Having problems with dating, feeling anxious, meeting new people.. It's mostly meeting their friends and family..
January 11, 2009 10:46 PM   Subscribe

I'm having the same problem as the poster below me "Help me deal with high stakes situations.." (BTW I read all those responses too). Like her it happens with meetings, people with authority, friends and dating. But, I'm a guy, and the only part I really care about is how it effects friends and dating. The rest I can live with..

I guess the reason I point out that I'm a guy is I think I do have that feeling the guy is supposed to be more cool and collected.. If I'm out on a date, and she's totally relaxed and normal, and I'm the one who's mind's going blank.. I don't know. I guess, I'm fine with that.. but I admit I start to think, but what if she's not?? I know there's all kinds of people, girls that are fine with it, some aren't.. But usually you can tell which is which. But I've dated a lot where I couldn't really tell. I met lot of girls who give off this shy loner vibe or something which I admit makes me feel a lot more secure around them, only to find they're life is way different than what I was expecting.

So it's not really *her* that gives me these feelings. It's more her life and her type of friends and family. The problem I always run into is I'll meet someone and at first I totally connect to them, we have this thing between us, and everything's all good.

But one day, something just happens that really points out our fundamental difference. It happens when I start meeting her friends and family. I won't talk and get really quiet around them.. and in some way it makes whatever we had between us disappear. It's like I sense her attraction go downhill when she realizes I'm like this, and I feel like crap cause I feel like there's something "small" about me, like this inability to connect or feel comfortable with certain kind of people. Like I have this fear of "TV show" kind of families. And for some reason lot of girls I dated ended up having these kind of families. I have this phobia of them all being together after I leave and saying to her "nehhh" and everyone laughing and her being like what was I thinking.

But in reality that's never happened to me. It's just an irrational fear I have. So whenever I date, I'll only date if I really know her beforehand, and know how her life outside is.. if I sense anything that she has those kind of friends or family I'll totally back out. I hate being this way.. it's totally controlled my life and dictates my entire social being. Can't tell you how many people I lost because of it.

I'm not sure if my problem is I just need to "get over it" or if there's something more to it. I feel like I'm being a baby and can't grow up and so I can't express this to anyone. I pretend to be so secure and confident because everyone around me is totally fine and normal. I feel ridiculous, like in terms of social life I'm at a high school level trying to play in the NBA. That's how I feel. As I get old it becomes less acceptable to still be going through these issues. I don't expect you guys to give me the magical answer here, just do me a favor, make no mention of the word "therapy" please ;) And also, don't say.. "but that's what you need". If I start thinking of pulling out my glock 9 from the closet, I'll post back here and u guys can drill me.. but until then..

~thanks!! (I know that was long.. sorry)
posted by 0217174 to Human Relations (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sometimes really happy families intimidate me, too, so I totally feel you. Here's my advice:

1. Stop being SuperMan.
First of all, I don't think you need to be cool & collected just because you're a guy. Being honest-yet-causal about your weaknesses is actually kind of cute. Nobody likes macho jerks who pretend they never feel intimidated. I mean don't burst into tears or anything, but being a little sheepish about things that genuinely make you uncomfortable is pretty endearing. For instance, I have a better vocabulary than my boyfriend. Once we were out and someone said a word he didn't know. He leaned in a few moments later and whispered a mangled version of the word and said "Is that even a word? What are we talking about here?" I thought it was so cute! And I wanted to help him out so I found ways of subtly injecting definitions into the conversation to save him without embarrassment, which he appreciated. It actually made us closer.

2. Gently lower her expectations by being honest about your fears.
Next time, get to know the girl, and then, before meeting her friends & family, mention casually that meeting families or groups of people all at once sometimes makes you feel shy. That way she'll know what to expect before you get there. Make little jokes about it: "Seriously, I get shy. I might just close my eyes and rock back and forth a little. If I hide in the bathroom will you come save me?" The trick is to disclose your weakness in a way that's funny & casual, not like it's some heavy issue that makes you damaged goods.

3. Be nice and get to know her friends with small exchanges in which you demonstrate interest & curiosity.
When you're at the event, just listen til someone mentions something they like, then ask a few followup questions. "I didn't see that movie, what did you think? Oh, how old is your niece? You're a teacher? What grade? Do you like it? You got a new car, what kind? What did you drive before?" etc. Take the pressure off having to perform or seem perfect by just trying to have a little exchange of 3-5 questions with each person, one-on-one, about a topic they seem to like.

4. Show her you have good taste in people by telling her why you like HER people.
The cherry on top of the sundae is this: after meeting them, as soon as you and your girlfriend are alone again (like on the way home from a group outing), say some nice, specific, and honestly-felt things about each person who's important to her. "I liked meeting them, they're so nice. Your mom is so funny, your dad seems really interesting, your brother tells awesome anecdotes, your friend Grace has a such a fascinating job, I'd love to hear your friend Rick's band play some time, you have awesome friends, they were so friendly," etc.

