silhouette of introvert person sitting on green grass during golden hour

As humans, we crave connection. The ability to have deep and meaningful contact with others is what defines us from other species, and it is one of our fundamental needs. Yet, despite this need, many of us have difficulties maintaining relationships – which leads to the question of why? An integral piece to the puzzle may lie in our personality types.

The terms introversion and extraversion were popularized by psychoanalyst Carl Jung at the start of the 21st century, and whereas they are still widely used when both describing and assessing personality, they are also largely misunderstood. In simple terms, the main difference is that extraverts tend to focus their energy on an external or outside world, whereas introverts focus on their inner world. Still, both are healthy variations in personality type.

shy woman scratching her head while leaning against concrete wall

Extraversion is the trait which is usually viewed more favorably for being exuberant and energetic in comparison to introversion which can be seen as a cold and impassable trait. However, introverts are as capable and needing of love as extraverts, but how they are able to express it may cause difficulties in romantic relationships.

The following are nine common ways in which an introvert may push a partner away:

1. Anxiety on dates

Getting past the first stage in a relationship can be difficult for an introvert. Don’t get me wrong; everyone gets nervous before a first date, but introverts may feel emotions which verge on panic. Not only does the first date instill nauseating anxiety, but so can the second, third, and fourth. Even when a relationship is well-established, going out in public can be exhausting and mentally draining for them.

2. It can be challenging for introverts to express feelings

Whereas introverts often possess that sense of undeniable coolness through being aloof, they may have difficulty expressing their emotions and thoughts to a partner. Unfortunately, this may cause a sense of isolation in a relationship which can hinder a developing sense of closeness.

3. Introverts often possess high standards of personal values and morals

nervous introvert woman praying while closing her eyes

Photo by Luan Cabral on Unsplash

Whereas possessing a high standard of values and morals in an undeniably admirable trait, people who possess a more introverted style of personality can often expect the same sense of personal standards from those close to them. This may impose a somewhat impossible set of expectations on a romantic partner, setting themselves up for disappointment and their partner up for failure.

4. Introverts require more alone time

Introverts often require a significant amount of time alone in order to process their thoughts and feelings. This can be difficult for a romantic partner to understand, especially if they are not of the same personality type. It can be perceived as pushing them away and creating boundaries, whereas the opposite is usually true. Introverts often require “recharging time” after extensive social interaction as it can be particularly draining for them. Downtime can be energizing.

5. The porcupine problem

Introverts may push their partner away to avoid being hurt. In 1964, Schopenhauer devised The Porcupine Problem, an Aesop’s fable-esque parable which demonstrates our need and reaction to human connection. The porcupines huddled for warmth but had to quickly disperse due to pricking each other with their quills, only to reconnect when it became cold, just to be hurt by the quills again.

This implies that our desire for human interaction is both a fundamental and universal human need. But as much as we crave social interaction, people also cause each other pain, distress, and heartbreak. In the same way that we are drawn to each other, we are also mutually repelled by the adverse qualities of human nature.

6. The dreaded small talk

shy woman covering her face lying on green grass

Photo by Ben Hershey on Unsplash

An extravert may enjoy telling their significant other about the most minute details of their day. They want to share and know their partner to establish a sense of connection. However, for an introverted personality type, this can be an immensely difficult task. It’s not in their nature to share every thought that comes into their head. This may present to a partner as disinterest.

7. Difficulty talking about themselves

In a similar vein, as they dislike small-talk, introverts are uncomfortable talking about themselves for many reasons; they may believe that they are boring, and their partner doesn’t want to hear about them, or they may not be able to think of anything worthwhile to say while under pressure. As a result, this may cause a partner to feel as though they don’t want to open up when in reality, they’re more comfortable listening.

8. Spending too much time in their own head

Being reflective of our own thoughts is healthy behavior; however, for an introvert, too much reflection can cause them to overanalyze even the most insignificant interactions. This can lead to them second-guessing everything they say to another person, whether one to one or in a group. They may essentially inhibit themselves from being able to relax in company.

9. Failure to appreciate their partner

Due to the taxing nature of social events on an introvert, they may fail to appreciate when their partner makes plans, and instead, be more excited when they cancel them. This is not due to their dislike of social interactions, but they can be exhausting and taxing for them. This can lead to a partner becoming frustrated and feeling undervalued.


Maner, J. K., DeWall, N., Baumeister, R. F., Schaller, M. Does Social Exclusion Motivate Interpersonal Reconnection? Resolving the “Porcupine Problem,”Interpersonal relationships and Group Processes.  

Martin, C., Martin, G. (2001). Building People, Building Programs. 

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