to what many might assume, being introverted is not synonymous with being shy. Shy people often carry around fears and insecurities, making interpersonal communication difficult if not impossible. Introverts, on the other hand, are energized by being alone and choose to be alone. Introverts like to think and reflect on themselves and the world around them.  Although introverts enjoy people and can be very personable unlike those marked as shy, being surrounded by people drains introverts of their energy. Instead, they opt for quiet walks alone or other activities like reading or cooking or baking or knitting. You get the idea.

I am an introvert. I first took the Myers-Briggs type indicator test twenty years ago and was saddened to learn that I was considered introverted. It really bothered me, because I, like many others, associated being introverted with being shy and socially awkward. Who wants to be a social misfit?

So, instead of embracing the revelation, I fought the label. But being the natural introvert that I was, I didn’t know where to begin with being an extrovert. I thought partying more, being more talkative with my co-workers and classmates, asking friends to run with me instead of by myself, and choosing action-packed movies over cerebral films would help me become the extrovert I thought I wanted to be. Nothing really worked. I always went back to my natural introverted self, I failed to realize that being introverted and extroverted is not just about what you do or don’t do with people; it’s also about how you think best.

As an introvert, I think and understand things better through solitary activities like writing, reading, and meditating. Extroverts think better talking things out with others. (This is what I have read. If I am way off, please correct me.) Therefore, I avoid immediate arguments with others, become silent, retreat, and get my thoughts and feelings down on paper before I try expressing them aloud.

What does this have to do with being in a relationship with an emotional vampire like the boy in my story? A lot, actually…

Emotionally abusive people like the boy interpret an introvert’s desire to be alone as a personal insult to them. Abusive people are VERY insecure and abuse others through asserting their control over them. They want to control what you do, who you know, who you talk to, and even what you think.

Because I like to be alone to refresh my brain, I was often accused of alienating him from my life and not loving him enough. One of my activities that he especially disliked was me exercising on the elliptical machine for 20-30 minutes each evening after work. The boy HATED that I did this. He interpreted it as me choosing some other activity in order to avoid him because I must not love him enough (or some such shit reason that he would pull from his pathetic ass).

He could never “get” that exercising and decompressing before we got together each evening had a direct impact on my energy level and mood. I tried to explain how exercising was a natural anti-depressant. (I thought that would be something he would embrace since he hated that I took Cymbalta at the time.) But, like most things that defined who I was as a person, I was forced to give up this practice. It was him or the gym. Because I thought choosing my needs over him was a heartless and selfish thing to do, I chose him. In choosing him, I didn’t realize at the time that I was also sacrificing me. (Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing? Thank you, “CoDependent No More“!)

I also enjoyed reading and writing, two more activities that I was accused of choosing above him because I “must not have enjoyed our time together or loved him enough.”

As a result of not being able to do the things that were essential for the health of my introverted core, I quickly lost myself. If I tried to retreat to a quiet room away from the boy, he’d follow me and demand that I talk to him. I’d try, but I had no energy to fight against his crazy-making arguments. I had no defense against all of his accusations. I relinquished all control and all boundaries to him. I was numb to it all.

After much (introverted) reflection, I realize now why I was so numb toward the end: he had taken away my outlets: reading, writing, exercising, and other activities. I didn’t even realize how important these outlets were/are to me as an introvert. Now I do!! All those years of wishing I were an extrovert slapped me in the face and made me realize I am who I am and want to keep being that person.

I am an introvert. More specifically, I am an INFJ. My husband appreciates me and understands that I need alone time occasionally. He doesn’t worry that I don’t love him enough or that I don’t love our son enough. He knows that sometimes I need to be alone in a quiet room or go for a solitary walk around the neighborhood. It’s nothing personal against him. It’s personal pro me. He knows that if I take care of myself and heed my personal needs, I will take better care of him and our family’s needs. It’s a good combination. We’re a good combination.


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Join the conversation! 25 Comments

  1. […] drained, I want to be happy around people but it’s just not how my energy works. I feel for this woman’s blog post, I totally relate to her. It’s not that I don’t like the people around me–I […]


  2. Thank you for the post. I too am introverted, and this really helped me put my ‘me’ time into perspective. It IS very necessary for me to have alone time to rejuvenate. And due to emotional vampires in my life, there have been times where my very being has been stripped down to nothing. But I am slowly learning to set better boundaries and to avoid negative, draining people. Thanks again for your post, and keep up the great work!


  3. Its like I was reading about my own personal abusive relationship I managed to escape, while protecting my solitary activities much needed to my personal needs.
    Thank you for this post.


