Can I help him anymore than I already have?
January 30, 2011 2:27 PM   Subscribe

My partner is shy AND introverted. I'm suddenly finding myself terrified by thought of spending the rest of my life with the person I know and love because I'm tired of being the "entertainer." I'm exhausted. More inside.

Anonymous because my partner knows I read here. My question was sparked by this post, which really opened my eyes to the dynamics of my own relationship:

I've been with my boyfriend for 1.5 years, and we've known each other for 2 years. Everything is great outside of this problem. He is incredibly shy AND an introvert.

I knew this when I met him and made an effort to bring him out of his shell. He seemed like an attractive, nice, intelligent guy so I wanted to know more. It was like pulling teeth, but I made it happen. Prior to dating me, he hadn't dated or had sex with anyone for 10 years. Everyone who knows him/us has commented on how much he has changed. He's more confident and outgoing (this is relative), he's done some self-improvement in the physical sense, etc. He's basically a new person and often thanks me for this. I'm happy for him. All of our friends & family are happy for us. He is 10 years older (I'm in my mid-20s, he's in his mid-30s) and marriage is in the future.

Lately however, I've been feeling panicky... smothered. Terrified.

I used to be painfully shy as a kid. So shy my whole body would tremble in public situations. Teachers stopped talking to me because they knew I couldn't speak. I didn't have friends growing up. When I was 20-21, something changed. I somehow got the affirmation that I'm hot and intelligent, have many good qualities, dress well, etc. I no longer consider myself shy, but I am an introvert in that I need alone time daily to re-charge. But as far as speaking to people, I no longer have any problems. I believe my history of shyness is what initially attracted me to my BF. I saw a part of myself in him.

My BF says he no longer feels shy around me and that is very apparent. But he's still not much of a talker. And I'm coming to realize I'm really frustrated by this. I ALWAYS have to initiate conversation. We went out to dinner last night and I noticed I was doing all of the talking-- and it's not nervous chatter. He will respond with thoughtful answers (whereas when I met him, he might just say "yeah, that's cool" or something), but I'm still the one who has to facilitate conversation. Over the summer we went to a dinner party with another couple who are his friends. I hadn't been feeling well all day so I didn't do much talking. The next day, my BF was mad at me for acting "uninterested" and not talking. I reminded him they are HIS friends, not mine. I didn't have the heart to say he could have talked some (he was his usual shy self, and the couple knows he's like that).

My point is, I feel like I always have to do the 'entertaining' and it's exhausting. As of 2 weeks ago, I've come to dread the weekends. This has been an immediate change for me.

I always considered him shy until I read that caring for your introvert article last week. Then I realized he's actually an introvert. He likes alone time, which is fine. He's not the small talk type. But after dinner last night, it hit me that he's both shy AND introverted. He wants to hang out every weekend (we don't live together), have me sleepover once during the work week, and go out for lunch 2-3 times a week. If we go 2 days without seeing each other, he starts to text me saying he misses me (we never talk on the phone, ever, which is fine). But when I see him, it's back to me facilitating the conversation. He is perfectly content with me lying in bed next to him, reading a book or using my computer, while he watches television or also uses the computer... with NO conversation whatsoever. I did a test last weekend. I purposely didn't bring things up to talk about because I wanted to see how often he does it. He doesn't. Aside from talking, he's fine. He has no problem joking around, being goofy, singing in the shower, etc. He shows his love for me physically. He's very affectionate, we have sex frequently (which is great), he loves being around me physically-speaking.

I love quiet time. I love alone time. I don't mind that he likes those things too. But he's seemingly content ALWAYS being quiet. He loves to go out for drinks, go out to dinner, etc. which are social activities, but again, it's me who's doing the talking. I even try to "practice" with him by encouraging him to flirt with the cute bartender, for example. I tell him to use her name, ask her to make him a random drink, leave his phone number on the receipt, etc. (I know this sounds weird but I'm not encouraging infidelity. I just want him to see that he is an attractive guy and if put himself out there, many women would be happy to date him. There's no reason for him to be insecure. He's very intelligent, went to great schools, does very well for himself financially, has a wide range of interests, dresses nicely, is athletic and has a great body, he's a generally kind person, etc.)

