You Need Help: My Girlfriend Struggles With Social Skills

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Q:

My gf and I have been together 2 years, and when we’re alone everything’s great. But when she tries to interact with other people it goes poorly almost every time. She’s bad at reading social situations, and very oblivious about the way she comes across. Whether it’s playful ribbing that comes out mean or talking about sensitive topics that make others uncomfortable, things often goes sour, usually without her noticing. It’s to the point where my friends don’t want to be around her, and I’ve watched a lot of her friends pull away too.

I don’t know what to do. She’s a good person, and I know in my heart that she’s trying. It hurts me to watch her put people off and lose friendships, and it bothers me that I feel like I can’t introduce her to anyone without worrying that something’s gonna go wrong. I want to talk to her about it, but I don’t want her to feel like I’m trying to “fix” her. I know her social skills aren’t my responsibility, but things aren’t getting better.

I feel stuck, and I’m starting to worry that everyone else is right to be uncomfortable and that I should run. What should I do here?

A:

I understand your frustration here, especially because it sounds like your girlfriend’s perception of social situations is very different from yours. We all face social anxiety in different ways, and for some folks these social nuances are much more difficult to navigate. I can tell that you’re really trying to support her here. You’ve been together for a fair amount of time, and you’ve noticed certain patterns like any partner would.

What I want to bring into question here is the word “fix.” It seems like you might perceive her issues as a “problem” because you see her behaviors as something that need to be “fixed.” Even though you yourself used quotations around the word and therefore seem to understand it isn’t a fair way to approach things, the fact that you still used the word suggests you might think there is indeed something to be fixed here. This is further reiterated by the fact that I can’t really tell from your letter if your girlfriend has sought any advice or guidance about this. I want to challenge your thought process a bit. Can we really fix someone, and more importantly, should we want to fix someone? Doesn’t “fixing” imply that a person’s inherently broken?

What I want to further question is your sense of discomfort with how she engages with both of your friends. Does she feel like she needs to change? Does she feel discomfort in social situations, or are you wanting to change her behaviors because you’re uncomfortable? When friends pull away from her, how does she react? Has she asked for any help or guidance here?

You can talk to her about what you’ve noticed, but it should be completely without judgment. See if this is something that even bothers her. If it does and she wants support in social situations, you both can decide how you want to support her by following her lead. If she doesn’t want to change, or doesn’t see a problem, then I think this is a time where you can reflect on why you feel (embarrassed? frustrated? disappointed?) by her.

Just because someone operates differently from you doesn’t mean they’re wrong, bad, or need help. It simply means they are different from you, and your normal isn’t their normal. I want to empower you to reflect on your own biases so you can empower her to be her most authentic self. You fell for her for who she is, so help her celebrate her strengths and embrace her wonderful differences!


You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.

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Em Win

Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Em now lives in Los Angeles where she does many odd jobs in addition to writing. When she's not sending 7-minute voice messages to friends and family, she enjoys swimming, yoga, candle-making, tarot, drag, and talking about the Enneagram.

Em has written 73 articles for us.

47 Comments

  1. that all makes sense, but at the same time “makes an effort to get along with my friends” seems like a reasonable thing to expect from someone you’re dating. obviously sometimes people have awful friends or whathaveyou, but there is nothing in the letter to indicate the girlfriend has brought concerns about LW’s friends/their behaviour to the LW

    in the end, the LW did not ask “how can I get X to do/want something different,” which is so common in advice-asking spaces, and the answer to which is always “you cannot, the only person whose choices and mind you can change are your own.” the LW asked “how can I talk to my partner about this,” which is almost always the first step recommended, because it is usually the best course of action

    • I agree in that this LW has a problem that needs a solution.

      “It’s to the point where my friends don’t want to be around her, and I’ve watched a lot of her friends pull away too.

      … it bothers me that I feel like I can’t introduce her to anyone without worrying that something’s gonna go wrong.”

