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Need some of that quiet confidence.
June 28, 2014 1:37 PM   Subscribe

I've been dating a great person for about 4 months. She's really outgoing, charming, attractive, and funny, and people just love her.

We're a lesbian couple.
What's bothering me is that my friends and family (and everyone else in the world) seems to like her more than they like me. I know friend and family love and care about me, but I'm kind of an introvert, a little socially anxious, and struggle with some depression, while my girlfriend is the life of the party and everyone's best friend. My own best friend took to her instantly; one night my girlfriend made a joke that she was going to break up with me that evening and my best friend grabbed her and said "eeee we're still friends though right?". My sister adores her and now texts her more than she texts me. My dad will hardly interact with me anymore except to talk about how great she is, why didn't I bring her, and even said "you can't do better than her" (not intended in a mean way? But just saying there's no one better than her…I think). Everyone seems to want to hang out with me more now that I'm with her.
While it should be making me happy that everyone loves her so much and that she seems to love me, it's making me feel jealous and inadequate and just pretty sad. I've never dated such an outgoing and charming person before - in fact I feel a little distrustful when people are this charming and popular, and it took me a little while to warm up to her (we met online). She says she loves me, talks about the future together, and is really attentive. I don't always feel the love from her somehow, though, the way I've been able to from other people who've been in love with me, but I can't tell if that's just my insecurities, or just her way of expressing love, or what. I guess I still feel like I don't totally trust her but have no reason not to. I think it's that we're just so different it's hard for me to understand her. And she doesn't share emotions/vulnerabilities/insecurities very easily - which somehow makes me feel more insecure about my own. Which is why I don't really want to talk to her about this stuff - what would I say - everyone loves you more than me and I'm pouty about it? Gawd.

This all sounds petty to me but it's just weighing on my mind. It doesn't help that I feel kind of down about the state of my friendships in general lately - I'm a busy grad student, kinda shy, need lots of down/alone time, and just haven't maintained friendships and am feeling like I'm on the periphery of everything. My girlfriend has several groups of very close friends and it feels like the few people I do have would rather be with her too.

How do I embrace the fact that she's popular and loved, and not feel shitty about myself and my relationships with friends and family? I usually date fellow introverts and need to figure out how to confidently and happily be with an extrovert and not always feel socially inferior to her. So far I'm just trying to exercise more and be thankful that I'm with someone people love so much, but it's not quite cutting it - throw your wisdom at me? Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Don't talk to her, talk to the people who are being rude. Like your dad. Ouch, damn.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:52 PM on June 28


She's charming--- popular--lovable---she knows a million people and they all love her--- yet she chooses to be with YOU. If popularity is a game, then it seems like you have beaten the system, because you have attracted the most popular person.
posted by winterportage at 1:53 PM on June 28 [32 favorites]


There may be ways to read this that don't imply your friends and family like your girlfriend more than you.

For example, if this were 1994, I would suspect them all of awkwardly trying to show they accept you by being extra accepting of your girlfriend. I would hope that's implicit at this point, but I don't know. They may also love and accept you while having had some reservations about your past relationships, causing them to be very happy about this one--that's a bit closer to criticism with respect to your past choices, but it's not a direct comparison between you and your girlfriend. A third possibility is that your family is making comparisons but what they really hope is that your girlfriend's effervescence will somehow rub off on you to help you with your shyness and anxiety, for which they have some concern without knowing how to help, so they're doing their best to help make your girlfriend feel accepted.

Without knowing your friends and family, I have no idea which if any of these scenarios are likely, but in all of them, your friends and family would be motivated by care toward you and just have poor ways of showing it. They would stick by you in the end, and I think it's very probable something like that's at play here.

At any rate, regardless of whatever damage your friends and family have, for your own happiness, you need to resolve not to make comparisons between the two of you yourself. She's who she is, and you're who you are, and you both sound fine. The world needs quiet introverts just as much as open, outgoing people (possibly slightly more :).
posted by Monsieur Caution at 2:05 PM on June 28 [9 favorites]


Seconding Monsieur Caution. I think it's possible that they are expressing their love for you and their happiness that you have found someone who is making you happy, in the form of lavishing attention on her.
posted by greenish at 2:12 PM on June 28 [4 favorites]


She sounds great. Whatever you're feeling has to be better than if people didn't really want her around - and those feelings will pass with time as it becomes normal to be with a charming extravert.
posted by michaelh at 2:18 PM on June 28 [1 favorite]


I think it's important to not hate yourself for having those feelings. It can be hard to date someone who is effortlessly good at something that's a struggle for you, and it can bring up old insecurities that have nothing to do with that person but go way back.

