Socially awkward woman that can't lift a bowling ball seeks advice
February 3, 2012 7:21 AM   Subscribe

Help me get out of having to go to my boyfriend's friend's wife's birthday bowling party that I wasn't even invited to.

Background: Early 30s, 2.5 year relationship, he is an extrovert and I'm an introvert with social anxiety. We have had arguments when he wants me to accompany him and I don't want to. I usually don't want to because he usually drinks with his buddies until 5am, or inadvertently leaves me with someone's wife and children while he and his pals play music.

Last week my boyfriend tells me that his friend invited him to his wife's birthday get-together at a bowling alley. My boyfriend tells me that we need to go.
I have met his friend maybe 6 times and his wife maybe 3. I did not hit it off with either of them. My boyfriend has never really gotten along with with the wife and has had arguments with her online (facebook type crap). But he feels like since his buddy asked him, that we should go.

Problem? I am guessing his buddy wants someone to hang out with other than a few of his wife's girlfriends (one of them dislikes both of us and has been vocal about it) and their kids. Which is fine, but why do I need to go?

I don't want to go. I don't care for bowling, strangers, kids and I certainly don't want to show up to someone's birthday when they, themselves, didn't even invite me nor really knows me. I'm also not well-liked by a lot of the "wives" because, well, I don't know. I think it may be because I'm a sarcastic Bostonian now living in the South and I have horrible social anxiety.

After explaining that this would be uncomfortable for me, my boyfriend tells me that it would be uncomfortable for him to explain why I wasn't there and that he is getting tired of making excuses for me. But I think this situation is a little different.

So, how do I get out of this without him getting upset? What can I say to better explain how I think it would be strange for me to show up uninvited to someone's birthday event when we don't even get along?

Or, maybe I'm just being selfish and none of this is weird?
posted by KogeLiz to Human Relations (47 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
We have had arguments when he wants me to accompany him and I don't want to. I usually don't want to because he usually drinks with his buddies until 5am, or inadvertently leaves me with someone's wife and children while he and his pals play music.

You have arguments, routinely, about him wanting you to do something you're uncomfortable doing? And he knows this, and you still have the argument?

I would consider getting out of this situation by dumping the person who treats you like that.
posted by mhoye at 7:30 AM on February 3, 2012 [12 favorites]

After explaining that this would be uncomfortable for me, my boyfriend tells me that it would be uncomfortable for him to explain why I wasn't there and that he is getting tired of making excuses for me.

I hope you see this is the key thing. It's not about this one party, it's about a pattern than leaves him feeling lonely and embarrassed. It sounds like this is a big issue in the relationship that isn't being addressed to either of your satisfaction right now.

But I think this situation is a little different.

I think it's possible that this is genuinely a unique situation, but if that's the case you still have to ask yourself whether you and he are coming any closer to a compromise on extroversion/introversion that is livable for both of you. If you guys are presented over and over with unique, one-time situations that always turn out exactly the same way -- I shouldn't have to go -- then of course he's going to keep getting frustrated, and he's going to keep insisting that the next time be different.

You guys need to have a real conversation about how to deal with the big picture: how to stay compatible, if you can, given what seems like a fairly big divide in social styles. Right now you're just bickering over small details.
posted by gerryblog at 7:30 AM on February 3, 2012 [22 favorites]

The easiest compromise in my opinion is to show up with your boyfriend, have a beer, say hi to everyone, smile a lot, laugh at their jokes and then skeedaddle. You have another engagement tonight, but it was nice to see everyone! Happy Birthday, Friend's Wife! That way all the haters won't have cause for badmouthing your shyness, your boyfriend feels like he fulfilled his social obligations, and you don't have to spend more than 45 minutes running around this stupid social circuit. You should also need to request that your boyfriend do whatever it is that makes you feel most comfortable, such as sticking to your side and not ditching you with The Wives.* He can hang with his buddies after you leave.

*I am personally annoyed on your behalf that he begs you to attend anxiety-inducing social outings and then leaves you with strangers. Not okay, dude. I am a pretty social person but I hate hate hate making small talk with people I don't know. I can't imagine what that's like for a person with social anxiety disorder.
posted by zoomorphic at 7:31 AM on February 3, 2012 [32 favorites]

Sounds weird to me. I think you have bigger problems with him than bowling, but to confine my advice to the question at hand:

I think the script looks like this:

"Hey, [boyfriend], I've got to do x on that night, sorry"

IF [boyfriend] says y

repeat statement above.

If it turns into a breakup conversation, so be it.