Has anyone else been in a relationship like this? Last night we saw a movie and I had an anxiety attack because I started thinking about the future. I can't spend the rest of my life doing this. He's changed a lot, but I still need him to step up.

FTR, we have talked about this. I've never told him I feel like I'm always the one facilitating conversation, etc. but we have talked about his shyness. He told me Saturday that he feels bad for missing out on a lot of things when he was in his 20s because he "used to be" shy.

What is this? It's not shyness (around me, at least) because there's no nervousness or self-consciousness. He's said this explicitly and I can see the difference myself. I'm not even sure anymore if this is introversion. He wants me in his company (he never wants to take a weekend off to re-charge, while on the other hand, I'd love a weekend off because I need that alone time to re-charge), but yet he rarely has anything to tell me.

Advice? I don't want to end the relationship because I love him, he's a great guy, very intelligent, attractive, and funny (I encourage him when he's funny because I want him to be more like that), but the thought of spending the rest of my life in this role as the entertainer terrifies me.

Advice? Experience? He's not into therapy, so is there any way I can explain this to him? I have no problem working with him and being patient. He's already changed so much since he's been with me that I'm hopeful he'll come around, but at the same time the clock is ticking... if things don't start to change, I will have to end the relationship (explaining to him why exactly) which saddens me and I know will devastate him. Everything is great otherwise so I hate that this has to be the issue that drives us apart. We're best friends, so aside from our romantic relationship, I'd be losing a friend too.

I forced myself to overcome my shyness in my early 20s, and I was worse than him... can't everyone do this? Can I help him do this more than he already has? Has anyone helped their partner do this or has been helped by their partner?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (36 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Good that you initiated some conversation about his shyness, but it seems like you haven't taken the conversation as far as it should have gone--i.e. your stake in all of this as well, what you need from him. Relationships exist only within the confines of human communication, and you will need to take that next step to make your deeper concerns known to him. He's not going to magically have an epiphany someday, if that's what you're hoping for, because the vast, vast majority of people simply do not operate like that. Have you talked to him about how you opened up? That could be a good starting point as well, though everyone is different in how they finally do the whole internal change bit.
posted by Ky at 2:31 PM on January 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

I knew this when I met him and made an effort to bring him out of his shell. ... It was like pulling teeth, but I made it happen.

His natural state is inside his shell, not outside of it. You knew what he was like at the beginning of your relationship but you wanted him to be different. He may very well want to be different as well, but he is who he is.

I can't spend the rest of my life doing this. He's changed a lot, but I still need him to step up.

You can't change him.
posted by headnsouth at 2:37 PM on January 30, 2011 [23 favorites]

Yes, I've been in a relationship like this. It was exhausting and unsatisfying, and I was relieved when I found the courage to end it. No matter what I did, my partner wanted me to be slightly different. Me, but "better" according to their definition of "better" (which matched nicely with how that person was, coincidentally). Every change I made was not the last, but simply one of a many-step process of changes I needed to undergo in order to satisfy. I was never quite good enough. Sure, he was just trying to help me improve, but it was making me feel pretty bad about myself. It was difficult to end it, but I did finally agree with his original assessment: I was ok, but I wasn't good enough for him.
posted by Houstonian at 2:39 PM on January 30, 2011 [26 favorites]

If marriage is in the future, you might want to live together first. It could alter a lot - in a positive way - or it could tell you something you need to know before making the big commitment.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 2:40 PM on January 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

Listen to yourself very carefully. I think you are telling yourself something loud and clear. You aren't okay in this relationship if he stays how he is. I think you want to change something so fundamental (especially in a mid-30s guy) that you are setting the relationship up for major disappointment.
posted by griselda at 2:42 PM on January 30, 2011 [10 favorites]

