Post # 1
Hi bees, I really need advice right now. I love my Fiance more than anything, but he has social anxiety problems that are negatively affecting our relationship. He is and incredibly stubborn person and once he has his mind made up about a situation, he simply won’t listen to me or consider my feelings.
Last night we went to a party at my work. Even though he didn’t want to go, he eventually agreed go with me. Unfortunately, he behaved like a spoiled child the entire time. He wouldn’t talk to anyone I introduced him to at the cocktail hour. He just stood off to the side. He refused to stand up at first during the toast when everyone else was standing because “I’m not going to stand up just because someone tells me to” (he eventually did stand). When people started dancing, he went and sat outside of the room and left me alone. My coworker even went out to talk to him to try to get him to come inside, but it was no use. I am so mad at him for embarassing me like that. I know that all of my coworkers will be asking me about what happened and feeling sorry for me that my Fiance is so anti-social.
I know this party isn’t important in the long run, but it just shows how completely unwilling he is to do anything just to make me happy. It’s not like I’m asking him to make a speech or even dance with me. I just wanted him to make a little effort! I do things all the time that I don’t want to do, but I do it for him.
The real problem is that his anxiety is really hindering his job search. He got a master’s degree 8 months ago and he hasn’t found a job yet. He’s only had 2 interviews and he was really nervous so he didn’t do well. He talks himself out of applying for jobs that he is qualified for because he says he “knows” they would never hire him. He only works part time, and up until recently he refused to even look for a second part time job. He could make more money working at some kind of retail/foodservice job but he claims he would get fired for “not being friendly”.
I have told him multiple times that he should go to counseling, but he has a million excuses as to why he can’t/it won’t help. I’ve also suggested couples counseling so that we can work on these issues together. I know I’m not perfect either. I’m so frustrated that I even gave him an ultimatum – we must go to counseling before the wedding. He refuses and says I can’t “give him orders”. Am I being unreasonable? What can I do now?
Post # 3
NO you’re not..he is. His lack of attempt to find a job in his field speaks of bigger problems and if he’s not willing to get help, you’re going to have to decide if you want to live this way for the rest of your life.
Post # 4
This is difficult, because obviously he does suffer with anxiety, and so what might seem to be him not making an effort, could well be genuine; that he genuinely can’t bring himself to apply for jobs, etc.
However, he really needs professional help, and he should be able to see how his behaviour is affecting you and your relationship, and attempting to address it, whether that is through medication or counselling.
I know you love him, but do you see yourself being together in 10 years if he’s still not working, and if you constantly have to attend any social gatherings or functions alone? I personally would not be able to be in a relationship like that long-term; I would find it wearing, we would argue, and I think eventually I would have to leave. So I think you need to ask yourself that question; because there is every chance he will not change, and you need to ask yourself if you could be happy with that.
I would probably give him some form of an ultimatum. I would first explain exactly how his behaviour made me feel; maybe try writing a letter so it doesn’t descend into an argument. Explain that you know he suffers with anxiety, but that you feel he isn’t helping himself. Then tell him that you cannot be with him if he will not seek help. He doesn’t need to make huge changes straight away; it might for instance be unrealistic to expect him to attend large functions, or to get a job straight away. But he can take small steps, by speaking to a professional for starters. Then perhaps he could look at jobs that will allow him to work from home, so that at least he is earning money. Or, he can at least send out applications, even if he is then unable to attend any interviews. It’s still a step in the right direction. I would also try to get him to socialise, but again, do it in stages eg maybe invite a couple of people you both know well over for dinner; or arrange a low-key night out to a restaurant with a small group.
Hopefully, he will make an effort and will try to make some changes; but you will need to be patient. If however he still refuses, then like I said, you need to ask yourself honestly if you can stay with him if he’s like this.
Post # 5
I have social anxiety so maybe I can help you understand where he’s coming from.