//where x= any plausible errand that is not a lie. Be creative. Oil changes, hair appointments, you name it

// where y=anything
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:32 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have been in this very situation. Mostly, I just go for a while and then leave, with everyone understanding that Frowner is very boring and likes to go to bed early. Is that a possibility? It's easy for me because of public transit and riding my bike.

I know it sometimes makes my partner feel bad that I am not there showing the world that yes, we are all partnered and everything - this is important to some people, it makes them feel loved. But man, I hate parties with strangers, and I'm even lukewarm about parties with friends. Mostly it has worked out.
posted by Frowner at 7:33 AM on February 3, 2012

Randomkeystrike's idea is great if this guy has been your boyfriend for a month and you plan to dump him after Valentine's day. It is not really a valid long-term solution.

I think zoomorphic's solution is your best bet for a long-term compromise. Btu your boyfriend needs to agree to it. If he doesn't, well... this is going to be a problem.
posted by AmandaA at 7:35 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Saying you "weren't invited" is a red herring. You two are a social unit, you are always invited as a pair unless specifically stated otherwise ( like "it's guys weekend" or "it's a work event, no partners are coming" or "I'm rude and will only let married people bring dates to my wedding").
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:36 AM on February 3, 2012 [17 favorites]

Can he specify why this needs to happen? Is this buddy a coworker & the Boss Who Will Be Handing Out Promotions Soon will be there? Because if this is a Big Deal for a reason, I can see sucking it up and like, zoomorphic says, make a special guest star cameo appearance and leave early.
Otherwise, Nthing that this may signal a time for a discussion with your beloved about the issue.
posted by pointystick at 7:36 AM on February 3, 2012

//where x= any plausible errand that is not a lie. Be creative. Oil changes, hair appointments, you name it

Why does it need to be an excuse? Relationships that work require that you be able to say "I'm not doing X because I don't want to and that's important to me." if you're not in that place, OP, give that more thought than what excuse you want to manufacture.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:38 AM on February 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Go in separate cars, 'make an appearance', but make it known that you'll have to leave early because of whatever. Let your boyfriend hang out with the guys all night, while you just have to say 'hi', play a game of bowling, and then get out of there.
posted by empath at 7:43 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

In my world this is a time for Team Player talk. Not team player like "you need to suck it up and go" but team player like you and your boyfriend need to find a way to approach social obligations like this one as some sort of team. I'm with TPS, you are invited because BF is invited. This is not really a good reason, in my book. However good reasons include disliking the people who are going to be there [unless, be honest, you dislike most people?], your BF ditching you at these events after he's harangued you to go to them, or being more or less unable to perform whatever the thing is that is at the event [line dancing, mountain climbing. I don't think bowling counts]. So if the BF is really strongarming you into going, he needs to be able to make this into an event you'd really like to go to. Maybe you can go to a movie or dinner afterwards [or before] or trade off with something else you'd really like to do, you know, sort of like swapping energy credits or something.

So, with me, in a past life, I'd do the cameo appearance at the social obligation thing because it's manners and I can suck up anything for an hour or so. If BF wanted to stay longer, he was more than welcome to but at least it was clear that we were there together and I'd showed up and then I'd go home and read and he could do whatever. Please note, this is the ex. I now have someone who matches me much better socially and am loads happier.

So, compromising means that the BF doesn't get to both bug you into going to a thing AND leaving you uncomfortable at the thing. That is being a bad social ambassador and will make you less likely to want to go to a thing in the first place next time, and falls solidly in his court of things to manage. It also means bugging you to go to things that are important, and not just every thing that he only sort of wants to go to anyhow. It seems like you guys are having the same arguments over and over and not getting closer to understanding the other's perspective. It seems like this may be a good point to say "I'm going/not going, but this is the LAST time I'm getting harangued into a social obligation without us approaching it as a team. From this point forward, no more arguments, here is my suggestion for reasonable compromise" and then figure out what sort of compromising would make you feel okay. Getting to say no to every other obligation? Cameo appearance stuff? Him opting to stay home with you some nights? Something else?
posted by jessamyn at 7:44 AM on February 3, 2012 [15 favorites]

You are not being selfish. Maybe you could use this as an opportunity to reframe the recurring arguments so that you're not just each rehashing "I don't want to go to this thing!"/"But you HAVE to go to this thing!" I think it would be good for you to work out some general guidelines, such as:

