How to Love and Be Loved by a Highly Sensitive Person

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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.

 

Coping Strategies

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.

Making Up Is Hard to Do

 Close up view of couple holding hands, loving wife supporting or comforting husband ready to help expressing sympathy, encouraging and understanding in marriage relationships, reconciliation concept

Is there a right way to make up after an argument with your mate? How do you right the wrong when it’s something you did? How do you forgive when it’s something they did? Kissing and making up sounds easy on the surface. There’s so much more involved.

After a fight, the damage needs to be repaired. One of you has to initiate a discussion and you both have to agree to it… eventually. Both of you have to take responsibility for your words and actions. In a relationship, saying you’re sorry and moving past an argument is not so easy.

 

Assessing the Damage and Who Goes First

Your clash could have been a silly argument or it could have been a hum-dinger. It could have been the “last straw” argument, the one where your mate tells you their “done” and you want to beg them to give you another chance – or vice versa. You both may have said words you wish you hadn’t. You may have raised your voice. You may have stormed out of the room. They may have acted like an out-of-control child. They may have made accusations, threats, acted like a total idiot.

There is hostility, resentment lingering after the slings and jabs, yelling, insults, name-calling and so on. What happens next? Who breaks the ice? Someone has to make the first move. Somebody has to apologize. Both of you need to have an open mind and an open heart to mend the situation.

 

 A Starting Point

No matter what was said and done and by whom, you each have to give up needing to be right. You each need to take responsibility for what you said in a heated argument. Look at it this way: What’s more important, an acknowledgment that you’re right or seeing the bigger picture, which is maintaining a loving, nurturing relationship? Own up to your mistakes. Even if you feel justified, you just have to loosen up, quit being so rigid, standing your ground.

Next, you need to look at your mate’s viewpoint. Why did they say what they did? Picture yourself as them. How would you feel? How would you respond?

Timing Is Important

It can take a little time to reconnect after an argument, but saying you’re sorry or “let’s talk” shouldn’t be put off too long – or too soon. Too soon could be interpreted as being insincere or needy; too late may show you either don’t care or are somewhat rigid in your thinking. Too late could be too late.

If you’re both avoiding each other after a fight – you at one end of the house, him in another – how long before someone breaks the ice? It becomes harder if you’re playing a game of who blinks first.

 

Get to the Heart of the Matter

Communicating after an argument should be thoughtful, productive, kind, loving. Maybe set some ground rules to keep from having the same or similar argument. If it doesn’t, the next disagreement may not get resolved well. At some point, it could be the final straw for one or both of you.

Don’t hold back from apologizing for your part of the argument. Don’t stay silent. Don’t avoid the heart of the issue or tip-toe around it because it’s uncomfortable. Talking around the argument isn’t making up. It’s not productive and superficial. You may not be resolving the issue. Be brave and dig in.

 

How to Say I’m Sorry

A heartfelt apology will go a long way. A quick “I’m sorry” doesn’t cut it. Your mate will interpret that as insincerity, as a way to quickly smooth over the argument so they don’t have to talk more about it.

You each need to be specific about your apology. “I’m sorry for being insensitive about … “I’m sorry I lost my temper over … or, It was insensitive of me to ….”

Listen thoughtfully when your mate is speaking, without interrupting, without objections, without blocking out their words while you think of what you want to say.

 

Unproductive Apologies

You’re not over yet. An apology has two parts. The “I’m sorry” part and the “I won’t let it happen again” part. An empty “I’m sorry” needs a promise to do better in the future, to not repeat the same argument, to not act a certain way again.

An apology also isn’t a full apology if you make excuses; That’s a “qualified apology,” which really isn’t an apology at all. “I had a bad day,” “I have a headache,” “I’m tired, or “It’s that time of the month” are excuses. They imply you are not responsible for what occurred. An apology means taking responsibility. It is sincere with no qualifications.

Another fake apology is adding some wisecrack or retort to your apology. Avoid last-minute jabs. Refrain from the temptation to defend yourself about what you said or did.

Here are some possible “I’m sorry” openers:

·         “I’ve treated you so wrong. Now let me make it right.”

·         “I never meant to hurt you. It won’t happen again.”

·         “It makes me so sad that I upset you. I never want to upset you.”

·         “I’m so sorry I let you down. I will always be supportive, from this day forward.”

 

After-Fight No No’s

There’s a difference between acting cold and withdrawn and needing some space after an argument. Some people get clingy after a spat; others want some physical distance. Respect each other’s desires. In this case, give your mate some breathing room. Pushing yourself on them during this period of recovery may just upset them all over again.

Don’t take a period of silence as a sign your mate is becoming permanently more distant. If they are the clinger and you’re the one that needs more time, give them a warm hug, some emotional support, and tell them you’ll be yourself again in a short while. Explain your need for space. Don’t use silence as punishment.

