I'm an extrovert, a fountain where water constantly flows. Shirley is an introvert, an artesian well. When there is enough pressure—after she's reasoned through her feelings—water gushes to the surface.
When I don't know how I feel about an issue, I talk it out (often to Shirley) until I hear my own answer or the other person points it out. Concepts don't seem real to most of us extroverts unless we can discuss them; reflecting on them usually isn't enough. We may not have depth—and we probably don't know that—but we communicate on the level of most people.
I have to speak to know what I think; Shirley has to think before she knows what to say. When she faces a serious issue, she goes inside herself and pulls from her rich inner world.
For example, Shirley was an editor for a denominational publishing house and the workload became intense. On the bus to and from her job, she edited. She brought manuscripts home at night and sometimes went into the office on Saturday mornings.
"Why don't you take an early retirement?" I asked.
She shrugged and that was the end of the conversation. About four months later, she complained about the workload and I said, "Why don't you take an early retirement?"
"Okay," she said.
It was settled. Just that simple. Because I know my wife, I didn't have to ask, "Are you sure?"
That's one way we differ in our marriage because I'm the extrovert and she's the introvert. To be clear on my terms, introverts go inward to make sense of issues or solve problems; extroverts relate to the outside world. We find answers by interacting with others.1