      And there’s no hint that the partner is an introvert who’d rather stay home than interact with people. That is a solution for an introvert/extrovert mismatch. And could be solution here if the partners don’t mind hanging out with friends solo.

      I think the LW is looking for a conversation starter to ask her partner to change enough that she’s not insulting or alienating the LW’s friend when they interact.

    • “Whether it’s playful ribbing that comes out mean or talking about sensitive topics that make others uncomfortable, things often goes sour, usually without her noticing. It’s to the point where my friends don’t want to be around her, and I’ve watched a lot of her friends pull away too”

      The fact that it’s not only the LW’s friends, but the gf’s friends too is majorly concerning. That fact that the gf is not aware that she makes people uncomfortable is majorly concerning. I personally would not be dating someone who has such a severe lack of social awareness. The LW didn’t mention if the gf is neurodivergent, but even if that’s true, it shouldn’t be used as a hall pass for poor behavior. Plenty of neurodivergent people or people otherwise outside the norm manage to interact well socially; neurodivergency is not an all you can eat excuse. If I were the LW, I’d talk about this directly and calmly with the gf asap, because the LW is right to be concerned and this is a major point of incompatibility that will lead to eventual breakup or an unhappy and unproductive relationship if not addressed soon.

  2. I mean, let’s not beat around the bush here. Whether we like it or not, as adults, we have a duty to learn social skills. Such is life. If my girlfriend made passive aggressive jokes and constantly brought up uncomfortable subjects around my friends and new people, I’d be seriously reconsidering the relationship if it wasn’t something she was actively working on improving.

    I agree that the person asking for advice should absolutely approach it with no judgement.

    But at the same time, the response and advice here is incorrect. It IS wrong to be passive aggressive towards your partner’s friends. Social anxiety is a thing – but it’s something that absolutely can be worked on and improved extraordinarily easily. You learn to talk about varied interests, you learn to find common subjects to identify with people, and you do not in any sense or form make harmful jokes about others.

    This is how we as people learn and grow. To slam it down as “she doesn’t need fixing, this is just how some people are” keeps us in arrested development. We should be encouraging each other’s growth, not hindering it.

    • The fact that it’s not only the LW’s friends, but the gf’s friends too is majorly concerning. That fact that the gf is not aware that she makes people uncomfortable is majorly concerning. I personally would not be dating someone who has such a severe lack of social awareness.

      The LW didn’t mention if the gf is neurodivergent, but even if that’s true, it shouldn’t be used as a hall pass for poor behavior.

      Plenty of neurodivergent people or people otherwise outside the norm manage to interact well socially; neurodivergency is not an all you can eat excuse.

      If I were the LW, I’d talk about this directly and calmly with the gf asap, because the LW is right to be concerned and this is a major point of incompatibility that will lead to eventual breakup or an unhappy and unproductive relationship if not addressed soon.

  3. Yikes!

    I guess ‘don’t read comments online’ also applies to queer websites! That’s on me for expecting better I guess. Why does the pressure of successful social interactions rest on the neurodivergent person alone? Once again we’re faced with the double empathy problem. Neurodivergent people are fully capable of socializing, it just tends to look different. And you can tell from the question that GF is clearly trying and is an active participant in socializing. Why don’t people meet her halfway? Why must she be the one to conform to the expected societal standards set by a dominant group? Sounds kinda familiar! Almost kinda like queerness! I want to echo Em’s words, different =/= bad. You’d think we’d learned this lesson by now.

    • So to you neurodivergent differences mean it’s ok to be unkind and cruel? And we don’t even know if this person falls into a neurodivergent category. You do a disservice to neurodivergent people to imply they’re incapable of being kind.

      • I feel like lately, no matter who of AS team is replying, no matter the topic of the letter, this column looks like this:

        LW: Dear AS, I have a problem. My girlfriend kills kittens on her spare time. She has a wonderful personality and I love her with all my heart, but I am not comfortable about her kitten-killing inclinations. My friends and family started to express their concern about it. What should I do? I want to talk about it with my gf, but I do not want to hurt her feelings”.

