I’m Sorry I Hurt You in Order to Save Myself: What Introverts Feel but Don’t Always Say

He tentatively reaches across the bed with a warm gentle hand and I … recoil.  I just need a few more delicious moments of morning mind.  I need that gauzy, thought- Maren Kathleenweaving space of nourishing idea play where I breathe fully and smile involuntarily.  I need that space where I belong solely to myself.

He rolls away, stares at the ceiling and blinks back rejection.  With a sigh he heaves himself out of bed and leaves me in my space.

I am so sorry. I can’t give to you right now. I’m so sorry.

The above scene is from the end of my marriage. I appear selfish and cold but what you don’t know is that at that point I was so raw and over-stimulated from years of exposing my introverted nature to the harried, competitive demands of externally-driven living that I couldn’t bear the softest touch of a lover’s hand.I spent my days tending to the intermittent needs of three children, a house with never-ending upkeep and the demands that come with integrating into a community (school, neighborhood, social circles).

I couldn’t slow down, no one else did. I had to thoroughly care for everyone and everything. I was desperate for permission to go internal; to slough off the scabs and injuries from unnatural striving and become smooth again.

Sorry I’m Not One of Those Moms Who Lives Solely for Her Children

It’s August and I’m awake at 7AM on a Sunday in order to get writing time in. I should have until 9 before anyone needs me.

Knock, knock, knock.  It’s 8:20 and my daughter is outside my office door. She comes in and starts talking.  My mind goes wild as it ping-pongs back and forth between her detailed description of a Disney tween show and the unfinished work that taunts me from my Mac Book.

girl in tears

I’ve spent every weekday this summer with the kids.  We’ve traveled, lounged and co-existed for much of the summer.  I adore the relationships but desperately need time for clear-headed dreaming. I need open and untamed blocks of time in order to think, create systems and ponder my people (yes, a large part of solitude is spent thinking of others). It’s vital to me that the individuals in my life feel secure and cared for but I also have to preserve me.

Torn, always torn.

My boundaries are mushy.  I feel I owe her my full attention but also have a deep desire to complete my work. I ask her to watch TV for a bit while I finish my writing.  Her eyes well up, she nods silently and leaves.

 I am sorry.  Sorry I renew in concentration.  Sorry I can’t recharge with you in the room, like you do with me.

The Receiving End of Introvert Rejection

It is not in my nature to bloom within a greenhouse.  I am a wildflower, a weed perhaps.  I need open and untamed spaces to sprout.  I need to ask the questions and think the thoughts that others overlook.  ~  Dawna Markova,  I Will Not Die an Unlived Life

male solitude guitarHe tells me he wants time alone, to create, explore and thrive. At this point in his life, he can’t give back enough for a high quality committed relationship.

My ears ring, my eyes fill instantly, my heart aches deeply.

The introversion I know so well, betrays me.

I go through all the emotions I imagine others, who have been turned away by an introvert, have felt: confusion, frustration, anger, disbelief, sadness, even loneliness.

If you loved me enough you wouldn’t want time away from me.  

I can be quiet in your life, give you space.  You won’t even know I’m here. 

And yet… I get it. I know he needs that freedom.  He needs that space to return to himself.  I know he is sorry for hurting me.

Have you begged for alone time lately? How do you ask for alone time without hurting someone’s feelings? 

76 thoughts on “I’m Sorry I Hurt You in Order to Save Myself: What Introverts Feel but Don’t Always Say

  1. My closest friend is an introvert and I’m a shy extrovert. I came across your site while searching for insights that may help my friend and I get through a rough patch we’re currently experiencing in our friendship. I’ve no words for how profoundly helpful your posts have been for me. My friend and I have developed a strong intimate connection over the 9 months we’ve known each other. Most of that time I was living in NYC, he lives in LA. We met in LA on set of a short film I was producing and acting in. It was a 3 day shoot. He played my boyfriend. I’m a gay man, he’s straight. We worked so brilliantly together that we did another short film together in NYC 2 months later (2 day shoot) and another 4 months later in LA (1 day shoot). By that point we were texting/emailing daily. He even called me a few times (huge for introverts). That last time in LA we spent 2 days non-stop together. He invited me to his house. We had great conversations, very open, very connected.

    In May he came to NYC for 2 weeks to host a docuseries I was producing. It was grueling for me and utter Introvert Kryptonite for him (though he never admitted it). He was staying with me and had zero alone time. I did my best to give him space but there wasn’t much I could do because we were working. However, we also had our most vulnerable conversations during those 2 weeks. He opened up like never before and I really listened to him as I always do. He hugged me many times and said “I love you.” I of course said it back because I love this man like my brother. It all went to Hell the last 2 days (granted, he was fully-depleted and understandably sick of me) when out of the blue he accused me of having romantic feelings for him. I tried explaining that wasn’t the case, but he was recalling and re-framing out of context conversations/moments we’d shared and accusing me of only wanting to work with him because I wanted to sleep with him. Not true, but he was convinced. He went back to LA and immediately his tone toward me changed. My funny, sweet, caring friend was gone. It was all business only. I had been planning a move to LA for work for some time which we’d talked about with great excitement and he stopped asking about it altogether.

