverts don’t speak our silent introverted language. If you’re both serious about the relationship then the two of you will work it out. Good luck. 😉

  13. Have you even tried telling him what you feel? The more you keep something to yourself the more it will be difficult to handle. Try sharing your thoughts to him. Tell him what you feel or how you feel whenever he is around. The moment that you let it out. You’ll be surprised that slowly things are getting fine.

  14. Yep. I TOTALLY have felt the same way about my boyfriend. I can be so happy and enthusiastic for the first hour or two together (usually), but keeping up enthusiasm and conversation is exhausting and pretty soon I just want to be left alone. Sometimes I also get irritable, but then I just get upset at myself because the irritability is usually irrational as my boyfriend is the most wonderful person I know. I’ve thought about explaining my introversion to him, but I tried to once a long time ago and could tell he thinks intro/extroversion is a silly theory that isn’t important… everyone feels both ways at different times. Well, I wish he was right and I could feel extroverted more often… cause being introverted has so far just made me feel like a wierdo!

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