        AS writer’s reply: “Dear LW, I see the problem here. Your beautiful girlfriend has a hobby that makes her happy, but, for some reason, you clearly do NOT want to see her happy, do you? I think you should seriously ask yourself a question: why it really bothers you? What is wrong with YOU that you can’t just accept your wonderful girlfriend and her views on how to spend her spare time? Is it really your opinion or are falling victim to the patriarchal pressure of your cis straight family and friends? Instead of shaming her, you should embrace your differences. Talk to her, of course in no judgemental way, about your concerns. As heart-breaking as it seems, it might be that you should break up and let go with love and respect for each other. After all, you both deserve someone who will fully support us in our passions, desires and hobbies. Please do some inner work and reflect on your own intolerance and narrow views.

          • No, you did not get it. My point is, no matter the problem LW is describing, no matter who of AS team answers the letter, it seems like the answer will always consist of shaming the LW for feeling what they feel, saying that the problem exists only in their heads and that the way to deal with it is basically just magically stop feeling how they feel, do nothing about the problem and embrace “wonderful differences”. I bet if the next LW will write that their girlfriend is cheating on them, the answer will be about how horrible and politically incorrect it is of LW to deny their girlfriend her god-given right for polyamory. It seems like lately comments in this column are giving much more thoughtful and helpful advices than the column instead. So many people, for example, came here to share their personal experiences and to give real advices about how to talk about this topic with your gf that would be helpful, loving and not damaging. THIS is the true help, and not shaming LW for genuinely asking for advice with their problem.

    • Yeah. Yikes. I understand the the importance of not hurting people. That is something that is not ok, and probably needs to be worked on. But the people on here reacting like the partner is some horrible creature that needs to be avoided at all costs is really yucky and stinks of ablism.

      • I’m also ND and I don’t fully understand your read on how people have reacted here – most people here have said “being neurodivergent is not a hall pass for behaviour that consistently upsets other people, and LW should speak to her partner about this because it’s potentially a cause for legitimate concern”. Even the harsher responses have said that LW’s should approach her gf about this issue gently and non-judgementally. What do you think the best approach is here? Do you think the best approach is LW not intervening and letting their gf continue to upset people they care about, or do you think everyone just needs to stop being upset by LW’s gf’s behaviour?

    • I think where this advice misses the mark has to do with it’s discussion of “difference” and “discomfort”. It posits that the writer wants to change their gf to ease their own discomfort, discomfort that is generated by their gf’s differences. This would be a totally valid critique of the gf was, let’s say, stimming in public, and people were feeling weird about it. But the behavior here seems to be producing a different category of discomfort. It’s a discomfort that is hurting people and disrespecting their boundaries (unlike stimming which is just unfamiliar/different). Imagine if the gf was touching folks non-consensually and making them uncomfortable. Even if it was because they didn’t “understand social skills” that wouldn’t be chill. Being mean or boundary pushing to me feels similar. Part of being neurodivergent affirming is assuming competence. If someone who wasn’t implied-neurodivergent was accidentally hurting people’s feelings and pushing their boundaries, we would assume they care and have the skills to adjust their behavior while remaining authentic. I think we should assume the same of the writer’s gf. She deserves the chance to learn how she’s making others feel and adjust her behavior, and the folks being made uncomfortable deserve the chance to feel safe and respected.

  4. maybe this person isn’t a good fit for the person writing in. Talk to them. Silently judging your partner is going to be very painful to them if they figure out that this is how you see them.

    Social interactions can be very difficult for some folks and tbh some people will never improve for one reason or another whether it’s being neurodivergent or liking who they are and not feeling the need to change.

    But seriously, talk to them. Having a partner who’s embarrassed to introduce you to people is not a relationship anyone deserves to be in.