    A week after I moved just over a month ago I asked him if everything was OK with us and he emailed me saying our friendship was too complicated for him right now due to ‘events that happened in NYC.’ I didn’t know why exactly and being an extroverted confrontive coper afraid of abandonment, I pushed him for a reason and he said things between us had to be professional only from now on. I gave him a month of space (which was hard having just moved here and living 5 minutes away).

    A week ago I reached out via text to say Hi and that I missed him. He emailed me immediately in an angry tone asking why I was communicating with him, then saying we had to end the friendship and our relationship had to be 100% professional (we’re doing a feature film together in November). No real explanation beyond that. I haven’t responded. Breaks my heart. I’m inclined to tell him I’ll let go of the friendship if it helps him and I will because I love him. I miss my friend terribly and I know he’s hurting. When introverts freeze people out, is there ever any hope? That’s all I need. Hope.

    • Wow. I’m sorry for the abrupt loss of your close friend. It sounds to me like he got spooked thinking you were nudging him towards a romantic relationship.Perhaps someone made a comment to him insinuating you were looking at him as a lover or you crossed a line physically somehow? Whatever the circumstance, something didn’t sit right with his personal view of himself, although I have a feeling he was conflicted because he enjoyed your connection so much. That inner conflict is extremely draining for an introvert.
      Are you being completely honest with me and with yourself when you say there was no interest in or hope of turning the friendship into something more intimate? I know when there is a deep connection it is hard not to follow that thread to a romantic outcome.
      I can’t say what is going on inside his heart and mind but I would guess he would eventually be open to your friendship if he could be certain there were no romantic overtures. Perhaps if you were dating someone else or if he was? Could you point out how well you work and create together? Perhaps you can start rebuilding the relationship by keeping it strictly professional and just creating amazing work. He can’t help but see the value in a positive work relationship. He is going to have to feel safe and relaxed enough again in order to let his guard down. It will take time and possibly some emotional and physical distance for this to happen. I hope you can re-connect AND create beautiful films together. It sounds like a relationship worth the effort of clearing up misunderstandings. Keep me posted. I’m cheering for you and the friendship.

      • Wow. Thank you so much for this. This insight is truly a gift. Someone most definitely insinuated I was pushing him toward a romantic relationship (he shared that with me). I know that caused him quite a bit of conflict (he shared that w/me too). You’re right to ask about my honesty. I can tell you I’ve done a lot of soul searching and know in my heart I truly love him as my friend. As a gay man, I love my close male friends, gay or straight, with more emotional affection than most straight men probably do. I’ve wondered if he began questioning his own sense of self the closer we became. Like, “I feel a deep connection with a gay man, what does this mean for me?” I even wondered if perhaps he’d developed confused romantic feelings for me and that was causing great conflict. When I addressed his suspicions I told him he met many of the emotional needs I’d find in a romantic relationship – feeling truly seen and known, security, feeling cared for, etc. but our fundamental differences in sexual orientation are what separate us. It’s just different. We’ve talked about him falling in love with a woman someday, me falling in love with a man- Being at each other’s weddings. As a gay man I’ve had to explain to close male friends many times that just because I love you as a friend doesn’t mean I want to sleep with you or date you. I think that also made him confront his own ignorance. I can let go of our friendship because I know he needs that to feel safe right now. I want him safe and happy even if that means releasing my expectations of a friendship. I’m grateful he recognizes our professional compatibility. I can enjoy his company when we work together. I don’t want to be a source of anxiety or conflict for him. But I miss my friend very much and want him to feel safe with me again. I want to tell him I can let go of the friendship and honor his boundaries while maintaining a working relationship – Because I can. I don’t want HIM to feel he’s lost a friend though. How can I tell him I understand and can meet his needs but still offer him some comfort that I’m still here for him as a friend? What can I say now to at least lay a foundation for potentially redeveloping our friendship down the line?

      • I think it’s possible he did develop some confusing romantic feelings for you and that challenged his sense of identity. I believe time will allow him to process all of that. It may be hard for him to sort things out if you keep contacting him and reminding him of your connection. I would give him space but perhaps send a short message saying, “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to re-visit my boundaries and I will certainly respect yours. I look forward to creating incredible work with you.” That’s it,then let him process everything and you work on you. Do what makes you feel alive. Do what helps you grow. If he is a true friend, he will reach out for your companionship again someday. When he does, take it slowly.:)

      • Follow Up: I sent him the email. Said “looking forward to creating more great work with you” and mentioned I’d been working on a script idea. I received a response 4 days later from his agent admonishing me for contacting his client directly and not to do that again. Incredibly hurtful. I won’t allow him to manipulate our personal situation to tarnish my professional reputation. Such an angry, aggressive move. I’ve no choice but to move on though I do worry about his state of mind.

      • Wow W. That was an incredibly cold response. I am sorry that now this is bleeding into your professional relationship. The only thing you can do is remain professional and do your best work. I know emotions are no doubt surging. Relationships touch all aspects of our lives. Something went off inside your friend. Something he obviously couldn’t bear. He is retreating to protect himself but I am sorry he couldn’t talk openly and honestly with you about it. He may not have been able to express it. Keep your head up and move forward. This connection did not pan out but it does not mean others won’t. Keep being you and you’ll attract others who appreciate your way of being. Sending you peace and a supportive embrace.

