Introverted wife feels drained after interacting with in-laws
Q: I have been with my husband for 10 years, and we are in our early 30s. I absolutely adore him.
I am an introvert. My husband is an extrovert who has many friends. When we decided to get married, I knew that was his personality and was fine with his going out and attending parties whenever he wanted to. I would stay home on occasions when I wanted to.
The problem is that the older I get, the more occasions there are when I want to stay home. Specifically, visiting his family is just exhausting for me. We always have a billion things scheduled and go from place to place having lunches, coffees, dinners, drinks, etc., with all his friends and family.
I love that he enjoys all of this, I really do. However, I find myself dreading these visits because I come home so emotionally drained. I thought I was doing a good job of being a good sport, but recently he has noticed my lack of enthusiasm for visiting his family and all that is involved with these visits.
What is the right balance here? I really care for his family. They are great people and I love them to visit me in our home, but I feel out of my element and overwhelmed when we visit there. Help! I want to do the right thing for my husband.
A: As your foray into good-sportsmanship just demonstrated, sometimes the right thing for your husband is to do the right thing for you.
You love him and you like his family, and you haven't clipped his extrovert wings, so the important things are there. Meaning, you don't need to prove your affection for either by pasting a smile on your face through lunch, coffee, dinner, drinks and the dreaded "etc."
Instead, you can explain to your husband (if he's somehow not fully versed in the nature of your nature) that the social interactions that energize him have a draining effect on you. Then point out that the enthusiasm deficit he detects isn't purposeful — you've really tried to rally for him — but it is real, because these visits wipe you out. You can't be "on" socially for several events in rapid succession, not without taking breaks to recharge.
Then say you'd like to start including some breaks on your next visit so you can really enjoy yourself with these great people, instead of just trying to appear as if you are for fear of hurting their feelings.
Then, ask him if he has any preference in the way you handle these breaks. A full schedule one day, followed by a day off? Skip every other or every third scheduled stop each day? Join everyone for meals and entertain yourself between? He picks two can't-miss gatherings daily and for the rest you see how you feel?
That you're framing this in terms of what's right for your husband says you want to keep rallying. Make that clear to him, while not straying from the message of you: You are his opposite. Quantity of social time comes at the expense of quality. Therefore, neither of you will like the results if he rejects either-or and expects you to have his capacity for both.