KogeLiz will be a good sport and:
  • Attend events where partners are expected and welcome, such as dinner parties.
  • Go for drinks with boyfriend and his friends occasionally, but at 11pm/midnight/whenever, KogeLiz is taking a cab home.
  • Make a good faith effort when meeting new wives/girlfriend's of boyfriend's friends.
  • Be there for "Take one for the team"-type situations, but not when attendees actively dislike her, and there has to be a clear reason why it merits "taking one for the team."
Boyfriend will be a good sport and:
  • Ask KogeLiz to come with out with him and his friends only if he wants to hang out with her, not just out of habit or social expectation.
  • Be ok with KogeLiz taking a cab home rather than staying out until the wee hours.
  • Respect KogeLiz's right to minimize contact with people she doesn't like, or who don't like her.
  • Accept that KogeLiz being an introvert means sometimes she'll come out for a bit, then leave saying "I have plans for later tonight. Great seeing you!" and those plans are "watch a movie in my sweats"--and that's ok.

posted by Meg_Murry at 7:46 AM on February 3, 2012 [21 favorites]

I think the part where you feel free to explain that the disconnect between you and these people is based on something other than them as individuals (their being Southerners) needs to thought through.

Otherwise, I'd be entirely sympathetic to not wanting to be dumped with wives and kids while he does something else until five AM. Even if you described them as no talent ass clowns, being expected to stay out all night is a tremendous amount to ask.

Do you guys do other things together? Or do you prefer to hang out at home? If there are things he likes to do that you never want to do, you two need to talk about how you can handle that.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:46 AM on February 3, 2012

So, how do I get out of this without him getting upset?

There is something, honestly, that is a little worrisome and weird to me about the way you've described all this. The way you've described the dynamic between you and the BF, that is. It's like you just saying to him, "I feel really uncomfortable in that situation" or just "I don't want to" isn't valid enough. And then you have to "get out of" things, like a naughty child. By justifying yourself to him over things that are weird to expect an adult to justify to another adult. Like he has taken on the role of a authoritarian parent and you're the child who must explain herself.

Now that said:

After explaining that this would be uncomfortable for me, my boyfriend tells me that it would be uncomfortable for him to explain why I wasn't there and that he is getting tired of making excuses for me. But I think this situation is a little different.

Be that as it may, I think he's just getting tired of the situation overall. And wants you to sit there chatting with wives or doing whatever while he goes off and hangs out with his friend. Fair or not, (and honestly, to me it sounds very "not" if he just goes off with his bro's and leaves you to sit there making small talk and waiting for him) it just sounds like he's getting tired overall of the fact that you're not just giving him his way.

What can I say to better explain how I think it would be strange for me to show up uninvited to someone's birthday event when we don't even get along?

Nothing, because I don't think he doesn't care about any reasons. I think he really just wants his own way, he's decided you going is just what he wants for his own desires. It's not based on any logical reasoning. So, he's not going to change his mind based on any logical reasoning.

We have had arguments when he wants me to accompany him and I don't want to. I usually don't want to because he usually drinks with his buddies until 5am, or inadvertently leaves me with someone's wife and children while he and his pals play music.

I know how irritating this is. I suggest, in the future, letting him know that you're happy to come and do your best to have a good time, but you need to take separate cars because you don't want to stay out until 5am. And that if he leaves you and takes off with the buddies, you'll head home also.
posted by cairdeas at 7:47 AM on February 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

I have this same issue with Mr Narrative sometimes. I've managed to get myself to the place where I can refuse to go to an event when I REALLY don't feel comfortable about it, mostly through picking my battles. I think other folks are right that you may need to give a little on this issue as a compromise - go to events for at least an hour or so when they promise to be irritating, so that you can opt out of anything that fills you with absolute dread.

I would have a frank conversation with him about his tendency to leave you with The Wives, however. It may just be that his social scene self-segregates by gender in a manner that can't be resisted, but if there's any way he can include you in his conversations and activities at gatherings, he should be making the effort to do so.

It might also help to try and distinguish these women from each other in your mind -- surely there's at least one of them with whom you have an interest or a hobby or a favorite television show in common that you can reliably chat about?
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:47 AM on February 3, 2012

The thing is - as I have learned - people start to think that you hate them if you never, ever go to parties with your partner, because even when your partner says that you hate parties they assume that you really just don't like them. They also sometimes think that your partner is fibbing and doesn't really have a steady, or they think that your relationship is on the rocks.

And sometimes it gets to be a drag to realize that your partner has all these close friendships with people you barely even know - especially in a long term relationship. It can, honestly, be worth it to get to know folks a little. I have at times wished that I had done this. It can create distance in a relationship if you have truly, truly separate social circles.

