I’m a highly sensitive person (HSP) and like many, I didn’t know it for most of my life. Not until I watched my first marriage crumble after the stress of life simply became too much for our love to bear.
The challenges of having children, owning a home, and making a living that appeared fairly easy for others to handle felt exhausting and overwhelming for both my then-husband (who it turns out is an HSP, too) and I.
As is typical of HSPs who live in our culture, we both secretly kept asking ourselves over and over, “What is wrong with me?”, “Why is everything so overwhelming?”, and “Why can’t I hold it all together?” We felt flawed and run down much of the time.
Without understanding the unique needs we HSPs have, we simply kept pushing through, going about life as we always had, trying to make it all work. This completely backfired, and eventually we could not even keep our marriage alive.
Had I known back then what I know now about how being an HSP affects the health of our romantic relationships—that it can be a hindrance or an asset, depending on how well you understand and work with it—I believe I would have been able to make the changes necessary to keep the love alive in my first marriage.
Since I learned this, my own love life has been revolutionized. So I have made it my mission to help other unsuspecting HSPs stop feeling flawed and inept when it comes to love and start understanding and developing the gifts intrinsic to the trait of high sensitivity—so they can have amazing relationships.
How Being a Highly Sensitive Person Enhances or Depletes Your Relationships
1. You are naturally compassionate and aware of your partner’s feelings, so you are great at being supportive or loving when they need it. You care very much about their well-being and want the best for them.
2. But you tend to take on their feelings as your own, so when they are down, so are you. This can be especially hard if your partner is often moody, anxious, or depressed.
3. Your observant nature sees the subtle beauty and goodness in others, and because of this, you can draw out your partner’s gifts, point out their inner beauty, and be a great source of confidence-building and affirmation for them.
4. You can take things in your relationship extremely seriously, though. This can lead to obsessive thoughts and behaviors, worry, and heartache when thing aren’t going well.
5. You are blessed with the gift of perspective—to see all sides of the coin. This gives you strength and perseverance to work through things when relationship challenges arise.
6. A sense of insufficiency or not being good enough can be a hallmark wound you walk around with, leading to neediness or an unwillingness to open up to intimacy in partnership, which creates distance.
7. You need a lot of quiet alone time to be at your best. But you may not give it to yourself, as you are so concerned with being a “good” partner, parent, or friend.
8. As a very conscientious person, you tend to think everyone is as caring, considerate, and aware of others as you are. This can lead to high expectations of your partner’s ability to be attentive and aware of your needs and desires. When they don’t live up to them, disappointment or even a sense of them not loving you enough ensues.
9. Because you easily pick up on subtle cues from your partner and are very caring, it’s all too easy for you to get caught up in meeting their smallest needs, so that you often forget to meet your own. This exhausts and depletes you over time.
10. You are easily over-aroused by stimulation. When anyone (HSP or not) is overstimulated, we act unskillfully and rashly. Because it happens quicker for an HSP, this can lead to a higher level of reactivity and drama in relationships.
11. You are a calming, grounding, loving presence when you are healthy and centered. You emanate this to your loved ones, and it nourishes them.
12. If your partner tends to talk a lot, is very active or frenetic, listens to music or news a lot, watches TV frequently, or brings up intense or upsetting world news events, it can quickly overstimulate you. Then you may find yourself with a short fuse, irritable or angry with him or her.
13. Your deeply observant nature allows you to see faults in your partner that might loom large and lead to nit-picky, critical, and judgmental behavior, setting off their defenses.
14. It can be simply too stimulating to deal with the discomfort of confrontation. This can hold you back from being honest, leaving the relationship at risk for lack of intimacy.
15. But, you are likely to try to work things out—at length—inside yourself. This can lead to great self-awareness, which can enhance your ability to grow and flourish in your relationship, especially as you learn to be open with your partner.
16. You are content with life’s simple pleasures, and you may tend to pass on the more exciting (or overstimulating) events that your partner enjoys. Though this can feel like taking care of yourself, if you always avoid such events, it can lead to the relationship losing its sense of expansion and excitement.
17. Not feeling “heard” or “understood” is common, as HSPs tend to take longer to speak up in conversations (due to processing deeply and finding the most meaningful response—which can come too late in a fast-paced conversation).
18. Being vulnerable can be scary (for everyone), and since every emotion is heightened for you, it can be especially hard to voice your needs or desires to your partner.
19. But you are deeply insightful, and can often support your partner to better understand himself or herself, you, and your relationship.
20. You are meaning-driven. In a love relationship, this means you will be dedicated and willing to work hard at creating deeply meaningful connection—making you more likely to have a rich and healthy committed relationship.
There are many more ways that being an HSP can affect your relationships. Be on the lookout for ways that it may be influencing your love life.
Because if you don’t acknowledge and understand the influence your sensitivity has upon your love life, and if you don’t know know how to manage it in yourself or honor it in your loved ones, you risk having many heartbreaking experiences in your relationships, like my ex and I did.
As my own awareness grew, it empowered me to learn the skills and do the inner work it took to amplify the beautiful qualities inherent in this trait. I began to see clearly that being an HSP provides the opportunity to have the most incredibly rich relationships, like mine is now.
But, like me, you must take the time to understand it. HSPs who invest time and energy into understanding and working with, instead of against, our trait, have the potential for being the most wonderful partner available and having some of the most beautifully connected relationships on the planet.
I attribute the deep love, connection and very potent joy I feel in my relationship with my partner to both of our understanding and ability to honor my sensitivity.
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Image credit: @NickBulanovv via Twenty20