Contrary 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.