I'm not saying "suck it up and attend every party", just maybe try to work out a compromise where you show up sometimes and work the room a little. If you pick your parties for people who are at least sort of compatible, I've found that it often turns out to be adequately fun.
posted by Frowner at 7:49 AM on February 3, 2012 [9 favorites]

I would understand his attitude a bit better if these were family members of his. Friends and drinking buddies, not so much.

It would be interesting for you to offer to go to one of these occasions for an hour or so, then leave (excuse: early morning, school night, etc.) I don't like social occasions much either, but I can usually muster a short visit. To me, this would be a reasonable compromise. And you wouldn't have to go to Every Single Friend Social Occasion, just one now and then.

See what his reaction is to that. If he doesn't like that, I think there are larger problems in your relationship with him that need to be dealt with. You aren't his babysitter, and you're not responsible for what his friends think or don't think of your behavior. His whining about having to "defend" you to them is kind of bogus to me, as is the "drinking till 5 a.m." and being dumped with wives/children.
posted by Currer Belfry at 7:56 AM on February 3, 2012

I solved this problem by doing the separate cars thing. Interestingly, the anxiety and discomfort went way down because I knew I could leave any time I wanted to.
posted by Dolley at 8:05 AM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am going to agree with the people who are saying it sounds like he is getting tired of the over-all situation, and maybe he just picked THIS party as a line he wants to stand behind.

I can empathize with both of you, but it seems like you guys aren't playing on the same team here. You should want to make an appearance for him, so he can show you off a little and feed his pride, and he should be doing everything he can to make sure your 30 min sacrifice is as painless as possible.

It's like this- My boyfriend loves to go to live music shows, and he really likes it when I accompany him. I hate sitting or standing still for that long. We've agreed that he will go to most shows with his friends that really enjoy them, and I will go to a choice few that he really really wants me to go to. I make it my business to have a good time and not drag him down even if I am bored out of my mind. Same thing with bars for him- he doesn't drink, isn't a fan of atmosphere, but he goes once in a while to make me happy, and in turn I try to make sure he has people to talk to and can bounce if he gets too bored.

If you can make a similar deal with him- that you will go to and stay for the duration of at least one event a month, and make a few appearances to other events-- as long as he doesn't abandon you for hours while you are there. If he just wants you there to hang out with the ladies for some sort of image thing- then there really shouldn't be an issue if you only show up for an hour or so.
posted by Blisterlips at 8:07 AM on February 3, 2012

Yes, as a social unit, you're invited. However, I'd take separate cars and leave after an hour, begging a busy work week and a need for sleep.

I see two red flags, one yours, one his:

"We have had arguments when he wants me to accompany him and I don't want to. I usually don't want to because he usually drinks with his buddies until 5am, or inadvertently leaves me with someone's wife and children while he and his pals play music. "

That's just dickery. If you are going to something where you don't know people and you're not comfortable and you're doing it as a favor to him, and he abandons you and stays until all hours, that's monstrously unfair.

"After explaining that this would be uncomfortable for me, my boyfriend tells me that it would be uncomfortable for him to explain why I wasn't there and that he is getting tired of making excuses for me."

You're not going to enough stuff. People are going to start thinking he has an imaginary girlfriend, and he's having to explain to people why it's not that you dislike them ...

Except it sort-of seems like you do. If you like him, why do you dislike his friends? (Or, if his friends are so awful, why do you like him?)

Also, this is a red herring: "I think it may be because I'm a sarcastic Bostonian now living in the South." When I lived in the South, my friends loved my sarcasm. They did not always get it and sometimes I had to explain that what I just said was sarcastic, but they mostly found it hilarious because they could not believe I said that out loud. If you're writing them all off for being Southern and "just not enough like me for me to get along with," well, that's probably also part of the problem.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:10 AM on February 3, 2012 [6 favorites]

It sounds like you don't like the way he wants to spend his time, and he doesn't like the way you want to spend your time. Why are you still together?

Most extroverts want their SOs to become good friends with their friends and their wives and children. That's what being in a circle of friends entails.
posted by Melismata at 8:13 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

As for defending you- if you start making short appearances- that should clean that right the fuck up. "oh, Parties aren't Girlfriend's scene- but she loves you guys and had to at least stop and say hello. I'll tell her you missed her."
posted by Blisterlips at 8:13 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

On the one hand, I am a person with social anxiety who hates small talk.

On the other, I've been on the other side of this--friends with someone who rarely went out because their significant other couldn't deal with the anxiety of being out (and as great as it is to say, "boyfriend needs to go alone," that just never really happens). So instead there were lots of last minute cancellations, or she'd come and refuse to speak to anyone and they'd leave after twenty minutes. And then I'd hear later about how she/they decided that some party there didn't like her because of some perceived social slight and . . . and it sucks. It feels rude and awkward to be on the other end of it. No matter how much you remind yourself, "This person is really anxious. They don't dislike me. They're shy," it still feels rude and awkward, when we're talking about a pattern of behavior.

