I'm speechless
November 22, 2010 12:18 PM   Subscribe

Logistics of a license-less carless introvert ending a 20 year marriage: I don't know where to start with my preparation.

Backstory - you don't need to read if you don't want.

Hi, it's me again. I'm leaving next year - when our lease runs out, so I don't stiff him with it. I've got the "how to find some place to live" thing down, and I'm good at paying bills and being organised including the "socking" away some cash. I do intend to move out when I tell him so that he has space for mourning without me around to make it worse. Marriage counselling was many times, and the last time several years ago, and we live in another part of the country now. I'm not really interested in more of that. I don't intend to jerk him along. This is it. I won't do the conversation in a new counsellor's office because that would give him false hope.

My problem for this question: I'm an introvert and shy. I cannot talk to people comfortably, easy and natural-like for a period of time after I meet them. So if I'm in a group environment, with friends, I can smile a lot, and get to feel comfortable and so forth, and then, you know, maybe the next time say something, or the time after that. And then I get funny, and compassionate and one-on-one people like me, and want to spend time with me, and don't seem to think that I'm an idiot.

My friends in this town are all at my place of work. I don't care for them to see me going through building a new social life. Oh no, really not. But I can't see how to build a social life where I can't talk to people the first time I meet them. No, really. Thank you, I have done public speaking (that's not the same), and I am a professional in the workplace (I have set phrases for new events - cliches if you like), and yes, of course I've read How to win friends and influence people, and David Burn's Feeling good - the new mood therapy. I've read many many more books on the subject, worked with a psychologist, enjoy the benefits of a consistent SSRI, and have imbibed for dutch courage. I just can't do it.

And now, I KNOW I need to leave him, but I'm scared I'll be incredibly alone without a security blanket to do the talking for me the first few times.

I went to a metafilter meet-up once, lovely people, and I'd so prepared so that I could talk that I felt like a total dickwad, and left early. Have never been back.

1. How the fuck am I going to date if I can't talk to people? 2. How can I join clubs and so forth, if I haven't a single thing to say?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Where do you live? Meetups might be too stressful because of the group dynamics, but I'm sure there's gotta be a few Mefites near you who would be willing to go do fun things in a small group or one-on-one. You don't need to break into a large group of friends, you need to get to know a few people, and their friends often become your friends.
posted by skyl1n3 at 12:24 PM on November 22, 2010

As to #2: What about a club where it's not actually necessary to talk the first few times, or maybe never necessary to talk much at all? Like a movie-watching club or a sports club, or a chess club?

Also: you've done quite a bit to get more comfortable talking, and you feel it hasn't worked. What about trying to get more comfortable with *not* talking? I can't tell if you've tried that. But trust me, nobody at all finds it as uncomfortable as you find it when you don't talk much. I would bet my bottom dollar that the overwhelming majority of people just see you as that nice, polite woman and don't give it a second thought at all. Could it be possible for you to become comfortable with the fact that you can't talk much the first few times?
posted by Ashley801 at 12:29 PM on November 22, 2010 [4 favorites]

As to #1, I think you'll find quite a few gentlemen who will be more than happy to go on a few first dates where talking is at a minimum (going to see a concert or play together, etc.) There are lots of single guys out there who have a really hard time talking when they don't know people, and if you tell them up front (maybe online) that it takes you a while to warm up to much talking, I think they'll actually be relieved.
posted by Ashley801 at 12:32 PM on November 22, 2010

Does it help if you've "talked" to someone over email or chatted online first? (It doesn't work that way for everyone, I know.) If so you could make some friends on craigslist or OKCupid and meet them in person after you've interacted a bit online.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:35 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think you need a group with a specific focus, like a book club or activist organization, so you have a common topic of interest that you can always fall back upon. Perhaps something where you can initially sit in back, like a poetry reading or volunteer training, until you feel more comfortable making small talk. It's helpful to have a structure and a focus.

