Are you an extrovert and is he an introvert – or vice versa? Are you highly social and like to go out and party? Is he a stay-at-home and watch a movie kind of guy? Are you tired of staring at the same walls at home and want a change of scene?
Does being with a group of your close friends pick up your spirits? Is he uncomfortable in mixed company? Does he not like to socialize in general, or is it just that he’s tired and would like to decompress when not at work by getting lost in a movie. These are questions you both want to discover about each other when you’re just beginning a relationship.
If you’re already in deep, are married, or have been seeing each other for a while but have never ironed out your personality differences, there’s no time like now to start. Not addressing your social incompatibilities could be a relationship bomb that could explode at any time, leaving each of you scratching your head and wondering why you never saw it coming.
Get to the Heart of Your Needs and His
It might help to know what each of you likes or dislikes about being socially active, about the kinds of activities each of you prefer.
Maybe having a better understanding of what needs are being satisfied when you’re with people and what he gets out of hanging around the house will encourage you to come up with ways you can satisfy both your needs. What if it’s not so much that he’s an introvert, but that he doesn’t know what to say to your friends?
If he feels awkward or bored with your friends, what if you try hanging out with his buddies or friends you’ve developed as a couple? What if you compromise and have the gang over for movie or game night where the focus isn’t on talking but being entertained? If he likes barbecuing, let him be in his element at the grill flipping burgers for the group? That gives you a social outlet and him a task where he doesn’t feel compelled to talk… or if he does talk, it can be about grilling and food?
Possessiveness vs. Gregariousness
If it’s just your nature to want to frequently be around other people besides your sweetie and it’s just his nature to want you and only you as his social life, finding solutions is a bit more challenging. There may be workarounds and compromises, but those only go so far in a relationship, not to mention putting pressure on the relationship when a couple has two diametrically opposing character traits.
Let’s say you have a large tight-knit family that likes to stay in touch and get together a lot. He’s a wallflower at these get-togethers. He feels awkward, doesn’t feel like he fits in, and finds it difficult to make connections and conversation with your extended family. You’re stimulated by the social interaction and need it regularly. He, on the other hand, dreads these encounters. He feels complete with you and only you as company. You’re all he needs. To you, this is suffocating.
You may feel compelled to coax him out of his shell by thrusting him in social situations. The sink-or-swim approach may work when teaching someone a skill that may save their life, but is it fair to force your beloved into situations he is clearly not comfortable with? On the other hand, is it fair of him to keep you from doing what is second nature?
You may hope he learns at least, to be a good sport and at most, to make a 180-degree personality adjustment. But are you being realistic and understanding? Even if he is good-natured and wants to please you, will his willingness wear thin after a while? If he can’t keep it up, can you accept him for giving up?
Taking the Pressure Off
How can you keep from putting social pressure on your mate when he’s not built like you? A big part of any relationship, no matter what the issues, is respect for each other’s individuality. You need to accept that he’s not the gregarious type and never will be and he needs to understand you need a support system that is broader than just him.
So, with that in mind, can you arrive at a middle ground? Maybe there’s not a “one size fits all” resolution. Maybe each situation has to be considered on a case-by-case basis? Getting together with your family is one thing; what if you’re both invited to your company’s annual banquet that requires that you and your partner make a good impression with company execs? What if you want him to accompany you on an out-of-town seminar that involves meeting lots of people in large group settings?
Maybe knowing the company event and the out-of-town seminar are just infrequent affairs will make it easy for him to make this sacrifice for you. But what about the next social occasion and the next, and the one after that, and so on?
It’s important not to put the pressure on. This might mean that you don’t demand his attendance. Or it could mean that you make him feel as comfortable as possible, check in on him and hang out when he seems uncomfortable, refrain from suggesting what to say or how to act. Let him be himself. He will find his wings if he knows you accept him however he acts, whatever he said, and don’t make a habit of requiring his participation.
Express your love and gratitude. Kind words and affection can be a confidence bolster. Maybe a reward would help too. If he has been wanting you to attend a football game and you dislike football and have been putting him off, agree to go to the next game. Incorporate the outings that he enjoys in your social life together.
Your perseverance and loving devotion in the face of conflicting personalities will soften the challenges for you both. They will be a test of your ingenuity and the strength of your relationship.