Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr. Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in three continents, he has been training with Dr. Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr. Holmes and Mr. Baer,
My question for today is not about sex. It is about shyness. Do you believe, Doc, that many opportunities in one’s career, love life, or any other business can be lost by shyness?
My friend Marty is too shy to ask money from his girlfriend, so when they are on date, and the GF leaves her bag with Marty while she goes to the CR, Marty will take P1,000 from the bag without his girlfriend knowing. And when he visits her house, Marty also gets the money that’s on her desk. I’ve told him, “Marty, that’s robbery.” He’d tell me, “No, Ray, I’m just shy.” What can you advise for Marty, Doc?
Thank you for your email.
Based on what you have told us, it is difficult to dispute your view that Marty is simply a thief. His supposed defense – that he is shy – just doesn’t stack up, unless he has a standing agreement with his girlfriend that he can help himself to her money at any time, thus shielding him from the “embarrassment” of asking her permission. This is not an uncommon practice between partners who have reached a certain level of trust, but Marty could have told you this instead of invoking shyness as an excuse.
As to what to say to Marty, do you really think it is your role to counsel him? If so, you could probe a little further to see if there is more to this story than meets the eye. If he really doesn’t understand the difference between “mine” and “yours,” however, perhaps he is not actually the sort of friend you thought he was, and putting a little distance between you and him might not be a bad idea. You certainly don’t want to get dragged into any “misunderstandings” yourself.
Do you know whether his “shyness” extends to property belonging to people other than his girlfriend? If so, unless you want to visit him in prison, you might want to put this friendship on ice.
All the best,
Thank you very much for your letter. This is one of those times I am so very grateful there are two people answering this column, because if I were the only one doing so, boy oh boy oh boy, I have no doubt you will be sobrang inis (super pissed off), at the way I do so. That is why I am so super grateful to Mr. Baer today, because in typical fashion, he answered your question in an intelligent, straightforward manner.
I feel the best way to respond to your letter is to answer what I feel are your other questions about Marty, perhaps about issues you felt uncomfortable about but found difficult to articulate. I am taking a leap here, but I can’t help feeling that what drove you to write us has to do with at least one (or both) of the following:
- The cost of shyness when it comes to love or work; and
- The intersections among theft, trust, and the meaning ascribed to relationships.
It is true that shyness can be costly, but sometimes people need the time to be away from others to think more clearly about concerns they need to focus on or prepare for. However, extreme shyness does have its cost. It can affect a person’s self-confidence and self-esteem; in fact, sometimes this becomes a chicken-and-egg situation. It can also prevent someone from taking advantage of opportunities or trying new things. Also, it can be a way to mask anxiety, depression, and other difficulties.
Then there is also social phobia, which is qualitatively different from shyness. The former usually (just) needs practice — taking baby steps and baby risks to reach out to people, and when these become consistent positive experiences, one takes bigger steps to sustaining friendships that matter. The latter usually benefits from therapy.
However, please write us again if there are other things you’ve observed that bother you. I am a big believer in Bandura’s social learning theory and how one doesn’t need to actually do something to learn from it.
Learning about factors that drive people to do something and the results from actually doing so is often enough. Please just know that we are here for you if there is anything else you want clarified.
All the best,
Please send any comments, questions, or requests for advice to firstname.lastname@example.org.