You know what pushes your mate’s buttons. Refrain from pushing them to avoid escalating or resurrecting the argument.

After some time has passed, be open to revisiting the issues of the argument – not the argument itself, of course. Don’t walk away if your sweetie wants to discuss it more. Don’t make a joke out of it. Wanting to “let bygones be bygones” doesn’t work either. All you’re doing is sweeping dirt under the rug. Sooner or later you’ll have to deal with it.

If your mate later questions something they heard you say in the argument, don’t insist you did or didn’t say it. Don’t say, “I would never say that.” You’re cruising for another argument. Instead, you might say, “I didn’t realize I said that. I’m sorry,” or “When I said that, what I meant was …” or “I’m so sorry I said that” or “Please don’t think I wanted to hurt you.” Then focus on how you will behave going forward.

Don’t create “broken record syndrome.” That’s when you go over and over the argument in your head and try to figure out who is right and who is wrong. When it’s over, let it be over. Accept your role in the argument. It doesn’t matter who was right or wrong.

Don’t push yourself to engage in sex after a fight if you’re not feeling like it. But do explain why to your mate. Don’t just turn away or say no. Make some physical contact; a hug, a warm kiss, reassurance that you’ll be back to being your loving self very soon.

 

What Comes After Kissing and Making Up?

Arguments can be opportunities to mend fences, create better communication, rebuild intimacy. If you’ve done the making up part well, you two will have come to some resolutions about what to do going forward. You will have gained better insight into each other. You will know better how to diffuse arguments or avoid them in some instances. Don’t be afraid to have them. In a loving partnership, it’s part of the package.

How’s Your Same-Sex Relationship Going?

 The embrace / Back view of two men hugging each other, isolated on pink

As you unwrap the package of our same-sex relationship and enjoy its gifts, it’s a good idea from time to time to take stock of how things are going. Is your non-traditional union and life together rolling along smoothly? What are the bumps you’ve experienced? Have you navigated them successfully? Do you think you can overcome them again and again? Is your love for one another strong enough to override the trials and tribulations of your life together for the long haul?

In a relationship, it’s your heart, not your head that chooses who you love. Sometimes that choice doesn’t conform to the norms of society, the expectations, the attitudes and judgments of the people around you who you also love, work with.

Then you have your own hang-ups, beliefs, and apprehensions that you’ve carried with you throughout your life that make your same-sex relationship challenging in some respects … unforeseen adjustments, compromises, pressures that come wrapped up in the surprise package of loving and living with someone whose gender matches yours.

Can your love transcend the gender issue even when the going gets tough? Then you have to ask yourself: are the challenges you confront that much different than the challenges experienced in heterosexual unions?

 

How Deep Is Your Love?

Let’s dive in and see …

·         Can you openly express your love and affection for one another without feeling self-conscious or constrained?

·         In a blooming relationship, you naturally may want to gain acceptance into the family fold of your partner. During celebrations, holidays, birthdays, informal and formal gatherings with the clan, do you feel welcome, comfortable? Does your mate feel the same with your family? Do you maintain an ongoing connection with one another’s families?

·         Can you and your mate handle the snap judgments, discrimination, homophobia that still exists sometimes in your area or other geographic locations, religious institutions? Will your church or temple leaders and members welcome you both into their congregation with open arms? Will your relationship allow you to experience the same meaning and comfort spiritually that you used to have before you met eachother?

·         Is marriage an option for the two of you? Do you think the formal bonds of marriage would strengthen the relationship? Would it bring on undue pressures? Have you and your mate discussed how you would handle possible legal discrimination such as housing, employment, medical coverage?

·         Are you satisfied with the division of labor, the sharing of household management and tasks like housework, home repairs, decorating, paying expenses? Does being the same sex have any effect on these?

·         Do you both want to start a family together? What if one of you does and the other doesn’t? Do federal, state, and local governments have restrictions or limitations with same-sex couples that would affect your lifestyle, government benefits? Are adoption rights fair or restrictive in your area?

·         What are the laws regarding divorce of same-sex couples? It would help to know them … just in case. Have the laws changed, making divorce and child-custody easier or more difficult? Do you know your rights and are you willing and able to stand up for them; Can and will your partner?

 

Lessons Learned

Living an unconventional lifestyle is an opportunity to develop unconditional love, evolve, overcome obstacles. It’s a training course of sorts where you learn to accept disapproving people and unpleasant circumstances as the way life is sometimes, not a deliberate plot to destroy your relationship. In same-sex relationships, you have an opportunity to learn uncommon life lessons, to discover the depths of your character, your partner’s character, your values … and the same for yourself. What can be more poignant, enlightening, and satisfying?