    • I mean if my partner was insulting people, making jokes about them to their face and going out of their way to make people uncomfortable I’d be gone. A lot of people with social anxiety and neurodivergent disorders don’t act like this.

      • The article did say it was unintentional, although I’m not disputing it makes people uncomfortable. As I said, these people may not be a good match and they both seem like they would be better off with partners that match their level of social functioning. The gf seems like she’d benefit from therapy to help her gain some insight into her behavior and how she could change in a positive way.

  5. Oh dear. Unfortunately the author got their response massively wrong here.

    If you can’t call out your partner of all people on their BS to help them grow, change and become a better person, then what the heck are you two doing in a relationship in the first place?

    Burying your hand in the sand and letting what is essentially mild bullying slide is NOT the adult way to move forward in life.

  6. ??? This person doesn’t sound “wonderfully different.” She sounds rude and inconsiderate. Social anxiety isn’t an excuse for antisocial behavior and this “advice” reads like excuses. I’m glad at least the LW has a solid understanding this behavior is alienating bc the advice giver does not. At all.

  7. Oh Em. You er…you really took this personally and missed the point on this. To say that someone making rude jokes about her partner’s friends to their faces isn’t wrong is pretty abysmal and immature. Because it is wrong.

    And it is behavior that requires fixing, regardless of their excuses and difficulties that which by the way – we all have. We all have hurdles and fall backs that need working on. That’s what being a human being is. However, being outright rude to people is a pretty major one to work on.

    To victim blame onto the person’s clearly struggling girlfriend too saying it’s her problem that she finds it uncomfortable? Nah. Not about that.

    Girl, I’d be throwing this chick to the side walk if she spoke to my friends with such distain. I couldn’t care less if she was nice to me behind closed doors, she’s being an a**hole to my buddies in public!

  8. I had a girlfriend just like this (the one who was great behind closed doors, but rude to others in public). I always thought it was because she had a soft spot for me so I got her better side. Or that she was nervous in public.

    Yeah what a clown I was. Paint on that clown makeup fast. Eventually, the rudeness spilled over onto me and this girlfriend became as abusive to me as she was to other people. Passive aggression, stonewalling, triangulating me with other people, sarcasm, rude personal comments, ghosting, being extremely controlling with her affections to control me and get a response out of me.

    Consistency is everything. If she’s nice sometimes, but terrible other times, then it’s a major red flag. She should be the same person in the house as she is outside the house. Not drastically different depending on her audience.

    If she isn’t consistent with her personality, there’s more at play here to watch out for. To the girlfriend reading this, I’m so sorry the advice giver of this post failed you on this. You’re right to be concerned and annoyed she treats you and her friends poorly. It’s a bad show of character.

    Loads of people have social anxiety, it doesn’t automatically make them a bully to others. It’s a poor excuse to remain in bad patterns.

  9. I do not understand all the comments that read LW’s GF as a “bully” or “treating others poorly.” As someone who grew up in a family that used often barbed humor as an expression of love, I had to learn the hard way that what I see as “playful ribbing” can come across as “mean” in the wrong context or with the wrong people. I don’t struggle with reading social situations, so I have generally been able to respond and adjust immediately, and now almost never use this humor with people that I don’t know well enough to know that they’ll hear it as love. But if I did have any difficulty reading others’ reactions or cues, I could be completely clueless.

    I appreciate Em’s advice. I also agree with some of the other comments that it’s clear that LW’s real need is around communication with their partner about something that is bothering them in shared social situations. But the assumption of malintent on GF’s part is wild.

    • The line about playful ribbing sticks out to me. I’ve noticed this kind of abrasiveness/obnoxiousness from people who are experimenting with a particular kind of humour or commentary they just aren’t suited for. They see other people do it and think it must be easy, or that everyone needs to joke that way. But it’s not easy, and we don’t all have a talent for it. And sometimes it only works when people have a certain rapport or even in-group privileges.