(And honestly, I'm much more forgiving about these things than a lot of people. Who just thought the person was "a bitch.")

After two and a half years, I think it's time to start swallowing your lumps, honestly. Like I said, I know how hard it is. I'm going on a one week vacation with my husband in a few weeks with a bunch of socially conservative relatives who I have absolutely nothing in common with. We're going to be stuck on a boat together. Eep! His stepmom will want to talk quilts. Double eep! And I'll inevitably get stuck with her and . . . sigh. But you know what? It means something to him to be able to have me there, and to know that I can stay afloat alone and be a grown-up and cope with social situations despite the little screaming voice inside me. He's not shy. He wants a socially functional spouse who can get along in the larger world. And honestly, that's a completely fair desire and I'd rather rise to the occasion and improve myself and deal with my social anxiety than hole up and give into it, which inevitably makes it worse.

These people might be boring. They might be lame. But they're not your enemies, and you're going to have to learn how to stay afloat with them at some point. If you keep doing this kind of thing, they're going to think you dislike them, or that you're trying to snub them. They're going to perceive it as rude and hurtful, and your boyfriend will have to field uncomfortable questions about it. I know this because I've seen it happen, from both sides of the coin. So I think you should go--for longer than an hour, too, which is so short that most people will still see it as a bit rude, especially if you have a history of bowing out. I'd say go for three, have a firm time that you're going to leave, but try to do your best to interact and be polite during those three hours. I'd bet that by this point, your boyfriend will be so happy just to have you be a part of the evening that he won't even mind leaving a bit early.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:23 AM on February 3, 2012 [6 favorites]

I'm also not well-liked by a lot of the "wives" because, well, I don't know. I think it may be because I'm a sarcastic Bostonian now living in the South and I have horrible social anxiety.

Are you getting treated for your social anxiety? The whole "they don't/won't like me and so I'm not giving them a chance to make me feel bad about myself" sounds awful and painful and lonely, like you're hiding yourself away because you're scared of being hurt and judged, especially if you're living in a new culture. Or are you afraid of something terrible happening?

I would say to go ahead and do whatever makes you comfortable, but I get a sense you're feeling pretty miserable. Going bowling isn't about actually being a good bowler (I use a kid's ball when I go). It's about drinking beer, talking about fun stuff while drinking beer and eating pizza, and getting to know people who are allowed to be different from you in a lot of ways, and having a nice time anyway because there's beer and pizza and fun, and because it's a birthday party, some of it might actually be free.
posted by anniecat at 8:29 AM on February 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

It's really not that complicated, and it's perfectly common.

Separate cars. You show up simultaneously, hugs all round, have a drink, make a brief circuit of small talk, and then - whatever. "I have to leave a bit early tonight but I wanted to be sure to see you!"; "I have another thing I need to get to tonight, some college friends are in town," whatever. Just be sure to be nice. It will feel easier when you know you can make your exit at any time.

Only you know whether this is really a fundamental incompatibility or a difference in how you prefer to socialize. It doesn't have to be a big deal. Most happily married people I know do have elements of their social lives that aren't shared.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:36 AM on February 3, 2012

I've been the boyfriend in this situation. It's likely that he derives a lot of his happiness from hanging with his friends and with you. If that doesn't make you happy that is a fundamental difference in who you both are as human beings that will only lead to argument after argument.

When your girlfriend stops being a partner and instead becomes this ghost your best friends never see, it's frustrating. You can't only be his girlfriend from Monday to Friday.

He's not going to suddenly drop his friends so this issue needs to be hammered out using one of the many solutions above or your relationship is going to be emotionally taxing every weekend.
posted by Blandanomics at 8:43 AM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

When my husband and I moved in together, I just assumed he'd go to every social obligation I had to go to. And the first time he said, "I'm not going but go ahead and go. Have fun." I was a bit shocked -- not because I *needed* him to to go, but it was just a big ole' couples assumption in my head.

Of course, there are things we do go to together -- parties, dinners, movies with people -- and there are some things we don't in the same categories. And it really depends on if he will like the kind of party it is, the type of dinner it will be, the kind of movie we'll be seeing. The same goes in the reverse -- there are movies, events, etc. that I don't feel obligated to go to now, which is certainly a change for me, but feels more grown up and fun somehow. Like he knows if I'm with him I want to be there.

On the things that he doesn't want to go to, but I really, really want him there, he'll go, but we'll leave early so he's not uncomfortable.