    • I’m sure Ms. Knowles will give you a great response, but as in introvert myself I wanted to give some feedback as well…if you don’t mind. We sometimes have the tendency to create issues with people in order to be able to avoid those highly draining situations. Two weeks of non stop interaction was probably damn near traumatizing for him, and now he mentally associates you with the feelings he ended up having. You know that when he wasn’t in that position your friendship was great, so undoubtedly it was all the pressure that allowed him to create the fictitious passes you threw at him. I was sorry to read that even after some distance/time things didn’t get back to normal. Perhaps he’s begun to believe it actually happened. The mind is a tricky thing I’ve learned. It definitely sounds like he went into defense mechanism mode after becoming so overwhelmed during the visit though. As an introvert I can tell you that pulling back on the affection, attention, etc works on us better than anyone. I almost hate how much it works on me because it’s so cliche, but it does every time lol. Clinginess or the perception of it pushes us away, or scares us. Clingy people mean obligations in my brain. If he sees you as a person that requires a lot from him, or is draining, that likely won’t be a friendship he wants. Try falling back, aka don’t reach out, and when you see him to film your movie don’t bring up the issue. Carry on like you’re just cool acquaintances, and colleagues. That will help him to relax, because he’s most likely dreading any sort of confrontation, or rehashing of conversations about it. If you were reaching out saying how much you miss your friendship, and being long winded and emotional about it, trust me that will get you nowhere, because it seems needy…well I guess you kinda see that already. When you see him appear completely detached from the situation, smile,keep it light, and keep it professional as he’s suggested. I can almost guarantee that once he sees that you’re able to respect boundaries, which is HUGE, for us there’s a good chance that he will actually reach out to you. If you cross the line of professionalism like he requested though, I can guarantee you’ll never be friends again. And if you’re faking it he’ll be able to tell, and that will be just as off putting. Being introverted really develops your sense of nonverbal communication. I know how people feel, what they really mean when they say certain things, etc. So, I suggest you really get to the point of being over it before you see him again. So, should he choose not to rekindle your friendship you’re okay with that too. You have to be a great guy for you two to have even hit it off. His loss. We tend to lose a lot of good friends actually, so don’t take it personally.

      • I love your insight and wisdom hood hippie.:) I learned a few things from your response as well. I agree two weeks of togetherness was probably overwhelming. It is easy to start seeing negative attributes of someone when we are in desperate need of their absence. Thank you for sharing. I am sure wilsoncleveland will appreciate your thoughtful comment.

      • I’m glad my opinion was welcomed! I get more insights about myself from other people’s experiences. I hadn’t even realized some of those things until I started to write. I hope it helps him as well. Thanks for all you do!

      • Thank you so much for this invaluable insight. (Brenda – I replied to your comment as well though I don’t know if it went through). So Hoodhippie – Your advice would be to not reach out again on a personal level (I have to on a professional level). I thought perhaps a short response acknowledging I’ve heard him and will happily respect his needs may make him feel some relief – Relief from anticipating further emotional drains and relief from any guilt he may be feeling. I just want him to feel heard but not feel I abandoned him because he voiced his needs.

  2. Hey there your articles have deeply moved me and helped alot i do understand most of it. Now just so you know im an extrovert i hope your are still open to my perspective. My boyfriend is introvert . I love him very much but even though i love my space as well i find its no issue when i am single until in a relationship where i tend to center everything around the person i love. I know alot of these bad habbits and issues of giving myself too much is my own fault and why i end up where im at. I have smothered the relationship and showered my love upon the man in my life hoping to get back his love and attention. Im in the process of backing off and recollecting not only my thoughts and emotions but myself as a whole. Hopnig that we can get back to our passionate connection. We used to talk for hours and do fun activities together…. he is now feeling drained. I thought he loved it until he needed space and i read this article n it makes sence. Those beautiful moment we share should be spaced out and small doeses be cause he doesnt have the same energy as i do hewould rather sit for hours on his ipad or watch sports. I reapect completely how he feels wih the need for space. My biggest struggle is even with spacegiven he continues to push away so i am trying very hard to just focus on myself. Intimacy seems to be a big issue. Hes never interested in ingaging, initiating, or in the mood. I wait patiently to feel loved and wanted. My issue is i thought by give more space he would want these thing more and enjoy them or be excited…. i know i cant expect these things so i let it be . I hope he come around after having time with himself… my biggest issue is i respect his space but the fact that intimacy is rarely present i am hurt deeply when im laying beside him and hes always looking at hot perfect half naked girls on his ipad.. then i just feel insecure and like im not good enough or as attractive . But he isdating me so he had to have been attracted at one point. Anyways your articles are helpig realize more about some of his actions and reasons for wanting space. I think it is important to have time to yourself. I need to get out of my head and start doing all the things i loved most without feeling i need to rely on him to do so. I been working on it i just hope he realizes and we can work together. If you have any insite or suggestion please do tell me . Its nice to talk to other introverts who can maybe explain some of the misunderstanding that extroverts have. I give all my heart im very caring and sensitive and i know that can be too much for my boyfriend .