It may also speak to issues that would be good to talk to a therapist about, if you just can't get to a place of feeling good and secure about yourself.

I would schedule some time with Best Friend and tell them that you're struggling with this; not proud of it, but just finding the adjustment tougher than you figured. If Best Friend is actually a good friend, they will listen and be there for you, reassure you of the reasons you are friends.

And I would ask yourself what, if anything, your girlfriend could do that would help. Spend more alone time? Open up more about herself? And then see if you can make those things part of your relationship.
posted by emjaybee at 2:34 PM on June 28 [4 favorites]


It could just be a reflexion of her own personality. When I'm introverted, quiet, shy, awkward, people are more respectful of my space, quiet, less expressive with me, etc. When I'm more outgoing (either bc if different phase of my life or just plain alcohol), people tend to be just as loud, friendly, and open with me. I've even faked this to see how it worked. If my body language was stiff, had bitchy-resting face - no lovin'. Outgoing, smily, open - lots of lovin'! Everyone is super comfortable around me.

Note that I wrote "lovin". It's not love. It's a superficial openness & connection. So much so that it can be manipulated through body language, tone of voice, etc. It can break the ice initially, but really doesn't mean much in the long run. If anything, some outgoing people can have a hard time connecting with others beyond a superficial level.

Talk to your loved ones if you'd like. Doesn't have to be a sit down conversation. You can blurt it out if need be. But I honestly don't think you need to worry.
However:
I know a lesbian couple that is somewhat like you two. One is outgoing and the other is quiet. Every. Single. Time. I see them, eventually the quiet one has a huge pout on her face while the outgoing one is still being cool. No duh, people stop talking to the quiet one. She's got a giant pout on her face and nobody gets why, since we are all hanging out, having fun. Smily people look at her, see a pout, get uncomfortable and stop smiling and/or look away. DON'T BE THAT PERSON. You'll alienate your friends without even trying, becomes a vicious cycle.
posted by Neekee at 2:35 PM on June 28 [6 favorites]


There is a song by Billy Squier called "Everybody Wants You" where, at the start of the song, it sounds good to be wanted, to be popular, to be liked but by the end of the song it sounds like a drag, a burden. I highly recommend listening to it a few times. As an extrovert, I very much identify with that song. Other people seeming to like me is more often about their needs and what they expect me to do for them than it is some kind of awesome benefit for me personally.

I no doubt have a blind spot and don't fully appreciate my strengths -- don't fully appreciate the benefits it does have which more socially awkward, introverted types wish they could get -- but I am often keenly, painfully aware of the downside and the problems that go with it. People mostly don't "like" me in a "let's all be nice to Michele" kind of way. They mostly seem to like me in a "let's all expect Michele to be awesome to us, no matter how crappily we treat her" kind of way.

I also don't have the confidence other people project onto me. I happen to be an extrovert and I happen to do certain kinds of social things well (sometimes, on a good day) and I am very analytical about a lot of social stuff but I have been raped, molested, slapped around, had people make ridiculously abusive demands on me while doing little or nothing in return etc. In short, a lot of my social experiences have been pretty negative and my ability to appear smooth in public situations is not directly correlated to some kind of inner warm-fuzzy, confident, calm experience. In a college French class, I think as part of practicing French, I talked about how nervous I got before tests. My professor expressed surprise since I was one of her best students and, to her, I always seemed so calm. No, I usually felt so jittery I was surprised you could not see my knees knocking.

So, first, maybe you can ask her how she experiences all this? Because it is fairly common when I talk to introverts that they think I am some attention whore who is intentionally arranging to be the center of attention and that is not true. Most of the time, I am baffled when it happens. If I knew how to make that happen on purpose, god, I would like to think I would have zillions of page views for my various websites and be making decent money. Instead, I often feel sideswiped by what does get attention and wish to hell and back I had more control over it. It looks completely different to me, on the inside, than it does to other people on the outside and it is common that when I have a friendly conversation about this stuff with an introvert, they are very, very surprised at how I feel about it all and I how I subjectively experience it.

