Dear Prudence

Help! My Intense Introversion Is Ruining My Relationship.

Each week, Prudie discusses a tricky letter with a colleague or friend, just for Slate Plus members. This week Jenée Desmond-Harris discusses her response to “Want to Make It Work” with fellow Slate writer (and also her husband) Joel Anderson.

Dear Prudence,

I’ve met a guy who has taken an interest in me, though we both seem to be introverts and I feel like our personalities are a hindrance to getting to know each other. How do I make it easier on my end?

—Want to Make It Work

Read Prudie’s original response to this letter.

Jenée Desmond-Harris: Introversion is one of the many, many things I’ve diagnosed myself with based on what other people who are not experts have said on social media. So I’m an introvert just like everyone else who’s ever looked at Instagram. But let’s just go with it. As an introvert, I don’t buy this letter!

Joel Anderson: We both think of ourselves as introverts and, as people who’ve self-diagnosed ourselves as such, I always thought it was more about how people choose to engage with the world—whether they’re stimulated by being around other people or not?

In this situation, the LW and “a guy” have already gotten past the part where they’ve met (which, to me, is the most difficult part of all!) and started to get to know each other. So maybe the more salient issue here is not their introversion but their “personalities”?

Jenée: Yep. Or maybe he doesn’t like her as much as she thinks he does. When two people truly like each other, there’s typically not a lot that serves as a hindrance. I mean, we used to watch Love After Lockup so we know people manage to have entire marriages with someone who they can only talk to once a week and see in person twice a year. If they both wanted this relationship to be a thing, it would be a thing,

Joel: Obviously, we’re missing a lot of the back story and context here. So we don’t know if they’ve gone out a few times and it was … blah? Maybe “the guy” is a narcissist who only talks about himself? Maybe the LW isn’t really into him and is trying to force it? Maybe the guy really loves her and wants to spill his guts but has anxiety or something? Who knows?

But without knowing much else, it seems like this is just … a lack of romantic chemistry?

Jenée: As a test, she could push harder and be more assertive. What’s there to lose? “Hey, do you want to go out?” And then ask him a bunch of questions and talk a lot about yourself and see if you can get the ball rolling. This, of course, requires pushing past “introversion” (as she’s defined it) a little bit—but so will any relationship!

Joel: Right. If the LW really wants to see if there’s something here and truly believes his introversion is holding them back, she’s going to have to force the issue. If he really likes her, then he’ll eagerly welcome the attempt. If he doesn’t, then she’ll either get some clarity about his feelings or remain uncertain about what’s going on here. Either way, she’ll have her answer.

Do you think she should ask him, “So … what do you like to do for fun?”

Jenée: LOL. (Readers, Joel is referencing a line that I used to complain about men using back in my single days. Looking back, it really isn’t bad at all! People are trying their best!)

Joel: Look, sometimes it can produce some really interesting answers. I didn’t use this line in my long-ago single days, but I can imagine some people can’t WAIT to talk about what they do for fun. And then, voila, we’ve broken the ice!

Jenée: I’ve regrettably never had many actual hobbies so I used to just respond “This!” (Being out having drinks with my friends, wherever I’d encountered the guy.)

Joel: Well, aren’t you the flirt? I’m guessing it was much easier to get to know you than these other two!

But more seriously: The LW is going to have to move beyond their introversion if they want any forward progress. I know it’s easier said than done, but the way I look at it is: They’ve already sorta established there’s some interest, and they can easily build on that. On the other hand, it shouldn’t … be this hard to get to know someone. So they should put a deadline on figuring this out, if they can. I don’t think she needs to wait another three dates to know if this guy is going to become THE guy.

Jenée: A deadline is a great idea. If there’s no connection, it wasn’t meant to be! And I honestly think when you meet the right person, getting to know each other will feel a little more natural.