Post # 1
I am so freaked right now and a bit mad. I have a really bad social anxiety disorder and have struggled with it for years. Only recently have I been able to become more open with more people but I still have my limitations.
So FI’s mom texted him last week saying she wants us over this weekend for turkey dinner since we were unable to make it for Christmas. I was nervous but cleared it. Only today I find out that it isn’t just dinner with her as we assumed, it isn’t even at her house. It is at her boyfriends house and his entire family is going to be there!
I am now panicking as I wasn’t even comfortable at her house with just her… now it is a strangers house with a bunch of strangers! The other part is that I know they all smoke and I have a very hard time breathing around smoke, it is one thing to just request she not smoke at her house while we are over but we can’t ask everyone to not smoke in a strangers home because it makes me have difficulties!
I want to cancel but FI tells me that she’ll take that as extremely rude as she’s already confirmed the plans with everyone and that I should just “suck it up” and he won’t make me go anywhere else for the full year if I do this. I still want to just call her and tell her that I am not comfortable with this new arrangement and that FI will be coming alone… any thoughts?
Post # 3
This is a tough one, and it’s difficult for people who don’t have it (i.e., the “suck it up” response). Are you currently seeing anyone about your anxiety? Do you know anything about relaxation techniques?
I have mild social anxiety, but have relatives (including my cousin’s wife) who have SEVERE social anxiety. There’s a great deal of social stigma attached to it – because people don’t understand it. This woman is my friend, and it does hurt to hear the gossip around my family about how she hates us/she’s lazy/she has no interest in putting forth effort for his family, etc. But I would be a liar if I said this ISN’T the prevalent view of people who do this.
I take it your in-laws aren’t aware of your SA. If you marry into this family, that’s something to really consider: on a long enough time scale, they will notice it. So, I think it may be best to be open and to do damage control ahead of time. Along with your fiance, you could both call her and explain a little about what it is:
“Jessica has social anxiety. It means that in normal situations that would make me and you very nervous, it can be disabling and very scary for her. The environment she’s in can play a role in it. For right now, I think it would be best if we had dinner in a much smaller group – just the three or four of us.”
Educating them is going to be very important – and an offer of restitution (“hey, how about we make you dinner at our place next week, mom?”) can send the message that it is NOT personal – but simply about a condition that you have.
But, your fiance has to be on board with this. That may mean educating him, too. I recommend:
Post # 4
@JessicaJupiter: The smoking part alone would make me say no because you can’t ask them not to smoke around you since it isn’t your house, but YOU don’t have to put up with it.
As far as the social anxiety goes I get it. I often want to not go becuase I hate it. Being with a small group of people I know doesn’t bother me, but if I had to go to someone else’s house with a bunch of other people that would bother me.
In your case if there is a way you can avoid the smoking (ie go out for fresh air or something) I would go. It isn’t ideal, but its only for a few hours. Or I would talk to your FI and ask that you guys sit down and have a meal with FMIL instead since that was your assumption. If he understands and wants to support you through your anxiety, he should be willing to compromise.
Post # 5
@JessicaJupiter: Could your FI inform her that you had both assumed it would be a small dinner at her home, with no smoking, and until that can be arranged you will be declining invitations? Would that work?
I sympathize – I have a lung problem and cannot be anywhere near smokers. At first it was hard for me to speak up, but now I realize people don’t mind at all.
Post # 6
@CookieCreamCakes: She has always known I was severely shy. I have had my techniques to deal with it but I can’t just be thrown into a strange house with a bunch of people I don’t know – I’ll end up looking at the ground all night long and not speaking a word to anyone! I know I’ll come across as the most stuck up b-word in the world. Fi knows of my social anxiety but he still sees this as “just one night” when it is like being thrown off a cliff for me!
I am going to try to get FI to speak to his mother (I love your wording – it describes things perfectly) and see if we can reschedule with her… but I know this is supposed to be a big turkey dinner, I just don’t get why she couldn’t have mentioned where it would be before. At any future events that wording will certainly be used to make sure she gets the point before we accept an invitation.
@megz06: As for getting some fresh air we currently have windchill in the -30’s and -40’s so I can’t fully suit up. It is also really bad because in school I cannot even sit comfortably when someone with smoke smell coming off of their jacket walks by me, this entire house will stink of it!
Post # 7
Could you go and leave early, saying how the smoke is bothering you?