That way she'll know you liked them, and it will warm her heart. I mean, if you like her parents, how can she be mad if you were a little shy at first? Liking her friends is a total compliment to her, and it will make her like you more. She'll also overlook any awkwardness you displayed and chalk it up to nerves rather than a character flaw on your part. Since you obviously have the good taste to like her family, you must be OK. Plus, she will probably tell her friends & family that you liked them, which will make everyone else feel good about you too, and give you leeway next time you see them, until you gradually overcome your shyness.

Good luck!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:21 AM on January 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


..."TV show" kind of families.

"...nehhh..."

...those kind of friends or family...


Umm, huh? You seem to be assuming we can read your mind here. I, for one, can't divine what sorts of people / families / situations cause you to shut down. I also don't know what 'nehhh' means. Care to fill out the picture a bit?
posted by jon1270 at 2:24 AM on January 12, 2009


I think "Nehhh" is "nah".
He's assuming the family will turn to the girl and make a negative noise, meaning "we don't like him".
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:37 AM on January 12, 2009


It sounds like you're trying to be the man you think you're "supposed" to be. Then, when your real personality comes out, you get scared because the person you're with isn't supposed to like it.

Try being honest about what you feel. Trust me, you'll find a girl who loves the real you and isn't looking for James Bond to charm her parents' socks off.

It feels amazing to be able to be yourself without worrying that you're about to be found out and rejected. It sounds like you're a great guy - just shy. Trust me, shyness is not a dealbreaker for most women. Give the women you date a chance to really get to know you, and stop rejecting them preemptively.
posted by prefpara at 5:14 AM on January 12, 2009


It's always scary to meet a significant other's family. However, the fact that you've dated these girls long enough to meet their families tells me that you're doing fine--most women I know don't introduce their dates to their families unless they're feeling fairly optimistic about the guy.

I feel like I'm being a baby and can't grow up and so I can't express this to anyone. I pretend to be so secure and confident because everyone around me is totally fine and normal. I feel ridiculous, like in terms of social life I'm at a high school level trying to play in the NBA.

You're not being a baby. Granted, I hang with a fairly introverted crowd (writers), but even the extroverts I know feel these kinds of things. The key is how you deal with it. Repeat to yourself that you're doing fine, that these feelings of being unsettled around strangers who are related to the girls' you're dating is normal, and keep exposing yourself to these situations. Eventually, you'll become more comfortable. Promise.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:18 AM on January 12, 2009


I do have that feeling the guy is supposed to be more cool and collected.. I guess, I'm fine with that.. but I admit I start to think, but what if she's not?? It's like I sense her attraction go downhill when she realizes I'm like this, and I feel like crap cause I feel like there's something "small" about me, like this inability to connect or feel comfortable with certain kind of people. Like I have this fear of "TV show" kind of families. And for some reason lot of girls I dated ended up having these kind of families. I have this phobia of them all being together after I leave and saying to her "nehhh" and everyone laughing and her being like what was I thinking.

But in reality that's never happened to me. It's just an irrational fear I have. I'm not sure if my problem is I just need to "get over it" or if there's something more to it. I feel like I'm being a baby and can't grow up and so I can't express this to anyone. I pretend to be so secure and confident because everyone around me is totally fine and normal. I feel ridiculous, like in terms of social life I'm at a high school level trying to play in the NBA. That's how I feel. As I get old it becomes less acceptable to still be going through these issues.


Okay. I know you don't want therapy. So I'm going to recommend you read "Feeling Good" by David Burns, because it talks about the kinds of things you're telling yourself.

You have a big theme of feeling like you're unacceptably terrible. You have a lot of statements about how you "should" be, and feel you don't measure up. You think the way you feel is wrong. You think everyone else is perfect and normal, that you're the only odd one out. You think that it's so obvious to everyone else, and they're all laughing behind your back.

You are wrong. These are really common thought patterns to get into, and you need to hijack that train.

Let's name some stuff:

- You're an introvert. So what? So am I. I hate meeting big groups of people, and I hide in the corner until it's over. It's not shameful, it's just a quirk a high percentage of the population happens to have. I bet you're great one on one. So how about you start being easier on yourself about it?

- You are mind-reading. You don't actually know what people are thinking of you, and it's probably MUCH BETTER than what you're fearing. You're feeling embarassed when meeting their families, and assuming that they're feeling what YOU're feeling, and then you're running away and feeling terrible. Maybe they're worried you don't like their family, not the other way around!

- You're seeing this in an all-or-nothing light. You are not "crap" or "small", you don't have an "inability to connect", not "everyone" is laughing at you. You're maximizing all the bad stuff in your brain, and probably skipping over lots of good stuff. (Hint: You've dated a lot and met a lot of girls! You've even met their families! Check out all the askme's from guys who can't get that far!)

