Len is a social-phobe. There might be a better way to put it, but I don't think so. He is a very friendly, and in many ways very agreeable man. When you meet him, it's hard not to like him. But the thought of meeting new people or of being in a crowd (even of those he knows and loves) fills him with horror. He gives a lot of excuses -- he doesn't like people to see the house while it is less than perfect, he had to work 14 hours today, he will be dirty from his "toilet cleaning job" -- and while all of these excuses will be true to one degree or another, they don't really get to the heart of the matter. He finds being around People extremely difficult. There are a few exceptions, but very few.
He can be talked into gatherings, but it takes some delicate convincing, some putting up with complaining and moaning. At the end of it, he may say that it wasn't so bad, fun even. But it will be just as hard the next time. I hope that over the years, the process will become less difficult, that he will become less sensitive to the company of strangers, but I'm not really counting on it. He is who he is.
And the thing is: I wouldn't be with him if I weren't like him. I generally get my social fill at work and don't have a great need for more. I don't like parties, I'm not especially good at meeting and greeting, I don't know what to talk about. It can all be very taxing, and I am happy enough to hole up in my house and not go out for long stretches of time.
As it turns out, I am an exception in my family (my father is another). My mother and my siblings are all very gregarious and very social. My brother and sister-in-law have been known to host 15 people at the drop of a hat. Until Len, I've only had my own boundaries to protect, and I wasn't always good at it, but now I have his boundaries, too. This can leave me in a very difficult, very vulnerable place, one in which there is no right answer, and I am the one who ends up miserable.
I don't know how to mediate between the two. I don't know how to say "no, that isn't possible" without Len coming off as an asshole. I don't know how to say "yes" without Len's fears being masked by anger. How do I not be in the middle?