      I have two friends; Friend A is effortlessly dry and witty, and Friend B tries to copy her sometimes (usually alcohol is involved). It almost always ends with Friend B making other people uncomfortable. I don’t know Friend B well enough to say something but I really think someone should, because I would want someone to say something to me.

  10. These comments are wild to me but I suppose it’s one of the cool things about advice columns is that everyone deeply reads into them with their own personal experience.

    Reading this as an autistic person, I was like “oh absolutely that’s me.” I thought we were all playing the ‘lightly tease each other game of social interaction’ – why is everyone acting like what I said was so extreme? Wouldn’t everyone prefer to talk about something interesting like different burial styles than the weather? Those traits shared in the ask absolutely sound like autistic traits. Yes, it is valuable to learn how to interact with allistic social norms because they are the dominant social norms! Learning how to accommodate your own stuff is important!

    It’s reasonable to want your girlfriend to make an effort to have positive social interactions with your friends. (And it’s reasonable if that’s a deal breaker!)

    It’s also something that can be made easier with communication — Is it saying in advance ‘hey I miss a lot of non-explicit social cues. If I said something hurtful, please tell me directly and I’ll apologize?’ Is it recognizing that a group dinner in a loud place is not setting her up for success but maybe playing a specific organized game in a quiet park might feel different? Is it working beside each other doing a volunteer thing on a Saturday where the tasks are clear?

    (I’m currently in the process of meeting my extroverted partner’s many, many friends, and it’s very exhausting and overstimulating and hard! One thing that’s been helpful is spacing them out and being deliberate about recognizing my own capacity for large group hangouts. I just smile and nod a lot and leave when I’m at capacity.)

    And, yes, as other comments have suggested it is possible that LW’s gf is just cruel and is going to behave cruelly towards her in the future. That’s not my read, but it is *a* read.

    I think the info missing from the letter is how does LW’s gf behave with her? Do the same dynamics come up? (eg missed social cues) How does that make LW feel?

    • Yeah, I’m tapping out because otherwise I’m going to say something I regret. GF could just be a jerk. But I think a lot of people forget that autism & ADHD can be disabilities. It’s not all quirky manic pixie magic.

      It’s being late, and anxious, missing social cues, and having literally no idea why people are mad at you – yet again.

    • Oh my gosh so much this! The people calling the GF mean and cruel are either imagining something very different than I am (I hope) or just have 0 empathy for autistic people (and are somehow turning that into not just using neurodiversity as an excuse?).

      Like, it is true that being autistic does not make it okay to be cruel. I also definitely didn’t read the letter as saying the OP’s GF was being intentionally cruel. It is also true that empathy gaps go both ways–autistice people don’t lack empathy, but allistic and autistic people can have a hard time interpreting each other’s emotions. And trying to mask (act allistic/neurotypical) and interpret/predict allistic people’s emotions and reactions can be exhausting. And when people are low on energy/spoons it can be impossible. So a conversation will hopefully be helpful here. But yes it’s sad/striking how many people jumped to assuming the GF was cruel and abusive and/or wasn’t trying at all. And maybe that’s because of their previous experiences, but as an autistic person it’s concerning to see. *sigh*

