Befriending An Introvert
A handmade wooden sign hangs front and center in my living room with the words “we belong to each other”—a visible reminder that God created us for relationship. The snippet is from a longer quote attributed to Saint Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa): “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” It is the perfect motto for my life.
I adore peace and I adore people. The one tiny problem is that I am an off-the-charts introvert, so the actual act of adoring people can be deeply exhausting, leaving me with little peace.
Over the years, I honed techniques that allowed me to live out this quote and also to survive. I read incessantly, getting to know about people’s lives from the pages instead of real-life interactions. I listened well, enabling the people right in front of me to feel as if they belonged to me. I said no anytime I needed alone time to replenish my energy stores. Most importantly, I developed friendships so deep that being with these people felt as rejuvenating as being alone, so that I, too, felt loved.
My methods worked swimmingly—until the moment I became a mom.
Being a new mom is hard, but being an introverted new mom felt completely beyond my capabilities. No longer could I retreat from a chaotic room in search of peace. The chaos was now mine to handle. Hours of attending to my baby’s needs left me feeling overstimulated and exhausted at the end of every day.
The only saving grace was my closest friends.
In those early weeks, my best friends were my lifeline. They knew me well, so they fully understood how much I was struggling. They had meals shipped to me. They called regularly to check in on how the baby and I were doing. They listened as I cried, offered suggestions, and sent packages of love. In short, they were brilliant. The problem was that none of them lived in my town, and every mom, especially an introverted mom, needs a local community she can rely on.
That’s when God not so subtly placed our parish priest in my path. As we left Mass one day, he strongly encouraged me to join the church moms’ group, casually mentioning that it would be good for me, that I needed to find somewhere I belonged.
I knew he was right, that I should reach out to the group, but the idea of making new friends sounded exhausting. Making good, trusted friends takes time and effort and a willingness to be invested in other people’s lives. In the early stages of friendship, we expect to give as much as we take. We want balance as evidence that we care for one another. I wanted friends, but by the end of every day I was completely drained. The precious moments of solitude I desperately needed were rare, and I couldn’t imagine expending any more energy investing in relationships that might not last. I went in with little hope of finding lifelong friends, but desperate for some form of community.
The first events I tried were park play-dates. If you’ve ever been on a park play-date, you know that the moment a conversation shows promise, kids need help up the slide, or run out of snacks, or start sobbing because their brother took the swing. Mom conversations are often fragmented and filled with distraction, and then it’s time to go. I was trying to scatter friendship seeds, but the shallow roots would get pulled almost as abruptly as they were planted. It was frustrating, but I kept showing up because this group felt like a community who cared.
When new babies arrived, we provided meals. We held playdates and organized fire station tours and bought group tickets when Disney on Ice came to town. We had scripture studies in the nursery while our children played around us. We even had a volunteer coordinator who found ways we could assist the church and local non-profits, children in tow. Our moms’ group truly was the epitome of a Christian community. We were living out my motto of belonging, inclusive of all. But even surrounded by these lovely women, I felt lonely.
I had resigned myself to what I considered this lesser, although still valuable, version of friendship when an extrovert reached out and offered to pick me up on her way to one of the moms’ night outs. What neither of us realized was that those car rides were exactly what an introvert like me needed in her quest for deep and lasting friendship.
With every ride, we were able to give each other our undivided attention, a gift I had not yet been given since my time as a mother began. The trips were short, but our relationship grew with every outing until I realized that, quite possibly, our friendship would last.
Kristi’s extroverted personality was exactly what an introvert like me needed in those early mothering years. I worried that our friendship was imbalanced, that I was taking much more than I was giving, but she didn’t seem to mind. She accepted that my nos would outweigh my yeses, yet continued to invite me, knowing it wasn’t personal. In my most challenging moments of early motherhood, when I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) share my struggles, Kristi still reached out. She checked in on me via text, dropped meals at my door, and offered to take my children for an hour or two so I could recover in the silence.
Making new friends when you’re an introvert can be difficult, especially when you are at a time in your life where reciprocation feels impossible. Kristi showed up for me in a way that I didn’t even know could exist in a new friend, mirroring God’s own love for us, unconditional and full of personal care. Her friendship reminded me that the peace that comes from belonging stems more from just loving others. And it flourishes when you let others love you.
Sixteen years later, Kristi and I are still close. I continue to say no more than I say yes (once an introvert, always an introvert), but over the years, I have been there when she has needed me, too. Being able to love her in the way she needs to be loved has been a beautiful gift.
One benefit of befriending an introvert? We will never, ever, let you go. And I haven’t, because authentic friendships are so much better than being alone.
Holly Forseth is a high school theology teacher and writer. She earned her B.S. from the University of Notre Dame and her Master of Pastoral Studies from Loyola University New Orleans. Holly has held many roles in life, but her favorite is loving people for who they are. She and her husband live in Arizona with their two teenage boys.
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