Silent Nights: Introverts and Dating

Some time ago I read a great article by Salon’s advice columnist Cary Tennis called The two-introvert problem (you may need to click through an ad to get to it). In the article Cary responds to a letter from a woman who is frustrated because she wants to invite a fellow introvert on a date, but is concerned that their interactions will be painfully awkward. She doesn’t want to be forced into meaningless small talk, but can’t come up with an alternative scenario for the potential date.

Cary begins his response to her letter by describing a situation he recently observed:

The other day I watched an attractive young couple come into a cafe. The young man went to the counter and got some coffee drinks. The woman sat at the table. The young man came back and they sat drinking their coffee drinks. They looked at each other. They looked at the table. They looked around the room. They drank their drinks. They were quiet. They seemed comfortable with each other, and yet there was also a kind of intensity in the air. They didn’t say a word the whole time they were there.

I find Cary’s observation of this scenario interesting for two reasons: the first is that I like to imagine he was observing Joe and me during one of our many coffee house outings (Cary lives in San Francisco too), although I can’t vouch for the “young” and “attractive” description; the second reason is that I think he makes an important point about how there are different ways of spending time with someone in a public place.

While the popular idea about what a “date” looks like usually involves intense conversation and interaction, Cary goes on to advocate for a different type of dating encounter for introverts, one in which sitting in silence is acceptable if not preferable. He even puts forward a lengthy manifesto for introverts considering a new way of approaching their love lives, which basically boils down to rejecting dating stereotypes that don’t fit the people involved, and affirming more introvert-friendly ways of being together.

I think this column really resonated with me because it fit my own experience of dating a fellow introvert; Joe and I quickly bonded over our shared distaste for small talk and found ways of interacting that suited our dispositions. I’m sure it’s a different story for introvert-extrovert couples, although it may be easier on them since there is at least one person who is comfortable sustaining a conversation through those inevitable awkward moments during a first date.

I’d be interested to know what the dating experience has been like for other introverts; if you’ve got a story to share, I’d love to hear about it in the Comments section.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

6 Responses to “Silent Nights: Introverts and Dating”

  1. Beltsander said:

    I am dating an extrovert for the first time in probably 12 years–and I wasn’t previously very good at it. 🙂

    Odd to have read this post tonight as I’m about to embark on a conversation with my date about socializing. I think she is concerned that I haven’t yet integrated her into my social network the way she has integrated me into hers. And honestly, it took someone else to point out to me that this was possibly the problem.

    There could be lots of explanations for this but the biggest reason is energy. I do one-on-one and small groups okay, particularly when I’m comfortable with the balance of attention and expectation. Introducing a new variable changes the energy in a group and since the occasion to do it has really not presented itself, it’s natural for me, without even realizing it, to avoid “crossing the streams” so to speak, until it is necessary.

    And that time may be upon me.

  2. spectatrix said:


    That’s a very interesting observation about how a group dynamic changes when someone new is introduced, and how that might affect introverts in the group. I hadn’t really thought about it that way before, but it makes perfect sense. And I like your description of “the balance of attention and expectation;” I know from my own experience how easily that balance can be disturbed.

  3. Planethalder said:

    A friend of mine recently remarked on how odd she found it seeing couples who rarely talk during dinners out. She found it a sad reflection on relationships (she’s single, incidentally). I accused her (nicely of course) of having made not just a judgmental but a sweeping statement. I’m a natural introvert and perhaps as a consequence of being an only child and spending alot of time alone (and single!) I really enjoy being quiet and reflective even in the company of people. I’m much more chatty and ebullient in business situations but only because I have to be. I’ve been with M for just over two years and we recently married. He has a quick and curious mind and always has something to chat about. I have a lot of things on my mind – whizzing around – but I don’t always share those thoughts. When we were dating and getting to know one another I made an enormous effort to engage verbally with him. But gradually as I became more secure in his feelings for me and my feelings for him, that effort isn’t such an effort anymore. We can spend a dinner chatting away with each other, or we can spend a dinner being quiet in our own thoughts. Sometimes we happily read during dinner at home. We talk when we want to talk. It’s simply down to personality and not that we have nothing to say to each other. So when I see couples not speaking with other during meals out, I don’t automatically assume their relationship is on the rocks. (Sorry for long comment, but I’m so happy I discovered your site recently).

  4. Rissa said:

    I have a slightly sadder tale along the same lines. I used to walk to work every day with a very good friend – it was quite a long walk, and we would talk along the way. As our friendship deepened, and I began to realise I wanted to be more than friends (though I knew she didn’t) we began to talk less and less on our daily walks. I was content: I felt that this was a sign that we’d come a long way, that we were able to be together without needing to fill the silence, and that we were both happy. I have, incidentally, always identified as an introvert – she, perhaps inevitably, does not.

    After I left for better climes, we continued to communicate online and see each other occasionally. I felt, by this time, that something was off. Eventually, a mutual friend came out with it.

    My walking friend thought I hated her. She had interpreted the growing quiet as me not wanting to talk to her.

    It took quite a while to put that right.

  5. Brian Clasby said:

    As an introvert, I think I come accross as distant and possibly boring to non-introverts. It can be especially difficult when first getting to know someone as I often don’t have that much to talk about. Small-talk can seem forced when trying to fill up the gaps in conversation. When however, things go right, uncomfortable silence can become a downright cozy silence. I just started seeing a woman and we already communicate better with a few sly glances than I do with most people talking all day. I’ll take that conversation any day!

  6. spectatrix said:


    Your description of your friend’s reaction made me laugh; I’m glad you informed her about those of us in happy (although sometimes quiet) couples. I really identify with your experience of having different modes of interacting with your significant other as the circumstances change. Even though my husband and I are both introverts, at times you wouldn’t know it because we are conversing so rapidly and intensely. It’s all a matter of balance and comfort for both partners. I’m glad you like the site too!


    How sad! I would have reacted the same way you did — assuming the silence was a comfortable one, and a sign of deepending friendship. It makes me wonder if other people have had the same reaction to my silence without my realizing it.


    Cool! That’s so wonderful when you can have that kind of communication with someone.