It seems to me that the two of you have blurred the line between things you can expect of your partner and things you must do for yourself. I don't think it's your partner's job to entertain you, and I don't think it's your job to push him out of his shell (I find you giving him a class on Flirting 101 with a random bartender as subject very strange). Being in a relationship- Being, not doing- should bring you joy. If you are feeling bored with your life, which isn't a totally out-of-the-ordinary way to feel in your mid-20s (hello, quarter life crisis), it's up to you to figure out how to deal with that. You can't wait for your partner to give you a window of time in which to do that, you have to take that time for yourself. In an ideal relationship, your partner will encourage you on this journey without pushing you. If you're with someone who can't do that for you and you can't do that for him, well.... you might not belong together.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:46 PM on January 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

This isn't about him, it's about you. You're the one who can not tolerate him and need more.

You should sit down together and explicitly tell him what's going on with you and how you're feeling, while he has a chance to do something about it, if he wants to or can. Waiting until you've broken up to tell him doesn't even give ya'll the chance to mend this issue.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:49 PM on January 30, 2011 [7 favorites]

Can I help him anymore than I already have?

I forced myself to overcome my shyness in my early 20s, and I was worse than him... can't everyone do this?

You can only "help" him as much as he wants to be helped.

It's ok to break up if you need something that he can't or won't provide. But it sounds like you might be kinda judgey about the whole issue, because you saw it as a problem for yourself, and you overcame it, so why can't he?

Here's the thing: some of us shy introverts are perfectly ok with who we are, and don't really want to be converted, at least past a certain point. Do I welcome my friends/SO making me get out of the house and have some fun every once in awhile? Sure. Would I welcome an ongoing effort to make me not an introvert anymore? Absolutely not.

Your question makes it sound like you think he's broken and you need to fix him. But he's not broken (unless HE thinks that his shyness and/or introverted nature are negatively impacting his quality of life) -- he's just different than you. You're either ok with that difference and you stay together, or you're not ok with it, and you break up. Staying with him and then being perpetually bothered by lack of conversation or whatever doesn't do either of you any favors.
posted by somanyamys at 3:21 PM on January 30, 2011 [9 favorites]

I read your whole story, and all I kept hearing was "He's a great guy, and he would be the perfect boyfriend if only his personality was completely different".

As a dyed in the wool introvert, it would be extremely insulting to me if my girlfriend saw my personality as a personal flaw that needs changing. He's not a 18 year old who's going to go to Europe and come back transformed. He's a grown man deserves someone who loves him the way he is.

I even try to "practice" with him by encouraging him to flirt with the cute bartender

I know it's not your intention, but I find this strangely condescending. Probably cutting stuff like that out would go a long way in making him more comfortable around people.
posted by auto-correct at 3:27 PM on January 30, 2011 [29 favorites]

>>FTR, we have talked about this. I've never told him I feel like I'm always the one facilitating conversation, etc. but we have talked about his shyness.

Right, so you haven't talked about this. You've talked about some ways in which you're trying to change him, but you haven't talked about what you need (at least not all of it, particularly on this issue).

Incidentally, everything you're telling us is that you're unhappy in this relationship. That it can only continue if he miraculously becomes someone else. You may have magically become not-shy, but transformations like that are not normal. If all you're doing is staying with him because you're holding out implausible hope that he'll become someone other than who he currently is, you need to be honest with yourself about that.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:38 PM on January 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

You're just not that into him.

You don't try to change people you love. You get frustrated and irritated with them, but you accept them for who they are.

