The E-I Clash: 12 Thoughts to Consider

Tom and I have observed many young couples with little children in the ministry over the years. And we have seen the havoc that can spring from their different tendencies in extroversion or introversion. Though we are both introverts ourselves we have found that I am far more outgoing than him and this has caused for us, shall we say, tension!*  This showed up when we were young in my inability to break away from group meetings. I would talk and talk until Tom felt forced to come up to me and brazenly announce, “I am leaving now (hint hint).”

Recently, I had the opportunity to facilitate a seminar for leaders where we discussed these differences and the couples in the room were brilliantly honest regarding their frustrations.  Even when either spouses are introvert or both are extrovert there can be a discrepancy in their ‘outgoingness’ that causes exhaustion for one and discouragement for the other.  And, it is not uncommon that, as women in ministry become moms, their need for quiet/ alone “I” time may greatly increase whether they are introverted or extroverted!  Consider the following list of 12 thoughts for those with differing intro/extroversion:

    1. The extrovert is fueled by being with people. The introvert is fueled by down or alone time.
    2. There is a great expanse of scale regarding introversion and extroversion. Understanding the tendencies and impact of your ‘version’ and your spouses ‘version’ are essential for coming together in ministry.
    3. A difference in introversion and extroversion affects one’s capacity for a breadth in relationships. While introverts do develop relationships with others, not surprisingly, their relationships tend to be with few and deep rather than many and broadly as are the extrovert.
    4. In general, Navigator trained extroverts (NTe) in ministry are unstoppable relationally!  A newly married staff woman related to me recently that her husband who is a major ‘E’ recently in a short span of one conversation with a possible landlord moved her to offer them an apartment at a lower price in the face of many in line for the apartment!
    5. Navigator trained introverts (NTi), can often feel exhausted and miserable due to the expansive relational network and expectations it creates for them. (i.e., Tom waiting for me after church or meetings as I chattered on and on while the children went wild!)
    6. In general, the NTi tend to naturally cultivate time alone in the Word. They are affable with Word centered discussions and meetings as long as they are not forced to talk. (This is not to say that extroverts can’t be deep in the Word.) The NTi spouse can feel frustrated when their NTe spouse wants to go, go, go, and build relationships for the kingdom. The NTe can, in their frustration, judge their NTi counterpart as one who has no passion or even as disobedient. The difference is not one of passion or obedience. The difference is in how God wired each spouse temperamentally.
    7. In the ministry some define fruitfulness by how many relationships we have or even how well liked we are. But perhaps fruitfulness can never be properly evaluated without measuring prayerfulness, faith or obedience. Indeed, beware of defining fruitfulness superfluously or at all!
    8. There is danger in comparing our spouse with someone else’s spouse. What difference does it make if someone else’s spouse is more outgoing with tons of non-Christian relationships or deeper in the Word?  None, because we are not married to them!
    9. When God saw that we ‘would become one’ with someone so unlike us He allows us to learn to accept each other as we have been made. (Romans 15:7) Learning to work together in our common vision with give and take, mutual support and encouragement is a skill EVERY couple must learn!
    10. Questions spouses with differing intro/extroversion can ask as we partner in ministry:

a. What can we do together?  What might we do apart?
b. What might the NTe do effectively and enjoyably on his/her own?
c. How might the NTi support the NTe as they go, go, go! And talk, talk, talk!?
d. How might the NTe support the NTi as they go deep with a few?
e. How will we come together in the privacy of our relationship to pray together,  explore needs together and share our hearts?
f. How will we ensure oneness and growth together as we launch in to our spheres of fruitfulness?

  1. The NTe grows in seeing their NTi spouse as a pleasant governor on their depth and breadth in the Word and relational quality. The NTi grows as they are more active in reaching out relationally to those the NTe brings to the home or meeting up with their latest ‘new friends!’
  2. Marriage and ministry are not meant to oppose one another. Many years ago a friend who was struggling in his marriage said to Tom, “Wow, you and Dana are so different. And she seems to thrive! How did you get there?” I think he was seeing that we had come to a place where we would appreciate and allow each other to be as God had designed us.  As we process together with our spouse and enjoy the strengths we each bring because of our differences we become a light to non-believers around us who might give up in marriage over this one aspect alone.  As there is a natural clash due to intro/extroversion, spouses can learn to mutually enhance the other in ways that bring the gospel to light, deepens appreciation of each spouse to the other, and bring life to those whom they love and minister.

If the E-I clash is one that you are experiencing don’t let it compress your ministry output. Rather, accept one another in love and utilize your differences to enhance all that God desires to do through your lives.  As I have aged in the ministry I find myself to be an “Ontrovert.” This means when I am with people I am enjoyably ‘on’ which often leads people to tell me I am an extrovert.  When I am alone, though, I love, love, love thinking, praying, contemplating and going deep in the Word!

*Because of our needed personal growth in this area Tom and I often give the book, “Please Understand Me” by David Keirsey to young couples as a wedding gift.  After eight years of marriage our daughter in law said to us, “Hey remember that book you gave us? Well we finally read it together and it helped us a ton!”


Grandma “D” and Tom have been on staff with the Navs for over 30 years and married 43 years.  They are blessed with three married children and seven grandchildren.  Her most recent challenge in faith is walking with her son, Stephen’s family as their three year old daughter, Miriam, battles cancer. Knowing the depth of Christ’s love, His power and presence is sustaining them during this unpredictable time.

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