You’re stuck between avoiding conflict and being who you want to be. What now?
I spent 30 years as an introvert trapped inside the body of an extrovert.
Because of that I am keenly aware of how it feels to have the mind and heart of an introvert while trying to fit into extroverted social circles. I could drink, laugh, get crazy and tell some world-class dirty jokes to an adoring audience. I could walk into a room and own it – even if I didn’t want to.
And I was pretty damn good at it if I don’t say so myself. In other words, I had everyone fooled – even myself.
Two years ago I heard the following story being told by an amazing human being and coach I respect deeply.
I choked back tears as I realized he was telling MY story – the one I had been too afraid to tell for myself. Can you see yourself in this story?
“I’m an introvert”, he said.
“I’m not comfortable at all in the middle of room of people socializing. It feels like I’m being strangled and I start to sweat. Sure, I can do it if I must and I’ll do it well. But I don’t belong there. I’m most comfortable on the perimeter of a crowd. That’s where I belong. That’s where my comfort zone is.
I was at party recently with my wife, a few family members and a collection of friends and acquaintances. I was getting hot – physically and emotionally. The center of the room was enthusiastically covering politics, golf, terrorism and the remaining singers on The Voice.
I found my way to the perimeter. Finally. Air.
My mother-in-law was sitting alone next to the fireplace and I sat down beside her. This is where I feel the most alive. Sitting next to someone I care about and having a conversation. I don’t like shallow conversations. They seem to be such a waste of breath and time.
I like going deep. For me there’s nothing better – nothing more worthwhile. Sometimes my wife doesn’t appreciate it as much as I do. When she found me later she said:
‘Why can’t you be like all the other husbands?! I looked across the room for you and there you were tucked away with my mom and she was crying. Can’t you talk about football or something?’
All I could do is shrug and smile. I’ll never apologize for being who I am.”
She was kidding…mostly. She adores him and his unapologetic need to go deep. She married him for his unalterable desire to connect with people at a level most are afraid to go.
Even inside his introverted perspective, he knows that showing his vulnerability is the most powerful thing he can do for himself and, in turn, for others.
So that’s what he does. All the time. And he changes people’s lives with that power.
Introverted Husbands and the Shallow Marriage
The majority of my clients tend toward introversion by their own analysis.
For the purpose of this article, I’m simply referring to a man with quiet, reflective, curious, compassionate and emotionally sensitive traits. He is also has painfully unexpressed intellectual strengths.
He relates very well to the man in the story. He craves depth and connection – and he deftly avoids anything that feels shallow. He can tolerate it in his social life but he expects more from his marriage. He thought his marriage would be the safe place where his true nature and true needs could be revealed.
He wants his marriage to be the one reliable place where he can go deeper and connect.
But he can’t.
Because his wife isn’t comfortable going there with him. It’s messy in there.
Deep, emotional conversations have the power to bring up her fears. Diving into emotional and intellectual intimacy can be a threat to the status quo. It might bring up disappointments and tickle inadequacies.
She likes things the way they are. She has more emotional control – more certainty.
So things are constantly kept light, practical, tactical…shallow.
And once again he can’t breathe.
If he pushes his desire for more depth, connection and intimacy she may leave him.
If he does nothing, he has betrayed himself.
No Apologies – No Regrets
If you’re seeing yourself in this article, I wish what I was about to tell you was a quick, simple fix.
Unfortunately, there’s no such thing in this case.
The best you can hope for is blinding clarity. The kind of clarity that comes with digging deep inside yourself and finding the courage to say, “I’ll never apologize for being who I am.”
You already know what your life will be like if you pretend to be someone you’re not. It will suck.
You already know what it will be like to live in the shallow end of the pool all the time. It will suck.
You’re stuck between creating pressure in your marriage with unknown consequences and hiding inside yourself indefinitely.
The only way to honor yourself and your true nature is to begin boldly behaving in ways that fill you up. Without apology or regret, start speaking like you want to speak. Live like you want to live.
Do it with your kids, family, co-workers and strangers. Find a group of people who get you and want what you want. If you can’t find one, create one.
Don’t wait another day to celebrate who you are and who you are meant to be.
Will it cause a change in your wife and marriage? In the short term, almost certainly not. It will cause concern, curiosity and pressure that don’t exist today. You must be aware of that and be ready for it.
Being unapologetically true to yourself and your needs will create a momentum and an energy over which you have no control. But if nothing changes in you – nothing will change. Period.
And when you boldly live the life you want to live and be the man you were meant to be, I believe that whatever happens as a result is exactly what is supposed to happen.
What do you believe?
If you would like to dive deeper into your fear of speaking your truth and asking for what you really want, download a free copy of “The Hard-to-Swallow Secret to Saving Your Marriage”. We will go as deep as you like until you find your blinding clarity.
Photo Eugene Kukulka/Flickr