I love introverts. I am not one.
Any guy I’ve been in a relationship with was always the type who wouldn’t reveal the inner workings of his mind to the mailman and the French professor and a classmate he met 20 minutes ago. And I admire that. I also equally admire people who are bold enough and brave enough to put everything right out there—fears, passions, pipe dreams. Given my personality, I am particularly drawn to the polar opposite.
The first and longest relationship I was in, was with someone people considered the class clown in high school. But they didn’t know what he was thinking that time he approached the little bridge over the reservoir where he rode his bike, or what he saw in himself when he looked at his reflection in the water. They knew about his hobbies and his opinions regarding the political issues of the time. He poured words over everyone like he was watering a garden, and was a friend to everyone, but does classifying someone as a friend mean you really know them?
The second guy I dated acted like a rebel with his cryptic tattoos and his habit of skipping school to drive around in his brother’s Mustang. He’d never admit to being lonesome, but he had only one true friend. Everyone else, he felt, was just playing games, collecting friends, counting the contacts in their phones. He didn’t see a point to opening up to people he would lose touch with in a matter of months or years. As juniors, when our grade was making plans to go away to college, the idea continued to grind into his mind that people in school were just friends out of convenience, from living in the same town and spending seven hours a day confined to the boundaries of the same brick walls. For the short period of time he and I were together, I felt special to be a part of the life he let so few into.
My third relationship was with someone who “never spoke,” as our peers commented. “How did you get him to talk?” people would ask, as if he were some alien species that humans had previously never been able to communicate with. The first time the two of us hung out, we ended up sitting on a park bench and talking for four hours. Introverts are not mute. If there’s common ground, carrying on a conversation with someone isn’t difficult. If you have shared values on top of that, you potentially have a strong base for a relationship.
Introverted people can be peeled like an onion. As you become closer and develop trust, you peel back their layers little by little. They start to reveal things about themselves that very few people know. You have to keep these things secret, no matter how strongly you feel the need to share. Eventually, you are able to fully see all the layers and their innermost thoughts. Other times, the spark of a relationship dies out before you reach this point.
A friend of mine came to me last week asking for advice. She’s been dating a guy for about three weeks, and had just met him a month ago. The most crucial piece of advice I could give is that at 19, the relationship doesn’t have to last forever. Also, you don’t have to stop eating chocolate chip pancakes and wearing ripped jeans and start spending your Sundays watching football. In fact, that to me would be the worst case scenario–to lose yourself at a time when you have the most opportunity to explore your own interests and become more independent.
I’ve come to a point where I can thoroughly enjoy time spent alone. I like to take long walks. I like to be alone with my thoughts. If I had someone else around me all the time, I’d risk losing myself a bit. You come to rely on the person who becomes your “other half” and feel incomplete by yourself. This tends to be the point where I try to make a change, or otherwise make an exit.
Maybe I’ve turned into a bit of a cynic, but I’ve lost myself enough times to know I never want to feel as though my worth is measured in terms of someone else.