"Introvert" need not always mean "shy." You're not doomed to be alone; you can have a choice. I do alright talking to people, but I still prefer solitude.
posted by desjardins at 12:36 PM on November 22, 2010

Have you read stoneweavers comment here?

Maybe you need to do a similar thing - study up on how to make small talk. Notice what other people say, how they interact, that sort of thing. It could give you a bit more self-confidence when you do take the plunge.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 12:37 PM on November 22, 2010

Volunteer your time in a social service you support. (1) it stops being about you and your comfort (2) good is brought into the world for someone, even if it is not always and immediately you (3) you will meet people worry knowing, then perhaps those they know, and among them perhaps someone to date.

Voice of experience. Start today.
posted by eccnineten at 12:41 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Correction: worth knowing, not worry knowing. No worries.
posted by eccnineten at 12:43 PM on November 22, 2010

The fact that you mention being car-less and license-less leads me to think you live in an area where having a car is important. Get yourself a driver's license! I have women friends, all from New York City, who learned to drive in their thirties and forties and it boosted their self-confidence and, obviously, increased their mobility. Think of it as symbolic preparation for eventual departure. And don't let your husband teach you to drive. Look for a driving school. If public transportation is sufficient where you live then you don't need a car; once you get your license you'll be able to rent cars if you want to take trips.
posted by mareli at 12:56 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

You mentioned in the previous post that you had a consensual fling outside of the marriage. How did that come about? Once you connect with one person, it's a lot easier to say hey, introduce me to some of your friends.
posted by Melismata at 1:00 PM on November 22, 2010

I will suggest community theatre. I have never before met such open, generous and kind people as work in community (as in, "Little Theatre") theatre. You will first meet them perhaps by going to a local production. You don't have to talk to anyone as an audience member, but you can get a good vibe for the people on stage and in the audience (many who will be in involved in the group as friends or family). If you feel brave that night you can ask the house manager (probably the person who is selling concessions) how to get involved in the group. This will likely be by auditioning (don't run away yet) for the next production. Many LTs audition not only actors but also crew. And many LTs are very happy to welcome people who know almost nothing about theatre and don't want to at, but have some other kind of skill. Or, you could actually audition for a part, which is nerve-wracking for some -- but since you said you do public speaking okay, then it shouldn't be a big deal.

Here's the big kicker: creating a theatrical production is a community effort like a barn raiser. There's a finished project that everyone is driving towards. This adds structure to all of your encounters with the group. You are not there to chat, you are there to produce a show. Chatting is optional but will happen of its own accord. Just be honest with your crew/cast that you're new to theatre but very interested in being a part of a great community and they will understand any jitters.

I say this having tried a whole shitload of other ways of making friends in my town and having found that the theatre is the one best suited for me because not only of the above reason, but because, when the show is done, the play itself is gone like the wind, but the community itself is stronger than before.

To find community theatre in your area, google your city name plus "little theatre" or "community theatre" and also check with the drama department at any local university -- school drama people often transition to local theatre when they graduate, so everyone knows everyone else.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:37 PM on November 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

Since someone's already brought it up, I won't feel too weird talking about it again. But, yes. Watch reality TV. The newer shows are much more scripted and don't give as good a model for how to deal with the initial weirdness of first making friends. If you're in the states, you can catch these shows on Hulu: Paradise Hotel 2, Seducing Cindy, Mad Mad House and The Apprentice. None of those shows are high art or anything like it. But the first couple episodes are really instructive for us introverts. Mad Mad House is particularly unstructured and unfocused, and it fails as television. On the other hand, it really succeeds at showing how to make friends with a wide variety of people. Paradise Hotel is great because there are new people every week, so you get to see lots and lots of examples of people meeting each other for the first time and making small talk.

It truly isn't a matter of being prepared. It's a matter of going in expecting to laugh and learn about other people. It's not easy, but if I can learn how to do it, you definitely can! Depending on where you live, if it's appropriately culturally start striking up conversations in the grocery store. It's a very low stress way to learn ow to make conversation. You just go on shopping.

