Spouse with a SAD

#1
I wanted to speak with people who have general or social anxiety disorder or people whose spouse have the disorder(s). Or really, any comment and help is very welcome.

My boyfriend and I have been together a little over 3 years. He has always been an awkward boyfriend, during the lovey dovey dating days, also the more serious renting-together days, and now, the joint-mortgage days.

The biggest problem in our rocky relationship is that he has been diagnosed with SAD, and has tremendous trouble communicating with me. It is virtually impossible for us to talk things out. If we are just talking about a car repair or a new kitchen sink faucet, he tends to mumble but we communicate fine. But as soon as the discussion gets even remotely emotionally charged, he clams up and shuts down.

I would ask him "are you going to tell me how you are feeling about things in the last few days? and 120 minutes or so would elapse with him uttering zero word, and i would have to re-initiate the conversation. Even then he is very much choked and I end up doing 99.9% of the talking, which I HATE. I have tried giving him more space, more time, pushing him a little bit, but nothing has worked.

He has been seeing a psychologist for CBT but he wouldn't go more than twice a month or so, and every time I try to get across to him that his disorder is disintegrating our relationship, he seems unable to comprehend any point.

I love him and I am willing to stand alongside him while he works through his problems, but we also have family/in-law issues. I am not fond of his family as they are self righteous and they tend to impose their values upon other people. They may say rude things to me, or to my boyfriend, in my absence, but he is literally incapable of being the 'stand-up guy' for me and I have to stand my ground and defend myself every time (which sucks life out of me to put it mildly).

One thing that really confuses me with his behaviour, is that, he has trouble with verbal comprehension. He is not a great speller but can read fine, and write decently with correct grammar. But when I am emotional and telling him how I feel, he doesn't seem to wrap his head around anything I'm saying.
I think in our first session with the shrink we ruled out a physical problem like aphasia, but it still makes me think that something is not quite right in his head when we have a tense (uni-directional) conversation. On the ouside, he DOES look contrite and sad that I am so upset. But then usually, we have the same argument/discussion over and over again, because he doesn't really understand what I tell him and the little he understands, he seems to forget.

He seems to be happy to pretend nothing is wrong with us and keep on living together. But I don't want to keep living my life with someone who can't talk to me.

It is equivocal that he even wants to change. He says going to a session once a week would be too tough for him, as he needs lots of time to 'prep' for the next session, and is not very pro-meds. I asked him to consider meds as he hasn't improved with CBT alone in 6 months. When I tell him if his desire to get better doesn't exist, then he will never get better and we'll have to do some serious business selling the house and all the other stuff we mutually own, so I can start my life all over again. But then again, he doesn't seem to 'get' the real seriousness of my plea, or see the imminent danger of having his second girlfriend walk out on him (the first one left him for similar reasons).

For me, a very outspoken and no-bull person, starting a discussion knowing I'll never get a closure, or asking a question and having to wait for 5 days for a simple answer, is slowly killing me. It is utterly frustrating.

Is there anybody out there who's been in a situation/relationship that resembles ours? If I really love him, should I stand by him and take this crap for more years to come? Or am I just kidding myself that in time things will improve?

Thanks all,
Sakai
 

this_portrait

Well-known member
#2
Your relationship sounds very similar to the one I had with my ex-boyfriend, who left me mostly due to my severe social anxiety. I've since been trying to learn from my mistakes and have even gone on medication to give me a little "push," but during our relationship, I figured that things were fine and that having a b/f would solve all my problems. It didn't, and I wasn't aware of how much my SA was affecting my ex. It wasn't until over 3 months after we broke up that he directly stated everything about why he left me. He was never that direct when we were together.

If you're an outspoken person, I assume you're direct with your b/f, which is good. I think you should also let him know that you genuinely care for him and want to see him overcome his SA not just for the sake of you and your relationship together, but also because it will ultimately benefit him. At the same time, keep in mind that only he can change his behavior around. Maybe his second relationship will make him realize that he needs to overcome his SA, but then it might not. He might have to go through a few more before he realizes his mistakes. He might never realize his mistakes. Hopefully he realizes them while he is with you, because the sooner he improves himself, the better.

