How can I bring my introverted boyfriend out of his shell?

Two gay men sit by a lake
Posed by models (Photo: Shutterstock)

A concerned man has prompted over 200 replies after he sought advice about his quiet boyfriend. Turning to the @AskGayBrosOver30 forum on Reddit, he explained that his other half is introverted and stays quiet when they’re out with groups of his friends.

The post was titled, “My BF is very passive and quiet among my friends and expects me to do all the talking.”

“He isn’t shy; he is, however, a bit of an introvert, but it comes across as borderline rude,” explained the man. “When I get the opportunity to meet up with all of my friends, which isn’t often, I like to include him. I’ve met a few of his friends and we get along well. It’s as though he’s not interested in giving mine a chance.”

“I try to start conversations on things that I know he will enjoy because they all have a lot in common. When I do that, he becomes frustrated with me later on or doesn’t engage as much. It bothers me since any outsider, such as my friends, it comes across as rude or stuck up. It’s frustrating because he isn’t like that. He’s a genuinely great and funny guy but they don’t get to see that side of him.

“One of my friends is doing a PhD in linguistics, she also teaching in the area. My partner has a linguistics and psychology degree so I said to her ‘B [my BF] studied this too and was contemplating a masters in this subject,’ to get them to talk to each other. Even though it’s a topic I’m sure he could talk about for hours, he was quite brief with her.

“Now, I may appear to be the obnoxious one who is forcing them to talk and get along, but he assures me that he doesn’t dislike them when I ask.”

He continued, “Of course, he is not required to tag along when I’m with friends, but the majority of them bring their partners or they ask if he wants to come along, and he never declines when I ask.”

He added they sometimes went hiking or camping. They had a trip planned with friends soon, and he worried he’d have to again do most of the talking.

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Many of the respondents said he needed to just accept his boyfriend the way he is.

“You need to learn to be supportive of your BF’s introversion and stop trying to ‘fix’ his socializing,” said one. “You’re not helping, even if you think you are, and in the long run he’ll end up resenting you … I’ve been to social gatherings where I haven’t uttered more than a couple of words and I had a good time. Your BF might be the same.”

Many respondents said they, too, were introverts.

“When you ask him if he is enjoying himself? Does he say yes or no? If he does, then I see no problem. I am introverted myself so it takes time for us to get used to being around new people. Of course, I am not like that with my partner or my friends because I am already comfortable with them. Give him time, the more you push him, the more he’ll go inside his shell.”

“As a fellow introvert: you are not helping him in the slightest, even if you think you are,” said another. “In fact, you’re only making things worse. It’s not cool when an extrovert friend/BF tries to force you to interact with strange people just for the sake of it. He is not doing this because he is rude or something like that, he is doing it because he doesn’t feel comfortable trying to engage in conversation with people he considers strangers just for the sake of it. It’s not something that needs fixing or that you’ll be able to change, it’s who he is.”

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Other introverts said they often felt overwhelmed by being in new surroundings and it took them some time to process things. They pretty much all hated being forced to be included in conversations.

“The worst thing one can do is try to bring me into the conversation by asking me, ‘what do you think…?’, said one. “Or him trying to tell a story that involves me or is my story to tell. It’s awkward and it puts me on the spot in a way that makes me shut down, and now I look rude or like I don’t want to be there.

“I thrive in one-on-one conversations. It’s very difficult for me to discuss things in a group setting. I’m an empath and I’m taking in people’s energies and words, and thinking about the topic at hand before I respond, so it may look like I’m not interested but I’m actually engaged.

“You can be present with him and your friends at the same time. Sometimes all it takes is a touch. If you’re sitting next to him in a group, put your hand on his knee under the table, while you’re having a conversation with others. Don’t make it a huge gesture, such as putting your arms around his waist or shoulders because he’s not going to enjoy that. Let it be something small, that’s between you two.”

Some identified with the man posting the dilemma.

“I was married to someone who’s exactly what you describe. One thing I tried to do was to ‘include’ him in conversations — literally just say something, and then ask for his take on it. He hated it that I put him on the spot — and he was right.

“It’s an ingrained personality trait of his — he’s quiet, an introvert, and overthinks everything. When I’d ask him why he was so quiet in public, he would say: ‘by the time I’ve formulated a thought to contribute, the conversation has already moved on.’ He didn’t change, and he won’t change. I was the one who had to learn to accept him for what he is and stopped caring what other people would think of him.”

The man who posted the dilemma appeared to welcome the huge response he received, including the feedback from other introverts. He said he would stop trying to force his boyfriend to join conversations and would take it on board that his boyfriend likely is having an enjoyable time, even if he’s not talking much.

The poster told Queerty, “I found the responses very helpful and it helped me understand him better as someone who isn’t introverted at all.”