You don't need to be the life of the party to make friends. It's not a dichotomy between being the center of attention or not being there. It's perfectly fine just to laugh and only chime up if you've got something to say.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:40 PM on November 22, 2010 [5 favorites]

How did you meet and grow comfortable talking to your spouse? Perhaps whatever worked then can be duplicated (to some degree) to help you out now.
posted by epj at 1:45 PM on November 22, 2010

Well, five years ago I moved here from the other side of the country. And I'm kind of shy (maybe not as shy as you, but shy enough that people have commented on it almost my whole life or at least since I could talk) so here was my experience making friends outside of work, which maybe will help you.

I started volunteering with the same organization two or three times a month. Then I eventually became a volunteer coordinator which meant I had responsibility for the other volunteers and I had occasional meetings with the other coordinators. Eventually, I made some very good friends through seeing and working and socializing with the same group of people over and over again. I've also noticed that no one (no matter how extroverted) is going to make friends if they only show up for one or two events. But those people who keep coming to events 2-3 times a month and then join the management team, well almost all those people have friends even the very introverted folks.

So my advice (1) pick a group that involves something you care about (volunteering, animals, knitting, hiking, running, whatever) (2) if you don't make friends the first time don't despair. Just keep going month after month (3) try to pick something where you are doing something active besides just socializing (you see how a metafilter meetup might not meet this particular criteria?) that way you have something to talk about. For example, if you're volunteering you can strategize on the fastest way to fold donated clothes or if you're hiking you can talk about the oak trees or a bird you just saw or the water source of the nearest stream. I think it's easier for a shy person to find something to talk about if they are concentrating on the activity at hand rather than a feeling of awkwardness (4) if there's any type of committee or management team join that. The more involved you are, the more likely you are to make friends.

Also, try to pick a group that meets a few times a month at least. If the group only meets a few times a year that won't be enough contact to really develop close friendships. Good luck!
posted by bananafish at 2:27 PM on November 22, 2010

I am seconding the "learn to drive if that feels like something you'd be at all interested in." I have bored people here before with the tale of my 25-year hiatus from driving; my return to the roads was a very empowering experience for me, actually.

Obviously, driving isn't for everyone, but if it feels like something you might be interested in, don't be put off by your age as a limiting factor. I relearned at 42; I had a great-aunt who learned for the first time at 80 (well, learned to drive a gasoline-powered car for the first time--she had had an electric car back in the day).
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:59 PM on November 22, 2010

I'm somewhat like you. I've found I have a much easier time making friends through activities that require only a minimal amount of communication, but have space for more. For me, that's been through horseback riding and art classes. I think the key is that you are showing up for the activity, and you have to be minimally polite, but are welcome to just do your thing without talking if you feel like it. Eventually you've seen everyone enough to feel ok talking but there isn't any pressure along the way. Also I think the activity gives you something to talk about pretty easily.
posted by sepviva at 5:34 PM on November 22, 2010

Something I have found very helpful is this. There is nothing wrong with being alone (which is different than being lonely). Maybe it's what you need for a bit? That way you can figure out what you need to say, and not what you would say while being in long marriage.

Forget about dating while getting out of a Serious Relationship. Go to classes, not to find someone, but to learn about what is being taught. After a few classes people naturally will drift together through common experiences. Remember that the most common experience in grade school was how everyone hated the teacher? Same thing in adult life, except replace "hate" with "need to contradict". Also, just because someone disagrees with you doesn't mean they can't be your friend (some of my best friends disagree about science/religion/the best burger joints).

Meeting people and being friends will become easier. It's very hard to be "out there" at first, but it can be worth it!

Another thing, keep going to those MeFi meetups. The first conversations are super-hard, but it gets easier!!!
posted by cathoo at 9:29 PM on November 22, 2010

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