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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everybody,

I'm a 25 year old male graduate student. I do not suffer from SAS myself. I'm not shy, and actually I'm quite the social butterfly. (I hope it's still ok for me to come here!)

I have a very good friend, let's call him B, whose family I am close with. I frequently go to his family parties. This friend has been dating a girl, let's call her K, for the past two years. I met K's sister a few months ago (let's call her D), and I immediately found her to be the cutest thing in the entire world. She is artsy, tiny, has the cutest smile, she's successful, but she is very shy. B had told me that she suffers from fairly severe social anxiety. After a few weeks of hesitation, I asked D to go have a drink with me, and she accepted. During that date, she completely stole my heart, and I was relieved to see that, after all, her anxiety wasn't all that bad. She came across as a perfectly normal person, but then she left the date very abruptly after a couple of drinks. At first, I thought I had done something wrong, but it turns out it was my first encounter with her anxiety.

I saw her again that week, and this time I made my intentions clear to her. It caused her a lot of anxiety, because, at 22, she's basically completely new to dating. We've been dating for a few weeks now, and she has gotten used to being with me, though I can tell she's still quite worried.

So why am I coming here? Well, I like this girl very much but I have mixed feelings about what's going on. The girls I've dated before have always been of the rather social type, and haven't had any problems interacting with my friends and my family. This is completely new to me. With D, I just don't see that happening for now; we're sort of living a relationship that is isolated from the rest of the world. She would freak out if I introduced her to my parents or something like that. I don't mind it for some time, as it's still very early in the relationship, but I'm eventually going to want her to take her place in my life, and I just don't see it happening unless she can get rid of most of her social anxiety.

I want to help her, and I think I can to some degree. She says I'm already helping her. I would like her to develop confidence in herself, and a healthy relationship can definitely help her do that. But at the same time, I feel that it's not fair for me to hope that her anxiety will get better with time. I would like to fall in love with her, but in my mind, it's impossible until she is confident enough in herself. The burden cannot all be on my shoulders.

Society is always suspicious of people like me, who develop an attraction for someone who lacks confidence in themselves. We are immediately pointed at, and considered manipulative or even predatory. I don't believe that I am these things, and I consider myself a loving and considerate person. But the social stigma is huge. I don't really care what people think of me, but I can't completely dismiss these ideas either. What if I'm just fooling myself?

Right now, my plan is to go ahead with the relationship. I really enjoy spending time with her, she is affectionate and funny and cute, and I want to help her become the person she would like to be. But the line is thin between that and "I want to turn her into the person I'd like her to be". I definitely think she deserves all of the love and care that I'm able to give to her, but I can't love her more than she loves herself, and it would be unfair of me to impose conditions like that.

I don't have any specific questions, but I'd really, really appreciate some input from someone who is more familiar with SAS than me. I'm sure that my situation is not a first.

Anyways, thanks for reading and good luck to you all!
 

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If you like her that much, the best thing is just to continue seeing her and seeing where it goes. If you then find that her shyness is too much and that it's not working, you can decide what to do then. But until then, you should just keep seeing her and helping her if she needs it. Just be aware that her improvement might not always be steady and she could have setbacks, so be patient with her.
 

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SAS = social anxiety support
SA(D) = social anxiety (disorder)

That out of the way, you're obviously a bright guy and you're on the right track with this girl. It's impossible to do things exactly right and have the perfect outcome 100% of the time because, as you said, it's ultimately up to her how much she can change. You can't control things, but luckily you're not the type who has controlling tendencies, so you can continue to influence things in a positive direction by being loving, caring, and understanding. At the same time, though, don't be overbearing. If you're constantly talking about her issues, even in a positive way, you risk coming off like a self-help book.

The best advice I can give is to hang out with her like she doesn't have social anxiety. Do things normally, as you would with any other girl. When social obstacles do come up with her, you handle them in an empathetic way while still giving her the chance to jump over them on her own. It's good to hold her hand - just not too tightly. For example, if she is adamant that she doesn't want to go to a party with you because she is too anxious, tell her that it's not something to fear but rather an opportunity to grow - together. If she still doesn't want to go, tell her that you'll absolutely stay in with her but next time you really encourage her to go out. Maybe in the meantime you go out with a smaller group first. Exposure is good as long as she has a positive attitude about it, but sometimes baby steps are the way to go.

Anyway, it sounds like you shouldn't have trouble with her wanting to grow and overcome SA if she's half as awesome as you're describing her to be. Good luck and congrats on finding a really cool chick!
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
If you like her that much, the best thing is just to continue seeing her and seeing where it goes. If you then find that her shyness is too much and that it's not working, you can decide what to do then. But until then, you should just keep seeing her and helping her if she needs it. Just be aware that her improvement might not always be steady and she could have setbacks, so be patient with her.
Thanks a lot for the advice! That's what I'll be doing. I guess every relationship is a risk anyways. We always risk getting hurt, or hurting others, but that's life. I just really don't want to hurt this girl because she is so vulnerable and sensitive.

SAS = social anxiety support
SA(D) = social anxiety (disorder)

That out of the way, you're obviously a bright guy and you're on the right track with this girl. It's impossible to do things exactly right and have the perfect outcome 100% of the time because, as you said, it's ultimately up to her how much she can change. You can't control things, but luckily you're not the type who has controlling tendencies, so you can continue to influence things in a positive direction by being loving, caring, and understanding. At the same time, though, don't be overbearing. If you're constantly talking about her issues, even in a positive way, you risk coming off like a self-help book.

The best advice I can give is to hang out with her like she doesn't have social anxiety. Do things normally, as you would with any other girl. When social obstacles do come up with her, you handle them in an empathetic way while still giving her the chance to jump over them on her own. It's good to hold her hand - just not too tightly. For example, if she is adamant that she doesn't want to go to a party with you because she is too anxious, tell her that it's not something to fear but rather an opportunity to grow - together. If she still doesn't want to go, tell her that you'll absolutely stay in with her but next time you really encourage her to go out. Maybe in the meantime you go out with a smaller group first. Exposure is good as long as she has a positive attitude about it, but sometimes baby steps are the way to go.

Anyway, it sounds like you shouldn't have trouble with her wanting to grow and overcome SA if she's half as awesome as you're describing her to be. Good luck and congrats on finding a really cool chick!
Thanks a lot for the great advice and perspective (and for the congrats). I'll be sticking to it. So far, I have avoided talking to her about her anxiety because I don't want her to be anxious about her anxiety (!!). But talking to her in the way you suggest and at the appropriate times seems to be the best way to go. Thanks a lot!

(P.S. I realized my confusion with the acronym as soon as I posted, but for some reason I can't seem to edit my post.)
 
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