The last thing I will say is this and I don't know how to turn it into advice: My ex husband was extreeeemely introverted and socially awkward when we met. I taught him to dress better and played hostess to his social gatherings at home and so forth and it gave him a lot of the things he had always wanted. And the way he handled it made me feel incredibly crapped on and unappreciated and even abused (for example: He cleaned before his friends came over, to impress them, then let me clean up after his horrible, piggy friends left -- so I felt super dumped on over that detail).

So I guess I would like to make a point to the effect that if you feel you are getting some benefits out of her social skills, maybe try to be more appreciative than my ex husband?

I am sorry this is so hard on you. I have a history of getting involved with introverts. There are, no doubt, a number of factors that impact that but I tend to not like or trust people who are too socially smooth. A lot of them are manipulative asshats. I prefer people who are honest and trustworthy and it usually works better for me, warts and all, to use my social strengths to smooth over any communication gaps between me and them or awkward behavior on their part. So, you know, just because she happens to be innately good at this sort of thing and you are not does not mean she sees you as somehow inferior to her.
posted by Michele in California at 3:04 PM on June 28 [3 favorites]


Which is why I don't really want to talk to her about this stuff - what would I say - everyone loves you more than me and I'm pouty about it? Gawd.

Well, yeah. As difficult as saying that may be/seem, you could say pretty much that. Especially with the framing focusing on you being pouty about it, which makes it less of an accusation towards her, and more of a problem she can help you solve.

Caveat: At four months, this sort of conversation might indeed be uncomfortable. But with a bit more time invested in the relationship by both parties, sharing insecurities with a partner should be considered relatively normal. Regardless of the personality types involved, discussing this sort of problem is rarely easy to initiate. However, this sort of problem has to be discussed, in order for the relationship to grow.

When I was growing up, my dad held a position that brought him into contact with a lot of kids my age, many of whom were also my friends. I had a lot of issues with jealousy during this period; many of these kids were more outgoing/accomplished than I was, they idolized my dad, and he clearly thought of them as "adjunct" children in some sense. Sometimes this dynamic really hurt. But, with some hindsight, I know that he didn't mean to slight me when he openly admired my friends. At the end of the day, I'm his son, with all of the complex disappointments and deep love that the role entails. I'm guessing your dad (and other friends and family) are mostly just really happy to have the person they love (i.e. you) hooking up with a real firecracker.

Aside: As a straight guy with introvert tendencies and a bad habit of self-criticism, my reaction to loved ones fawning over my (usually much more socially active/adept) girlfriends has always just been, "Holy crap. I'M TOTALLY WINNING AT EVERYTHING!" Your reaction is clearly different, but you might try faking that feeling for a bit, and see where you end up...
posted by credible hulk at 3:19 PM on June 28 [1 favorite]


For example, if this were 1994, I would suspect them all of awkwardly trying to show they accept you by being extra accepting of your girlfriend. I would hope that's implicit at this point, but I don't know.

I don't think the OP said where she lives. In many parts of the USA it's still 1994.

Heck, where I live it's still 1974...

As a fellow introvert, it's very common for people to seem to like my (outgoing) wife more than they like me. But really it's just that they talk to her more than they talk to me. And that's because she's more social. And I don't even want to be more social. But every now and then it still feels like that.
posted by mmoncur at 3:37 PM on June 28 [3 favorites]


Wow, I could have written this question, particularly when it comes to my parents.

In my case, at least, I think that my family members adore my partner for a number of reasons:

He's easy to talk to. My family is awkward as hell, and in our awkward family gatherings it's a relief to have someone there who is just easygoing, not noticing all the weird subtexts floating around, keeps the conversation going along pleasantly, etc. Actually, I think in any gathering of any size where everyone doesn't get along swimmingly, people are often relieved to have the one person who is not shy, will pipe up with funny anecdotes and put everyone else at ease.

He's a genuinely nice guy. He's likeable.

Honestly, my folks are probably happy that I landed with someone who seems well-adjusted (as opposed to the many, many surly, noncommunicative, drug-addled guys I've dragged home before this one).

Like you, I've spent a not-inconsiderable amount of time feeling like shit about not being more like my partner. There's no way around it: even with all the pro-introvert messages that have lately found their way into the mainstream, extroverts are more valued by our culture. I don't have an answer for this one--I will probably always feel uncomfortable with my shy tendencies.