It's hard to tell how much of this is reasonable "they don't like me, I don't like them" avoidance and how much is an issue you have, so we can't tell you whether sucking it up or holding your ground is the right thing. Does he have friends you like? Do you have friends you like? Only you will have a sense of how much making him happy and how much making you uncomfortable you can balance here.

A side note: The reason people are saying "dump him" is how you describe the disagreements, but also the fact that the friends you choose is often a barometer of how much in common the two of you have. One of the big ways I noticed that it was ready to be over with my long term ex is that I hated hanging out with his friends. They didn't do what I wanted to do. They didn't have the same sense of humor. They were shockingly sexist for being west coast liberals (so the guys will sit out here and talk about computers while the women make food for dinner kinda crap). And once I realized that my ex had more in common with them than me? It was a gift to confirm that there really wasn't anything there anymore.
posted by Gucky at 8:53 AM on February 3, 2012 [6 favorites]

My partner is wildly introverted and is usually only comfortable in small social settings with people he already knows. When I spend time with my friends we arrive together and leave separately, or he doesn't come.

Sometimes this gets questions, eventually people stop asking. Sometimes questions have a whiff of judgment. That's cool with me. I'm not going to make him do things that make him miserable so that people can feel better about how socially conforming we are as a couple.

If he wants you there because he'll have more fun with you there, then yes you should go until he starts ignoring you, and then you should leave.

If he wants you there as a sort of social signal like "look I'm normal and have a normal girlfriend", well, maybe he should make the conscious decision to prioritize your comfort over minor social awkwardness.

If it's more than minor awkwardness, and he feels genuinely embarrassed that you are who you are, well, that's a really shitty dynamic for both of you.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:36 AM on February 3, 2012 [8 favorites]

I don't know if there is a way to guarantee that he won't be upset if you don't go, but I do know the healthiest thing is just to say that, while you understand his need to be there, it's not your scene and you would feel very uncomfortable having to go.

He really shouldn't put you in a position to feel bad about doing something that is outside of your comfort level. He should understand and accept and love you for you.
posted by inturnaround at 9:40 AM on February 3, 2012

Tonight my husband and I are going to a club where a friend of his is DJing. I cannot adequately explain to you how much I loathe the whole "music in clubs" thing. I do not have social anxiety but I kind of hate to be around other people because I mainly don't want to be bothered.

We are going tonight because I really like his friend and I feel bad that we never go to see her perform and I don't want her to think that us not going to most of her events is about her at all. It's really about how we're old and don't want to be out late and how I hate loud music and strangers. A lot of time he goes by himself, but then you run into the whole "does [partner] not like us?" thing and to avoid people I actually like thinking I don't like them, I suffer through these types of events every so often.

In your position, I would pick a few strategic events, suffer through them with as much good grace as you can muster, and then tell boyfriend he's on his own for the rest.
posted by crankylex at 9:51 AM on February 3, 2012

As someone with social anxiety I'm getting a bit anxious just reading all these responses saying "just go" when it sounds like that would be so difficult for you. Social anxiety doesn't just mean you're wasting an hour or two of your time with people you're not wild about. It means being anxious and freaked out for all the time that's leading up to the event, being unable to sleep worried about it, etc.

I've broken up with people in the past just because they were extroverts. I absolutely know I don't want to be in a relationship with one - it's a deal breaker for me. Now I'm with someone who's introverted like me and it's such a relief. My partner and I are a "nation of two" most of the time and though we do have good friends neither of us like parties and life works well for us without them.

So you have a choice - either this is a dealbreaker for you or it isn't. For me it would be but if it isn't for you, you need to get some serious treatment for social anxiety because otherwise you'll be miserable. How about telling your boyfriend you won't go this time but you will address the larger issue by getting counseling and getting on meds. I feel for you, I really do.
posted by hazyjane at 9:56 AM on February 3, 2012 [9 favorites]

My husband and I, both introvert hybrids, have never really travelled in the same social circles, and don't have "couple friends." This isn't a particularly big deal for us. I've come to realize that while much of that has to do with compromises that are described in previous responses, some of it has to do with this inevitable exchange:

Speaker 1: So, is Significant Other here tonight?
Speaker 2: Nope, followed by explanation.

There are countless ways to deliver and choose those lines. The one where Speaker 2 looks visibly upset or nervous is the one that causes the most subsequent discomfort. Oh, sure, every once in a while you get a Speaker 1 who lifts an eyebrow no matter what. But most people follow the lead that Speaker 2 provides. If Speaker 2 is cool with it? I'm cool with it.