      • Thinking about autistic people’s comments here and… I really do not know what exactly I want to say??? I do not know. I am just upset for no reason. Or maybe I do not have enough experience… Anyway, as a neurotypical person who lives among neurotypical people, and reading about “allistic norms”, or “neurotypical norms” is… Well, maybe it is weird because I never thought about these things before? But it feels like much of what is perceived as norms in neurotypical world is not norms but just some people being a*holes? Like, for example, why would anyone be upset or offended by a person who is “infodumping” or just wants to talk about what they find interesting? Most of the people around me are infodumping a lot and it would be crazy for anyone of us to see it as impolite or not normal. People can get bored, for sure, if this specific topic doesn’t interest them, but the “norm” is to listen when a person is talking passionately about something. Or with offensive stuff. A lot of neurotypical people get upset or offended about crazy insignificant, normal stuff. And it is not the “norm”. It is them being immature, that’s all. And then there is hurtful stuff. Things that hurt no matter who or why said them. Like, when a person says really hurtful things, it will not make it easier for a person who is hurt, that it was said by an autistic. And, in the same way, if it is just no-funny joke, teasing that went a bit too far, unfortunate choice of words – it also should not be really a problem for a mature, normal, adequate adult, whether it was said by a neurotypical or an autistic. I feel like, probably, people divided in the comments are just imagining different sorts of “wrong stuff” the LW’s gf is saying. It might be something that, in an ideal setting, among normal mature neurotypicals, would not cause serious problems (“I think your dress is ugly” – unpleasant, too straightforward, still okay-ish, if you have normal self-esteem). It might be things that a deeply cruel and hurtful (“I think your beloved late husband deserved to die” – just NO). What I am trying to say, is that why neurotypicals all create their own codex, understanding of what is good or bad, individually, in social interactions, it seems from what I see here, autistic have to rely on what neurotypicals tell them about social norms, and a lot of neurotypicals are not really great at social norms AT ALL? It is so sad. I dont know. If you want to talk about burial rites, no one in their mind should not have problems with that. Wishing all people here in comments to have a nice day.

  11. Repeat after me: neurodivergency is not a hall pass for poor behavior.

    Neurodivergency is not an all you can eat excuse for being a shitty person.

    Plenty of neurodivergent people communicate in healthy, non-abrasive, non-insulting ways.

    People are not obligated to tell the gf how they feel with their words – sometimes people tell you what they feel through their FEET by walking out of the relationship! If the gf can’t observe that happening and make some inferences about what the cause might be and how words and behaviors directly relate to consequences, that’s a lack of awareness that is concerning.

    Why would the LW want to stay with this person? This person who has behaved so poorly so consistently over two years that her OWN FRIENDS don’t want to hang out with her? And not only that, but the LW’s friends don’t want to hang out with this person either!

    Why would the LW sign up for a lifetime of that?

    And you know… once the gf has driven everyone else away, the only person left to behave terribly toward will be… you guessed it – the LW!!!

    RUN LW!!! GET OUT OF THERE!!!

  12. I think there’s potentially two things worth considering here:
    1) I wonder if LW’s gf is being abrasive with her friends for reasons we aren’t privy to – has there been a change in her relationship with these friends, or is it just exhaustion with her rudeness?
    2) I’m ND and if I was LW’s gf I would want to be told (gently) that I’m accidentally upsetting people so I can modify my behaviour accordingly. Trusting me enough to have a difficult conversation out of concern for my well-being (I.e. my ability to maintain relationships) would be a real act of kindness rather than criticism, and I’m finding it weird how many people are framing it otherwise.

    Basically I think this answer assumes the worst in LW’s reasons and intentions/a general lack of patience on LW’s part, and I think a lot of the comments here seem to assume that there’s not a kind, polite and constructive way to let a neurodivergent person know they’ve upset someone. To me, a thoughtful discussion of this issue feels like the kindest thing to do for both LW and their gf, whether neurodivergent or not?

    • Yes yes yes, esp to point #2. It seems totally possible that nobody’s an oppressive bully here!

      I would also want to be trusted to know how my behavior is affecting my partner. And need things spelled out explicitly.

      When I’ve had this type of convo with others, it’s gone well when I can come from a place of both love and openness to not knowing the full picture. Saying something like “I wanna continue this relationship because ________ , but I’m struggling with _______ (how different it is with just us from with other people) and am curious how you’re experiencing this…” I often find out we’re experiencing a thing differently! Which leads to us collaborating on problem-solving instead of my assuming what’s doable for them or not.

