If you are an introvert, that characteristic is just one part of who you are. Yet it can be a mightily important one. In Introverts in Love: The Quiet Way to Happily Ever After, Psych Central blogger Sophia Dembling explains the special role of introversion in romantic relationships. The book is a quick, illuminating read, with brief, engaging chapters in which Dembling shares insights from psychological research and interviews with introverts and experts, and tells us about her own experiences, too.
Dembling breaks the book down into three parts. First, she asks readers to consider what they want from a relationship. She offers a balanced perspective on what introverts can find in other introverts as compared to what they can get from extroverts. Risks as well as rewards come with each type of partner, Dembling writes, and she spells those out clearly and compassionately.
The first section ends with my favorite chapter, one that is missing from many other relationship self-help books, yet one that should be mandatory. Titled “One Isn’t Necessarily the Loneliest Number: Some People Are Meant to Be Single,” the chapter ends with a paragraph that includes this: “Are you, deep down, looking for permission to stay single? Well, then, permission granted.” (Full disclosure: I’ve been single all my life, I’ve been studying single people and single life for nearly two decades, and I was quoted in that chapter.)
Next, Dembling addresses the tasks that can be challenging to many people, but are likely to be particularly daunting to introverts: meeting, dating, and connecting with others. A note on parties aptly captures Dembling’s sensibility. Rather than feeling like a failure because you can’t “work a party like an extrovert,” she writes, “try approaching parties feeling comfortable with your introversion and your introverted ways. That way, you won’t feel like a poor excuse for an extrovert; you’ll feel like a fabulous example of an introvert.”
I also enjoyed Dembling’s knowing quips, such as this one offered in a discussion of that annoying thing some people do: urging you to attend some event because you don’t have anything better to do. “But sometimes you do have something better to do,” Dembling writes, “which just happens to be nothing.”
The second part of the book also includes one of my favorite chapter titles: “Do You Hide Here Often?” That chapter opens with a great set of #introvertpickuplines from Twitter, such as “Hey, I noticed you noticing me, so I pretended to look at something on my phone,” and “You look as uncomfortable as I feel, and I mean that in a good way.”
By the third part of the book, the dating is done and Dembling is offering wisdom and advice for introverts on succeeding in a relationship. One of the most important tasks, she notes, is finding just the right combination of time alone and time together. When I was researching my latest book, How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century, I found that we are all looking for that balance in our lives, regardless of whether we live alone or with others, or whether we are single or partnered. Just about everyone wants some time to themselves and some time with other people. What varies greatly is the optimal proportions — with introverts, of course, preferring relatively more time alone.
I’m what I call “single at heart.” For me, living single is how I live my best, most authentic, most meaningful life. So when I read a book about coupling, such as Introverts in Love, I expect an anthropological experience: Oh, so that’s what it’s like in Couple Land.
Much to my surprise, that was not how I felt about Introverts in Love. First, much of what Dembling has to say about the role of introversion and extroversion in romantic relationships also applies to friendships. Most of her advice about finding romantic partners, for instance, applies equally well to finding friends. Second, although I didn’t identify with the coupling parts, I did identify deeply with the introversion parts. I’ve been reading about introversion and extroversion for a long time. I’ve even published some research on characteristics related to introversion. But it took reading this book for me to learn that I’m even more of an introvert than I ever realized.
So I think Introverts in Love is potentially of interest to even more readers than those looking for (as the subtitle says) “the quiet way to happily ever after.” The book is part of the broader cultural project of creating greater recognition for introverts — appreciation of their strengths and talents and understanding of their needs. On page after page, I experienced that sweet sense of identification — Yes, that’s me! — followed by the welcome reassurance from Dembling: Yes, that’s you, and it’s good that that’s you, and you can own it and be proud of it.
If you’re an introvert, you might savor these same offerings from Introverts in Love. And if you’re not, you’ll probably learn quite a lot about the introverts in your life, regardless of whether you have any interest in them as romantic partners.
Introverts in Love: The Quiet Way to Happily Ever After
Perigee, January 2015
Paperback, 208 pages