  4. Hi, Everyone!
    Found this by happenstance and was attracted to the title of the first post by Paula.
    That title was a real attention-grabber! I became curious and wanted to see what her distinction was between “shy” and “introverted” and what her perceptions were of “emotional vampires”. I know what this term means, and unfortunately, I have more experience with them than I would like. Some of these folks in my life are people I love and do not wish to avoid, but, sadly, it is necessary to maintain a healthy distance from them as a matter of emotional survival! I have struggled with the sadness of it all, since my nature is to be very CLOSE with the ones I love, and it has been a hard lesson to learn that I cannot achieve this with either the naturally introverted types (who always want their “space”) or the EV’s (emotional vampires),
    whose personality disorders and/or emotional dysfunctions make it not only unwise but impossible.
    It was a service to those EXtroverts–like myself–to explain your nature to us, who may have misinterpreted and misunderstood your behaviors, preferences and style of relating. I want to own my own mistakes in this area, and yet defend other extroverts whom you may have judged a bit too harshly, if we crowded you too much or failed to understand your withdrawal patterns. It CAN feel like rejection, and that creates some fear, pain and misunderstanding in relationships. I was married to a great guy, but I recognize him in your description of one who wanted to be alone much of the time, reading or staying on the computer for hours at a time, with no apparent desire for “connection” interpersonally. When he bhaved this way towards me, and I was lonely for his attention or NEEDING him to be more emotionally–and actually–AVAILABLE to me and the kids, it DID feel avoidant on his part. This is what causes hurt to build up and resentment to set in, and what felt to him like pressure to “be with us” just felt like a normal expectation of some family involvement, to me–that he was opting out of.
    Now I am remarried and my second husband is disordered and his neediness and issues can truly make him a full-blown EV. Yes, he can be abusive.
    However–the picture is even more complicated–I have discovered that even I can be a bit of an EV, at times, as a maladaptive response to the provocative behaviors of AVOIDANT, UNAVAILABLE introverts or out of desperation to protect and assert myself with the EVs! All of this is difficult quicksand to deal with, and just goes to show that relationships are “not for sissies”-haha!! We all have something to learn from one another, and all experiences are for our growth, if we are paying attention. It is all to grow our hearts in awareness and compassion–for ourself and for others. We can all get better at this, with time, and indeed, I believe that is what we are “here to do.” Thank you, Paula, and others, for opening up an important conversation on a very tough topic, which affects probably most of us, one way or another. We all come from families, and we all have friends and significant others. Let’s keep talking, and let’s learn to accept differences and love in better, healthier ways!


    • Thank you, Margie. I guess I need to make it clear that I don’t equate emotional vampires with extroverts. I live extroverts! My best friend and sister is an extrovert. My favorite yoga instructor is an extrovert. I am an introvert and wanted to share what I have come to learn about myself through the healing and recovery process at the hands of an abusive narcissistic sociopath. I can’t say for certain if he is an introvert or an extrovert. His life and presence was a big facade, a huge lie. He shifted himself to please whomever he was trying to charm in the moment. My husband is definitely an extrovert. He loves people, crowds, events, and he’s super friendly and personable. I envy him at times. But above all, I respect his need to be an extrovert and participate in activities that I normally wouldn’t feel comfortable participating as an introvert without him. (Like going to a Coldplay concert at the Verizon Center in DC this past summer. Not me but I had a blast!!) We all can definitely learn from each other and improve our relationships along the way. It’s a beautiful thing. Unfortunately, those who need the most lessons in how to treat people (a.k.a. Emotional Vampires) refuse to see their flaws. 🙂


  5. I love this post and I too am an introvert!


  6. For me, it wasn’t a husband but a “friend” who did this. I’m an introvert. I’m shy, too, but I *like* spending large periods of time by myself, reading, writing, going on the Net. Well, one day I found out one of my Net friends needed a place to stay while he looked for a job and a new home for his family. That was fine; he got along great with my husband and me. But then after two months, one day he told me–didn’t ask, told me–the rest of his family was coming as well. !!!! I tried to get him to find an apartment now that he had a job, but he kept putting it off, saying he didn’t have the money yet. His family ended up staying with us for 6 weeks!

    Three little kids, plus my kid, no room, and one volatile wife who kept getting jealous of me, yelling and screaming at people, smacking her husband’s arm right in front of me, and making passive-aggressive complaints about me on the phone to her mother. I’ve been told her mother is borderline personality disorder/MPD, and that she and her sisters have their mother’s traits. Her family also sounds like a bunch of narcissists; her father molested her and was also a con man.