Some people are actually perfectly content not talking. You would prefer to be in a relationship with someone who talks more. Find someone who talks more so this boy can find someone he's compatible with. He actually sounds like he's very happy with you and thinks you're very happy with him. For the love of god stop stringing him on - either accept him as he is or find someone else.
posted by mleigh at 3:39 PM on January 30, 2011 [12 favorites]

It sounds like he's the sort of person who is fine without continuously driving a conversation. I'm a bit confused about why you (a self-identified introvert) are clearly uncomfortable with constantly maintaining a conversation, yet still feel compelled to do so. It seems like a lot of how you behave in this relationship is based on trying to change his personality, which is really unhealthy for both of you. It's a bad idea to pursue relationships with the intention of changing someone's personality or making him a "project." It doesn't work and it tends to breed a lot of resentment on both sides.

Figure out why it's so important to you to fill silence and "entertain" when you're around your boyfriend, and figure out if there's a relationship there, besides the one driven by you trying to alter his personality.
posted by kagredon at 3:40 PM on January 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

And I'm coming to realize I'm really frustrated by this. I ALWAYS have to initiate conversation.

If you want a conversation when there is not one, it is perfectly natural that you be the one to initiate it. I am sure it would make you happy if he initiated conversation more, and I am sure that he wants to make you happy, but expecting him to monitor you every moment he is with you, constantly asking himself "would it make her happy if I initiated a conversation now? No? ... how about now?" is a little much.

The partner who gives you exactly what you need exactly when you need it only exists in the movies. He may change, or he may not, but if you marry him, you are saying you are okay with how he is now. He may even change in a way you like even less, and by marrying him you have already decided that that's okay with you.

If you "can't keep doing this," then he's simply not the right guy for you. Actually, I would advise that you don't marry at all, because at any time whoever you marry could change in a way that you simply can't deal with.
posted by kindall at 3:57 PM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

In your entire post, anon, I didn't read you explicitly say you want a partner that talks more. Not once. Nor, for that matter, did we get any sense of how much more you want him to talk, or what you want him to talk about.

Now, it's entirely possible that you do want him to talk more, that you want long, entertaining, funny stories about his day or about particle physics or about Dostoevsky. But until you define exactly what that is - exactly what you want him to be providing - you can't really ask him to just talk for the sake of talking.

More importantly, if through the course of mulling that over, you honestly discover you don't care whether he talks or not, or you care only because people should talk more, or quiet is a sign that something's wrong, then you should stop trying to make him change.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 4:00 PM on January 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

It sounds to me like a lot of your question is based on the faulty assumption that you he needs to be "entertained." When my boyfriend and I are together, we spend a whole lot of time not talking. Even when we go out to dinner together, we often sit at the table for long periods without talking. What's key is that we're both OK with that. It sounds like you're not OK with being together but not talking, and so you interpret his silence as a cue that you need to do the talking.

If spending time together without talking is not something you're OK with, you need to take a serious look at whether this is a relationship you should stay in. And part of that probably involves talking about feeling like you need to entertain him -- having talked about his shyness is not the same thing at all. He probably has no idea you feel like keeping a conversation going is a duty. He talks when he has something to say, so assumes that if you're talking, it must be because you have something to say,. It probably has not occurred to him that you're talking because there's some rule that conversation must be happening.

The solution to this problem lies in introspection, not in making him change.
posted by duien at 4:03 PM on January 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

He sounds like a good guy, but not the one for you. You want someone that is fundamentally a different kind of person and that's ok. You two aren't compatible. There are plenty of people who would love to chatter away while their partner thoughtfully listens, who does all the planning, who is always the center of attention, but that isn't you.

He might be able to be more confident and make more of an effort socially, but he isn't going to become a different person. He's certainly not going to stop being an introvert, even if the shyness improves. You both sound like nice people, but you two aren't compatible and right now you are stuck in the role of bridging the distance.
posted by whoaali at 4:06 PM on January 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think some of the commenters above missed the part in OP's post about how on the single social occasion where she did not take responsibility for keeping the conversation going, her partner was angry at her for dropping the ball. He apparently does expect her to be the "entertainer." (Of course, he's gotten used to it at this point.)

