Just as introversion occurs on a continuum, sensitivity does, too. I attribute much of our relationship’s endurance to our sensitivity levels.
I’ve known my husband for more than half my life. We met young, dated for years, and have been married for over a decade. We’ve done a lot of growing, changing, and evolving in that time. There are pros and cons to entering into a marriage when you have so much growing left to do. Then again, hopefully we are always evolving, whether we’re 25 or 75.
My husband and I are not the same people we were when we met. In many ways, we don’t even recognize who we used to be. Keeping a marriage intact with that sort of individual evolution is not easy and certainly not always an option.
I attribute much of our relationship’s endurance to our sensitivity levels. Allow me to explain.
Three Primary Levels of Sensitivity
Just as introversion occurs on a continuum, sensitivity is also a spectrum. And many introverts are also highly sensitive.
A highly sensitive person (HSP) is characterized by the acronym DOES, which stands for Depth of processing, Overstimulation, Emotional reactivity and Empathy, and Sensitivity to Subtle Stimuli. Someone with high sensitivity embodies high levels of all of these characteristics, albeit in varying degrees. However, this doesn’t mean that less-sensitive people do not possess them. It’s a range, with HSPs being toward one end of the scale.
Research has documented this spectrum of sensitivity and shows that people generally group into three types: low, medium, and high sensitivity. Most people fall into the medium range, about 40 percent, with around 30 percent landing lower and higher on the sensitivity scale.
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But this doesn’t mean “mediumly” sensitive people encompass a mid-range of sensitivity across all markers of the trait. Rather, their overall measure of sensitivity falls somewhere between low and high levels, even if they are quite sensitive to certain stimuli or not at all sensitive to others.
Sensitivity levels are as unique as the people who have them. Just like any other trait, different ranges and flavors of sensitivity will vary in their compatibility with others.
When I look back on the years my husband and I have shared, I see that our sensitivity levels just so happened to be compatible. We didn’t have the language, or even the awareness, of our sensitivity when we first got together, and we are grateful for all the ways we continue to complement each other. Here are a few ways our sensitivity compatibility translates into our marriage of 13 years.
10 Things I Love About Being an HSP Introvert Married to a ‘Mediumly’ Sensitive Introvert
1. We enjoy solitude… together.
Introverted marriages and partnerships know what I’m talking about here. There’s a certain type of solitude that can be found in a relationship with a fellow introvert. When the connection is there, quiet time together can serve as the recharging time introverts crave.
My husband and I still need our fair share of complete solitude, but it’s a gift to experience the energizing qualities of solitude when we’re together. Whether with a partner or best friend, that connection is sacred for an introvert.
2. He helps me assess risk.
Sensitive people tend to have a more activated Behavioral Inhibition System (BIS), which HSP expert Dr. Elaine Aron calls our “pause-to-check” system because it encourages caution, observation, and thoughtfulness before acting. Everyone has the BIS along with its rival, the Behavioral Activation System (BAS), which is our brain’s reward system and acts on impulse.
I certainly fit the bill of using my “pause-to-check” instincts more often than my impulsive instincts. I can get stuck in my caution, worrying about what might go wrong and whether it will be worth it. My apprehension goes on and on.
My more impulsive husband helps pull me out of my caution when he knows it’s worth it, which he’s very good at discerning thanks to his level of sensitivity. Every day we’ve seized, all our impromptu adventures, and our unexpected family fun days are all thanks to him convincing me they were worth the risk.
3. He is empathetic to my overwhelm.
I think our shared empathy is a key to our marriage. My husband has enough sensitivity to skillfully empathize with me, but he doesn’t get overwhelmed like I do. He can access what I’m feeling without joining in, which helps me feel seen and supported to do what I need to manage my overwhelm.
4. When he doesn’t understand me, he seeks to learn.
Sensitive people tend to score high in Openness, one of the Big Five personality traits. Openness is the ability to consider new ideas and varying perspectives while keeping an open mind.
My husband and I both score high in openness, and it helps us seek to understand each other. I am willing to admit that highly sensitive introverts can be difficult to understand and he is willing to learn where I’m coming from.
5. We enjoy digging into deep topics together, even when we disagree.
Deep conversation is a given for us. It’s a need we both have in equal measure. We rest easy in deep conversation together because we know it’s a safe space to explore topics that most people in our lives either aren’t interested in or aren’t willing to have an open discussion about.
That’s not to say our conversations don’t get heated, they certainly do! We can strongly disagree. I really struggle with conflict, as HSPs often do, but my marriage is a safe place to work on that, thanks to a respectful and sensitive partner.
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6. We respect each other’s preferences when it comes to TV shows and movies.
This may seem like a small thing, but it has a big impact on our relationship. Sensitive people can struggle with certain media due to our reactivity to intense stimuli, such as violence, horror, or even suspense. Heck, even animated movies can stir up big emotions in us!
Sharing tastes with a partner is not always a given. We treasure shows we can enjoy together and bond over. When it comes to more intense shows, like The Last of Us (which we were both apprehensive about, but ended up loving!), we approach them with mutual respect for the other’s tolerance level, willing to turn it off or watch it alone if it’s too much for the other person.
7. He helps me see when I’ve gotten too in my head.
I advocate for sensitive introverts to be okay with having rich inner lives and being in their heads… a lot. It’s a facet of who we are and no reason for shame, regardless of how society often stigmatizes it.
Still, we can fall prey to the perils of spending too much time in our heads; sometimes it’s hard to tell when we need to get back into the “real” world.
My husband, however, is attuned to my tendency to get stuck in my head and helps me notice when I need a break from my thoughts.
8. We can go to bed angry knowing we will come to a resolution when the time is right.
Whoever came up with the adage, “never go to bed angry” probably wasn’t a sensitive introvert. In fact, a recent study showed that highly sensitive people’s brains continue to process deeply, even at rest! So we quite literally need to sleep on our feelings sometimes.
Especially when tensions are high, we just need time. We need space. We need to process. We need to work out our thoughts… often in solitude. If my husband and I aren’t ready to talk about a conflict, we trust that we will work it out when we are ready.
9. We have unspoken rules about speaking.
In our home, speaking is not mandatory in the morning. Or ever. Silence need not be broken by constant chatter just for the sake of it. We know there are a million reasons the other person isn’t talking.
If we catch each other deep in thought, there is an invitation to share, not a requirement. And when we do talk, we strive to let each other get out a complete thought before interjecting, respecting how hard it can be to articulate all the internal processing we do.
10. He (mostly) gets me — and that’s a rare and wonderful thing.
There are certainly many challenges that come with being a sensitive introvert in a relationship, but when the other person has a deep, abiding understanding of that essence, and a willingness to continue to learn, it makes it a whole lot easier — and I’m so grateful for that.
There are always pros and cons to any level of sensitivity. In working with what we’ve got, we find there is a lot to love about what’s uniquely ours.
How do introversion and sensitivity affect your relationships? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
You might like:
- Are You an Introvert, a Highly Sensitive Person, or Both?
- What It’s Really Like Being a Highly Sensitive Introvert
- There Are 3 Types of Sensitivity. Which One(s) Are You?
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