There’s a popular perception that because we introverts tend to prefer being on our own or going off by ourselves that we are already prepared for the current and devasting global pandemic. Even though that may be somewhat true, there is a stark difference between regular introversion and forced social introversion.
What we are experiencing with social distancing is forced social introversion, by mainly keeping indoors. This distinction is important to show that there is more than one kind of introvert. Not all introverts desire isolation - and no one likes being forced to do anything, even when it comes naturally to them.
The common definition of introversion as some kind of social aversion is limiting. Psychologist Jonathan Cheek has identified 4 types of introversion to help us understand introverts and introverted partners better.
'Social introversion' is the closest to the commonly held understanding, in that it’s a preference for socializing with small groups or preferring solitude. 'Thinking introversion' doesn’t share this distaste for social events but is characterized by introspection, thoughtfulness, and self-reflection. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, the first type would be more like a Neville Longbottom while the second would be a dreamily imaginative Luna Lovegood.
Then we have 'Anxious introverts' who may seek out solitude because they feel awkward, uncomfortable or self-conscious around many or strange people. They tend to ruminate on situations and turn them over and over in their minds. The last kind is the 'restrained introvert' who operates at a slower pace, preferring to think before they speak or act. Because they take a while to get going it’s not wise to rush them and they can’t, for instance, wake up and immediately spring into action.
Humans are complex, so most introverts are a blend of all or some of the four in varying degrees. This is why when reading the above, you may have seen a little bit of your partner sprinkled among the archetypes.
Now that you better understand us, let’s talk about practicalities.
Social Distancing Together
If you are married or chose to brave social distancing together, then here are some things to help you along as you spend more time with your introvert.
Time alone is needed (Social Introverts)
Giving your introverted partner space to recharge without guilt or nagging will have a huge payoff for your relationship. People with introverted tendencies recharge by spending time alone because we lose energy from being around people for long periods. Once recharged we become capable of being with you in the moment 100%, and can regulate our mood much better.
So, if your introvert needs to go into a different room or put their earphones in and so on, don’t take it personally, because the outcome is a win for you both.
We take things slowly (Restrained Introverts)
You may expect that because there’s a global pandemic, your introverted partner would be vocal about what’s happening. That expectation would unfortunately and to your frustration be false. Introverts like to think things through and carefully consider all aspects of a situation before we make a decision or form a reaction. We need time to process our experiences and reflect.
Instead of expecting us to consistently discuss and be outraged by the latest 'Rona statistics' (which can’t be good for your state of mind either), allow us to go through our motions first. In the end, we may present you with a well thought out conspiracy theory that we can both fall into and get wrapped up in for days. Thank us later!
Social Distancing Apart
For those who were still in the dating phase or chose to not social distance together for various reasons here are some things to help you along as you spend more time apart from your introvert.
Nudges are welcome (Anxious Introverts)
Because we can’t spend as much quality time with you, this may be the one time when nudging us often is not only allowed but encouraged. Chat us up or video call us because emotional intimacy with meaningful conversation will help keep our anxiety low and maintain our attachment to you.
Consistent touch matters (Thinking and Anxious Introverts)
Whether it’s to help calm anxieties or pull us back into reality, touch is just as important to introverts as to extroverts. This is the one thing both parties can truly agree on. Physical touch gives us feelings of warmth, comfort, support, and tenderness - all of which are necessary for this current climate. Should you be able to safely see one another once in a while - from your separate self-isolation nests - then you can each get some much-needed TLC.
Let’s hope this makes it a little easier to live with each other and/or keep our attachments alive in this COVID era. Stay safe!