It's Friday night and your friend asks you to go with her to a house party where you'll know no one. Nightmare situation, you think—but you go. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet the love of your life.
Once you get there, it's overwhelming. Approaching people seems impossible and small talk is exhausting, so you stand near the guacamole, pet the dog a few times, and quietly slip out before midnight—excited to return to your couch and Netflix.
Sound familiar? You may be an introvert. While extroverts derive energy from being around other people, you recharge by being alone—and find the types of big group gatherings where couples often meet (read: parties and bars) draining. Which makes dating harder than it already is.
If you’re nodding your head right now, you’re in luck. We spoke with introversion experts about how shier guys and gals can harness their best qualities to find love, and now present your complete guide to dating while introverted—also useful for extroverts looking to woo an introvert!
Since introverts often find crowded social events overwhelming, meeting potential dates can be difficult. But where there are crowds, there are fellow introverts!
"Introverts are not great at mingling at parties or large gatherings," Sophia Dembling, author of the book Introverts in Love: The Quiet Way to Happily Ever After, told Fusion. So Dembling recommends that introverts look for others on the outskirts of gatherings. "Who's staring at the wall? Or petting the dog?" she said. "Wander up to those folks and try starting a conversation."
Even better, join a group that meets regularly such as a club, class, or sports team. "Introverts tend to be slow to warm up to people enough to connect," she said. "Seeing people over and over and sharing a common interest provide easier entree into conversation than just going to a party or bar where you have to jump in with both feet right away."
As you probably well know, introverts don't necessarily want to chat about the weather or what you did at work that day. Filler conversations can be draining. "That doesn’t mean an introvert is unskilled in making small talk. They just find it quite boring and exhausting," said Laurie Helgoe, assistant professor at Davis & Elkins College and author of Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength.
When talking with someone you like, try to direct the conversation to a more real level. Introverts are "good at drawing people out from chitchat to real conversation," said Dembling. In fact, she said, when introverts see an opening to talk about their interests, shyness often peels away.
"Introverts can be real chatterboxes when talking about things they're passionate about," said Dembling. "Sometimes they have to watch themselves—it's kind of like running downhill. Once they get started, introverts pick up speed and have trouble stopping. Which can be either charming or confusing to the other person."
Actual dates are where introverts shine. "Introverts tend to be most comfortable in one-on-one situations where they don't have to compete for attention," said Dembling.
On a date, introverts will give you their undivided attention, which makes them great listeners and leads to more in-depth conversations, especially when the person they're with allows them to open up. "They can be good conversationalists if they're with someone who gives them the space to respond and shows interest in their interests," she said.
Introverts may have a few walls up in the beginning, but once they connect they can be very loyal partners. "It's the superficial level that they have trouble with," said Dembling.
However, getting past that level can be challenge since introverts don't exactly shout their feelings from the rooftops. In an introvert-introvert relationship, someone at some point has to take the plunge and say "Do you like me—yes or no?" In an extrovert-introvert relationship, the introvert may need to speak up and convey that it may take him or her longer to come around.
Once the relationship progresses, however, an introvert is just as excited and open to love as anyone else. "Introverts falls head over heels just as extroverts do," said Helgoe.
Whether reading in your room or spending a serene weekend solo, you're entitled to replenishing alone time. The challenge comes in explaining to your significant other that this desire to be by yourself is not an insult. “Introverts need to make clear that they don't need alone time to get away from the other person, they need alone time because they need alone time," said Dembling.
The desire to be alone can, in fact, make introvert-introvert relationships especially intimate. "When an introvert can find a person with whom they can feel alone together, that's a wonderful thing," said Helgoe. Their relationship can benefit "if they can have long pauses, read in the same room, or hang out without speaking."
While two introverts can indeed share beautiful alone-yet-together time, you shouldn't be afraid to date extroverts. The pairing can lead to fulfilling, complimentary relationships—the key is communication and mutual respect, said Dembling.
Introverts need to be clear with extroverted significant others about their needs, and on the flip side, they need to respect extroverts' need for people and action. "This might mean sometimes going out when [introverts] don't really want to, as a loving gesture, or it might mean letting the extrovert go out and have fun on his or her own," said Dembling.
Introverts don't like conflict, which means they may be passive aggressive about their feelings or stay in bad relationships too long. "Introverts may have a harder time being direct and setting limits and saying this is over," said Helgoe.
Dembling echoed this thought, saying that introverts often "fade out" in relationships, because it's easier to stop showing up than call it off—which can be hurtful to others.
But introverts should also be careful not to stay too long. "Introverts are often the ones pursued, rather than being the pursuers" said Dembling, "so they are at risk of finding themselves in relationships where they don't really belong."
Introverts think before they speak, even in the middle of an argument—but your silence is not a power play or a cold shoulder. "The strength that introverts bring is they do think and are less inclined to say something hurtful. But extroverts want that immediate feedback," said Helgoe. Therefore, in a relationship, it's important for introverts to talk about how they talk.
"Saying something like 'I know you want to know what I'm thinking, and I do, too—but I am not like you, I don't know yet'" while in an argument can put an introvert's partner at ease, said Helgoe, allowing them to understand you're simply gathering your thoughts, not tuning them out.
Breakups are hard for everyone, but an introvert may need to hole up and listen to torch songs or reflect a little longer than others. Still, they should be careful not to completely disconnect from the world, said Dembling.
"Because introverts tend to have only a few close friends, I strongly urge them to make sure they maintain contact even when they are in the throes of new love," she said, "because they will need those people if the relationship should end."
But let's not end on a somber note. Introverts have been finding love since the beginning of time. Now get out there and quietly snag yourself an emotionally intelligent dreamboat!
Taryn Hillin is Fusion's love and sex writer, with a large focus on the science of relationships. She also loves dogs, Bourbon barrel-aged beers and popcorn — not necessarily in that order.