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My girlfriend has anxiety issues for which she currently is prescribed medication. The medication helps but she still struggles with social occasions, especially when she does not know many people there. She did get counselling at one point but stopped after a while as she did not feel it was helping.

We have been together for well over a year now and she has only met my friends on a handful of occasions as she gets nervous at even the thought of us going out and doing things with them and normally just refuses to go.

My friends are aware of her anxiety and are very understanding but they do tend to do things in couples and I feel a bit awkward joining in on party's, day's out etc on my own and also I want my girlfriend to be a part of their lives too. I feel like the longer this goes on that inevitably I will end up drifting further apart from my friends.

I have always tried to be as supportive as I can and when we are alone we have a great relationship but this is an issue that is becoming more and more difficult for me.

If I try and suggest that my girlfriend steps outside her comfort zone occasionally to help her get used to these things, she says that she feels like I am putting unfair pressure on her so I don't really know how to approach this in the right way. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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First of all, you sound very thoughtful. Acknowledging the issue and understanding that this is a challenge for her is a great first step.

Some people are introverts and the way their social world works is slightly different. I recommend reading some of the top questions in that tag to get a better idea on how those people feel about social interactions.

One thing that has worked for me in getting people to be more open to new social experiences:

  • Make yourself approachable about the issue to her.
  • Extend her comfort zone rather than try to make her undergo uncomfortable experiences.
  • Make her feel secure in these social settings with your friends.
  • Make it clear that she can leave whenever she wants and she will not be judged.

About the last point - I mean actually not passing any judgement on her if she asks to leave in the middle of a friends' trip.

These will be difficult at the beginning and you'll have to be very accommodating to her struggling with it. Start with things she is more comfortable with (inviting just one or two friends over when she is in the mood) and work your way up.

As a side note, I've had a much larger social circle than his wife for a pretty long time. My wife used to have 1 or two friends for a few years and only recently has she opened up to more people. One thing that might surprise you is that she might be perfectly fine with you meeting with your friends without her and not insulted by it at all. Some people don't value social interaction as a prize and don't mind missing it and having some time alone.

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I can't make a comment at this time but I would like to build upon what Ben said a bit, specifically "inviting just one or two friends over when she is in the mood". I think this would be an excellent strategy for you to take. It sounds like every time you and your friends get together its is in a rather large group, where you are the only person she knows. To you this is a large group of welcoming friends who you have known for years and who in some instances may have known each other for years. For someone new to your group and its dynamic it could be very intimidating attempting to fit in, even if the group is extremely welcoming the social pressures of a large group are much greater than smaller meetings. In fact depending on the closeness of the group it could make matters worse, as she may feel like she is an interloper within your group (regardless of what you might say to assure her she isn't or how open your friends are to her, anxiety does not care and may create its own illogical narrative). compound that with what i'm guessing is an introverted personality and it makes what is already an intimidating situation worse.

My suggestion to you is to start small, have smaller couple on couple meet ups with just one other couple. This will allow her to get a better understanding of some of the people in the group, in an environment that is more comfortable to her. Even knowing one other couple in the group better before attempting to integrate her into the full group can go a long way to making her feel more comfortable. From there you can even employ some tactics to gently convince her to come out. "Hey the gang is wanting to go to the bar for drinks tonight, Darhma and Greg will be there and said they would save us a seat next to them if you want to go". Essentially the more people you can introduce her to outside of the larger group setting , the more comfortable she may be within that setting.

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"My girlfriend has anxiety issues for which she currently is prescribed medication. The medication helps but she still struggles with social occasions,"

Says this is more than just introversion. This is disabling social anxiety. Her medication is not doing the job. It's worthwhile reflecting this back to her treating doctor so they can adjust her medications. Adding a medication 'as needed for social occasions' might make it easier for her to function. After all, we all occasionally get into situations like that, and avoiding them all is just too restricting.

  • +1. If this is truly social phobia, then medication is probably not the right therapy. Exposure therapy works much better, where one carefully pushes the boundaries of one's comfort zone. It might be good to find a better therapist. (How to help the GF do this would be a question all by itself.) – Stephan Kolassa Sep 18 '18 at 16:58
  • @Stephan Kolassa Of course, both therapy and medication help! Meds are faster, therapy lasts longer. Each has its place. Thanks for the upvote. – VWFeature Jan 4 at 0:12

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