I'm not saying that the OP's significant other or anyone else should stuff down their feelings. What I am saying is that blaming the response wholly on Speaker 1 isn't fair, either.
posted by gnomeloaf at 10:01 AM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

I, too, get (sometimes extremely) anxious in big social situations, but I also recognize that what I want out of life (personally, professionally, whatever) will require me to be in many of them. Your boyfriend wants you to be a bigger part of his life, which, really, is a nice thing. Sure, you guys could break up (like some have suggested), but I don't think that "I will never want to go out with you and your friends" is really a workable standard for most relationships. Maybe you don't need to go bowling this time, but you do need to find a way to incorporate these things into your life with a minimum of anguish, even if going bowling with some mostly-strangers may never be your favorite thing to do. That might take CBT therapy or a therapeutic shot of whiskey or a Xanax, I don't know, but I'd start thinking about it.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 10:12 AM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Maybe you could not go but send a really sincere, thoughtful gift?
posted by spunweb at 10:28 AM on February 3, 2012

I think you both need to give a little on this issue, but probably him more than you. It sounds like he fundamentally doesn't get (or accept?) your social anxiety. He's asking you to go (which is hard for you) and then not spending time with you while you're there (which makes it harder) and then staying for what sounds like five to eight hours, which kind of makes it impossible for you to have a good time. This shows a lack of sensitivity and/or compassion on his part for something that's difficult for you. On the other hand, the likelihood is that you'll need to do this kind of thing with him or someone else, so there's a certain amount of flexibility/practice/learning you should do to make these situations more bearable.

Like some of the other folks here, I think it's time to really process and talk through this with your boyfriend. You don't have to be with someone who wants you to go to these events, takes off on his own and stays way too long. There are plenty of people who are much more like you, where this will never be an issue. He doesn't have to be with a stick in the mud who never wants to do anything. There are plenty of people for him who can't wait to go out and stay out all night.

I think you may just be fundamentally incompatible. This issue may never make either of you completely happy. Think about it, talk through it and try to come to a compromise/decision that will make both of you happy long-term.
posted by cnc at 10:37 AM on February 3, 2012

Adding - Agreeing with the other folks here that if you're absolutely committed to the relationship, in this instance, go until the bowling ends and take off when they go to the bar or whatever the next stop is. At least then, the time is limited, you know more or less when you're leaving, and you'll be spending that time with your boyfriend.
posted by cnc at 10:44 AM on February 3, 2012

Just don't go. It's a free country; you're a free person.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:02 AM on February 3, 2012

While social anxiety exists, make sure it doesn't become your "get out of jail free" card. It is a medical issue that you should feel commited to working on so that you can live a full and meaningful life.

Drive-by obligations with family and friends should be in your comfort zone. If it's not, you should be actively taking steps to get better.

Being an introvert with social anxiety, I sypathize that it's a struggle to find that sweet spot between acceptable low sociability behavior and avoidant behavior. Deciding that I hate everyone who requires me to put pants on during the weekend for their birthday sounds like typical avoidant behavior. Leaving the party early is lame, but it's a choice driven by healthy preferences that your SO and friends should accept.

And if you want this relationship to work, I would definitely try to find something to like about his friends. People are inherently lovable, and if you dig deep enough, you can usually find some level of connection. Look for it.
posted by politikitty at 11:19 AM on February 3, 2012 [10 favorites]

OK so I have (used to have) a similar version of this problem. I am an extreme introvert. I would rather be at home by myself than anywhere in the world. When I first started started dating my wife, this was kind of an issue because she didn't understand. She thought I just didn't like her family or friends. As you must know that is not always (hardly ever, actually) the case.

But here is the thing, my wife loves and respects me and decided along time ago that my introversion was part of the deal, so she accepted it and has, honestly, gotten used to it and enjoys it because she is able to have a better time doing her own thing without worrying about "oh is holdkris99 ready to go home" or "oh aunt sally has him trapped in a corner talking to him about god knows what."

That being said, I do go to things with her, events that are more important to her and, as I have come to know her friends and family, important to me as well. I may not stay as long as she does, but I do go and socialize until the point that I have had enough at which time I say my goodbyes and get out of the way so that no one, myself included, starts feeling uncomfortable. Her family and friends have gotten used to it, expect it and we joke and laugh about it.

At this very moment she is on her way to a cousins birthday dinner. I don;t know the cousin that well, but just talked to them over the holidays and I told her I would rather not go. She was totally fine with it, probably even grateful because since it is a good distance away, we would not have taken separate cars and either I would have had to stay longer than I wanted or she would have left earlier than she wanted. So win-win.