    • You seem very conscious and self-aware. You have a right to expect respect and a mutual give and take in a relationship. I believe you are on the right track when you said you are taking stock of your emotions and yourself as a whole. You cannot change him but you can take action that will enhance yourself. I suggest figuring out what makes you feel alive besides your relationship with him and do that, do it a lot. Give him space and make yourself feel satisfied at the same time. Relationships are extremely important but they have to be monitored. If you lose yourself in an unhappy one, it’s on you to find your way out or it’s on you to make changes to help improve it. Your partner has to do his part as well. Learning how to self-soothe is a key component to personal satisfaction within a relationship. I have written a couple of posts with suggestions for how to do that. Just search under self-soothe on this site. Best of luck to you! You are a bright woman. Follow your intuition.

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  4. Dear Brenda,

    I met this guy and at first it seems like we attracted each other. I knew from the start that he is an introvert. But i already with someone before i met him and when he knew it, i just feel that he is putting more space between us which i could understand why….:( but even though there are more space between us, when i see his relationship with other girls in school, i’m still his closest friend (as far as i knew..) and my feelings towards him is become deeper.. if you asked what people think about us, they might say that we are a couple..because we were almost always together..from sitting in class..eating.. doing homeworks..(some people said it to me) And What makes me frustrated is i don’t know how does he feelss about me..what does he thinks about me? did he think that i’m just playing with his feelings? or maybe he thought that we were just friends? or all things that he did with me is because he is just trying to be a nice friends?

    and now my relationship is not going too well too…because i had a long distance relationship and in here i always met him so my relationship is become plain and flat..its okay but..not sparkled anymore…because i can’t get him out of my head..

    do you have any suggestions about this ? Thank you for sharing..so i could understand him more and more..

    • Thank you for sharing your story. Does the introvert know your long distance relationship has gone sour? I would make sure that he did and then see what happens. Introverts tend to need to be drawn out. He is not going to just tell you he is interested. If you drop some big hints that you are interested in being more than friends he may respond positively. It is also possible that he found you ‘safe’ when you were in a relationship. In other words, he could spend a lot of time with you without fear of you taking his attention as romantic interest. I would make sure he knows of your long distance relationship’s demise and then see how your connection grows or changes. You may have to make the first move in order to see how he feels. Best of luck!

      • Hi Brenda..

        Thank you for your suggestions..yes you’re right..i need to see his response..if he somehow noticed that i like him more than friends..and he is not..will he walk away..and end our friendship? aaaah…i’m thinking too much..hehe..because i really like him..
        wish me luck ! and i will tell you the good news soon..! (be positive thinking..eventhough it makes me so nervous…)

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  7. I’ve been reading your blog for the past month and it has been a great help towards my ongoing relationship.

    Im in my final year of my degree and finally fell in love with a Law student, very introverted. What makes it kinda bizarre was that she approached me first and followed me on social media (kinda weird for an introvert, I know). Her close friend of hers even told me that she’s really reserved. To make matters even challenging, she’s very beautiful, and sought after by many men, but turned them down. (She did admit she had feelings for a colleague but remained to be uncommitted to him as yet).

    Last month, I took her out and confessed on the first day, and she said our feelings were mutual (SCORE! :-D). We’ve only dated twice, but I and her do feel a sense of comfort and belonging I craved for so long in someone (the last time I actually fell for someone was 4 years ago, ended badly). So, it is hard for me to actually like, what more love someone. I’m an introvert as well by the way, but not as introverted as she is.

    To cut a long story short, she recently let go of me ( a term used very loosely) due to her family problems and the apparent bombardment of assignments, and I can see that. Our past dates have been me just hanging out in cafe’s while she does her work, and time flies really fast for us even though we were quietly enthralled and absorbed in our work. (Our relationship just spans over less than a month, so the intensity is quite strong early on)

    She texted me that she really enjoyed my company and if we had met sooner before the complications in her life happened, she’d consider me as a boyfriend (She’s very careful in selecting one). In addition, she said that if our paths were meant to cross, she would start anew. I then told her that she always has a place in my heart (and she started to cry, yes..she texted me that), and then asked me to be patient while she deals with her own current mental confusion and challenges. The reason she did that was because she felt the relationship to be unfair; she couldnt be with me when I needed her, but I was always there for her. She said its been difficult for her to tell me this since she knows Im there for her during good and bad times, able to take care of her and be patient with her personality, and she never has to be someone else when talking to me. She feels comfortable with me.

    I then told her finally to just be strong and settle those things first, and when the dusk has settled, we can be back together again. I gave her some space to deal with everything thats going on in her life.

    I’m refraining myself to text her as hard as I can, but its been difficult. Im worried that she might date her colleague (she does call him ‘Dear’ before we met..yes I stalked her) or find somebody new behind my back.

    Im feeling insecure. What should I do to make myself trust in her and not make me worry? (I do trust her with all my heart, but that annoying feeling comes along where you begin to question everything pops out now and then)

    I do apologise if this post was too long, but I have no other channel to express myself. Im truly happy that this blog exists.

