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How to Stop Being Shy in a Relationship

Two Parts:Overcoming Your ShynessBeing Open with Your Body Language

When you are in a new relationship, it can be hard to overcome shyness. Don't despair! It will fade away over time, as you grow together and become more and more comfortable with your partner. However, the beginning of a relationship can be very stressful. How do you overcome your shyness to get to the place where you feel comfortable together? Here are a few things you can do to help the process along.

Part 1
Overcoming Your Shyness

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    Understand the difference between shyness and low self-esteem.[1] Plenty of shy people are very comfortable and happy with themselves, and have healthy levels of self-confidence. Don’t think that just because you’re shy, there’s something wrong with you. Your partner chose you because they liked your personality, and your shyness is part of that. Even if it’s something you want to work on for your own sake in the relationship, never forget that you can be confident and powerful even if you’re shy.
    • Never apologize for being shy. Explain why you’re reacting the way you are, say that you’re working on it because you want to, but never give anyone the impression that you owe them extroversion.
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    Be upfront about your shyness from the beginning. Studies have shown that discussing your shyness-related anxiety can lessen the effects of it,[2] and experts suggest that showing vulnerability is actually a good way to increase trust and intimacy between partners.[3] Especially in new relationships, it's very important to have a conversation about your shyness at the outset; this will pave the way for easier conversations down the road that will make your relationship a lasting one. There’s certainly nothing to be ashamed of, so be open and honest about how you’re feeling when you feel yourself tensing up.
    • Don’t bottle up your nervous feelings to deal with them later.
    • Tell your partner how you’re feeling in real time.
    • Don’t dwell on your shyness; get it out in the open, then move on to another subject when the feeling passes.
    • Let your partner comfort you if they try.
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    Relax, and don't rush a young relationship.[4] Because you know that you struggle with shyness, you might put extra pressure on yourself to make a relationship work immediately, but relationships don't work like that even for extroverted people. Instead of trying to connect with your boyfriend or girlfriend all the time, take enough time with yourself and with the friends and family you feel comfortable with to keep yourself happy. When you're happier, your relationship will have a better chance of working out.
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    Get to know your boyfriend or girlfriend through technology. Many shy people find that it's face-to-face interactions that cause them the most anxiety, but that they can communicate by text or on the internet more comfortably.[5] Most new couples don't spend all their time together anyway, so keep in touch through texting, Facebook, Twitter, and other methods of communication that will let you establish a relationship and get to know each other without all the anxiety of seeing the person in the flesh.
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    Practice for a new relationship by going on practice dates.[6] If you find yourself seizing up with shyness when you’re out on dates with your new boyfriend or girlfriend, try going through the steps of a date without the pressure of being around someone who makes you nervous because of their newness.
    • Ask a platonic friend or relative who you're very comfortable with to go on a “date” with you.
    • Go through all the steps: get dressed up, pick them up/have them pick you up, go to a restaurant and have a nice conversation.
    • Familiarize yourself with the dating context, and try to remember that it’s all old hat when you’re on a real date with your partner.
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    Plan out important conversations ahead of time.[7] When getting to know someone, you sometimes have to have very personal conversations that can be difficult. For example, you have to open up about your hopes and dreams, your fears and shames, and how you feel about your partner when you're first getting to know each other. Plan out the big conversations that you think you’ll probably have with your partner ahead of time, so that you’ll be ready for them when they come up. Having a sort of script prepared in your head will make it much easier for you to open up.
    • Make lists of your fears, hopes, and other important feelings.
    • If you need to have an argument, outline the rationale behind your side of the argument. Anticipate what your partner will say, as well. The better prepared you are for all possible routes of conversation, the more open and effective you’ll be as a communicator.
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    Have topics ready for regular small-talk. If you can’t ever think of anything to say to your partner, then do a little bit of work when you’re alone to fix that situation. Watch the news, read books and magazines, and keep up on pop culture that you have in common — whether music, movies, or graphic novels — to ensure that you always have something new to bring up when you’re together.
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    Make saying “yes” a habit.[8] Your initial response to proposed activities may be “no” — not because you don’t want to do something with your partner, but because you need a few moments to feel comfortable enough to say yes. These “activities” might be as simple as accepting a phone call immediately instead of waiting for it to go to voicemail and calling back.
    • Push yourself gently but surely into situations that put you outside of your comfort zone.
    • Don’t rush yourself! Start small and work your way up to taking bigger steps, like spontaneous romantic vacations.
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    Go on low-pressure outings.[9] If a romantic setting like a fancy dinner makes you nervous, then lower the bar. Go on a date where you won’t feel so much pressure to make a one-on-one connection, but can enjoy yourselves together in a more public setting. Depending on what your interests are, you might go to:
    • A sporting event where you can be among a crowd
    • A museum, where you can discuss the exhibits rather than personal details
    • A movie or theatrical production, where you can spend time together without speaking
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    Breathe deeply to relax.[10] Shyness often comes with a lot of anxiety about being in social situations, and in a relationship, you’re expected to be very open and intimate with your partner. That can be very stressful for a shy person! If you feel yourself tensing up around your partner, do a simple relaxation exercise to calm yourself down and put you in a better frame of mind.
    • Take a deep breath and hold it for a count of four, then exhale, controlling your breath on the way out.
    • Repeat until you’ve overcome your anxiety.

Part 2
Being Open with Your Body Language

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    Make eye contact with your partner.[11] Shy people often avoid eye contact, and while that’s perfectly acceptable and maybe even desirable if you have a shy partner, an extroverted partner will likely feel like you’re being aloof or distant.
    • The eyes are an important tool for communication, so rushing into a lot of eye contact might feel draining.
    • Over time, practice making eye contact more and more frequently, and for longer periods of time.
    • Practice on pictures and images on the TV, or with your parents if looking into your partner’s eyes is too intimidating at first.
    • Looking anywhere in the vicinity of your partner’s eyes will still be comforting to them, even if you’re not making direct eye contact.
    • It’s easier to make eye contact when you’re listening than when you’re speaking, so start with the easy stuff.
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    Keep your arms and legs uncrossed.[12] When you cross your arms over your chest, or cross your legs, your body is communicating to those around you that you are trying to make yourself smaller and close yourself off. Make a conscious decision to keep your body open.
    • Let your hands sit at your sides.
    • Push your shoulders back and your chest forward.
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    Mirror your partner’s facial expressions in conversation. Even if you’re not terribly talkative because of your shyness, that doesn’t mean your partner needs to feel alone when they’re speaking with you. You can engage nonverbally in a conversation simply by registering the same emotions the speaker’s having in a given moment.
    • If your partner smiles or laughs, you should smile or laugh along.
    • If they’re discussing something concerning, register their worry on your face.
    • This will ensure your partner that you’re still engaged with them, not withdrawn into your own world.
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    Give active nonverbal feedback when listening.[13] Even if you’re not terribly verbal, there are many nonverbal ways in which you can interact with your partner, giving the impression that they’re having more of a give and take with you than they actually are. Some ways to nonverbally engage in a communication include[14]:
    • Smiling or laughing at appropriate moments
    • Maintaining eye contact
    • Nodding along
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    Lean forward.[15] Shy people often want to create more physical space between themselves and others, but in a relationship, your partner might feel as though you’re being aloof and not engaging with them. By leaning forward and closing the distance between you, you’ll create a more intimate, secure mood in your relationship.


  • Never feel like you have to do something. Relax!

Article Info

Categories: Overcoming Shyness & Insecurities