How do I best serve my introverted spouse?
“I tend to be more outgoing. I love being around people and would gladly be out of the house four or five nights of week just hanging out and being involved in things. My wife, on the other hand, tends to be shy and really likes her time at home. I want to encourage her and walk alongside her in a way that loves her well and honors Jesus, but sometimes it can be difficult when we are wired so differently. Do you have any advice?”
God designed you and your spouse. He picked your hair, skin, and height, but he also picked your personality. God designed your wife to be an introvert and you to be an extrovert.
As such, you shouldn’t expect your wife to become an extrovert and she cannot expect you to become an introvert. Introversion and extroversion have to do with the way that your brains process stimuli in your environment. Extroverts need more stimuli to achieve the same brain reactions that an introvert naturally feels. In other words, extroverts are numb to stimuli so they need more of it to achieve the same result. This is my non-technical understanding of things.
That said, our personalities and relationship are tainted by sin. We cannot simply say, “Well, this is the way I am and God made me like this!” God didn’t design you to be selfish, angry, or domineering even if that comes naturally to you. Your personality is a template, but the template gets scarred by sin. In essence, we look out for our own interests instead of the interests of others or God.
As a married couple, God’s plan is for you to be partners who are one flesh. You go together like peanut butter and jelly, but that is sometimes messy. Marriage has a way of pointing out our struggles and selfishness. When you need to place someone else before you, it amplifies all of your shortcomings. This is why we get so upset when our spouse doesn’t think and act exactly as we think that they should. Opposites attract, and in that there is a chance to compliment one another well but also for tension.
As a Christian, remember that one of God’s purposes of marriage is that we mutually sharpen one another to become more like Jesus. Paul said in Philippians 2:4, “Do not look out for your own interests only, but also the interests of others!” That is exactly what Jesus did. He looked at what you needed - salvation - and what you thought you needed - probably something very different - and he lovingly met you exactly where you were to gently bring you to realize and receive what you actually need.
As a husband, you are called to servant lead your wife and point her to Jesus. In your marriage, your role is to behave like Christ. As such, you need to be aware of what God is trying to change in her and allow her to discover it as you read the Word, pray, and live out your faith.
Leadership also means lovingly drawing her out so that she can bless others with her God-given gifts and personality. Serving other people in a Christ-like way is never easy nor is it cheap. It requires us to sacrifice our own interests (in your case, your extroversion, and in her case, her introversion) at times in order to be Jesus to other people. You are Jesus to your wife when you know how to humble yourself to serve her exactly where she is in her spiritual journey. She is Jesus to others when she doesn’t let her default behavior stop her from serving and loving those who need it.
Practically speaking, beyond prayer and the Word, clear communication and questions are key. Explain that part of you loving and serving her well is asking questions. “Do you mind if I go out with some friends tonight or do you prefer that I stay home?” “Do you want to be home alone or do you want me to stay home with you?” Perhaps there are times when she would be more than happy to be home alone, and you are staying at home because you fear she might be upset with you if you leave.
You also need to communicate your hardwiring to her so that she can serve you. If an extrovert doesn’t get adequate time with people, they will suffer. She needs to free you to feel as though you can go out and interact with people without fearing resentment at home. Mutual submission is the best decision! This is not a one way street.
Remember that not communicating isn’t showing love. It is very easy to just give our loved ones what they want rather than lovingly shepherding them towards what they need. She will need to respond to you with love, communicating without getting annoyed what she needs when “you ought to know better” and you will need to shepherd her with love, knowing when she needs to rest and be recharged and when she needs to be nudged out of her comfort zone.