Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 6.19.38 PMPretty much everything about Kale and I getting married was untraditional. But we were actually quite traditional by not moving in together until a few days before our wedding.

Kale and I certainly weren’t opposed to premarital cohabitation on principle: both of us had lived with exes in long-term relationships before. We simply hadn’t been together long enough to move in together: we had only been dating for four months when we got engaged and got married just five weeks after that (yeah, we moved quick). Kale ending his lease in Brooklyn to move into my apartment in Queens a few days before our wedding was pure circumstance.

By cultural standards, the “getting married” part is supposed to be the huge change that occurred in my life. One minute I was filing my taxes solo and then — ba-bam! — I’m legally joined to another person by law. And to be sure, sponsoring Kale for immigration was also a significant event. But the honest truth is that the biggest change during that time, in terms of how it affected my life and how I had to adjust and grow as a person, was acquiring not just a new husband but a new roommate.

To be clear: Kale fills every day of my life with joy. Both of us feel that being with the other is easy. I knew he should my life partner because around him I’m more me: more silly, more fun, much more confident. Simply put, I’m happy every day; the greatest joy of marriage to him has been falling even more in love with him as time passes. And it is with this easiness, this happiness and this love that I’ve adjusted to living with a new husband and cohabitator. Like any couple newly living together, we’ve had to adjust to each other’s movements: how each of us sleeps, how each of us cleans, how each of us gets out the door in the morning. (We live with the roommate I’d already been living with — my close friend since sixth grade — so we adjust to her habits as well.) The first six to eight months of marriage involved a lot of learning about each other’s domestic likes, dislikes and peccadilloes in ways that most modern couples already know everything about before they’re share a cable bill. But I won’t pretend every minute of cohabitation has been easy. The hard part hasn’t been establishing what an acceptable amount of dishes to leave in the sink at one time is; the hardest part has been the fact that I’m an introvert.

Introversion is one of my strongest personality traits. Contrary to the stereotypes that introverts are shy, antisocial or selfish, this just means I take refuge inside my own mind for the good of everyone. Groups of people don’t do much for me, as I’m much more outgoing one-on-one. I focus intensely and I’m also easily distracted — and annoyed — by external stimulation; loud talking and loud noises grate on my nerves. While I love to go out for cocktails and I’m always down for shopping with my girl friends, afterwards I’ll need a good few hours to myself. I need to recharge my batteries at least a little bit pretty much every day. (The book Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain is a good introduction to introversion.)

When I can’t “introvert out,” as I call it, I’m resentful and cranky. Resentment and crankiness, I’m sure, are not tools for a successful marriage. Yet even living in an apartment that’s relatively large by New York City standards doesn’t make self-imposed seclusion particularly easy; we overlap and interrupt constantly, even if it’s just to find an iPhone cord. So I have to force myself to withdraw and carve out time to reboot, which can be hard. Naturally, that’s partially due to the enthusiasm of being newlyweds. We enjoy our time together, so it doesn’t feel natural to say “see you, I’m going to go into the living room by myself for the next hour!” Additionally, in the first few months of being married, conscious of the fact that I wanted our apartment to feel like ours and not mine, it felt difficult to ask for that without worrying I’d hurt his feelings. I would never want Kale to feel like I’m retreating away from him.

In the spirit of helping other half-introverted couples (services!) here are four things that Kale and I do, which work well for us, to keep everybody happy:

1. Encourage your partner to have a social life outside the marriage. Not only is it great to keep your relationship interesting when both partners have their thing going on, it’s also lovely to know you can count on some nights alone. Whether it’s a book club or volleyball team or a poker game, something keeps the more extroverted partner occupied while the other one “introverts out.” Kale goes out several nights a week to do standup comedy, leaving me an apartment (usually) to myself, and it helps a lot.

2. Make a space where you can be alone. Studio apartments are probably not so good for introverts — it helps to get alone time alone. Usually when I need to “introvert out,” I’ll stay in our bedroom and Kale will go play his guitar or noodle his laptop in the living room. It helps to have physical space separating us, even if it’s only a wall. And yes, it’s sweet to reunite again after just an hour apart.