It’s unfortunately not so easy to just “be social” and “make an effort” like a lot of people say. If he has a genuine disorder, which Social Phobia is, it’s beyond simply being shy and not wanting to try. You have to try to understand that for true social phobes, these things are absolutely terrifying. At my worst i was literally too afraid to answer the door, the telephone, and I only shopped in places that had self checkout…as in if I had to face one of these situations, i began having a panic attack, which feels a lot like a heart attack. I know one social phobe who was too afraid to even go to the restroom in college, if his roommates were in the living room between his bedroom and the bathroom door. So to normal people, asking your SO to accompany you to a party is just relaxing and having a good time but for him, it probably feels like you’re asking him to walk through an alligator-infested lake. Even counselling is a huge undertaking. Case in point: I went to see a psychiatrist for my social phobia and never came back after the first meeting. The reason? The psychiatrist made me nervous…see the possible catch-22?
With that said, I understand your frustration. It can seem impossible to get anywhere and my ex and I had a lot of fights and emotional grief because I was too afraid to spend time with his family and friends.
It is up to him to change. The most you can do is try to encourage him because I believe the biggest issue is that social phobes are incredibly afraid of rejection – they’re usually people-pleasers to the extreme. I think the best you can do is give him a few pep talks now and then to bring him down to the reality that not everyone is judging him the way he thinks, and start him out slow – don’t ask him to join large crowds of people. Get him used to one or two of your friends/family at a time and gradually increase his comfort zone. Of course, this is all dependent on his willingness to try. You guys need to sit down and really talk about these hangups and what you’re both willing to do to help.
If he can get a customer service job – ANY customer service job, even fast food – it helps. I managed to find a job as a waitress and it’s ben a really enlightening experience. My anxiety went down a LOT because I was forced to deal with my fears head on every day, for money. And I had the exact same fear – didn’t think I was friendly enough to survive. But if he can somehow learn that he doesn’t have to b social and friendly…just courteous, he’ll be ok. He doesn’t have to talk and bff every customer that comes in. he doesn’t ven have to smile all the time. Just be polite. He’ll be ok.
If he’s not willing to work on his problems, maybe you should think about moving on and consider if you really want to be with him. It’s not fair for you to have to carry all of his baggage and get sucked into his hangups if he can’t bring himself to meet you half way. If he’s been like this for most of his life, his social anxiety will probably never go away completely so chances are that even if he does get help, you’ll always find little issues and problems with him socially now and then. It’s a matter of how much you’re willing to take on and if he’s worth the effort.
Post # 6
I’m really sorry you’re dealing with this. I have anxiety (not so much social) and sometimes it effects parts of my life that I REALLY wish it didn’t.
My fiance can also be pretty shy in large group situations where he doesn’t know a lot of people but he seems to be coping better with it recently.
Since you have tried talking to him in the past and he just won’t listen or refuses to go to counseling, I would maybe try asking him one more time — maybe after a really good day/date or when you’re both in a good mood. Try saying something like, “Isn’t it awesome to feel like this?” and when he responds with “yes,” say something like, “you could feel like this all the time (or more often) if you tried counseling?” Maybe it’ll make him see it in a different light, instead of bringing it up whenever you’re both angry/frustrated (just assuming here). Try to be as patient and understanding and encouraging as you can — not that you haven’t already been patient, but maybe a little extra could go a long way.
If that doesn’t work, you may want to try writing him an email or letter. It might sound impersonal, but that way you’ll be able to get all of your thoughts and feelings across in a non-accusatory manner. He will also be able to read everything and then digest it instead of just getting angry and yelling or walking away.
Whatever you do, make sure you tell him that there’s nothing wrong with him and this problem is not his fault – it’s a medical issue but there IS help! The only way it will become his fault is if he doesn’t seek help for it. And tell him that it’s not just something you want — tell him he should want a better life for himself too.
If you’ve exhausted all of your resources, I think you have a right to give him an ultimatum. I usually hate that term/circumstance, but you have a right to be happy too. And his anxiety is obviously preventing him from being happy as well.
Good luck and I hope the situation improves.
