It’s hard to have social anxiety. You feel like everyone is judging you, and you’re frequently uncomfortable in your own skin. It can also be difficult to date someone who suffers from social anxiety. Sometimes it can seem like your life is being constricted in ways you didn’t sign up for, and that issue can lead to resentment and irritation. Here are some tips to keep in mind when your partner has social anxiety, so the relationship can withstand the pressure of this disorder.
1. Try Hard to Empathize With Your Partner
You may not have social anxiety, but do you have any other issues you wish you didn’t have, or that you are actively working on improving? Most people wish they were different in some way or other. For instance, if you struggle with ADHD, it is useful to compare the conditions in your mind, saying, “I don’t try to forget things, and my partner isn’t trying to be scared of social situations. We both struggle.”
2. Social Anxiety Can Be Worked On, But It May Likely Still Remain in Some Shape or Form
And, while social anxiety is very responsive to therapy, your significant other is highly unlikely to turn into a raging extrovert or party animal once they find a good therapist. Treatment for social anxiety takes a while. There is no overnight fix for any type of anxiety, so moderate your expectations accordingly.
3. If Your Partner Seems Angry With You for Wanting Them to Do Things That Are Outside Their Comfort Zone, Stay Calm
Before responding angrily, try and think about where their anger is coming from. Your partner likely feels terribly guilty for the impact of social anxiety on your relationship. This stressor may make them act frustrated or angry with you, when in reality they are angry with themselves. Try to empathize and be patient with your partner. If you are taking the brunt of their frustration, however, gently remind them that their disorder is not an excuse to be hurtful.
4. Don’t Allow Your Partner’s Social Anxiety to Rule Your Life
Your partner may want to stay home more frequently than you would like, or may avoid making friends because they fear judgment. While it is important to empathize with your partner, don’t stay home with them every night. Keep your own friendships alive and healthy. Two people avoiding socializing doesn’t help anyone, and it may result in you two becoming an unhappy and isolated couple in the long run.
5. Notice and Appreciate Your Partner’s Attempts to Push Through Social Anxiety
If your partner always studies in his room, but tonight he’s going to the library, this might not seem like a big deal to you. Nonetheless, it may be a really scary activity for someone who lives with social anxiety. Saying something kind like, “I’m proud of you for doing something outside your comfort zone,” will go a long way and increase the likelihood of your partner trying other new activities in the future.
6. Keep in Mind That Your Partner Didn’t Choose to Have Social Anxiety
Social anxiety is a debilitating condition for many people, and it constrains their lives in ways that are disappointing and upsetting. Nobody would choose to have social anxiety, so don’t let yourself fall into the trap of thinking your partner feels comfortable or content with the status quo.
If your partner has social anxiety, share this article with them. See if it sparks a useful discussion about whether they feel you understand and support them, and — equally importantly — if they can empathize with some of your struggles. Remember that empathy is key and can help any relationship grow closer and more connected!