- You're being too hard on yourself. If one of your friends came and told you this, I don't think you would say "Ew, that's terrible. You should totally stop dating. You're embarassing me." You would probably say, "Dude, those girls always go on dates with you! Relax! You're awesome!"

But seriously, read "Feeling Good". He'll help you identify all these patterns and give you lots of ways to begin new, more positive patterns. This will help you relax, and that will make you more relaxed when meeting your hot date's family, and it'll all be good.
posted by heatherann at 4:13 PM on January 12, 2009


One does not need to be on the verge of pulling out a glock to learn a lot from talking to a counselor. I do personally believe that talking to a person who specializes in helping people look at their emotions, self-talk, and relationships might help you.

People pay professionals to clean their teeth and to care for their children (at times). Almost everyone, at one point or another, pays a professional to help them walk, dress, and bathe. People pay professionals to teach them history, math, and academic thinking skills. So, it's really not very weird at all to pay a professional to tutor you in emotional or interpersonal skills and listen to you as you work to gain self-knowledge. Many people reach a point when they either don't know how to begin sorting out what they're feeling, or when they don't want to continue thinking or feeling the way that they're thinking or feeling, and when this happens, getting help from someone who specializes in helping make changes in their life is actually a rather smart decision.

Either way, some problems really benefit from some oxygen and sunlight, and it sounds like your problem might grow less serious if you began talking about it with people. (Metaphors: The monster under the bed grows bigger when you can't look at it. A lake stagnates into a smelly swamp without oxygen.) You say "I feel like I'm being a baby and can't grow up and so I can't express this to anyone," which makes me think you'd be surprised at the responses you'd get if you began talking this over with people.
posted by salvia at 9:39 PM on January 12, 2009


Thanks everyone this is really helpful..

I think I'm going through a bad depression again. I can't get myself to call the doc, I get too nervous cause I don't know how to talk about this stuff like an adult. I get all mumbly on the phone. Can anyone recommend a route I can take beside calling the number on my work medical card?? God just looking at this card, with all these phone numbers, I feel like I'm calling my bank. I can't call a number on a blue cross card to talk about something so damn personal, so reaching into my soul, .. I think I just need some meds. Can somebody help me out just so I can get something.. I don't know if I can take this anymore...

Thanks :(((
posted by 0217174 at 3:49 PM on January 13, 2009


Do you have a regular doctor? I hit that "I don't know if I can take this anymore" point myself a few months ago, and a short trip to my GP set me up with anti-depressants, and the relief that those give me has given me the ability to take other steps towards mental health.

I know it's intimidating and it feels bad to have to ask someone about this (half of that is your depression talking), so here's what to expect. Your doctor will ask you questions about whether or not you're experiencing symptoms on The Depression Checklist:

* A persistent sad, anxious or "empty" mood
* Sleeping too little or sleeping too much
* Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased appetite and weight gain
* Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
* Restlessness or irritability
* Persistent physical symptoms that don't respond to treatment
* Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
* Fatigue or loss of energy
* Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless
* Thoughts of death or suicide

The rule is generally that if you are experiencing 5 or more of those for 2+ weeks, you have a major depression and they can feel comfortable prescribing meds and giving you a referral to a psychiatrist or counselling services. Give them a call, that's what they're there for. By the point I actually dragged my ass to my doctor, I was astounded that they only needed 2 weeks of symptoms to diagnose it -- I had a good 6 months racked up!

Also check out this past question: What is the single best thing you have done to help control your depression?

Hang in there!
posted by heatherann at 7:21 PM on January 13, 2009


Thanks a lot heather. Yeah I'm a little intimidated since I never seen my doc before. I wish I could just get the meds, I already know I'm depressed. I'm everything on that list, and then some. But I need to make "human contact" in order to get the meds to fix my issue of "avoiding human contact"... see the irony?
posted by 0217174 at 8:35 PM on January 13, 2009


Yes, I absolutely see the irony. :) But I still encourage you to go. Remember that your doctor sees this as a medical problem, not a personal failing. They see lots of people with these symptoms, they won't be shocked or embarrassed. They're just going to ask you if you have the things on that list, and you do, so you can go in there prepared to talk about that. You don't have to talk about feeling like your girlfriend's family is laughing at you, you can stick to things that feel less personal for you -- problems sleeping, eating, feeling "low", feeling distracted, etc.

Be brave! If it helps, maybe disconnect from yourself a bit and think of yourself in 3rd person. Think, "This is hard, but 0217174 needs help right now, so I'm just going to bite the bullet and call the doctor." Take care of yourself.
posted by heatherann at 8:55 AM on January 14, 2009


Totally vote for telling her, but playing it off. Tell her you're the total shy boy with the family.

Some girls are bothered by this. Others just love to see their guy open up like that because they see it as an opportunity to get to know you better, and sometimes people get into it because they thing it says something special about them that you would be this open with them.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:38 PM on January 26, 2009


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