In the short story "Under the Lights," author Andre Dubus wrote that "Shyness has a strange element of narcissism, a belief that how we look, how we perform, is truly important to other people." In relationships, the feeling that others are watching and judging can leave the shy person afraid to display affection in public -- and sometimes even in private. Though the shy individual may have feelings of love that are just as strong as the feelings from those who are not shy, she is inhibited in her ability to translate those emotions into behaviors.
Make a List
In the "Marriage Builders" article, "How to Meet the Need for Affection," clinical psychologist Willard F. Harley proposes a list of activities for showing affection -- for those who are not already good at doing so. On the list are items such as regular hugs, kisses, and using the words "I love you" -- at regular intervals throughout the day. If you are shy and not used to showing affection, a similar list may help ease you into a more affectionate style of relating. Although at first it might feel awkward and contrived, in time, you will be able to show affection, and it will become easier if you do it on a regular basis.
Shyness brings with it an inward focus that can make it hard to pay attention to others. In the "Psychology Today" article "How to Reduce Dating Anxiety," social and personality psychologist Jeremy Nicholson recommends moving the focus away from your own thoughts and worries and instead listening and watching the nonverbal behavior of your partner. Alex Lickerman, general internist and assistant vice president for Student Health and Counseling Services at the University of Chicago agrees in the "Psychology Today" article, "How to Overcome Shyness," and states that it is difficult to be shy when you are outwardly focused and compassionate. When you are less self-conscious, it will be easier to show affection to your partner.
Use Electronic Communication
If outward displays of affection are still a struggle for you, consider showing your love in other ways. In the "Canadian Living" article "How to Be a More Affectionate Partner," Pepper Schwartz advocates changing how you relate to a partner when you are apart. Although it can be tempting to stay business-like in your text and email communications when separated during the workday, sprinkling your messages with phrases such as "I love you" or "Thinking about you" can make a difference. Showing affection through electronic communication can be one way to ease around your shyness and make sure your partner knows how much you care.
Don't make the mistake of waiting for your partner to ask you to show affection, says Schwartz. If it gets to that point, your boyfriend may end up resentful and you will feel pressured. Although showing affection can be more difficult if you are shy -- it can also be an opportunity for personal growth, notes Nicholson. Greet your boyfriend with a kiss, even if it feels scary and intimidating. He will appreciate the affection and you will feel more confident in yourself and hopeful about your ability to express your feelings in the future.
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- Canadian Living: How to Be a More Affectionate Partner
- Marriage Builders: How to Meet the Need for Affection
- Psychology Today: How to Reduce Dating Anxiety
- Psychology Today: How to Overcome Shyness
- Broken Vessels: Under the Lights; Andrew Dubus
Arlin Cuncic has been writing about mental health since 2007, specializing in social anxiety disorder and depression topics. She served as the managing editor of the "Journal of Attention Disorders" and has worked in a variety of research settings. Cuncic holds an M.A. in clinical psychology.
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