Post # 7
Thanks to all of you who took the time to respond. Shortly after I wrote this post today, Fiance came into the room and said he agreed he should go to counseling. He said he looked up social anxiety and he definitely fits the definition. It was a huge relief that he acknowledged the problem, since in the past he’s always took the stance that his anxiety is just part of who he is and can’t be changed.
I appreciate the insight from harleyq and Stace126. While I can certainly understand that he’s not doing any of this on purpose, I feel like I have been patient with him for a long time (8 months!). Now it’s time to get real with him. He has been in the same customer service job part-time for over ten years while he worked his way through college. The reason why he likes this job is because he knows he won’t get fired. He has a history of being rude to the customers when they complain. He can’t be “fake” in social situations.
I really hope he goes through with counseling and that it helps him. I’m a big believer in psychotherapy. Now the hurdle we have to get over is him actually making the call and going to the appointment. For those of you who have anxiety issues, he keeps telling me he has to “get used to the idea” that he is going to do something. Do you ever feel like this? I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to just get it over with, rather than building up anxiety around it over time.
Post # 8
@frustratedwithfi: Getting used to the idea is probably his way of saying “building up courage.” The flight part of his fight-or-flight system is overactive so he probably needs to mentally prep himself to talk to someone on the phone, let alone actually go to counselling. Maybe he’d feel better if you could go with him to the appointment and stay in the waiting room for support?
Really happy for both of you that he’s taking responsibility for his disorder. It really does get better with practice. If counselling with one psychiatrist doesn’t work, remind him that it’s not a big deal to request a new one and it happens all the time. Try not to let him get down on therapy all together if he starts getting frustrated.
Post # 9
I am struggling right now to be supportive. Today he texted me (while I’m at work and he’s at home) and asked for the website of the counseling place I found for him. That’s right, I looked it up for him. Then I waited until to the end of the day to text him asking if he called them.
He didn’t. He emailed them because “I didn’t see my problem listed on the website”. Anxiety is #2 on their list!!!! I wrote back he needs just make the call – the website says “how to get help: call ###-###-####”. WTF???
I told him if he doesn’t make the appointment himself then I will make an appointment under my plan and we will go as a couple. Everyone at work today was commenting on how uncomfortable he seemed. One coworker even said “are you sure you want to put up with that for the rest of your life?”
I am so angry at him I just want to scream! How can he go to counseling for his anxiety problem when he’s afraid to make a phone call? He’s just using the email excuse so he can blow me off about it for another week. I just don’t know what to do with him anymore. Any strategies I could use other than yelling would be great.
Post # 10
This is difficult because i suffer from anxiety. A work function for me, which might seem like a great and fun social event, is something that makes me nervous for weeks prior. I will literally plan out possible conversations weeks in advance so i wont feel to anxious.
I do NOT do well in crowds. I do not enjoy small talk. I do not enjoy awkward silences when i’m not sure what to say. I am not able to talk about personal issues i have to anyone other than my best friends and SO. I have not made a new close friend in probably 3 years. At my worst i was unable to leave the house or i would have a panic attack.
Its hard to admit defeat and admit there is a problem. Severe depression and anxiety can lead to panic attacks (which i’ve had). The only way to fix things is to make changes in your life.
My SO is aware of my issues. HE know i dont do well in social aspects. While he does try to get me to do things out of my comfort (like ask a teller where something is located at a grocery store) he eventually realizes its not completely my fault.
I would suggest being supportive, not angry with him. You will only make it worse. He knows he has a problem, but its one currently out of his control.
Post # 11
I work in anxiety and all I can say is – I feel your pain :). I’m not a clinical psychologist, I work the front office and conduct research so I don’t have great therapeutic advice from the anxiety standpoint, but I interact with all the same patients. It’s frustrating to watch people walk in and out and refuse to get the help that we offer sometimes, and I watch their families suffer too. It’s OK to be frustrated – I’d even say it was normal.
