Shyness and Relationships: a Double-Edged Sword

Shyness can be make social interactions moderately difficult for some people. For extremely shy people, socializing with other individuals can be excruciating. The worry and fear that come with being in a group setting or communicating in front of other people can increase anxiety, even panic, in extremely shy people. Because of this, it is often challenging for such people to meet romantic partners. But when they do, research suggests that the attachment they feel to their partner may act as a buffer for negative emotional outcomes, including depression and low self-esteem.

In a recent set of studies, H. Claire Rowsell, of the School of Psychology at the University of Wollongong in Australia, compared the shyness levels of individuals in a romantic relationship to those who were not. She further assessed how the attachment bond within the relationship (avoidant, anxious, or secure) influenced byproducts of shyness, including anxiety, depression, and overall well-being. Rowsell evaluated self-reports from more than 1,500 young adults and found that those in romantic relationships had lower levels of shyness than those who were not. However, romantically involved shy individuals reported less satisfying relationships and lower well-being than their less shy counterparts. Additionally, the shy, romantically involved participants experienced more attachment insecurity and anxiety. When Rowsell looked at how being in a relationship affected shyness, she found that the individuals who had secure relationship attachments realized a buffering effect between shyness and well-being. This suggests that relationships can both minimize and maximize the negative effects of shyness.

The findings gathered were based on the participants’ own definition of relationship. This data also was collected from relatively young adults, with an average age of 19. Rowsell believes that future work exploring shyness should be aimed at more clearly defined committed relationships among adults in their twenties. “We are hopeful that the present findings will encourage researchers to further explore the complex links among shyness, romantic relationships, and well-being,” she said.

Rowsell, H. C., Coplan, R. J. (2012). Exploring links between shyness, romantic relationship quality, and well-being. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science / Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029853

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  • Sash

    October 4th, 2012 at 12:07 AM

    Well I don’t know bout you bu I have just this to say- there’s not too much Of a link between your social levels of shy and your shy in relationships. There have been extremely shy people who have had great relationships and their social anxiety or shyness does not come in the way.

  • Lynell

    October 4th, 2012 at 3:51 AM

    Shyness can be very becoming, yes? many people are attracted to that over such overwhelming gregariousness!

  • Gwennie

    October 4th, 2012 at 11:19 AM

    Even if I am otherwise a shy person, I would hope that my partner that I am with adn married to is the one person I can open up around and be my inner self, and not just that shy person that I show to the outside world.
    This is supposedly the person whom you can trust more than anyone else around- if I feel intimidated or scared to be me with this person and am still inclined to hold to my shy manners even when in private with him, I am not sure that this is sending the soundest message about the relationship that we have with one another.

  • blaine

    October 4th, 2012 at 3:40 PM

    used to be a very shy person and that meant I hardly had any girl show interest in me..didnt even talk much to people when outside of my own ‘comfortable circle’ that included family and a few longtime friends..finally got a great girl with me and we are part is that this relationship has helped me with my shyness and I am slowly overcoming it,if what I hear from others and my girl is initially while shyness can be a hindrance to relationships the latter can soon become an aid to your least in my case it did.

  • Carlson

    October 5th, 2012 at 4:03 AM

    Are you seriously implying that someone uses their shy factor to ward off the low self esteem that they obviously are feeling?
    I don’t believe that at all.
    There are, you know, just some people who are naturally shy. It isn’t that they are depressed or have low self esteem or anything like that. They are simply shy and more introverted.
    Honestly, I think that other people are far more put off with me being shy than I ever have been.

  • Charlotte

    October 6th, 2012 at 12:14 PM

    If I have met someone that I care about and who cares about me are they really going to care if I am shy? Obviously we have hit it off, so maybe he is more attrated to me because of that shy aspect of my personality. How can I feel bad about that?

  • Yusra Waziri

    August 31st, 2014 at 1:57 PM

    In my own case i am very shy of my boyfriend whom i really love and adore. I cant be romantic towards him which bothers him i know eventhough he has never complained. But its a part of me i wish i could change. I want to be comfortable with him and play with him and be affectionate towards him but i cant, sadly. It scares me i could lose him to a confident girl. If he loves me do you guys think he will stick with me ? Despite of my shyness?

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