I just wrote out a paragraph suggesting the kind of word track to use in bringing it up, but really, it's unlikely to do anything other than make him self conscious. He's a quiet guy. He's a boring conversationalist, and compensating for that makes you drained. You're only in your 20s. You'll meet someone chatty and he'll meet someone who enjoys companionable silence. Move on.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:17 PM on January 30, 2011 [9 favorites]

Some relationships work fine where there's one talkative partner and one silent partner. Maybe he thinks that's what your relationship is like and he's happy with it. You don't want it to be that way. Tell him. Maybe he doesn't get that your relationship is like this, or doesn't get why it bothers you, so explain.

If he is open to changing, try a couple of test scenarios - going out with another couple, he will try to bring up two topics of conversation. (Making conversation requires practice and is something one can get better at if one wants to.) Staying at home, he will bring up two topics. Whatever scenarios are bugging you, see if you can find a goal to try for a week or so, then evaluate or raise the goals or whatever.

But if he wants to have a relationship where his partner handles the social initiating (and he handles some other aspects), and you don't want to be that partner -- or if you want a partner who's going to be more outgoing than you are -- that's a pretty fundamental difference.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:21 PM on January 30, 2011

It doesn't sound like HE is dissatisfied with how things are, only that you are. So why do you feel compelled to entertain? Why can't the two of you be silent; why is it a problem for you to sit in bed silently with him while the two of you do your own thing?

Perhaps the problem isn't that he's forcing you to be the entertainer; maybe the problem is your feeling that there always has to be entertainment.
posted by jayder at 4:22 PM on January 30, 2011

This sounds like heartbreak-in-waiting. You should end this, and find someone you don't feel compelled to "fix."
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 4:32 PM on January 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

"I hadn't been feeling well all day so I didn't do much talking. The next day, my BF was mad at me for acting "uninterested" and not talking."

OP, I'm going to assume you included this anecdote because the dynamic you described crops up often.

I agree with you that it is A LOT to ask of a partner to be the only vocal one in the relationship. From your examples, it sounds like your BF expects you to be "on" for both of you when you are together and when you are socializing with others. Too much!

It sounds like you've taken on a good deal of the responsibility for this guy leaving his shell. What made you think his being-ness is your responsibility in the first place? I don't mean that pejoratively, either. I'm asking you to consider deeply that this type of thing isn't something you can take on for anyone else - ever. Every person has their own power, determines their own experience. Ultimately, he decides how he interacts with the world. Really.


Anywho. I've been married twice and divorced once. Believe me when I tell you that you want to get as good as you give when you make that lifelong commitment.

I agree with others that you should give him the Big Talk now. Don't be surprised if he's a great guy, but just can't be The One for you deep into the future. It doesn't sound like he can change too much more, and you definitely do not need to sell yourself short.

Take marriage off the table until and unless this is resolved. Remember to get as good as you give.
posted by jbenben at 5:03 PM on January 30, 2011 [10 favorites]

I am both shy and an introvert. But when I'm comfortable with someone, I no longer feel shy, and will gladly initiate conversation. Shyness (to me) is about comfort level. I find it odd that after a year and half in a relationship with you, he would still be "shy" with you. It's one thing to be shy and quiet in group situations, but it's another to be shy and quiet around you when you are alone. In other words, I don't think it's his shyness that is really the concern here - it's either his lack of comfort with you and the relationship, or it's simply that he is just a quiet dude who doesn't like to talk a lot. Either way, it doesn't really bode well for your future - because it seems like you aren't really the right fit. Either he's not feeling comfortable (and he should, if you are considering a long term future together) or his level of verbal communication is not on par with what you need in a relationship.