    Thank you very much. :’-)

    • Dear MK,
      If your sweet introverted woman truly is going through some difficult emotional upheaval she will most definitely need time to sort that out. Emotions swell and overwhelm us. Sometimes causing us to feel paralyzed.You are doing the right thing by giving her space but also letting her know you are available to lean on. If she is truly interested in you she will make good use of her time alone/away and then have a craving to re-connect. All people can be draining to an introvert at times, even the ones we deeply care for. If we want them in our lives we will find ways to incorporate them. We may still need time alone but not 100% of the time.
      Her feelings for her colleague are a little confusing. Does she want a relationship with him and he isn’t interested? I’d be mindful of the depth of her feelings for him.
      You are in the beginning of this relationship. You will need more time to know and understand your special woman’s true nature and intentions. She may be very reserved but if she is smitten with you, she’ll come around.
      My suggestion to you in the mean time is to work on yourself. Fortify your sense of self. Do what you love and expand your self-awareness. Nothing is more attractive than someone who knows who they are and is taking action in meaningful ways. Introverts love those who are self-propelled. They don’t require a lot of our energy to be content.
      Best of luck and thank you for sharing your story!! I’m so happy you found space2live.:)

  8. I have read a couple of your posts tonight and I feel them resonating deep within. I recognise myself in all of the things you describe the first time I heard I was an introvert was at my study three years ago. It was a class about your personal growth and personality. So we did a test to see if you were an introvert or an extrovert. My result was highly introverted.I did not realise what it meant until I was a year older and read a good book: the introvert advantage. It gave me a clear understanding about the things that were “wrong ” with me. Now three years further in my life lots of things changed. I became an adult faster than I could handle when my mom died 18 months ago. Suddenly my relationships with friends got closer. and people who were gone for years started to reappear in my life. At first I was able to keep up with all the social events and nights out and I really enjoyed being with them. But the last few weeks I can’t keep up with them. I am currently doing an internship wich takes a lot of.my energy. And I really wish I.had more of it. But combining these two factors it gets exhausting. And I miss my downtime my precious moments alone. When I get home.from work.my mind is fuzzy even those days when I have a day off. My mind is blank and fuzzy for a big part of the day. And I know the signs when an introvert gets overstimulated. But I am scared to tell this to my friends. My best friend is an extrovert and he knows that I am introverted but thinks I am using it as an excuse. But its just me, and if I could change it I would have done it a long time ago. just to keep up with him and others. But I have used to much of my energy and last week I lost my cool luckily it was only over text and its solved. But that was the moment I realised that I was asking too much from myself. And unfortunately they all want to make appointments to meet in the weekends. Go to a bar as a group. Mostly they ask it on monday. But at that day and mostly till friday I am recharging my energy to go on for another weekend. And this goes on for weeks now. So now I have drawn a line for myself and am not making any appointments and just look how I feel on the day the event will be. But now they are saying that they really miss me when I am not there. And that hurts because I really want to fullfill their requests. And want to be with them. But I know I can’t take anymore until I start to go nuts. And I am currently taking that downtime. But now they think I don’t want to see them anymore. The only thing I want is a clear mind and just silence and being in solitude for a moment so I can join them again. Well my mind is getting empty when I wrote this. Maybe I needed to write a bit of it away and share it with other introverts because I know you guys will understand the feeling.I am Sorry to bother you with this.

    • Not a bother at all. This is the best space to unburden yourself from introvert worries/stress/frustrations. Everything you said, I’ve experienced. It feels bad or wrong to tell your friends no to social engagements but you truly do have to save yourself. You are smart to use self-care to heal and get whole again. If you could get away, out of town, that would be even better. Admittedly, my favorite place to be alone is my home but I’ve also felt the tremendous relief of getting away from all of my people and everyday pulls on my attention.
      I have found it does help to write about how you feel. Connecting with others who feel the same is another salve to the over-stimulated spirit. You are not alone. There is nothing wrong with you. Thank you for sharing your story. I’ll speak for most of the readers here and say, We understand.
      Are there any people who give you energy? Where do you find the most peace? Is your internship a good fit for you? Keep holding your ground and guarding your alone time. It is vital.

  9. This post expresses my heart and soul to the nth power.

    I just walked away from a relationship. Not because I don’t love him, but because he needs more of me. But, I don’t have any more to give. I use to judge myself harshly and say, “what is wrong with me”. But, your blog has helped me embrace who I am. I love when you wrote “Be your best self and see if anyone else magnificent shows up”. Instead of wasting time hating who I am, I have started to “be my best self” and see what path this leads me down. I already know the path that hating myself leads to and it’s not pleasant. Reading your blog fills me with hope and self-acceptance. Thank you!

    • Thank you for your kind words. I am so happy that space2live speaks to you and gives you hope and self-acceptance. I know how it feels to not be able to give anymore. Letting others down is painful. Our compassionate, empathetic spirits ache. You have to be true to you in order to be your best self. Go forward with strength and peace my friend. Head up, heart out. See what precious people enter your life.:)

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  12. I can’t believe I found this. I’m distraught after ending my relationship with a beautiful man who was an extreme introvert. I am too, but to a far lesser degree.

    He told he that he wanted to be alone, preferred it. He couldn’t give anything to our relationship right now. He doesn’t have the headspace to think about whether he wants to be with me or not, and doesn’t want to hurt me by making me wait. It was the most beautiful breakup I’ve ever had, we talked and laughed for hours afterwards like we’ve always done, and my heartbroke when I finally had to walk out that door.

    At times I wonder if it was all just a cop-out. But knowing the year he’s had and reading your beautiful post above, I finally understand the turmoil he would have been in and how much it took for him to say that to me.

