What are the challenges in relationships where you or your mate are highly sensitive? What IS a highly sensitive personality? Did you know that lots of people fall into this category and you or your mate might be one of them?
It’s a good idea to be aware of what some of the issues are in being involved in a relationship with HSPs so you both can be more understanding of behaviors and learn how to adapt, adjust, and make the most of your relationship.
What’s an HSP?
Physiologically, HSPs have a sensitive nervous system. They are physically and emotionally overstimulated. You could say they feel more intensely about most things. Picture a stove burner. Most of us are, say, cooking at medium heat; HSPs are cooking at medium-high to high heat. They tend to be easily distracted by loud noises, crowds, bright lights, strong smells.
Emotionally, they are excitable, intense, driven, cry and get upset easily, and often feel overwhelmed and pressured to get things done on time. You may be confronting an HSP when a person is quiet or reflective.
HSPs come off as a bit socially challenged due to their sensitive nature and because they prefer to spend more time alone than non-HSPs. Many express that they feel like outsiders, outcasts, that they don’t fit in social situations easily. They sometimes feel disconnected from the world, alienated, because they don’t feel understood or don’t fit in with social norms.
It sounds like I’m painting a picture of HSPs as wusses. They may not be as “thick-skinned” as most people and may come off as introverts, but more is going on under the surface than meets the eye. They’re not necessarily shy; they just like to think things out and “test the waters” before engaging socially.
I also don’t like to put HSPs in a box and label them as such. Assigning that label is simply a way of describing and assuring you or your mate that there’s nothing “wrong.” It’s no psychological flaw to feel some of these feelings. You’re not mentally ill. You’re just functioning on an emotional level that is different from most people.
Why HSPs are the Best People to Be Around
When they’re comfortable and feel accepted, HSPs are lively, witty, intuitive, and fun to be with … not to mention they are loyal and passionate partners in love. They are also very compassionate in general about humanity, mother earth and making peace. They get involved in social causes and some are very outspoken and visible.
They are intuitive, creative, curious, very aware of themselves and their surroundings, and while they can get excited in a negative way, the flip side is that they also experience great joy and happiness.
It’s estimated that about 20 percent of us humans are highly sensitive. HSPs run the gamut of displaying a moderate level of these traits I mentioned to those who are hyper-sensitive and hyper-intuitive. At the high end of the scale, HSPs are considered “empaths,” meaning they express an extrasensory ability to feel the emotions of people around them.
HSPs come from all walks of life. Many are highly visible, influential, and talented. Singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette admits to being highly sensitive, cut from a different cloth than other people. Many put Princess Dianna, Martin Luther King, Jim Carey in the HSP category also, to give you a few recognizable names.
What to Look For in an HSP Mate
I hope in spending a lot of time describing HSP characteristics that you might better recognize these traits in yourself and/or your partner and learn to use them to grow a stronger and healthier relationship. Here are some signs you may be involved with an HSP:
· They cry at the drop of a hat.
· They have difficulty making decisions. They don’t want to make the wrong one.
· They are a great listener. If you need to talk something out, vent, request some help, they’re on it.
· They will make you feel comfortable and are non-judgmental. You don’t have to prove anything to an HSP.
· Violent movies make them cringe and shudder because they empathize so much with the movie characters.
· They take things seriously. Be careful what you say in jest or when you inadvertently say something of a negative or critical nature.
· Their peace-loving nature may make them respond to your criticism by trying to over-please and act in a self-deprecating way.
Meaningful Relationships as an HSP
As an HSP, your relationship needs are driven by a need for deep love, empathy, and connection at all times. Here are ways you carry these forward:
· You desire a romantic partner, but you or your mate may have remained single for a long time. You don’t tend to feel desperately lonely. You would rather hold out for that “right one.”
· You may feel overwhelmed in a relationship. It may be exhausting to you because of the intensity of your emotions and you absorb the stress and emotions of your mate.
· You’re hyper-sensitive and alert to your mate’s bad mood, depression, sickness, and so on.
· You may feel restless or unhappy without sufficient emotional stimulation.
· You crave intimacy and deep connections.
· You like to do things with your mate socially, out in public, participate in activities, but the activity is secondary to being in your partner’s company.
· You may get bored in the relationship if you feel it’s not meaningful enough.
· You require supportive interaction always.
· You can’t help express how you’re feeling, whether it’s happiness, anger, sadness.
· Your emotions drive what you think about. If you don’t feel emotional about something, you’re not really concerned or bothered about it, whether it’s positive or negative.
When Disagreements Pop Up
Because you’re anxious about conflict and disapproval, you don’t respond well to negative experiences, criticism, arguments. Here’s what might be going on:
· You might not speak out about something that upsets you because conflict is uncomfortable. As a result, if you feel hurt or upset, you may get quiet and withdraw.
· You are driven by your emotions so you don’t take disagreements lightly. But you do like to work things out once you get to talking things out.
· You see issues from many sides. You put yourself in your partner’s position and see their point of view, their side of the argument.
· You might be conflicted about speaking up when you think you’re right. You may hold your tongue because you don't want to “poke the hornet’s nest.”
· You feel hurt when your mate says you’re too sensitive. You take that as being criticized for being weak. You feel invalidated being judged in this way.
· You cry a lot during or after arguing. It’s just the way you naturally respond and express yourself in these situations.
So how can you work on having a satisfying, meaningful relationship when one or both of you fit some of the characteristics on an HSP?
· Embrace your/their nature. Don’t try to change what you/they naturally, biologically are.
· Be understanding, appreciative, and supportive when you or your mate shows intense emotions.
· Create enough physical space for yourself for reflection. In this space, process what’s happening around you, decompress, meditate – and give that space to your mate.
· Consider brief time-outs from one another when you’re not ready to talk about something that’s bugging you. Don’t push immediate engagement if you or they are not ready.
· Communicate to your sweetie how important it is to you that they fully understand and accept how you feel about certain situations, beliefs, attitudes.
Consider yourself blessed being an HSP or having a mate that is. In my opinion, there’s no better personality type that gives couples an opportunity to love fully, authentically, and work through issues at the deepest level.