I've never told him I feel like I'm always the one facilitating conversation

Why not? If I were you, I'd start there. It's a good thing to be open about what you need from your partner. But it's not a good thing to try to change your partner. Either it's something he is able and willing to work on, or its not. If it's the latter, then it may be time to move on and find someone who is more compatible with your needs.
posted by katy song at 5:06 PM on January 30, 2011 [2 favorites]

It doesn't sound like the problem is his introversion. It sounds like the problem is that, deep down, you find him boring--which is a pretty big problem, indeed. Why would you want to be with someone who isn't your intellectual and social equal, who doesn't challenge you?

But please, no more games where you push him to flirt with bartenders or stop talking and don't tell him why. That's cruel.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:16 PM on January 30, 2011 [14 favorites]

I would hate to date someone who didn't want to be talking almost constantly. I have never lived with a partner; this might play into the fact that when I do see said person, I want to be chatting almost the entire time. I go out with friends or dates, and I expect to chat the entire time. I also don't want to see my lover terribly often; if we only see each other for six hours in a week, and then maybe talk on the phone for a few hours, that is probably a lovely week for me, all other things the same. I then spend the rest of my time either doing the same thing with friends, and spending the rest of my time alone, because I like being alone too. I seek out romantic partners who are the same way. I also seek out (or only get close to) friends who have a similar idea of what makes for fun (or like doing that with me, however they conduct their other friendships). It really is better that way. People who don't like that model of friendship still inhabit my social circle, but they aren't people I hang out with as regularly, or they are more "group friends" or "event friends".

Maybe we should date? I am a great flirt, too.
posted by jenlovesponies at 5:19 PM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thinking a little more about the bartender thing: I wonder if this is your way of pushing him away from you in a way that leaves you without having to do the dirty work of breaking up--or I wonder if you're more used to high drama situations that are very tumultuous, but more exciting. It's one thing to joke about a cute bartender; it's another to push your partner toward leaving her his number. My husband would never do that, not because he's insecure, but because it's a recipe for drama in a stable, committed relationship (and because he's committed to me!). Why does it matter to you that your partner see himself as sexually desirable with women other than you? It's just . . . really strange. That you see it as normal strikes me as even stranger.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:23 PM on January 30, 2011 [6 favorites]

Mrs arcticseal is the more extroverted one in our relationship, I used to be excruciatingly shy when growing up, but am now merely introverted and just take a bit longer to open up.
Let go of the pressure to feel that you always have to be the one that's "on" and driving conversation. If he's not willing to pick up the slack, fine, but have the conversation about it. You can't change his personality, only the dynamic of the relationship. Don't get married until it feels right, and you're sure that he or someone else is Mr. Right.
posted by arcticseal at 5:24 PM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

"I can do X, so everyone can" is a logical fallacy and a fundamental misunderstanding. From such a small sample size (only one), you can't draw a conclusion about all of humanity! Or even about all shy people.
posted by exphysicist345 at 5:31 PM on January 30, 2011 [7 favorites]

My husband's not as chatty as I am, (few are), but he engages. I think this guy sounds a bit lazy. Why should he have to do anything to attract your attention or entertain you, if you're always on? His reaction to your relative silence at dinner is a big hint.
I'm social and outgoing and still like to recharge by myself, but I don't expect to have to carry the entire conversational load alone, nor do I want to have tap-dance to get my husband's attention or get him involved in a conversation. Comfortable silence isn't the same as someone just sitting there, making no effort at all. That's not introversion, that's figuring that he doesn't need to do much.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:36 PM on January 30, 2011

It seems like you didn't start to feel panicky until that weekend with his friends -- when he "got mad at you" for "acting uninterested and not talking" when you were actually not feeling well. His words and behavior suggest that, yes indeed, he does seem to expect you to carry the burden of socializing for the both of you. Since that's something you're not comfortable with doing, it's now your job to communicate that to him. You have to tell him flat out that that is not an acceptable solution to his shyness problems for you. And if he doesn't want to lose you, he'll either have to reconsider his views on therapy or make a concerted effort to be more social himself.