    Thank you so much for sharing

    • See my response to your other comment. I would add that if you two did re-connect just know that you can structure your relationship however the two of you want. That could mean seeing each other less frequently, just as long as you both give and get a little.

  13. Pingback: Introvert Relationships: Are Our Expectations for Love Unobtainable? | space2live

  14. Thank you for such a well written post.I found this as I am trying to understand my significant other who is an introvert. I am an extrovert and his behavior confuses me a lot and makes me feel rejected a lot of the times. you did a wonderful job in explaining how he feels And shed some light on the fact that it is not me that’s he is rejecting. Do you think that introverts and extroverts can learn to be together without compromising each other’s happiness and well being? Thanks again for your beautifully written words.

    • I do believe introverts and extroverts can be together in healthy spectacular relationships. It takes awareness, appreciation and respect of differences. Each temperament needs to be valued. I was in a relationship with another introvert and it was difficult to get our needs for space to line up. Every combination of temperament requires lovely open communication. A sense of humor goes a long way too.:)

      • Thank you for that last comment… I am an extrovert in love with an introvert and we are taking space right now to sort ourselves out personally and to really look at the possibility of us making each other happy… It’s been tough – but we care deeply for each other – your descriptions of introvert and the interactions with extraverts is such an eye opener to me – now I can hear what she was actually saying about the space thing (she said it perfectly all along – but I always ‘heard’ – rejection…) Most of what I’ve been reading has not been very promising – I need too much and she needs much less…how can we make that work?… so needless to say – a little hope goes a long way and thank you again.

      • You have different perspectives. The important thing is to appreciate the differences rather than resent them. Focus on what you love about each other, not how much time you have together or what you give each other. Make sure you both communicate how much you care about each other and then work on meeting each other’s needs. You both should feel heard and honored. It sounds like you are making strides toward understanding already. Needing space IS NOT always about rejection. For an introvert, it’s about keeping our head above water. Best of luck in your relationship.

  15. I came across your blog after googling, “Introvert don’t want relationship”…I was hoping to hit keywords. Anyway, the line about your husband reaching out to touch you really hit home with me. Lately…on the nights that I give in and go to bed before he’s asleep, sometimes I catch myself almost cringing when he touches me. I know that he notices. It’s so bad that even if he touches me while I’m asleep it startles me awake, and I wake up almost as if from a nightmare. He asked me today if I’m dreaming. I said I didn’t know. I guess it’s better if he thinks that’s what it is. It’s not that he repulses me, I just so want to be in a cocoon with no light or sound…well, maybe some light, but just alone. We have four children, 9, 6, 2, & 1. He’s almost like having another child at times. I feel like I have to take care of everyone. It’s so draining. I’ve educated him on introversion, and he seems to understand at the moment, but then all seems forgotten. He requires so much attention, reassurance, an coddling it seems. I truly love him, but I wish he would allow me the space I need sometimes. It’s gotten to the point that I fantasize about us being apart. I think about coming home to a house with four children with routine issues and needs, putting them to bed, then just being with myself. No needs, no emotions, no nothing from another person. With four children I feel like I have nothing else to give sometimes…and he pushes. As soon as I just get quiet around him to think he starts with the “what’s wrong”, “you’re acting funny” interrogations and accusations. It stresses me out so much. He’s not as strong as he should be emotionally. He gets depressed here and there, and is sort of anxious. These things drain me as well. Sometimes I can deal, and get pleasure from saying the right thing to help him out, but at times it irks me, and I’m like snap out of man. There are a number of things about him I wish were different, but I know I’m not perfect either, so I try to focus on the positive things. Sometimes he annoys me so much though, that I think I’d rather he not be there. There aren’t any major things though, so I feel really wrong.

    • First of all I’m just going to say, I understand. I’ve been there (only with 3 children, not 4). It is very difficult and draining to be caring for everyone, period. Being an introvert means you are taking so much in and not getting any time to process thoughtfully. You need your sleep (at the minimum) to get back to yourself. It’s great that you have talked about introversion with your husband. At least he is conscious of your temperament and your needs. I wish I had a magic answer for making it easier. Your children will grow up. It takes time. If at all possible get help so that you can have time to re-charge (and don’t feel guilty!). Recovery time is crucial to a happy, calm mom and wife. The energy you have within you is what seeps out to your family. If the well is dry, everyone suffers. It is very important that you establish boundaries now with your husband and with your children. It’s OK to have quiet time in your home. It’s OK to let your kids entertain themselves. Make sure your husband is putting out the same message to your children. You two need to be a united front for protecting adult/alone time.

      I used to fantasize about life without my husband. My fantasy came true. We couldn’t have stayed married but it’s not all freedom and ease now. He found someone to replace me before he even left the house. We have a solid/friendly relationship but it’s still hard juggling as a single parent. I have to share my children with another woman. I do enjoy my evenings to myself. I can’t deny that. I definitely traded some security for freedom. I just want to keep it real for you.:) Sending you peace and strength. I know what you are going through.