I hope what I say helps. I'm not the best advice giver, but I figured I would give my two cents, since I've been in a similar situation.
 
#3
Wow. I am amazed at how supportive you are of him. He's a very lucky guy!

From what you write, it seems that he's not that willing to push forward to fight this. Maybe that's just your perspective though, and really he is just very scared.

Either way, he has to try a little harder for your sake.

The thing about him seeming like he's not paying attention to you, it has to do with the way anxiety works in our body - when anxiety is active (fight or flight response), we can't pay attention to anything besides our fear... we can't think straight, our brain takes shortcuts to focus solely on the fear and bypasses the rational part of the brain.

About meds, meds won't cure him... meds only treat the symptoms and not the problem. They do help though, especially if used with CBT. But certainly don't expect meds alone to cure the problem, because you'll be sadly let down.

I think he just needs to push himself a little harder... and not settle.

No one would blame you for leaving him, if the situation really is that serious. And it would probably help him to see why he needs to push himself a little more.
 
#4
He seems to be happy to pretend nothing is wrong with us and keep on living together. But I don't want to keep living my life with someone who can't talk to me.

I have heard of guys who's girlfriends have left them and they state that they had no idea at all that the relationship was that bad.

Are you sure that he is truly aware of how dire the situation has become? Have you clearly stated to him that that the relationship has the potential to end if it continues the way it is for too much longer?
 

A86

Well-known member
#5
This is just my opinion, and its not my intention to upset anyone, as I expect it to be taken with a grain of salt. (I do expect looking at all you options and advice to make an informed decision on such a life altering matter)

The contributing factor here is time. It will take an unpredetermined amount of time before he can open up to you. From my experiance enough time usualy makes one feel more comfortable.
You should consider how much time you are willing to spend, but also keep in mind that while time usualy resolves these issues, there is no guarantee.

I think the real question here is wether you are accepting him as who he his with a supporting role or are just simply 'putting up' or 'tolerating' his behaviour. ("take this crap for more years to come" as you so elegantly put it.)

If you love and accept him (than these words are merely frustration at some difficult moments), than you should have no regrets during whatever course of events occur while staying with him.

'Putting up' with his traits implies (to me anyway) that your not happy. No one should be unhappy, especialy for the rest of their lives. It may be better to rip of the band aid as quickly as possible in this case.
 
#6
Are you sure that he is truly aware of how dire the situation has become? Have you clearly stated to him that that the relationship has the potential to end if it continues the way it is for too much longer?
Yes. We have discussed the method of splitting everything we own including the house. I have contacted my realtor for putting our house on the market in the past because my emotional state called for a real time out. But he doesn't seem to understand. He seems to forget what happened, or nothing registered in his brain in the first place, and in a few days he starts acting like everything is back to normal and up to par.
 
#7
Yes. We have discussed the method of splitting everything we own including the house. I have contacted my realtor for putting our house on the market in the past because my emotional state called for a real time out. But he doesn't seem to understand. He seems to forget what happened, or nothing registered in his brain in the first place, and in a few days he starts acting like everything is back to normal and up to par.
Hmmm that sounds like either a severe case of denial or he just thinks you won't actually go through with it?
I don't have enough relationship experience to give you any advice, sorry::eek::
 
#8
The contributing factor here is time. It will take an unpredetermined amount of time before he can open up to you. From my experiance enough time usualy makes one feel more comfortable.
You should consider how much time you are willing to spend, but also keep in mind that while time usualy resolves these issues, there is no guarantee.

I think the real question here is wether you are accepting him as who he his with a supporting role or are just simply 'putting up' or 'tolerating' his behaviour. ("take this crap for more years to come" as you so elegantly put it.)

If you love and accept him (than these words are merely frustration at some difficult moments), than you should have no regrets during whatever course of events occur while staying with him.

'Putting up' with his traits implies (to me anyway) that your not happy. No one should be unhappy, especialy for the rest of their lives. It may be better to rip of the band aid as quickly as possible in this case.
First of all, Thank you everyone for your responses. I'm very glad that I have been given an opportunity to talk with people who have experienced what I am going through.

and A86, I'm not at all upset. Thank you for sharing your opinion. I do accept him for the way he is, which is, a very shy, extreme introvert. All his family accepts him for a nice, shy guy who doesn't say much and never offends anybody. I am the first and only person who's ever asked him if he was happy with the way he behaved. He doesn't say much because he is terrified of inviting criticism from other people, offending people, and making enemies. It shakes him to think that if he offers an opinion, it might get badly countered and he will have no clever comebacks. He is terrified. i was really sad to hear him tell me, that when he browses in the birthday card aisle and someone comes into the same aisle, he gets very nervous and starts to sweat.