I will say that on some levels, having my partner has been helpful. I never really learned how to do small talk very well, but watching my partner in action has taught me a few things about how it works. When we're together at a party or gathering, he carries more than his share of the conversation. I don't always feel great about that, but I have to admit it does make things easier for me.

We were together for over a year before I talked to him about any of this, and it's still a work in progress. Now he will do things such as give me openers in group conversations to give me a chance to speak. Sharing with him some of the many articles about introverts that are out there has been helpful in helping him "get" me. He actually forwarded this video to me.

Now I'm rambling. I guess I just wanted you to know that I feel your pain. You probably have many great qualities (that are sadly not as openly celebrated in our culture as being the life of the party), and many cool things you bring to the relationship. You can focus on really excelling at what you're good at, such as being a super-sensitive and thoughtful partner (for example).
posted by whistle pig at 3:43 PM on June 28 [4 favorites]


> So far I'm just trying to exercise more and be thankful that I'm with someone people love so much, but it's not quite cutting it - throw your wisdom at me?

Don't have any better advice than this. I don't think there's a magic spell here. You're doing the right thing. Suck up your jealousy and insecurity and enjoy the cuddle party. Try not to pout.

I say this mostly as a little evil joke, but if you feel bad now, just think how much it will suck to have everyone fawning all over her if/when you guys are breaking up. Enjoy what you've got.

Seems like there's a second question buried in the middle of the main question, though.

> She says she loves me, talks about the future together, and is really attentive. I don't always feel the love from her somehow, though, the way I've been able to from other people who've been in love with me, but I can't tell if that's just my insecurities, or just her way of expressing love, or what. I guess I still feel like I don't totally trust her but have no reason not to.

Don't ignore this feeling, but don't overreact either. Give it some more time. You're at the point where the relationship is starting to get serious and you're going to see more of each other's real character. If there's something wrong here it will come out. (And if things do go bad, don't let your Dad's dumbass remarks keep you in an unhappy relationship.)
posted by mattu at 9:06 PM on June 28


My husband is this person. I freely admit that he is kinder and friendlier and less weird than I am. My parents (Mom in particular) get along with him better than they do with me on most occasions.

The great thing about it is that he takes sooooo much heat off of me, freeing me to be and do what I want.

I used to feel like I had to fight to fit in, especially trying to get a word in edgewise and be part of a conversation. I got a reputation for being super talkative and kind of weird/off-putting. Now I can let my husband do the talking and just hang back, speaking when I feel like it or simply going somewhere else to have a quiet moment. I'm an introvert, but I never would have known it before he came along.

So focus on how good your partner makes you feel, and make sure people know how you feel about your partner, too. You can joke about it, but be sincere too. This is a gift that can bring a lot of good to your life if you let it.
posted by Madamina at 10:13 PM on June 28 [2 favorites]


Extroverted people often like dating introverts. They like people that are just quiet and reliable, and don't kind of compete with them for the spotlight. And while she might have a lot of friends, most of them are probably fairly shallow relationships. Also, two really extroverted people dating can be kind of a disaster.

Dating an extrovert opens all kinds of social opportunities for you with much less stress. Just go along for the ride. Think of her like your social manager. You're not socially 'inferior' to her, you just don't like to do the kinds of social activities that are required to develop a wide circle of friends. Let her do that for you.
posted by empath at 10:48 PM on June 28 [1 favorite]


I think you need to reframe your girlfriend's luster as either a benefit to you or realize that being extroverted and popular in this way does not equal "loved more." Many people would gravitate to such a person at a party, but the traits associated with extroversion are not the only loveable traits in the world. I might prefer to spend a Friday night with the bubbly extrovert, but she is not necessarily the person I would trust with a secret or ask to come with me to a doctor's appointment.

Also, cultivate some independent friendships. Extroverted Partner does not need to join you for every outing with your graduate student friends, for example. (There is a stereotype of the lesbian couple who come together and merge lives very quickly. The fact that your family knows this person so well after only four months of dating suggests that you may be falling into this pattern of interaction. If so, you may want to do more to maintain relationships that are separate from your identity as a couple).

