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Q: 2-Year Relationship And I Barely Know Any Of Her Friends…
So I’ve been with my girlfriend for just over 2 years, we live together now and even have a cat. She is quite a social person and has lots of friends and easily makes friends.
I’m basically the opposite, introverted with some anxiety issues. So whenever she is invited somewhere with her friends, she asks me if I’d like to come, and most of the time I say no as being in a large group of relative strangers is very hard for me (I’ve had panic attacks at her social events before). It’s gotten to the point now where I go to none of these events with her, and I barely know any of her friends.
She says that she’s not bothered about it, but I feel like I really should know them better?
A: Hi Reader,
First of all, something that sticks out to me is that she’s a very social person, and you’re quite an introvert. This sounds like exactly why you don’t know much about her friends, and the fact that she’s not bothered by it probably means that she understands how you are and loves you anyway.
A little-known fact about me: I have severe social anxiety. It’s actually one of the things that drew me to being a writer; I don’t need to interact with people as part of my daily routine, and I can instead choose to do it on my own terms. This last birthday, I had a nervous breakdown when my in-laws sang the Happy Birthday song to me, and I started crying and ran off – and I had lived with these people for the better part of a year!
If you want to get to know your girlfriend’s friends (although it doesn’t seem like she’s bothered by it), consider asking her to invite over one or two for a “mini dinner party” or something. This will be a lot easier on you, as you’ll have a more even ratio of people you know vs. people you don’t know. If it’ll make it easier, invite over someone from your circle as well – whether it’s a friend, a family member, a co-worker… Just someone you know better than you know her friends.
One of the biggest roots of social anxiety (and anxiety in general) is a feeling of being overwhelmed. The easiest way to overcome this is to slowly “water down” the new people with your “anchors” – this would be your girlfriend and someone from your circle. Keep it small, because you’re trying to fight the anxiety away. You want 1-2 people you don’t know with 1-2 people you do know.
If your social anxiety is overwhelming to you already, you might not be able to handle large social settings. Personally, I can’t handle being around even large groups of people I DO know unless I have somewhere I can retreat to. By choosing to have these meetings in your own home or the home of a close friend, you’ll know the “hidden places” that you can go if you need time to regroup.
From my (outsider’s) perspective, I can tell that your girlfriend is accepting of this part of your personality. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be with you after two years, right? Chances are, she knows that it’s difficult for you, and she’ll be willing to accommodate you as you try to get in touch with her life.
(Plus, as an added bonus, new people in small amounts over a long period of time not only increases the size of your own social circle, which is good for your mental health, but can also help you to get over your social anxiety – or at least help minimize it to a manageable level.)