I have a confession to make: I am an introvert. Vocabulary.com defines an introvert as someone who prefers solitary activities and who “would rather work through [their] feelings in [their] diary than have a conversation”. This is one hundred percent true for me. Not only would I rather work through my feelings by writing them down, but it is an unavoidable part of my emotional process. It’s what I have to do and often I don’t understand what I’m feeling at all until I write it all out.
Another key characteristic of introverts, is needing some alone time to recover after social interactions. Also true for me. As much as I love hosting parties and hanging out with people I always need some time alone after to recharge. When I do hang out with people, I really enjoy spending time with the people I know well, in smaller groups, and quieter settings, where I can really connect with them.
There is something else about me that sometimes gets in the way of my social life — I am shy. My shyness was extreme during childhood. I would start crying quietly when I didn’t want to talk to someone. Could be a relative, or any random adult. I hid under the table when we had people over. I skipped important events because I didn’t want people to look at me. My shyness was also partially responsible for my extreme punctuality — arriving to class late meant that everyone’s attention would be on me when I walked through the door. I had to avoid it at all costs so I was never late. EVER. I may have been late to class once or twice during my 15 years of schooling. I’ve learned to manage my shyness by now to the point where most people won’t even notice it, but social situations with strangers still stress me out.
Fast forward a couple of decades. Here I am, still an introvert, still shy, but also polyamorous. Maybe it’s not a “but”, but rather a consequence. Maybe I am polyamorous because those deep connections with those few people matter so much more to me than having a ton of acquaintances. Maybe being poly works so well for me because I have the people in my life with whom I don’t need to overcome my shyness anymore. Sometimes, though, being poly and an introvert becomes quite challenging.
When I decide I have room in my life for more relationships
I have tried online dating apps a few times, but it is too much effort and after a couple of months of somewhat active usage I inevitably stop using them. Talking to strangers online, prioritizing them over people I already know, trying to figure out the logistics of the first meeting , all of that is just not worth it to me. Unfortunately, poly people are not so easily identifiable in social situations either, and even if they disclose that they are open it’s not always easy for me to overcome the shyness and start talking to them.
Just the thought of going to a poly meetup with a bunch of strangers makes me break out in hives. I might work up the courage to attend one of those some day, but I’m sure it will take a while. It’s a lot easier for me to attend events like that if I go with someone I know well. When that’s the case , I can be the soul of the party. It’s the initial contact with complete strangers that scares me.
Since I don’t like online dating or meetups, the most comfortable way for me to meet other poly people is through people I already know, whether it’s my partners, metamours, or friends. Dating and meeting other poly people is a common challenge for poly introverts. There are a few discussions about it on Reddit (like this one and this one), but despite all kinds of helpful suggestions, most poly introverts have similar challenges when it comes to dating.
I have to remember to prioritize recharging myself
The logistics of having multiple relationships, kids, work, and life is hard enough already, but as an introvert it’s extremely important for me to remember to incorporate an emotional recharge into my routine. I block out chunks of my calendar for this, but those chunks can be quite difficult to find.
I like to free up my mornings the day after I go out. It’s not only recharge time, but also time for reflection and processing. Especially if the date the night before ends up being emotionally intense. Ideally, I plan at least a couple of hours of me time for my morning-afters where I can just sit and think. Or read. Or write. It’s a critical component of my self-care routine.
I also go on dates with myself at least as often as I go on dates with others. A date with myself is usually something like a walk, a massage, or a pedicure where I don’t need to talk to anyone else. There is a ton of great suggestions for how to recover from dates in this Reddit discussion, if you are curious.
Delayed response to my partners’ emotional needs
Because I need to write down what I’m feeling to understand what’s going on, my real-time reactions are not always adequate. For example, when my husband tells me how he feels and expresses his emotional needs, I sometimes get triggered, freeze and can’t respond coherently until some time later when I’ve had time to process. I also prefer to respond in writing. This can be quite a nuisance, especially in new relationships. It’s hard to explain why I can’t say anything meaningful in response to an emotional outburst sometimes.
But it’s also a blessing in disguise, because once I do write down my thoughts and feelings, I discover things about myself that can be quite enlightening. Then the following interactions with my partners have a whole new level of depth and understanding.
I am quiet
I speak quietly. I don’t talk a lot. If there are extroverts participating in a group discussion, chances are I won’t speak at all. I prefer written communication to verbal. Sometimes I get so quiet that the person I’m with may think I’m not engaged or not interested in them. That’s rarely the case though. I am very much present, I’m just thinking. I like to think more than I like to talk. I like to write because it’s a means to organize my thoughts. When I start talking sometimes I say things that I regret saying, because they are purely emotional fight or flight responses that don’t mean much but can still cause pain to the other person.
Barry Davret thinks that quiet people rule the world and don’t need fixing, and I find that to be true. Being quiet is inconvenient sometimes, especially to other people, but it is not a defect. It’s a strength. Because I’m quiet maybe I say fewer words, but those words carry more weight.
Yes, being an introvert can be challenging in certain situations, but it does not contradict my polyamorous identity in any way. Even though I’m shy and not as comfortable in loud group environments, I still meet a plenty of people through work, friends, and family. And when I do, I still form deep connections and occasionally develop feelings towards them , romantic or platonic.
But here’s the thing, even if I do feel romantically attracted to people I don’t always tell them. Polyamory doesn’t mean being in multiple relationships at the same time with all the people I am attracted to. Polyamory means having the freedom to ethically explore my feelings towards more than one person. Sometimes these feelings can come up very unexpectedly and inconveniently, not as a result of a concentrated effort to find a potential new partner. I believe that feeling attracted to other people is totally normal, but it’s not normal to always act on it . That’s the part that can get messy and unethical.
Yes, being a polyamorous introvert can be challenging. But it is also empowering, interesting, deep, and exciting. Probably just like being a poly extrovert would be…