Monday, July 4, 2016

An Introvert Opens Up

“My alone feels so good, I'll only have you if you're sweeter than my solitude.”
Warsan Shire

I’m an introvert.

On the introvert/extravert scale, I’m about 90% intro and 10% extra. Now that doesn’t mean I’m a social wreck. In fact, I’m usually the first to introduce myself to new people at parties. I get along with most people easily and really enjoy getting to know people and what makes everyone unique. I usually understand how people work. But I’m still an introvert.

For some people, being at social events gives them energy, revs them up. For introverts, social events drain our batteries. We need time alone to plug in and charge back up. Even though I understand people, and have friends whom I love and want to see, it’s hard to explain that parties and other get togethers sometimes feel to me like a non-stop episode of H.R. Pufnstuf. It’s just something I have to prepare myself for or I get really overwhelmed.

So I pretty much had it made in a monogamous relationship. My most intimate relationship was constant and I could spend hours and hours with him and not be drained of my life essence.

Then my husband and I started discussing opening up our relationship. In the course of our early discussions, my husband asked me if I thought I’d ever consider having another long-term partner.

I remember my reaction being something like this: “What? TWO people constantly getting horny around me and always asking me where they left their keys? My brain would completely explode!”

I realized then, open relationship or not… I’m still introverted.

But all hope was not lost. It was tricky at first, but I learned and implemented some things that helped me cope with my introverted tendencies as I attend munches, BDSM play parties, dinner parties, and other social gatherings, kinky or otherwise:

A. I set my boundaries.
My husband and I have different boundaries in what we are looking for in relationships and that’s all right. We may develop a relationship with one or two people or at other times have several casual relationships. I just need to be honest with what I’m looking for when I socialize. Most of the time that will be friendships, or relationships that begin as such with nothing more committed. This doesn’t mean I won’t make strong bonds with other people, just that they will be balanced with other things in my life.

B. I know what to look for.
When I was dating before I met my husband, I tended to ignore signs of clinginess and manipulation. Now I can draw on my experiences and know what healthy socializing looks like and when to be cautious. I can foster relationships that are respectful and not lead others on or be used by others.

C. I pace myself.
Sometimes I need to go in the bathroom by myself and just breathe. I need to pull my hoodie up and just be alone with me for a minute. It’s not to start any drama – in fact, most people don’t even know I do it. I time it with everyone’s smoke break so people aren’t worried when I just randomly bolt or try to hide under a blanket. Just because I’m introverted doesn’t mean I’m socially ungraceful.

D. I practice centering.
It’s kind of a mini-meditation session, but I’ve found that sometimes objects can help center me. I have a couple necklaces that work well for this. I will just focus on nothing but the pendant and gain clarity of myself in all the social static. There are other centering techniques I’ve learned from the teachings of Buddhism to do when I’m alone or right before/after a party that centers me as well, so I can play harder, longer (and who doesn’t want that?)

E. I always have an “escape.”
I also always carry a book or notebook with me. I try not to be rude about it. But I tend to get resentful when I feel like I’m stuck in a corner and reading or writing even just a little bit relieves that. I’m pretty good about reading and staying in tune with the conversation so I can read and keep up with what’s going on when people around me are all playing video games or watching a sporting event. And people who like to read then gravitate toward the book and it gives us something to talk about which I’ve always found is great.

F. I know I’m in control.
Instead of feeling forced into social situations I view them as my choice, a choice that I am making because I can learn things and create genuine bonds with other people. That’s a great thing. But I can always say no. I can always take a break if I need to. I don’t have to justify why I want to be closer with some people than others. I will learn and grow from socializing, but having a few close friends is perfectly fine and I don’t have to feel bad that I’m not a social butterfly.

Being an introvert in an open relationship isn’t always easy. But being true to me makes all of my relationships better, for everyone involved.

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