Recently, I was confronted by a troubling realisation: I think my partner might be more popular than me.
The notion struck me on return from an overseas trip, where we attended back-to-back weddings, he – at least to begin with – in a ‘plus-one’ capacity.
But after a few weeks of relentless partying, socialising and touring, I came away in need of some alone time (and detox), while he returned with a posse of new pals – a series of holiday bromances, if you will.
Everyone loved him, and not just the blokes. His warmth and easy-going nature charmed the socks off one and all, young and old. Rarely would a day pass without someone sidling up to me to sing his praises.
At first, I was quietly chuffed. It seems only natural to want your partner to be liked by your friends. But with hopes and dreams laid bare, summer plans formed and phone numbers exchanged, the love fest culminated in a jarring statement via the lips of an old friend – “You’ve certainly done well for yourself there.”
(I’d always secretly harboured a belief that it was he who had been lucky in love!)
Am I jealous? I wondered, abashed, as a hazy memory of school-ground ostracism stirred in my mind. What if my friends really do prefer him to me?
And so, I sought counsel, drawing comfort from the thought that a psychologist, surely, was ethically constrained from calling me ‘childish’ and telling me just to “get over it”.
“It's OK to have jealous feelings,” Jasmine Sliger reassured me. “It’s only when we compare ourselves to others, especially our successful partners, that it can bring us undone.”
Hmm. Perhaps, I was in trouble. After all, he is highly successful in the art of making friends.
In the early days, I reveled in the fact that my mates had embraced my new beau. I could release him into a crowded room, join my throng of wine-guzzling girlfriends and he'd fend for himself, and . . . well, thrive.
But six years on, I sometimes find myself gazing longingly at couples who hover together at events and retire at a respectable hour, while we practice what could be described as a ‘check-in’ system. He’ll pop by to see if I have any cash to buy his new friends a round of drinks, for example, or kindly reassure me that if I need to leave before him he’ll quite understand.
And these days, I do. As Sliger explains, reserved people prefer to be energised by concepts and ideas, while extroverts are energised by people and actions. As my partner continues close-talking conversation with new, inebriated pals, I’ll hail a cab as my introverted self begins to tire of the chatter.
“There's often one person who's more of a party animal than the other,” psychologist Amanda Gordon tells me. “Opposites do attract and while there may sometimes be risks associated with beginning a relationship with someone so different to yourself, don't panic – differences are also really exciting and should be celebrated."
It’s about working together, Gordon says, to create a relationship that works for both partners.
Perhaps being popular is more closely tied to personality types than I had originally imagined – a reassuring thought. If an extrovert is happiest surrounded by others, it’s no wonder they’ll gain friends quicker than a quieter soul hovering on the fringe.
“The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting,” writes Susan Cain in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. “For some, it's a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk… Love is essential, gregariousness is optional.”
Time will tell if a ‘fear of missing out’ will prevent my partner from dragging himself away from the party when a car arrives to collect us as our wedding reception draws to a close. He assures me that his own wedding will be the exception that proves the rule.
The not-knowing is simply the cross I bear for falling for an extrovert. And I think I’m – finally, maybe – OK with that.
(Oh, and all those new pals...Well, they're now coming to our wedding.)