  16. Pingback: Intimacy and Solitude Interrupted: Why We’re Weary and Worn Out | space2live

  17. Hi Brenda. I discovered your blog a few days ago when I did a google search on ‘why is small talk so draining?’ I’ve been struggling with how to move away from friends who I find draining to be with, since the conversation just isn’t on a level that I enjoy. I’ve since spent a lot of time reading and mulling over your posts. I have seldom found a blog so compelling and relevant, and I want to thank you for your courage, honesty and beautiful words. My introversion is something I’ve been aware of most of my life but I’ve not really thought about how deeply it affects me until recently, when I was feeling so exhausted I suspected I had M.E. or, it was suggested to me, depression. But somehow neither of those really rang true. Then I started reading about introversion and being a highly sensitive person, and it finally sank in: I’d been living my life in a way that was not at all conducive to my nature. I’ve been a compulsive ‘do-er’ and overly busy for most of my life, and becoming a mother tipped the scales into unmanageability. I home educated my son for a year and by the end of it was feeling desperate. I decided to put him in school, he is thriving so far and I am feeling so blissed out as to be ecstatic. I love how you say what is taboo about parenting and introversion, too – so validating in a world where there’s such pressure to be ‘up’ as a parent all the time and to convey that you are enjoying being with your kids every moment you can. For me, sending my son to school was a matter of sheer survival, as the overstimulation was shutting me down, and I was no longer the mom I wanted to be let alone the person. Now, I am absolutely loving having hours at a time to devote to my creative projects and to ‘downtime’. Your blog has helped me so much this past week to make sense of who I am and what I need. Thank you so much. I am working on a book about motherhood, spirituality and creativity and one of the central themes is how to feed your soul as a mother when there is so much outward stimulation; I feel an understanding of introversion fills in a missing piece of the puzzle for me, and I’d love to write more about motherhood and introversion in the future. I’d always wondered why some moms seem to be able to just go, go and go and do back to back activities while I’d be wilting by 4pm. One question I have for is: how do you understand the link between high sensitivity (as per Elaine Aron’s ideas) and introversion – if you are an introvert are you highly sensitive automatically (it seems so to me), and if you are highly sensitive are you an introvert by definition? Or can you have highly sensitive extroverts? I love pondering these things. Thanks for ‘listening’, and I look forward to reading more of your wonderful posts.

    • I’m so pleased to “meet” you.
      I understand everything you said. I have been in your shoes feeling the exact same way. I also hope to write a book/ebook about parenting and introversion. Our relationships with our children are lovely, multi-faceted and at times, shame inducing. Introverts are often conscientious so we feel compelled to do everything so well. Parenting is complicated and challenging period. Add a an innate need for space in the mix and it can become overwhelming. I considered home-schooling for a nano-second. I believe my children would benefit from it but I knew I could not endure days without time to myself. I would crumble. And yes I feel a tad guilty about this. My children do well academically in public schools but are frustrated and drained by all the busy-ness and stimulation.

      So much is mentioned about how people drain introverts but the “doing and doing” is a major contributor as well.

      I believe Dr. Aron said that 70% of HSPs are introverts. Introversion is based on where you get your energy. High sensitivity is related to introversion in that stimulation is processed intensely. I found this article from Psychology Today which is mildly helpful. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/attending-the-undervalued-self/201107/understanding-the-highly-sensitivity-person-sensitive-int. My daughter is an extrovert but very sensitive. She loves people and gets energy from them. She also thinks as she talks. She is also very aware of moods of others and things like lighting and noise. Too much stimulation overwhelms her, yet she loves slumber parties and activities.

      May your new awareness set you free. Be gentle with yourself and learn to set limits on your ‘doing’. There are many gifts of introversion – enchanting inner world, lasting relationships, deep concentration, etc.

      Thank you so much for connecting with me. I truly appreciate you as a kindred spirit.

      • Thanks Brenda for your thoughtful reply. I feel my son is like your daughter in that he is extroverted but also gets overwhelmed by stimuli – but because he’s so motivated to connect to people and gets energy from that, he doesn’t know when to stop. Then – meltdown and crash! I will check out that article you mentioned. I love what you say about having considered homeschooling ‘for a nanosecond’. If I had known myself better and had less ‘should’s’ operating in my consciousness, I’m sure that’s what I’d have concluded too. My latest blog post (written today) talks about introversion and home education and how they are not easy bedfellows. I have referred to your blog in there too. Actually reading your stuff has encouraged me to blog again after a year’s silence on that particular (more personal) blog, so I want to thank you for that too. And I also appreciate you as a kindred spirit :)

  18. I’ve been on both of sides of this, and no matter how hard to try to soften the blow of rejection, it still stings. At a certain point, though, you take the Japanese proverb to heart of fall seven times, get up eight.

    And thanks for the Dawna Markova quote–I’m going to find that book.

    • Yes, there is always that innate reaction to take things personally. Being the one to walk away is a tad easier but comes with its pangs of empathy and guilt. I am learning the secret is to come into a relationship whole and therefore maintain your wholeness no matter what. You are who you are and must move through life full, rather than waiting for someone to fill you up. Anyway, that’s my theory for the day. It will change, I’m sure.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I’m looking into Dawna Markova too.

      • Great Blog! I too love my life of, what I call, “Sacred Solitude”. I have learned, after years of being the care-giving, need to be needed type, to become my best friend, and have found good company with my soul. Also, in ‘breaking up’ with someone I remind myself that they, too, are creating their reality. Often, they are repeating patterns of abandonment, and they are unconsciously pushing us away. So there’s no real ‘victim’. Thank you Brenda, for sharing your wonderful posts!

