Disagreeing with your partner is an inevitable part of all relationships. Bickering over what’s for dinner, where to go on vacation, or who gets control of the remote is something that most couples deal with on a regular basis. But for couples with different coping mechanisms, even the seemingly smallest conflicts can be difficult to deal with.
As a relationship therapist, I know that introverts and extroverts deal with conflict very differently. After a fight, an introvert may be more comfortable remaining silent and letting his partner take control, while an extrovert would more likely want to take charge and hash things out right away. Introverts may prefer to think things through, mull over conflicts, and then proceed slowly and carefully. Extroverts, on the other hand, may prefer to react immediately and give in to impulses, and will be more ready to communicate using words.
As Psychology Today points out, this can be extremely dangerous for both parties. The introvert may wind up feeling defeated—like he was attacked with no opportunity to defend himself. The extrovert, on the other hand, may feel just as bad, thinking that she is more invested in the relationship since she is the only one speaking up during fights. This can lead to silent resentment and ongoing misunderstandings, which can be deadly for relationships. That’s why it’s absolutely crucial for partners to understand each other’s emotional standpoints.
How to Handle It: Understand Each Other
When it comes to handling conflict between introvert-extrovert couples, the most effective approach is to offer understanding.
If your partner is an extrovert and you are an introvert, it will probably be valuable for both of you to sit down together one night and explain how you feel and how you tend to manage stress. Explain your coping mechanisms to your partner—if you need time to process during an argument, say so. If you need to be pushed a little bit in order to actually open up and stop brooding, say so. And if you have a tendency to fly off the handle and need to be reminded to calm down, you should say that, too.
Since conversations like these can be difficult to have during fights or times of tension, it’s best to have them during a period where you and your partner are feeling particularly peaceful and loving. It’s been said before (and with good reason!) that the key to a happy relationship is communication. If you and your partner are open with each other and are able to communicate your needs and expectations, you’ll be much better suited to deal effectively with conflicts when they inevitably arrive.
If you’re having trouble communicating or effectively resolving conflict in your relationship, a qualified Portland marriage counselor might be able to help. Contact the Portland Marriage Center today for guidance or advice.