3. Expand the definition of solitude. Not all of my alone time is truly alone; I can recharge my batteries by running to H&M or doing errands, just as long as by myself “alone on the crowd.” When Kale needs alone time, he’ll take a long walk or stop by a bar for a pint. Living in a big city, the company of strangers is easy to find.

4. Communicate what you need always. This is obvious for any couple, but especially true for one where the partners are pretty different in some ways. I feel like I can ask for what I need and, more importantly, that my husband will respect me for respecting myself enough to ask.

I had to learn how to be married as an introvert, though, and he had to learn to be marriedto one. These days, I’m confident that Kale doesn’t take my need for alone time as an indictment of his company. It truly helps that my sometime-introvert husband occasionally asks for time by himself, too; it takes the pressure off this being my “thing.” Nowadays, almost a year into marriage,  I don’t worry that I’m being selfish for requesting solitude to read, or preferring to run errands alone. Time has shown it’s clearly essential to that happiness I feel every day, which in turn makes him happy. (“Happy wife, happy life” is one of his favorite sayings.)

So far, marriage is not hard. Being an introvert in a marriage is a little more difficult. But with a few tweaks, it’s been just as easy as every other part of our relationship.

The Frisky

This post originally appeared on The Frisky. Republished with permission.

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  • MayaSimoneTruth

    I used to think I was extremely introverted, but I’m starting to believe that I fall somewhere in the middle because I do have a few extroverted tendencies at times. My introversion has never presented a real challenge in our marriage. Well, in the beginning, he used to think I was upset if I went to our bedroom to be alone for an hour or so. But he got used to it and for the most part by the end of the day, I tend to unleash all of my talking and social-ness on him.

    You’ll get used to each others tendencies and it’ll seem like no issue, eventually.

  • Laura Charles

    “We live with the roommate I’d already been living with — my close friend since sixth grade — so we adjust to her habits as well.”

    What? Why didn’t they move into his apartment instead if she was living with her friend? How can you begin your marriage living with your new husband and your friend… and then write an article about adjusting to sharing your space after marriage?

  • Mari

    The premise of this article is on point. In all of my relationships, if you can even all them that, I’ve had trouble adjusting to sharing my time and space, and even lashed out at partners when I felt like they were becoming invasive (it was an easy threshold to cross). I fell in serious love once and even then I needed my own space and me time. I just like being alone, going places alone, eating out at places alone, sometimes even vacationing alone, some people think it’s weird but I love it. The thought of there always being someone waiting for me at home, or the thought of being ‘joined’ with another individual by law AND spiritually through marriage unsettles me. Sharing myself that much unsettles me.

  • MyTwoCents

    An unusual topic. I’m glad someone thought to post it. A lot of people don’t understand introverts. Effort has to be made by the introvert and the spouse to keep the relationship positive when the introvert “needs their space” or recovery time. Communication is the key.

  • Me

    sorry. but i can’t stop side-eying marrying a dude in 4 months that needs visa sponsorship. to me that’s like dating a “separated” man. show me your papers & then we move forward. not the other way around. i mean the story just sounds convenient as hell… for him. i clicked that link to how she ended up sponsoring him, & i swear wp can romanticize any damn thing. he conveniently was on a tourist visa while on sabatical from a job he had waiting for him that he apparently could just as easily drop along w/all his belongings to become a traveling comedian in the states to provide for his new bride… oh but he can’t work in the u.s. until he has his employment papers which takes months so she’ll be providing for him until then, and they paid for all his immigration papers using the money they got as wedding gifts (a man that can afford a sabbatical ain’t got funds to finance his own immigration?). maybe i’m cynical but dude hit the damn jackpot & she seems niave/hella young. but she got to write a story about it on the internet, so hey.. maybe julia roberts will play her in a movie.

    getting back on topic… how can you be an introvert living in an apt w/2 other grown folks. that would drive me cuffing nuts! or i just wouldn’t be in the house much.

    • Nakia

      Word! To all of it.