Encouraging him to flirt with the cute bartender and stuff like that seems, frankly, kinda weird, seeing as he's already in a relationship with you. It almost appears as if you're trying to unload him on someone else so you can discretely disengage yourself from this relationship, rather than doing the scary work required when forced to confront your communication issues directly.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 7:20 PM on January 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

Even if you're *both* talkers (like my husband and I are) you eventually spend so much time with your spouse that you run out of things to talk about anyway. It's nice to know that you don't always have to talking and that it's also fine to just sit/lie next to each other and read, watch TV, play on laptops, etc. Together, perhaps lightly touching, but not always directly interacting.

So I think you're more worried about this than you need be. Take a break from trying to ensure there's always a conversation going and try just *being* with him sometimes, and see how you both like that.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:20 PM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Rescuing people (even if they have invited you to do so) leads to them resenting you. I suspect that his lack of communication does indeed indicate a serious problem -- not with him, but with your relationship. I would advise you to check into the literature on co-dependency and to take your feelings of panic regarding staying in the relationship very seriously.
posted by macinchik at 10:30 PM on January 30, 2011

He's going to be devastated if you break up with him over this, so do him the favor of talking to him about this.

It's great that he doesn't feel shy around you. Initiating conversations is a skill and it's one that he doesn't have and would do well to pick up on. In Dorothy Draper's "Entertaining is Fun," she suggests that before you have guests over, you skim a couple of magazines so you have interesting things to start conversations about. Teach him to share things he's read about or thought about with you.
posted by oreofuchi at 4:41 AM on January 31, 2011

Those couples in restaurants who don't talk to each other always give me the heebie jeebies - I always think that must be some kind of hell on earth, and I can't imagine a week of that let alone a lifetime.

Maybe you should show him that article that lit a fire under you. Maybe if he knew the extent of how it makes you feel, he would make more of an effort. But I also agree with others that you probably can't change this in him.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:42 AM on January 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

My partner is shy AND introverted...

He is incredibly shy AND an introvert...

But after dinner last night, it hit me that he's both shy AND introverted...

The way you always capitalize "AND" -- as if to say, "Can you believe someone would be so defective as to have both of these personality problems?" -- is telling. If there are specific quirks in his behavior, you might be able to get him to change them by asking nicely, but you can't just ask someone to change their whole personality. Find someone whose personality you do like ... and let him do the same.
posted by John Cohen at 9:58 AM on January 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

As others pointed out, just because you can change doesn't necessarily mean he can/wants to too.

But, you certainly need to talk to him and tell him what you wrote here. And then see what he thinks of the situation. Can he understand that there is a problem? Is he willing to make an effort to meet you mid-way? Does that effort last longer than a week? And, I don't think people go to therapy because they are "into therapy". It is a rational way of helping yourself when you think you can't handle your problem alone. And if you are committed to yourself/your relationships, you give it a shot. If it doesn't work with one therapist you try another.

You should try to resolve this, not just for your mid-20s self but for the sake of your mid-30s best friend who is apparently clueless about what you need from him. And if he can't, move on guilt free. Life is too short to stay stifled.
posted by xm at 5:25 PM on January 31, 2011

The next day, my BF was mad at me for acting "uninterested" and not talking. I reminded him they are HIS friends, not mine. I didn't have the heart to say he could have talked some (he was his usual shy self, and the couple knows he's like that).

I've never told him I feel like I'm always the one facilitating conversation, etc. but we have talked about his shyness.

Why the heck not? You're saying you have a problem with always being the one facilitating conversation, something you're worried enough about to consider ending your relationship, and so you're deciding to focus on asking for advice on ways to change him, rather than actually talking to him about how you feel and what's important to you in your relationship? To me, that speaks to something really weird and not-too-healthy in the dynamics between you. Is there something you left out of your story that explains why you haven't talked to him about this directly?

What is this? It's not shyness (around me, at least) because there's no nervousness or self-consciousness.

We don't know. Why don't you ask him?
posted by EmilyClimbs at 11:35 PM on January 31, 2011

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