Alone Time: A helpful metaphor
SHHHH. I’m thinking.
Now you can talk.
One of the generally accepted fundamental differences between extroverts and introverts is that extroverts recharge their batteries through human interaction and introverts recharge their batteries through quiet/alone time. I need a lot of alone time, or I get socially, emotionally, and mentally strung out. When that happens, I stop hanging out with my friends. I stop enjoying that moment when my girlfriend gets home. I am overwhelmed at the thought of making plans. My social anxiety stops hovering at 5-6/10 and goes to 11.
But I live with an extrovert who doesn’t quite get the value of alone time for me. She doesn’t understand the full extent of the necessity. This has caused some trouble between us—partly because she doesn’t understand that my need for alone time isn’t just about needing time apart from her (and if you guys can come up with a way to make that really, really clear, your comments are welcome), and partly because the need itself is esoteric. Explaining the difference between enjoyment of alone time and the need for it is difficult.
We live in a tiny 1-BR apartment in SF in which the layout is such that, if there are two people home it is impossible to have alone time. My mental health has been deteriorating for months because in a given work day I get at most 20-60 minutes of alone time between when I get home and when she gets home. On the weekends, unless she goes out of town, I get none. I finally made it as clear as possible that I need to live in a place where I can have my own room: a Whiskeypants Cave. But we kept running up against the same problem in communication about it. She could not fathom the idea that I would need alone time so badly that it was worth stretching out our budget as much as we would have to in order to afford a 2-BR in this city. I couldn’t fathom the idea that she could not acknowledge the fact of my need.
One day after arguing about this, on the drive home I finally found the words:
Imagine that the way you recharge is through sleep.
You try to sleep every day, but you can only get an average of about an hour with an absolute maximum of 2-3.
Even when you lie down to sleep, you know that, no matter where you are, you will be woken up by the person you live with.
Imagine that, day after day, week after week, month after month. This is what alone time is to me, to my brain, to my emotional buffers and my ability to enjoy time with you, with my friends, and out and about.
She went home that night and found us the place we are moving into at the beginning of next month.
Introverts who date extroverts and vice versa: how do you communicate your needs to each other?
This entry was posted on August 19, 2013 by whiskeypants. It was filed under Observations, Relationships and was tagged with alone time, being social, communication, extraverts, extroverts, friends, introversion, introverted, introverts, relationships, social, social anxiety, social awkwardness.