Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: I have been in a relationship for over 18 months with my girlfriend. We were invited to my friend’s wedding, and I am in the wedding party. She has met some but not all of my friends, including the bride and groom.
She isn’t someone who likes interaction with new people, and the idea of coming to the wedding and rehearsal dinner makes her uncomfortable. I want her to come and meet the people who are important to me so that she feels comfortable with them in the future. Is there a way to strike a balance?
About 80 ways. But none of them applies unless you and she both want to strike a balance and both agree on what that balance looks like.
Bending on one wedding is not a big deal, of course, but it sounds like you’re looking at a fundamental difference in your natural social states. I do hope you’re taking carefully into account whether you will ever be comfortable with someone who is not comfortable around new people. If you’re outgoing, and if blending your romantic life with your important friendships is something you value, then you need to say that to her, and own it.
Then you and she really ought to talk beyond this one wedding and figure out what each of you thinks a fair balance would be. Plot it out using the example of the wedding or other big event, and of routine plans on an average week. She comes for a while and leaves when she’s tired? And you leave with her — or do you stay as late as you want? Or, she skips big events where she doesn’t know anyone, and sticks to meeting your important-to-me people one-on-one? Or she goes to some events but not all?
Just please don’t throw a Band-Aid on this; deal with it now. It might turn out that you go a few years without a situation like this coming up again, which would allow you to kid yourselves that it’s not an issue when in fact it’s destined to be one if you stay together.
Re: Wedding: My fiance and I are like this couple. I get anxiety meeting new people, and he’s extremely social. We’ve made it work because we both want to, but it isn’t always easy.
One thing that has worked well for us is planning small gatherings in advance with a few of the people who will be in attendance. This way when the event (like a wedding) comes around I don’t feel overwhelmed with new people.
I have also conceded to going to a lot of events that make me somewhat uncomfortable because I know how happy it makes him. He acknowledges that by minimizing those events and picking the more significant ones to include me in — the wedding, but no rehearsal dinner, for example. We’ve found the balance, but we’ve both actively worked to achieve it (with growing pains).
Yes, well said — and you both need to accept each other’s decisions, be it to stay home solo or go out solo, without lurking resentment.
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