Many people don’t take me seriously when I say I am an introvert. Only a few know me well enough to know that I am. Those that don’t should click this The Guardian link and take another look at me, for I’d rather stay in and read a book than attend a party. I’m also the type of person who seeks out a few close friends rather than be lost in a crowd. And I’m the sort of person who avoids conflict if I can, even if doing so causes me short-term discomfort.
On the other hand, I can be very dominant in a group situation, especially if I am an expert on the subject being discussed. (Other introverts take note: one way of beating the jitters you get when speaking in groups or to the public is to sink yourself deep into the pursuit of knowledge and absorb all you can.) I can also lead by example, motivating my subordinates by mucking in, and I am very happy in a senior management role that calls for quick thinking and snap decisions (it appears I’m like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and other introverted leaders in that extent).
But how do I then manage my relationship with an extrovert like Rebecca? After all, she is the life and soul of every party she goes to, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Watching her work a room from a quiet corner and seeing her sparkle, smile and laugh, and lead each group she flits to is one of my joys in life.
Well, it turns out that introverts and extroverts are often relationships made in heaven. The introvert can taper the excesses of the extrovert and help him or her be more reflective and quiet, while the extrovert can help the introvert function better in social settings and get some self-confidence in a world that tends to shout.
But it’s not always easy and there has to be some give and take. As an introvert, I tend not to want to do basic stuff, like go out and meet new people, which can be upsetting for Rebecca if I voice my discomfort or disquiet with a simple social engagement. I also take comfort in routines and in the familiar. So not surprisingly, she is then reluctant to tell me about certain things until the last minute, as she knows I will feel this way. This does not an easy life make, but I feel we’ve turned a few corners recently.
An good illustration is the past few weekends. The one before last, we were in Bali preparing for our wedding, during which I was comprehensively ill with Bali belly and overloaded with meeting people and doing tons of stuff. We then flew back to Jakarta on the Monday morning and I went directly to a meeting and then to the office.
The next day was the 16th birthday of Rebecca’s brother, Aldo, so her mum and auntie were here, along with the birthday boy himself. Thursday saw Rebecca staying out all night so she could be ready for the wedding itself on the Friday morning (the first night we’ve been apart since mid-December).
Then on the Friday, after a stressful Friday at work, we rushed onwards to sign some legal documents and were late(ish) back. On Saturday we were up at 6:30am with hair/makeup and a photographer in the room for our pre-wedding photo session that day. On Sunday night, we attended the wedding reception of one of Rebecca’s best friends—a traditional Islamic wedding, so about a thousand people, plus dancers, band, speeches and all sorts of sober merry-making.
Work has sent a few challenges my way, too, just to keep me on my toes. But this is all me, me, me, it seems, and Rebecca and I are not a “me”, we are an “us” (I will resist the “no ‘I’ in team” cliche). And so I always support her when I can, and with good reason, of which this past weekend was an excellent example of lessons to be learned.
I had the BEST time of my life at the pre-wedding shoot, made a great new friend and we took some fantastic, amazing photos. At the end of the day, we relaxed together and I swam while Rebecca had a massage. On the Sunday, even though I was sick, we went to the wedding reception together and I had some fun and laughs with Aldo, who’s a wise but somewhat cynical old soul (like me). And at the end of the day, we got to relax and be together and watch CSI Supreme Sunday.
The point is, I made the effort and was rewarded. If I’d followed my introvert instincts and stayed away I might not be getting married in three weeks. But I did both and was happy; I even feel less sick now since I forced myself to go out, had some good food and fresh fruit and then slept well.
Most of all, I know I need to worry less and to trust Rebecca more in the way she organizes our life. And while this sometimes takes effort for an introvert like me, I know she goes out of her way to ensure that I am not overwhelmed, especially after a hard day’s COO-ing. She knows I need my space and my quiet time, but at the same time, I really do know now that she needs me to be at her side and supporting her and to be the husband and partner I need to be from time to time. And when I do and am, I get a shot in the arm of confidence, too.
All these things need to be win-win situations for all. In our case, without knowing each other as well as this, our relationship might fail or falter. And knowing this sort of emotional detail about each other simply brings us closer together, which is all we can ask for from each other.