Social Anxiety and Your In-Laws
You went through the wedding anxiety symptoms and can breathe a sigh of relief; but now you are dealing with a new kind of stress — social anxiety and your in-laws.
The dreaded in-laws — at some point, most of us will have some. They're strange creatures, fearsome to behold, and can be some of the most intimidating people on Earth.
Many people have difficulty getting along with their in-laws, but what about those of us with social anxiety or social phobia?
Getting to know a whole new family — especially one you may be spending quite a bit of time with for years to come — can be difficult enough on its own. When you add social anxiety into the mix, you've got a real situation on your hands. What would have already been tricky seems almost impossible when just the thought of seeing your new family can bring on feelings of panic and dread.
To make things more difficult, the fact that you want these particular people to like and approve of you might just make your anxiety worse. Social anxiety stems from the feeling that you are being judged or scrutinized. Your in-laws, in trying to get to know you, actually are scrutinizing you a bit.
So what do you do when the people you're trying so hard to make a good impression on begin to feel like the enemy, and the relationship becomes strained as a result?
Talk It Out
The first and most important thing you can do is to talk to your partner and his or her family. They're not the bad guys, your anxiety is.
Explain that you experience social anxiety, and help them to understand what the condition means. Have a Wikipedia link or perhaps a pamphlet from your doctor handy. Or use the anxiety spoon theory to help explain what it's like to have social anxiety. Learning about the root of the problem can help your in-laws to understand how you experience social interaction and what they may be able to do to help you feel more comfortable.
If you have children, take the time to let them know how you feel as well. Most kids can understand the concept of feeling shy and nervous; explain to them that you sometimes feel shy around other people, and that you might act a little differently when you do.
Children pick up on so much of their parents' behavior, and if they don't understand that you feel anxious, they might interpret your mood in the car on the way to grandma's house the wrong way.