Thursday, May 31, 2012

Social Anxiety in Couples

Is social anxiety ruining your relationship?

  • Do fears of rejection stop you from communicating openly with your partner?
  • Do you feel guilty because your partner wants you to socialize more?
  • Do you feel frustrated that your partner doesn't like to socialize as much as you do?
  • Does it feel as though you are your partner's main social contact?
Social anxiety is an intense fear of being rejected and humiliated.  Experienced on a regular basis, SA can ruin one's relationships, particularly intimate relationships. 
Sometimes those with social anxiety pair up with extroverted, non-anxious partners.  Other times, social anxious people find one another and couple. In both situations, couples feel the effect of S.A. and often experience issues such as:

  • Fights about how and when to socialize
  • Communication issues
  • Resentment
  • Guilt
  • The fear that “we’re just not right for each other”
Thankfully, social anxiety doesn't have to devastate your relationship --  thanks to ongoing research, we now understand how to overcome social anxiety as well as what couples need to do in order to maintain a happy, healthy relationship even in the face of S.A.

Here are a few tips for staying in love in spite of social anxiety:

1.    Make time to talk

One of the key aspects of social anxiety is the fear of being rejected.  This translates into self-disclosure avoidance, which all but stops communication between partners.

If you find you or your partner avoid discussing important issues, remember that communication is key in happy, lasting relationships.  Get back on track by first discussing social anxiety and how it affects your relationship.  Both partners need time and space to speak openly about their fears and frustrations. 

If you find communicating openly with your partner too difficult, I recommend seeing a couples therapist.  Many people find that social anxiety loses some of its power once it’s acknowledged openly.

  1. Blame social anxiety, not your partner

Social anxiety can take a toll on all aspects of your relationship, including  your sex life, emotional intimacy, and equitable sharing of responsibilities.

It’s normal to feel angry and sad that your husband can’t enjoy himself at your birthday party, or that your girlfriend can’t seem to stop nagging you about seeing a psychiatrist.  And it’s important to share those feelings, but doing so can backfire if you fall into the trap of blaming your partner.  Instead, share your feelings about the real “bad guy”– social anxiety – and save both you and your partner from defensiveness and shame, true intimacy killers.

  1. Have fun together
Do you and your partner have a movie that makes you cry with laughter?  Or a pet that makes you both smile?  Social anxiety tends to bring up sadness, guilt, and frustration.  Make time to find joy with your partner and remember why you fell in love in the first place.  While this may be difficult in the face of your struggles, it can be a relationship saver.

  1. Get treatment – both of you
Social anxiety can feel like a life sentence for both the sufferer and his or her loved ones.  But it isn’t.  We know more about S.A. every day.  Get support and stay on top of your recovery, as S.A. does take persistent effort to heal. 

If you’re the partner of someone with social anxiety, make sure you get support as well.  One of the best ways to support your partner is to practice excellent self care and learn as much as you can about S.A.

If you would like to put some of these tools into action and reconnect with your partner, please contact me at (510) 595-5500 x36 or


  1. Thank you for this. I think my wife feels as though my anxiety should've subsided all by itself. She tells me that my burden is too much pressure for her.. That is frustrating! Because when I try to communicate calmly and openly she doesn't respond which cause me to blow up sometimes. Maybe reading this may help her understand better.. Because i'm experiencing that "not meant to be together" feeling right now.

    1. I'm so glad you found the article helpful. You're not alone! Wishing you and your partner ease and healing.

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  3. I feel the same im so sick of fighting, i wonder of i should be alone so i dont hold others back.

    1. I'm sending you warmth in a hopeless time, Anonymous. I've seen many people in your position heal and find satisfying connections. Wishing you the best.

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  5. thank you very much for writing. I am anonymous from jan 8. From everything I read they say this can get better. why is my biggest issue with the people I am closest to? I can deal better with people that are not my immediate family/ partners family is this unusual?? should I not be more comfortable with them? Anyways I am going to see my local doctor and see what happens from there. I just fear local doctor will just treat me like another number. I have a rough past I guess never though this could of been the start though. Do you have any recommendations to me as you are the first point of contact. this is the first time I have done anything about this. I can not let this dominate the remainder of my life.

    1. It's very common to experience conflict with those closest to us, especially if we have a rough past. I'm so glad you're getting to your doctor. I recommend asking your doctor for a referral to a good therapist in your area.

      The good news is you're ready for a change. This is one of the most important factors in transforming painful patterns like you're experiencing. Wishing you the best and holding hope for your healing.

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  7. I think it's a great thing to do, even though there are downsides like lack of physical interaction, on the bright side, words alone can be very powerful, when you send someone a message, you have the power to make them happy or sad, laugh or cry etc. Whether you are in a relationship online or offline, being on the same page is still important, being physically apart and emotionally close is better than being emotionally apart and physically close. If you trust each other, then you should be good to go

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