The term “socially anxious poly person” might seem like an oxymoron—how can someone who fears interacting with people find themselves in a polyamorous relationship? Honestly, I don’t have an answer to that question, but I can tell you that it happens.
I’ve been poly for over six years, and I am wracked with anxieties, social and otherwise. It’s the way I’ve always been, but it hasn’t kept me from living the poly dream. Here are some tips for how to cope with social anxiety.
How to Deal with Your Social Anxiety
Know Your Triggers
What types of social situations do you dread the most? I hate any event that requires mingling and small talk, especially with people I don’t know very well. I’m more of a one-on-one gal, which makes the kitchen-table poly dynamic I’m involved in feel immensely challenging at times.
I love hanging out with my polycule, but our group is out and proud which means that we’re all invited to take part in things like family barbecues and birthday parties, during which my anxiety always convinces me that I’ll be seen as some perverted interloper who brazenly inserted myself into my partner’s marriage.
Prepare ahead of Time
Knowing that parties and family gatherings make me anxious, I come prepared with a game plan. Where am I going to sit? This is an important question as the answer will determine how quickly I can leave, or how many people I’ll need to interact with on the way to the bathroom, drink table, etc.
How long can I stay is another crucial thing to consider when I’m intent on making an appearance, but not at the cost of my entire supply of social energy (introverts will understand what I mean by this.)
Express and Defend Your Needs
My polycule is quite understanding when it comes to my social anxiety, but even so, there are times when I’ve had to be very clear about what I can handle and what I can’t. I’ve learned that it’s best to be proactive and up front about your needs.
I have told partners that I would attend their social events, provided I can get myself to and from without having to rely on anyone, and leave if things get too overwhelming for me, no questions asked. The great thing is, just knowing that these freedoms are in place means that I rarely need to act on them.
Assess How Things Went
This is such an important part of the process, especially if you would like to gain some insight into your social anxiety response, and ultimately learn to soften it. Look back at the day with curiosity. How did things play out? I was worried that my partner’s sister-in-law (who also has anxiety) might be totally freaked out by my presence at their family function, but she wasn’t, and we ended up having a really nice conversation!
Even if things didn’t go perfectly, they probably went better than you feared they would, so remember that the next time you’re freaking out about a social occasion you just can’t avoid.
Are you experiencing social anxiety in your poly world? How are you dealing?