    I was told she was upset with me and didn’t feel “welcome” because I would do housework, and go off to the basement for a while to play on the computer while my son napped. Yet I spent a whole 7 hours in her company nearly every evening! I figured evening was for socializing, while I had work to do, a little boy to raise, and I desperately needed time to myself for a couple of hours in that noisy and crowded house. The computer was the only way I could recharge. But because I did this, she took it as a personal offense, and for the next two and a half years, she treated me like I had to “make up” for how “badly” I treated her. She put all sorts of restrictions on me, got angry with her husband if he violated any of them (half the time I didn’t even know I was violating anything until much later), kept promising that the restrictions would come off if I finally satisfied her demands and was properly “sociable” with her. I am extremely quiet by nature, being an introvert. As we introverts know and understand, we don’t just babble on and on about anything; we have to think before we speak. Everybody I know, everybody I’ve ever known, knows that I am very quiet. But she took this as a personal insult, a reason to punish me. She even got her husband to treat me like I was somehow offending her by not being chatty with her all the time. Meanwhile, I witnessed her abuse and bullying of her husband, her kids, and others, even friends. I never could satisfy her demands. Well, I was led to believe that I finally had, but months later she began acting offended all the time and snarking at me for everything I did or said.

    One day I made an error in judgment, she misunderstood me, and she took this as her reason to rip me a new one. She posted on Facebook, “I’m having a GREAT day!” She accused me of all sorts of things. She even accused me of needing to “grow up and TALK.” Like my being quiet was somehow childish rather than my natural, God-given temperament!

    All my life I’ve been teased and falsely accused of bad traits for being shy, quiet and introverted. But never have I been so gravely insulted and emotionally traumatized for it, as I was by this person. She showed no willingness whatsoever to look at things from my side, to even calm down, and her husband actually physically intimidated and screamed at my husband for daring to say this was all being put on me and that she shared blame. So my husband and I ended our friendship with her and her husband both. I took to blogging to deal with the pain–and she found it. She sent me another abusive e-mail, and now stalks my blog, will not leave me alone, for daring to tell what happened to me. She shows up at my church now and then because she knows I don’t want to see her. She’s even threatened to sue me. This emotional vampire has taken up so much of my thoughts for the past five years that I can’t seem to get her out of my head. I want her to leave me alone, but I can’t do anything legally unless she sends me more e-mails or threatens me physically.


    • Clarissa,
      Thank you for sharing your story. Your blog is set to private. I sent a request to view it. I don’t know how that works.

      This woman sounds like a miserable person. Like the boy in my story, abusers hate themselves; they hate who they are and where they come from; they hate when other people stand up against them; if they can’t beat you down, they’ll knock you down by whatever means is necessary. This woman is succeeding. But you can stop it. Making your blog private is a great first step. I don’t know how long you’ve had it “hidden” but am guessing since the woman started making hurtful and snarky comments.

      I am sure the finger of blame is getting pointed at you. I’m sure her hate-filled message is affecting you. If I were you, I’d embrace the hate she’s spewing your way. It’s proof you are right.

      The boy from my story wouldn’t dare leave comments. He knows I would highlight them and use them in my next post. The ugly things he says to me or about me can’t hurt me anymore. I’m not anything he says I am. Not even close. He’s All of the things he accused me of being. I get it now. I was angry at one time but now I know his refusal to be a good person and own his treatment of me and my son will never happen.

      This woman will never own her treatment of you, Clarissa. It’s now up to you to decide what you can and can’t withstand. How much of her abuse do you need to take in the name of getting the truth out there? I think stepping away from your blog is a good thing for now. It’s obviously hurting you.


  7. Great Post and a lovey reminder for everyone that we really need to take care of ourselves before we can take care of anyone else. It’s good that you know what you need to create a better you.


    • It’s so much better to have a way to explain myself rather than simply saying, “That’s just me.” Understanding me let’s others understand me, too. 🙂


  8. wow, you described me (giving up who I was) and the reasons for the constant “crazy making arguments” with MS EXACTLY!

    A research study came out years ago that 90% of all prison inmates are extroverts!


  9. wonderful post! I took that Meyers test couple of times during my working life. Over the years I have come to realize that there is NOTHING wrong with me, for wanting to live by myself AND have companionship.

    I used to think that I had to have a full-time around the clock person living with me, or that I had to ‘be’ all to the other or I wasn’t fulfilling my role as a woman/helpmate…but…that was coming FROM the other, NOT ME.

    25 years ago, in a new relationship, I wanted to start yoga and was told, ‘oh I thought you would help me with (what ever it was) and if you go out than I will have to do it all by myself’ so I didn’t go to yoga, or anything else by myself, except my job, and did everything he wanted to do and how he wanted me to do it! He was controlling and it took me a long time to say okay I can do for ME and not worry about him…and I wasn’t even living with him! Eventually I had enough and branched out away…

    It is 15 years now that I’ve been with David and we each love each other but do not want to live together, period…a weekend can be pretty long…for both of us. He does want he wants, I do want I want, we like each other, we respect each other. One of our favorite past times is READING together, we love being in the same space doing the same thing…separately! I’m so lucky!

