I’ll never forget the day Donald Miller spoke for introverts around the world. In an article titled How to Get Along with an Introvert, Miller pointed out what has since been affirmed in this article in Psychology Today. “Since our culture celebrates extraversion much of the time, extol the virtues of introversion as well.”
A few days later Ordell and I were discussing the article and he asked if I’d learned anything new or interesting about introverts. My response was, “Well, not really, I mean, it doesn’t really apply to you, but Miller said something about introverts that stood out.”
Donald Miller explained that one of the best ways to get along with introverts is to give them space when they enter their homes. He said, “They want to transition and get comfortable and then engage. When an introvert comes home and is charged with some social responsibility immediately, it’s tough.”
As I read the quote Ordell burst into laughter. I looked up in shock and began to protest.
“But every marriage book says I’m supposed to greet you at the door! I go out of my way to try to do this, and feel guilty when I don’t! You always greet us so warmly when you walk in the house!”
In the middle of the laughter, Ordell caught his breath long enough to respond and explain, “Because I’m supposed to greet you happily!”
And there it was. After 13 and a half years of marriage, we finally figured out the marriage book authors weren’t writing for introverts. This news gave me so much freedom. I always felt this unspoken pressure to stop everything I was doing and welcome Ordell home with this celebration. It didn’t matter if I was cooking, cleaning, changing a diaper, or sitting down for the first time all day. When husbands walk through the door wives are supposed to greet their husbands warmly. And for many marriages that’s important. But not for introverts!
Ever since that conversation I have felt the freedom to continue with whatever project I’m in the middle of when my husband walks in the door without guilt. I don’t ignore him, but I understand he’s exhausted and needs a few moments to collect himself. I’m happy to give him space to himself and continue on with the day. I’m not saying this will always be the case for every couple. My advice to you is to actually ask your husband or wife if the advice in the marriage books applies to their preferences.
Maybe you’ve noticed something similar in your responses. When I hear the same thing repeatedly I drop my defenses. If the sentiment isn’t harmful as far as I can tell I’m likely to accept the premise as accurate. And in this case, the advice in the marriage books to greet your spouse as they enter the home is accurate for extroverts.
Ordell is an introvert who had a job that requires him to speak to people all day long. He teaches classes, and then leads meetings, practices, attends committee meetings, meets with coaches, and then comes home exhausted. Of course, he’s all out of words when walks in the door. Part of decompressing for him is actually the transition of entering our home. Introverts prefer to transition their physical location and then engage.
Author E. Wagele also suggests “Look for nonverbal signs of affection. Introverts are sometimes more comfortable expressing their feelings in writing or by their actions than through speaking.” This is another thing marriage books often caution against; writing to communicate is something you aren’t supposed to do for effective marriage communication, however, when it’s the preferred method of communication then it doesn’t really matter what the cautions are; some communication is better than none.
This post was written in 2015 and updated 7/9/2020 for accuracy and freshness