Using A Comfort Scale May Help A Socially Anxious Partner Enjoy Outings More

Shyness can be an endearing quality in a romantic partner, but when self-consciousness leads to social anxiety, it can trigger a unique set of relationship problems — including deciding how to spend time together. "Social anxiety disorder can certainly affect dating and intimate relationships in a variety of ways," Christopher France, a licensed marriage and family therapist at the Newport Institute, explained to AskMen. "A person with this condition may be wary to let their guard down and feel vulnerable. The higher their anxiety, the more difficult emotional intimacy may be. And they may struggle with going out in groups, which can affect your social life."


According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people with social anxiety often experience an intense fear of being judged in social situations. In other words, if your partner has the condition, they may tense up at the thought of spending the holidays with your family or accompanying you to a friend's party.

In some cases, their anxiety can cause friction, and you might struggle to accommodate both your significant other's needs and the social life you crave. However, not all hope is lost. A comfort scale is a super easy tool that helps your partner communicate their boundaries and can make navigating group hangouts a breeze.

How to use a comfort scale in your relationship

If your S.O. has social anxiety and you don't, it can be difficult to understand their triggers and just how stressful certain interactions can feel. To cut through the confusion, Dr. Ellen Hendriksen, clinical psychologist and author of "How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety," suggested using a comfort scale to The Zoe Report. Essentially, you invite your partner to rate their social anxiety, from 0 to 100, in relation to certain social events — whether it be a dinner with you and your fam, a getaway with friends, or anything else that might require your significant other to leave their comfort zone.


The comfort scale method comes from the Subjective Units of Distress Scale (SUDS), a tool developed in the 1960s to help people with anxiety quantify their emotional state, per the American Psychological Association. Zero represents "absolute calmness," while 100 indicates severe anxiety. You can also simplify the scale by using a zero-to-10 range, depending on your partner's preferences.

A 2008 study published in the Journal of EMDR Practice and Research supported the use of SUDS, and the scale may help you understand your partner and their personal limits too. "Start closer to events in their 20s and 30s and do those until you both feel more comfortable," Hendriksen told The Zoe Report.

What if you can't find a middle ground?

A number-based comfort scale can be an easy way for your S.O. to communicate what they are and aren't comfortable with. But what if they assign a high number to almost every outing? "If your partner rates something as a '50' or '70,' maybe they'll push themselves to face their fears and attend if they know it's important to you," Dr. Ellen Hendriksen shared with The Zoe Report. While you'll have to compromise sometimes, it's okay to gently explain which invitations mean the most to you and why you'd appreciate your partner attending.


If your other half still resists participating in social functions, you may want to encourage them to speak to a doctor or therapist. Psychotherapy and medication are among the most effective forms of treatment for social anxiety and could help your partner better manage their fears, as per the National Institute of Mental Health.

Keep in mind that you can't force your S.O. to change, and they may not be ready to meet your family or hang with your friends as soon as you'd like. In the meantime, the Anxiety & Depression Association of America suggests you continue attending the social outings you're interested in, even if your partner chooses to sit them out. You don't have to sacrifice your own hobbies and relationships, even if they differ from your partner's.