      • Sacred solitude, yes! So true that others are creating their own version of reality whether it be consciously or not. I’m shooting for consciousness (but sometimes miss) so that I see my own true part in each relationship and don’t have too many pity parties or guilt pains. Thank you for reading and commenting. I appreciate your kind words and insight.

  19. I was introduced to you last week through Nic Askew’s lovely work.

    Now I find this that gives words to what to me seems unspeakable.

    Thank you for sharing with us.

    • It’s an honor to be linked through the Soul Biography. I so admire Nic’s work. I’m thrilled to give words or a voice to those things that are difficult to say. I spent a lot of years tongue-tied.;)

  20. I had never thought about all this from the point of view of hurting others by seemingly rejecting them, when all I wanted was time alone. I thought there was something wrong with me. They thought there was something wrong with them.
    How different things could be if only each person could have more understanding of the other.

    • That’s what I want to bring to light – a better understanding of the introvert personality so that their relationships will be fulfilling for all involved. It’s sad that we have such a hard time explaining our needs to those we love. Everyone feels selfish or wrong or rejected. Work in progress.;)

      • I agree. Introverts tend to be more empathetic and it is much easier for them to see others needs and respond to them ……. losing their own needs in the process. Too often by making a stand on your own needs (alone time) it creates tension. As this tension goes against your own inner need of peace and calm, it becomes a ‘dammed if you do, damned if you don’t’ sort of situation.

  21. I sooooo get this. I’ve been married for 29 years and the first 15 or so were wonderful and difficult at the same time. I’m so thankful to be married to a committed man. He never gave up on me, even when I know I hurt him by shutting him out. I didn’t understand me, how could he? But he never gave up. We’ve worked through and he so gets me even better than I get myself. I am so blessed. All this to say keep working, keep communicating (big one). I’m not only an introvert but also an hsp so I spend a lot of time in my head which is very important if you’re going to have something to give to others :-)

    • Hmmm, fifteen years is when the death knell sounded on my marriage. I am so glad you were able to fortify your marriage and make it work. My former husband and I were committed and worked for years at saving our relationship but in the end I couldn’t love him and feel good about myself. There wasn’t a sacred, deep connection to sustain us. That’s incredible that your husband understands you so well. You are blessed.

      I’m an HSP too, as mentioned in my About Me page.

      Thank you for your beautiful story and insight.

  22. Thanks for your article. It made me realize I’m not alone with this issue. I arrange and record music which I find requires complete solitude. Our eight year old grandson moved in with us temporarily in February and, with his constant talking and other noise producing activities, I haven’t gotten a project completed since then. The size and arrangement of our house is such that there is no private space. I’ve got projects backed up over the horizon and feel like I’m dying inside. But if I so much as hint that I need some space to work, I get told to “stop it” or “just get used to it.” At such times, the air fairly crackles with the potential for hurt feelings, so I just keep quiet and crave the rare hour or two when I find myself alone and can sneak in a little work. It’s not a good way to live, but for now I think it’s the only one.

    Thanks again for showing you understand.

    • I can feel your longing for the space to create and do what makes you feel alive. I do understand. It’s very disheartening when others are quick to brush aside those deep needs. I know the guilt of wishing for space from the children in your life. Teaching them that it’s natural to need time alone could be a good lesson to learn early on, but I know that is going against the current of society. May you find an evening or whole day soon where you can connect with yourself again.

  23. Beautiful post.

    “It is not in my nature to bloom within a greenhouse. I am a wildflower, a weed perhaps. I need open and untamed spaces to sprout. I need to ask the questions and think the thoughts that others overlook.” This quote (which I also referenced in one of my blog posts) is attributable to Dawna Markova; it appears in her book “I Will Not Die an Unlived Life”

    • Oh yes! I found the quote from your amazing post. I see now that the quote was from a reference Dawna M. made. My goof. Thanks for clearing that up. I just love the truth and imagery behind those words.

  24. This is your most gorgeous work! I am a single mom of a high needs child. I haven’t written all summer. It’s killing me. Xoxo

  25. Sometimes, being an introvert sucks! But yes, I know the feeling. My first husband didn’t understand my need for alone time; but neither did I, and every time I gave up me for him, a little more of me got lost.

    • We had the exact same experience. I admit for a long time I didn’t understand my own need for solitude which does make it hard for a spouse to grasp. Once I figured myself out our marriage had crumbled beyond repair. Thanks for sharing your story. I know it well.

      • I love this blog. I feel so validated when I read it. And the past 20 years of my crazy existence finally makes sense. Doesn’t seem so crazy to me any more. Slowly but surely saying no more and making some time for me. Not quite enough yet, but I will get there.

  26. You have just written the story of my last decade (3 kids and all), and my increasingly painful struggle to hold myself without hurting those I love. Thank you for being so brave in your writing and for helping the rest of us to not feel so alone.

    • Too bad we don’t know each other in real life. We could have a good long meaningful chat over tea or wine.:) You are definitely not alone. My advice is to find a circle of friends who understand and don’t judge. Little by little introduce your loved ones to your true nature. Some people have used my posts to help explain their needs and ways. Hug to you. I’ve been there. I’m still there on some days. Please care for yourself and honor your gifts too.

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