But yelling won’t help – sometimes even as a mental health worker I want to just shake someone and say, don’t you see why this doesn’t make sense?! But that’s part of the pathology – the crippling anxiety over things that to others don’t make sense. As I’ve spent more time here (20 months and counting) I’ve learned to empathize with them and gently but firmly try to walk them through what we need from them. The best thing I’ve learned to do is to stay calm, stay focused on the issue, and to get past it without it becoming a negative thing. Bringing confrontational emotions into it will just make him feel worse about himself, but it WON’T stop him from resisting you and therapy and social settings. I think there’s ways to be supportive without being an accomplice though – I appreciate the PPs about what it’s like to have social and totally agree that you should be supportive, but don’t be his enabler. Gently push him towards getting the help he needs, so it doesn’t ruin your relationship from either side. Don’t hide your feelings from him, just present them in a light that says “we’re not getting along like this, what can we both do to make this better?”. I hope he keeps up his end of the bargain and that therapy helps!
Post # 12
Ultimately, you can’t force him to get help; and trying to force him by being aggressive just will not work.
So essentially, you need to be able to support him and ‘put up’ with his condition, because there are no quick or easy answers. If you can’t (and you need to think long-term here; can you put up with another 3 years of this? Another 5? Another 10? Forever?), then the best thing for both of you may be to separate.
I have experience of depression as well as mild anxiety, and it isn’t something you can just snap out of; though I was always mindful of those around me, and got help (but mine was mild, and so much easier to deal with); but in severe cases, it isn’t as simple as ‘just’ going to counselling, it can take months and months to build up to it.
But as I said in my previous post, I think there are some things that he COULD do, to make small steps. That could be joining an online forum to talk to people with the same issues, or sending CVs off even if he has no intention of going to an interview; etc. So I don’t think it would be unreasonable to ask that he does this.
Post # 13
Social anxiety is difficult, to live with and to be with someone who has it. I was diagnosed with social anxiety six months before I met Fiance. He is very supportive now but early on it was very tough for him to support me. He would get frustrated easily. But because of him it has helped me a lot too. He is by no means a big social butterfly but he can carry conversations and that has helped me. He can help me get started in a conversation when I’m nervous talking to someone.
I can understand where your Fiance is coming from OP but my anxiety is not as bad where I can’t stand up for a toast, go to a party with my Fiance, or obtain a job. I am happy to hear he is going to counseling. It will help him immensely and if he asks you to go too a few times I would highly recommend going. It helped my Fiance understand that it’s easier said then done about “just say hello” and “to stop thinking so much into this situation”.
I once worried that my Fiance would leave me due to my anxious thoughts and he said he was in it for the long run. He was here to keep me grounded and make me aware that some situations aren’t as bad as they seem. Once in awhile I still get ridiculous with my feelings but he can calm me down.
I understand it’s hard to be supportive but you just have to be patient, go to counseling with him when he is ready for you to and ask his counselor how you can help. I hope things work out fine for you guys! Good luck!
Post # 14
I can relate. My SO acutally gets physically ill in social settings he’s uncomfortable in…which he finds most of the settings I bring him to. He is also stubborn about getting help. He’ll have to meet me halfway eventually and go to counseling or a psychiatrist. But I haven’t gotten to the point of asking him take that step.
This thread is very helpful. Thanks for sharing your situation and I hope you guys get through it succesfully.
Post # 15
“Getting used to the idea is probably his way of saying ‘building up courage.’”
“I will literally plan out possible conversations weeks in advance so i wont feel to anxious.”
I do the same thing. When I have to make a phone call it could take a few minutes to get myself ready to do it. I will go through possible conversations and out comes in my head before I call. It actually took me a few days to book my wedding dress appointment. Things are never as bad as the things I make up in my head lol but it’s kind of like getting yourself prepared for the worse.
I actually prefer to email someone if I can. It’s nice because you don’t have to deal with people directly and it takes away the feelings of “what if this happens, what if that happens.” That could be the same reason why your Fiance decided to email them instead of calling.
Post # 16
@noenyu: I am the same way. I debated for a whole week to call about booking a cake tasting. I have to plan conversations days ahead of time and hate having to call someone I’ve never met on the phone. I’d prefer email.