To me that is no way to live a life, and if one wants to change, change should be encouraged. He told me he wasn't happy with his behaviour. He just didn't know if it was abnormal, or if it was, how to get help. Everybody accepted he was a shy boy, and never questioned him as to how he felt about his life. because to everyone else, he was a just a shy guy. Nobody else knew that he would sweat like a horse standing in a line at a bank.

For everybody else in his life, his disorder has no consequence, just in his and mine. And after 3 years of dealing with all the stress and frustrations, I do feel like I am dealing with a load of deep ****.

The problem is we go in circles because, i am always left with a feeling of being unheard. Because he can't process what I say, or empathize with me, sometimes he even has a hard time projecting him forward enough to come and hug me when I'm crying.

I give him a timeline, I am over 30 and, want to have kids some day. I hate to let my life be dictated by my biological clock. I really do. I really do wish I could wait around for him forever. I REALLY DO. But I can't. But then again we go in circles because he doesn't understand that I don't have forever. I can't just sell the house on my own, or buy him out. I need him to be on the same page if we are going to break up. and he acts like no intense conversation has taken place.

I do know that meds may not help. I have worked with psych patients in the past and did come across a lot of them who couldn't function at all without their meds. Meds could work or they could not. The point is I think he needs to feel like he needs to give his best, to make himself happy, and to salvage our relationship.
 
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#10
I do accept him for the way he is, which is, a very shy, extreme introvert. All his family accepts him for a nice, shy guy who doesn't say much and never offends anybody. I am the first and only person who's ever asked him if he was happy with the way he behaved. He doesn't say much because he is terrified of inviting criticism from other people, offending people, and making enemies. It shakes him to think that if he offers an opinion, it might get badly countered and he will have no clever comebacks. He is terrified. i was really sad to hear him tell me, that when he browses in the birthday card aisle and someone comes into the same aisle, he gets very nervous and starts to sweat.

To me that is no way to live a life, and if one wants to change, change should be encouraged. He told me he wasn't happy with his behaviour. He just didn't know if it was abnormal, or if it was, how to get help. Everybody accepted he was a shy boy, and never questioned him as to how he felt about his life. because to everyone else, he was a just a shy guy. Nobody else knew that he would sweat like a horse standing in a line at a bank.
You should be commended on obviously having a good understanding of what he is going through. He is lucky to have a partner who has been willing to listen and understand his problem. Just wanted to say that to you.:)
 
#12
You should be commended on obviously having a good understanding of what he is going through. He is lucky to have a partner who has been willing to listen and understand his problem. Just wanted to say that to you.:)
Thank you, Blue. For the first time, I feel like I've been heard. Nobody knows what I go through, because nobody knows what he goes through.

Thank you.
 
#13
Just curious - does he want kids too?
He does assume that we'll have kids if we keep going. This means, we will have kids when I feel strongly enough about it. He'll never instigate the baby making. He is anxious around children, even his nephews, freezes in front of my niece and nephews, who don't speak English.

I do want kids but I don't think we'll be able to.
 

1BlackSheep

Well-known member
#14
He does assume that we'll have kids if we keep going. This means, we will have kids when I feel strongly enough about it. He'll never instigate the baby making. He is anxious around children, even his nephews, freezes in front of my niece and nephews, who don't speak English.

I do want kids but I don't think we'll be able to.
I suppose the decision boils down to whether or not you're willing to sacrifice your desire for children for a lifetime with him. I don't envy the decision you face and wish you peace and strength, whatever the outcome.
 

Hoppy

Well-known member
#16
I do not know how old he is, but you said over 30 so I assume he is as well.

Your boyfriend sounds a lot like me, so quite a few of the things I am going to write is my own opinion and not to be trusted.

