Dear Annie: I have social anxiety, and I find that it's really impacting my life. I'm comfortable in small groups with people I know. However, I have a difficult time meeting new people. If my wife wants to set up an outing with a new couple, I become very uncomfortable. I find it even more difficult attending larger gatherings, such as parties and social events at our children's school. Consciously, I know better, as I always end up finding people I enjoy and have few awkward moments of standing by myself. But I have this fear that can be crippling, and I will cancel on events. Do you have any advice for me on how to overcome this anxiety? — Socially Challenged
Dear Socially Challenged: Those we meet change us forever. Limiting our social outings causes us to miss out on new life experiences, and part of growing and learning in life is having these experiences. First thing you should do is speak with your wife about your anxiety. Maybe you could come up with signals you could give when you're feeling uncomfortable in a social setting so she could come help. Formulate a plan and work together as a team. Second, you should find someone with experience treating social anxiety. You are consciously aware that everything will work out, and understanding how to calm your subconscious could only be positive. Learn to take the fear and channel it into excitement about unexpected social experiences.
Dear Annie: I'd like to add to your response to "Get Out of My House," whose husband's relatives often visit and overstay their welcome. She has a small house, and no one cooks, helps or pays.
We recently purchased a vacation home at the beach and plan to retire there. Relatives are happy for us — and happy for themselves, as they see it as a free vacation. We learned the hard way after the first season. We had people request our place during peak times and get insulted when we had plans to use it ourselves and didn't want guests. When we did gladly say yes to having guests, we did so without any guidelines — e.g., asking them to bring snacks or chip in for alcohol. But they took advantage of our easygoing attitude. I spoke with acquaintances who also have second homes, and they had similar stories.
My advice is to be firm with a "no" if you don't want company on a certain weekend. And any "yes" should come with a polite request for the guests to bring a case of water or paper towels or toilet paper or whatever you need them to bring. I keep a checklist on the fridge of items that need to be replenished. As well, have them bring their own sheets and towels so you are not doing laundry after everyone leaves. Laundry not only is time-consuming but also makes your utility bills increase. Also, I do not allow guests to use my master suite — unless there are extreme circumstances (for example, we have a large relative who would not fit in a smaller bed with his wife) — as there are other comfortable beds and bathrooms.
This is my home, not a college dorm, and because I plan to live here full time in the future, my wishes need to be respected if people are to visit again. Good company is always welcome, but we are under no obligation to entertain the freeloaders. Hope this helps "Get Out of My House" and others. — Second Home
Dear Second Home: Bravo for knowing your boundaries and articulating them. I'm printing your letter as inspiration for others dealing with frequent houseguests.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]