    People think we are married, cause we are always together, and don’t realize that we come and go, separately. A couple of weeks back at the gym, I saw David talking with his pal Pat and another guy. I went up to them saying playfully to David, hey let’s get going and workout! Unknown to me, until a week later, the other guy, who doesn’t know me, David or our friend, thought I ‘put him in his place’! David knew I hadn’t, he knew I was kidding. The following week when I saw the other guy, he said to me ‘your husband’s leaving the gym’ and I said, ‘he’s not my husband and yes I saw that he’s leaving, we do our own things and not always together’. I think the guy thought I was nuts or something! But then again I did give him a wrong impression!

    Point is that anyone who has a need to control the actions and thoughts of another has serious problems of their own and it is NOT a reflect upon you.

    Thanks Paula for this excellent post


  10. I never had time to myself until the day I left him. It was the first time he had left me alone – and only because my mom was there to babysit me – and I did exactly what he was afraid I would do – I left his dumb ass.
    I don’t know what I am, but I know my ex hated me for thinking. He also thought that women shouldn’t think, just clean, cook, and spread their legs.


  11. i’m the same and so is Hubby, we both like to have alone time! for me, the more the better. i’m so glad you’ve found a great Hubby!


  12. Oh my God!!, Paula. You really hit this nail on its head alright. I am an INFP. (From what ive read, about 1% of us are…) I’ve known this for quite some time as I was exposed to the Myers-Briggs in graduate school many years ago. Your description of us introverts is very accurate. I also always thought I was shy but gradually came to see that being alone is as necessary as food or sleep to reenergize so as to be with others in a vibrant way.

    That said, when I was living with this monster, knowing I needed alone time, I began to say to myself WTF??? Why am I being followed into the bathroom, bedroom, outside? Why am I’m feeling guilty just because I want a moment of solitary peace?? Oh, the exercise thing! Yes, I stopped too, this is after years of running alone, swimming, and aahh, the elliptical machine! I finally was able to do a half hour of yoga everyday no matter what. He wanted to do it with me of course and I tried to actually teach him since I’d been doing yoga for many years, what a fiasco that was!! Oh, and I couldn’t read either. Yes, reading meant, along with EVERYTHING ELSE I tried to do alone, meant that I didn’t love him enough or very much or at all because I wanted to read a book! Anytime I did anything that didn’t involve him directly meant that I must not love him. Oh, oh, oh, you wrote about this here exactly the way my experience played out! And forget about writing! Journaling?? I didn’t dare! He read every email I sent, and listened to every phone conversation too. Being an introvert was fodder for his grueling alienation of my being. It was perfect for him because he knew how much I needed to have time alone and this was his way of controlling me to the point of, as you described, losing myself totally.

    Until I finally found myself again! And refused to play anymore, ooh, boy, it made it more and more despondent for me to start taking my power back this way. He forced me to have to start living my life as me by making it so very uncomfortable, undoable, and death-grip suffocating to do otherwise. I am introverted to the max and now enjoying every minute of it!

    Oh Paula, thank you for writing about this. It was the crux of the insanity for me…I just want to give you a very big hug. With so much joy that I’m not some odd ball and that you’re here too and we are really very very beautiful souls. I’m so happy that your husband supports you as YOU and celebrates your unique and wonderful gifts. Blessings and light and so much love, Linda


    • Wow, Linda! That’s crazy how similar our experiences were. I don’t need to explain how debilitating it was. You know! You lived it, too. I am so glad you found my blog and are so willing to share your experience with me and those who visit my posts. XXOOXXOO ~Paula


    • I agree, it is crazy to resonate so completely with these experiences. I am also very glad to have found you and your writing, and to be able to share these things with you and every one who reads here. Xoxoxo to you and happy yoga-ing, aahh!


  13. As always, your honesty is so wonderful. I think you point out something very important- that abusive people want to control all aspects- including who you are. They also try to control what you think, as they point out how your thoughts are “wrong”. As they say, this is a very slippery slope once this judgment and control begin to happen.


    • It is a slippery slope! And it’s crucial to know ourselves in order to protect ourselves. I didn’t know myself well enough, I admit it. But now I know why it happened and refuse to allow it to happen again. I feel safe with my husband. I feel like I am able to be me. If I didn’t, I’d be okay with being alone. But I prefer not being alone ALL the time! 🙂


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