I think he is wrong. In any type of relationship he has to be able to carry his side as well. Refusing to talk due to issues is not acceptable. I also have anxiety and issues, and I have spend many hours bathed in sweat and choking in panic having uncomfortable conversations. It is not easy, for nobody.

I would recommend that you actually write down what you want to say to him let him read it. If needed he can do a written reply as well.

That will help in changing the dynamics of the situation if it is possible to communicate in a non threatening way.

He has to consider medication as well, especially anti-anxiety to take off the stress of conversations.

I think the worst bit is that I know exactly how he feels, and I also feel sorry for you, because I think you are going to have to make a hard decision.
 
#17
Hi, Hoppy. Thank you for your reply.

It isn't as much his refusal to converse with me, as his inability to even utter a word, let alone a sentence under those emotional circumstances, that is the real problem. I think he wants to talk. Like he always says, " i will talk, just don't know what".

he told me, when i bawl like a child in front of him because i'm upset, he doesn't feel anything. he has no emotions, so he doesn't have anything inside him to get stirred. i don't do anything for the shock value or to just elicit a response, but nothing I do makes him "feel".

and I agree that I'm going to face a difficult decision soon.....
 
#18
He seems to be happy to pretend nothing is wrong with us and keep on living together.
He seems to forget what happened, or nothing registered in his brain in the first place, and in a few days he starts acting like everything is back to normal and up to par.
I think I may have an inkling about what's going on here, because I've done exactly what he appears to be doing. It sounds like he's avoiding the entire situation. He wants to forget, like it never happened because that's the only way he knows how to deal with things. It's a maladaptive coping-strategy. I'd recognize that behaviour in anyone because I do it all the time.

Your post really made me think about the effects that mental illness has on the friends and family of the sufferer. Mental illness is a curse to live with, whether you're the one with it or not. I know I've put my family and friends through a lot because of my AvPD/SAD, and sometimes they don't understand as well as you do. It hurts them like it hurts me and I feel guilty for weighing them down with my disorders.

I guess it's sort of obvious but, romantic relationships and mental illnesses don't mix. At all. I consider myself mentally unfit to be in a relationship, because I know my problems will ruin everything very quickly (the last relationship I was in lasted a record number of two weeks). Having said that, I suggest you determine the severity of the problem, because if he has something like Avoidant Personality Disorder, like me, then you can expect him to show little to no improvement with proper treatment. With a disorder like this, going to the psychologist twice a month will do absolutely nothing and his condition will probably continue to decline. If it's not affecting almost every aspect of his life (and it sounds like it might be) and it's just standard SAD then he might get better in a couple of years with treatment. I'm definitively not suggesting that you give up on him just yet, but if things don't improve in time then his problem is deeply rooted and might take a very long time to fix, if ever. I'm sorry if I wasn't very helpful.
 

Hoppy

Well-known member
#19
It's a maladaptive coping-strategy. I'd recognize that behaviour in anyone because I do it all the time.
Exactly the right words that I couldn't find on my own. Maladaptive coping-strategy, mind if I borrow it?

It doesn't make sense to people who haven't experienced it themselves, but sometimes the situation gets energy intensive to us that the only way to cope with it is to shut down completely. To the point where I've been sitting in front of someone screaming abuse at me and not being able to hear or remember a single thing he has said/screamed to me. All I remember from it is the unpleasantness.

That is why I would recommend the writing down part, giving you a change to write exactly whatever you want to say and giving him chance to respond in kind, preferably with the help of a professional.

On a bit of an unrelated note, how much time do he have alone? I tend to communicate better when I've been alone for a few hours.(Sleeping don't count)

(I'm not in a relationship, and have never been. I don't even like spending time with myself, why should I do it to other people?)
 
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alanj

Well-known member
#20
From my experience, someone with severe SA just doesn't want to make any changes because they are too terrified to make any changes, and they just stay rooted in fear and if (not trying to make light of this) they were to win the lottery, would gladly become a recluse forever and end all unneeded social interaction.

Meds gave me a great kick start to get out there a bit more and realise things were not as bad as they seemed, and that it was really just me making the world seem so bad. It takes endless effort and being constantly aware of negative beliefs and thoughts and then countering them, but progress will then happen. This has been my experience anyway.
 
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