      Recently, I had this in a friendship where I loved one on one time, but not group time, and FINALLY brought it up. it turned out part of why my friend was behaving in ways that didn’t work well for me in group time was because we had different norms, but also she was sort of in a shame spiral that was making it all worse! So we were able to troubleshoot together. Not with zero hurt, but also now we’re reconnecting in a way that’s so much better than when I was frustrated and she was ashamed but nobody had words.

      We don’t know yet if gf can change these behaviors without changing herself, but I hope a conversation can help make this clearer! And it might not go well. But it seems worth trying while still assuming everyone’s got good intentions and coming to it with curiosity!

  13. A lot of people here assumed that the girlfriend is neurodivergent, and I have a genuine question for ND people here. It looks like the LW’s girlfriend does not behave around LW in a way she behaves around other people. Is it possible and how it works? Why she can’t read social situations around other people, but is great at communicating with LW? I know, for example, there are introverts that are quiet and shy in public, but are loud and wild when they are with people who make them safe, so, I understand that we can be very different around different people, but the LW’s situation… I don’t know. I really want to understand from people with such experience how it works? Also it’s really great to see people commenting with good useful advices about how to start that conversation!!!

    • Super valid question! 

      To be clear, I have no idea how LW’s gf’s brain works, but the ask does remind me of my own autistic experience. 

      So basically a big difference for autistic vs allistic brains is that autistic brains take in everything all at once with less ability to filter out less important info – basically all of the details instead of the whole. (for example, this is the whole eye contact thing – allistic people take in the whole face as one unit and call that ‘eye contact’. Autistic people hear ‘eye contact’ and think ‘stare into the eyeballs’ which is obviously intense and uncomfortable!) (also for example, allistic people are more able to filter out annoying but unimportant noises or lights while autistic people are less able to do that – the loud beeping in the background only gets more annoying until you burst into tears.) 

      Groups are much harder because it’s wayyyy more information that you’re trying to take in all at once. Also, a lot of autistic people are really good at masking and mirroring one person to successfully navigate a social situation with them. but introduce more than one person and then it’s like the boggart in harry potter – you have no idea what you’re supposed to be since you’re a different thing for every person so you just explode. 

      also, some people (autistic or adhd or not) just vibe with autistic style communication (more like alternating info dumps than the tennis-style hitting the ball back and forth of typical allistic communication), and maybe that’s true for LW. 

      Putting myself in LW’s gf’s shoes, I can absolutely imagine myself in a group that has norms around gentle teasing, thinking that is how I’m supposed to behave in that group, and then just utterly flubbing the subtleties of it and coming across like an asshole when I’m just trying and failing to fit in. 

      So basically: Groups are hard because they’re overstimulating (potentially leading to meltdowns), super complicated (who am I supposed to mirror?), and  involve very subtle dynamics (so-and-so can say X to so-and-so and it’s funny but if I say X then it’s bad). 

      Some things that help me in group socializing: Taking lots of breaks (hiding in the bathroom where it’s quiet and no one’s talking to me), asking people a lot of questions about themselves (easy to listen and nod and smile), joining team sports (socialization with clear rules!), scheduling lots of decompression time after social events, and, of course, slowly finding those people who you can just be with and who vibe with you (life saving, life giving). 

      Again, no idea the details of LW or her gf’s lives or brains, but this is just my experience. 

      • Oh my god- is that true about eye contact??? Autistic person here who for the most part does a pretty good job masking when needed and thought I was doing ok with forcing myself to make a normal amount of eye contact, but I’ve never heard this distinction before about face vs eyes. Even the advice I’ve read is like “if you can’t handle eye contact, look at the forehead or nose” but still treating that as a different thing. This is revolutionary! Also I know that’s totally not the main point of your comment (which I agree with btw!) but this is breaking my brain.

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    Check this: https://www.rockymountainoils.com/blogs/energy/exploring-your-solar-plexus-chakra

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