But however you choose to manage your jealousies (which I think are quite common and perfectly understandable, by the way), I would encourage you *not* to bring this up with your girlfriend or your friends and family members. Not because bringing it up would make you look pitiful, but because no one (except maybe your father) has done anything wrong. Yet no matter how you broach the topic and even if you try to focus the conversation on you and your insecurities, there is a good chance that your girlfriend will hear what you say as a criticism of her. This has a good chance of making her self-conscious and may even dim that bright light that so many people are drawn to. Please don't do that to her.
posted by girl flaneur at 10:54 PM on June 28 [1 favorite]


My husband is an extrovert and I am super introverted. People love talking to him. As an example, I have lived in this neighborhood for nearly 15 years and besides my immediate neighbors on either side, I have no idea who else lives here. My husband was here a few months before he knew everyone by name. Everyone talks to him, he's like the mayor. I have accepted that I'm no longer "the cat lady" and instead am now known as "the wife (doesn't she like cats?)" to neighbors.

People are naturally attracted to extroverts, I think it's normal for people to respond to someone who is socially engaging. I personally do not want to be socially engaging, so I hang out in the background and enjoy that he does enough socializing for the both of us.
posted by crankylex at 7:59 AM on June 29


I feel like there is a trope with heterosexual couples (thinking especially of weddings) where people, including the groom's nearest and dearest, will make a big deal of what a treasure *she* is and how lucky he is to have got her and how he better be smart enough not to mess it up, etc etc ad nauseam. I guess it's because there's still somewhat of a thing where a woman has to earn and constantly demonstrate her worth (by being beautiful, charming, and kind), while a man just has to *be* to be worthy, and can derive pride in basking in the praise for 'his' woman.

I wonder whether well meaning but maybe a little short-seeing people are relating to you as 'the guy' here, taking for granted that you know how you are loved and respected and thinking that they're paying you tribute by praising 'your' woman? It would surprise me not even a little.

If otherwise you have a good relationship with your dad and others really close to you, I think it can be healthy for both of you to be a little vulnerable and share what you're feeling and missing from them, and chances are they will hear you and step up.

For others less close, it's probably not worth it. Keep focusing on taking care of yourself and your beloved, and building your own confidence.

Also, I bet, I 100% bet you that your girlfriend has her own areas of insecurity, where she admires and wishes she had some of your skills and competences. I wonder whether she has shared them with you but you don't really believe her or hear her or take it seriously, so you are losing an opportunity to bask in her admiration and validation. I say this because I am generally good socially and come across pretty well most of the time, and I swear when I have shared my great, painful, terrifying insecurities with people whom I deeply trust and respect and who I know care about me very much, they often take it very lightly and even regularly forget!! It's like my own truths can't penetrate their perception of me that I am fundamentally fine and have everything together and their own confidence for me. It can feel really frustrating and sometimes can lead to hurtful misunderstandings.
posted by Salamandrous at 10:33 AM on June 29 [2 favorites]


I feel like there is a trope with heterosexual couples (thinking especially of weddings) where people, including the groom's nearest and dearest, will make a big deal of what a treasure *she* is and how lucky he is to have got her and how he better be smart enough not to mess it up, etc etc ad nauseam. I guess it's because there's still somewhat of a thing where a woman has to earn and constantly demonstrate her worth (by being beautiful, charming, and kind), while a man just has to *be* to be worthy, and can derive pride in basking in the praise for 'his' woman.

Yeah, I hadn't even considered that. It's such a common thing to tell a guy that his wife/girlfriend is too good for him in a joking way. I wonder if some form of that is happening here with some of those comments. People never would say it a joking way to a woman about her husband, but maybe it's people struggling to apply their model for heterosexual relationships to a lesbian one and it's just super tone deaf, rather than intentionally mean.
posted by empath at 11:01 AM on June 29


What sticks out to me in your post is the fact that you feel like you don't fully trust her - and you say that you don't feel her love as you have from others in the past.

The main thing I want to tell you is that 4 months it not a long time. You should acknowledge that trust takes a while to build, and you're in the midst of doing that work. At the same time, you should pay attention to the relationship between her words and actions. Does she have integrity in how she behaves with you *and* with others? Does she show up when she says she will? Does she keep her commitments? Is she forthright and transparent in your relationship?

Trust your gut, pay attention and see how things go. As for dealing with her popularity within your circle, I'd share your observations with her in a joking way and see if she's noticed it, too.
posted by Gray Skies at 8:51 PM on June 29


Were I you, I would choose to be relieved and delighted that I had a partner who was so well suited to the social obligations of couplehood.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:53 AM on June 30


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