The reason why all of this worked out is that she trusted and respected my reasoning and my feelings and vice versa.
posted by holdkris99 at 11:24 AM on February 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

While social anxiety exists, make sure it doesn't become your "get out of jail free" card

Exactly right politikitty. As the introvert in our relationship at times I would catch myself wanting to do this, but, like I said above, it comes down to respect for your SO. Otherwise it would be very easy to fall into that trap.
posted by holdkris99 at 11:26 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

The "YOU HAVE TO GO!" bit is really disconcerting. We all know that *clears throat* you're a grown-ass person. You don't have to do anything. Personally, I'd DTMFA just for that, as I have zero tolerance for partners taking any sort of authoritative tone with me.

It also sounds like your SO does not understand the gravity of social anxiety. Have they educated themselves on it otherwise? If not, this is a great opportunity to do so. If he knows how nerve-wracking social situations are for you and he's still acting like you're on a leash he needs to pull, then it may be time to re-evaluate the advantages of remaining in the relationship.

I usually don't want to because he usually drinks with his buddies until 5am, or inadvertently leaves me with someone's wife and children while he and his pals play music.

posted by Ashen at 2:09 PM on February 3, 2012

My husband and I have a lot of unintersecting social circles. We don't feel the need to "make excuses" for why the other person isn't there; we just say, if asked, that the non-attending spouse had other plans.

The birthday girl isn't going to know if "other plans" refers to "having to be at the hospital for a bone marrow donation" or "wanting to stay home and watch Doctor Who."

I think the bigger question is how you and your boyfriend negotiate your differing social styles. If he feels abandoned and lonely because you never accompany him to social events, that's something he has every right to feel, and something he should discuss with you rather than putting it all on other people's perhaps-nonexistent "expectations." He should be grownup enough to say "I want you to be there" rather than "Those strangers want you to be there" when the likelihood is the strangers probably don't care either way.

And you should think about how you can compromise and support his social style. Maybe you go in two cars, and you visit for a bit and then head home. Maybe you figure out which events would be the most fun for you, and go to those and skip the ones where he's drinking into the wee hours with his buddies or being onstage jamming while you sit in the corner and peel the labels off the beers.

The thing is for each of you to talk--and listen--about how you each feel, not to just keep the conversation in the realm of "should" and "shouldn't" and "what other people think."

All that said, if he does insist that you accompany him to social gatherings and then ignores you while you're there, that's an incredibly douchey thing to do, and I would think he would have to change those ways before expecting you to compromise.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:24 PM on February 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

My boyfriend tells me that we need to go.

You love this person, and it's a few hours of your life. Really?!?
posted by halogen at 2:25 PM on February 3, 2012

Respect has to go both ways. If she's showing disrespect by skipping out on social occasions that seem important to him, he's showing disrespect by ignoring her and her social style when she does accompany him to social occasions, especially the "drinking with the buddies until 5 a.m." and "leaving her with strangers or relative strangers while he plays music."

Better ground rules needed here.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:25 PM on February 3, 2012

You love this person, and it's a few hours of your life. Really?!?

But he presumably loves her, yet he's not willing to say "My girlfriend couldn't make it"? That's not really an agonizing sacrifice.

If it seemed like he acted like someone who wanted her company when she did go out with him, it would be a different story.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:27 PM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Hi All, thanks for all the answers.

Just to clarify, we are currently sharing one vehicle. If he wants to go out to bars/parties/etc., we go together and then when I get tired or nervous, I leave. He usually crashes at his friends house or gets a ride home. This is easier to do when everyone is drunk because no one asks questions.

I have been taking medication for social anxiety for 13 years and it has helped. Like, I can go to stores by myself and socialize at work. When I was younger or off medication, I become scared to leave the house. I just still have some anxieties... especially now that I can't drink.

His friends: these are his old old friends that he grew up with. Our mutual friends are in Florida where we met. Honestly, I think most of his old pals have changed and he wants me to come along with him for company. Which is why I feel selfish about it. He only seems to get upset if I don't want to go to something that involves his "straight" friends (married couples with children that don't drink).

I'll talk to him, but I may just have to go with the promise that we can leave. Which.... is hard for him to do. He's always the last one to leave anything.... sometimes out of guilt and sometimes because he is enjoying himself.
posted by KogeLiz at 3:02 PM on February 3, 2012

Also, the arguments happen about once every 3 months nowadays. Not every week or anything like that. Usually we hang out by ourselves or one of his friends comes over for 12 hours (then I can just go to bed after a while).
posted by KogeLiz at 3:09 PM on February 3, 2012

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