Post # 8
@JessicaJupiter: I’m in the arctic chill too so I can commiserate on those temps 😛
I seriously wouldn’t go then, BUT I would compromise and tell your FI that you would still like to do dinner with your FMIL (even if you really don’t) but that you would like to do it with just her (and possibly her bf, if you’re willing to compromise even more).
Post # 9
@BrandNewBride: That was FI’s comprimise to me, he said that we could just show up and stay for about an hour and then exit again, but that still feels very scary to me.
@megz06: I’m currently working on trying to comprimise but he thinks this is a big dinner for her.
Post # 10
@JessicaJupiter: Unfortunately I don’t think there is a way to avoid this meal without offending your MIL. If this is suppose to be your “Christmas” meal and you cancel today, I would be upset as the host to have planned everything and have someone cancel at the last minute. If there is anyway you could go for a little bit I would. Have you or your DH talked with her about how you are more than shy, maybe if she knew exactly what was going on she would be able to plan things that would work better for you.
Post # 11
@JessicaJupiter: I understand how you feel- I have a little social anxiety as well and it is harder for me to be around ppl I don’t know than ones I do. DH is very outgoing so it can be hard to sometimes translate to him why I don’t want to do certain things. We try to compromise as much as possible and I feel like you should make an effort since it’s his mom and you said she may take ya’ll bowing out of the event the wrong way.
I would make a game plan with FI. If he really wants to go and it would cause a stink to decline the invite you need to plan out your visit- it always helps me to know when and where my out is in situations like these. Maybe agree to go but only for an hour or two max. I try to pick one or two ppl I know and stick with them most of the event. So I would pretty much just stick with SO and his mom the whole night. Maybe you could bring a book or work or something to do for a bit so you can kind of avoid everyone but have a good reason so your not looking like a stuck up B… It’s hard to deal with ppl’s perceptions of social anxieties and alot of DH’s family thought I was a stuck up B until they got to know me better in smaller groups.Try not to psych yourself out over it, make your plan, go over it a few times, and try to keep your brain occupied on anything but the event (i found the more I think about these things the worse they get).
Post # 12
@JessicaJupiter: I have social anxiety as well. I’m also an Introvert, so being around people in general can leave me feeling very drained. And I hate cigarette smoke. I can handle being around it for a few hours, but not forever. I totally get what you’re saying and why you’re hesitating about this.
At this point, I don’t think you can completely back out without offending FMIL. I agree with @BeckyS0: about forming a plan. It seems like your best option at the moment. Agree to stay for a certain amount of time, stick beside him and FMIL for the night, and just do your best.
After the dinner, I highly suggest you sit your FI down and explain to him just what social anxiety is and why you can’t just “suck it up” for one night. This will just keep happening until he really understands what it is you are struggling with.
Post # 13
As someone with very bad anxiety, I have a lot of sympathy. I think on some level that letting myself opt of social situations makes it worse. I don’t mean that I force myself to do All The Things – I do sometimes opt out depending on the circumstances – but I make a real effort. It can help to tell myself, “Yes, this is going to be scary! Really scary for me! But in life there are going to be a lot of things that scare me, and that’s okay. I can learn to get through being scared. And when it’s over I will feel relieved and proud of myself for proving that I can do things that scare me.”
That said, if the smoking is going to be a big problem, that’s not an unreasonable excuse for opting out. You just need to decide if it’s a Reason or an Excuse. Could your SO talk to his mom about how impossible the smoking is for you, and ask that the dinner be relocated to her house? Could you live with one evening at her house even though it will be scary? I definitely think your SO should talk to his mom about your social anxiety regardless, so that she understands.
Post # 14
The smoking issue is reason enough not to go; it’s an actual health issue.
Tell her that you can’t be around the smoke.
If she takes offense, that’s on her. You don’t have to deal with breathing issues for something as insignificant as a turkey dinner.
Besides, she left out important information; information that would have changed your decision. That’s not you fault, it’s hers. She’ll have to deal with the consequences of that.
Post # 15
Just updating and then closing.
So FI had spoken to his mother and she felt horrible that she was putting me in that situation. She just had the dinner be us and her with her boyfriend as his family was just sort of “extra” invite after we were invited.
She even asked his sister to drop off their Shih Tzu because she knows I just adore them, it really did help as when we were all just sitting in the living room the dog was all over me and distracted me from what was going on.
It wasn’t too bad but it isn’t something I’d jump to do again as I was nearly in tears as we walked up to his door!