Highly Sensitive Refuge
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12 Things Highly Sensitive People Love in a Partner

Highly sensitive people want our partners to love us because of our high sensitivity, not in spite of it.    

Throughout the pandemic, my highly sensitive friends and I have communicated regularly to maintain our connections, as well as our sanity. 

Lately, we’ve been discussing the things about our partners that we feel add depth and longevity to our relationships — especially because some of us are spending a lot of time with our significant others these days.

It got me thinking, and I compiled a list of top things we highly sensitive people (HSPs) love in a partner. Whether you’re highly sensitive, or you’re in a relationship with a highly sensitive person, check it out and see how many hit home. 

12 Things Highly Sensitive People Love in a Partner

1. Honesty (really is) the best policy — always.

For a relationship with an HSP to be successful, it is important that honesty be a cornerstone of the relationship. 

Lies, in general, are damaging. But when a highly sensitive person finds out they have been lied to or deceived, the results can be even more devastating. Already prone to overthinking, an HSP can ruminate endlessly over a lie they’ve been told (big or small), mentally trying to decipher their role in causing their partner to bend the truth. 

2. Steady does it — HSPs like stability; they’re not great in relationship situations where the dynamics are constantly changing.

HSPs do not fare well in toxic relationships or in situations where the dynamics are constantly changing (especially too quickly). Teeter-tottering on a relational see-saw is not appealing. 

When we become accustomed to seeing consistent and steady growth and development within a relationship, and then suddenly that growth is halted, our spidey-senses are alerted.  

We need to be able to think through, understand, and digest any changes within the dynamics of our relationship. For an HSP, stability doesn’t equal boredom — stability equals the homeostasis our sensitive minds need.  

3. Laughter is the best medicine — it can help calm an HSP’s overwhelmed mood.

HSPs become overwhelmed easily, which leads to becoming emotional. 

But this is where laughter comes in. It can help ground an HSP and lighten their dismal moods. Partners who can wriggle a smile out of their HSP significant other — particularly during an especially stressful situation — charge their lives with a bolt of joy, and this joy is an emotional gift. 

When I’m extremely overwhelmed, I bake as a coping mechanism. So, when my husband comes home and I’ve made chocolate chip cookies, a pound cake, and a pie, he immediately knows why. 

He will then look at me and begin rolling his eyes while rubbing his stomach, like Chrissy from Three’s Company. Every time, it causes me to forget my stressors and smile.  

4. Since HSPs tend to get hangry, it helps when their partners are aware of this (and they may even have a snack at the ready).

A humorous depiction of a hangry (hungry + angry) highly sensitive person can be found in a series of commercials advertising a Snickers candy bar. The commercials show an actor portraying a hungry person behaving badly, and then eating the candy bar. Miraculously, after eating it, the actor morphs back into their “regular” self and is reminded that “they’re not themselves when they’re hungry.” 

This commercial could be the introduction to a Hangry HSPs for Dummies book. HSPs become hangry easily. When an HSP misses a meal, our mood, behavior, decision-making ability, and comprehension are affected.  

So HSPs love partners who can sense when they’re on the verge of becoming hangry.

My husband keeps a bag of almonds in his car and also in his backpack. He will gently offer them to me when he sees “Hangry Neisha” rearing her head; even more than fill my stomach, this fills my heart.

5. A verbal safe haven: HSPs thrive in relationships where they feel seen, heard, and valued.

Since highly sensitive people feel things more deeply than most, their feelings often get hurt more quickly than others’.   

HSPs thrive in relationships where they feel seen, heard, and valued. When a partner validates an HSP’s words and feelings — and without judgment or condescension — it’s very gratifying. When I am able to tell my husband that he has hurt my feelings, and he seeks to understand how I was hurt and how we can avoid this in the future, I feel seen and cherished.

Open and honest communication serves as a catalyst for growth within a relationship, and HSPs find a safe haven with partners who encourage such communication.  

6. Listening for comprehension, not just for the sake of listening.

We HSPs also love when our partners actively listen to our words.  

To have someone listen to what you’re saying — with a focus on understanding and not just on replying — is golden. Seeing your partner’s responsive body language, noticing that they are paying attention to you, and not being interrupted by them are all indicators that they are indeed listening to truly comprehend what you are saying. 

To an HSP, this type of listening says, “I fully acknowledge you and what you’re saying.  I understand that what you’re saying is important.You are important to me, and I want to comprehend what you are saying so that I can help meet your emotional needs.”

7. Understanding the need for clear, distinct boundaries — both as a couple and individually.

If our relationships are to thrive, it is important that we have discussions that establish boundaries relating to us personally, as well as to our relationships. This is particularly important since some HSPs struggle with codependency

When both partners express their needs, wants, and feelings — and agree to respect personal and relational boundaries — it adds to the continued success of the relationship. 

For instance, my husband understands that I grew up in a home where arguments escalated into shouting matches, and I don’t respond well when he raises his voice. So he tries to make sure our conversations are conducted in a mutually respectful manner.

8. Someone who knows how to have an authentic connection — they like deep conversations about feelings, emotions, and aspirations.

Superficial relationships made up of small talk hold no value to highly sensitive people. 

Instead, we love for our partners to be able to talk about feelings, emotions, dreams, and aspirations. I remember my husband telling me about the dream home he wished to build for our family, and I vividly remember seeing the passion and vigor in his eyes. Understanding how vulnerable he allowed himself to be was a very intimate moment for the two of us. 

Intimacy for a highly sensitive person is often far more emotional than it is physical. And, in order to form meaningful, lasting connections with an HSP, it is imperative to be willing to explore areas of conversation which lead to a lasting bond. 

9. They understand that HSPs need time alone to recharge (and they don’t take it personally).

Since HSPs get mentally and emotionally flooded from the constant stimuli around them, it’s important for them to have the ability to seek solitude to recharge, whether that means reading a book or taking a nap. (This is where an HSP sanctuary can come in handy!)

Partners of HSPs understand that their need for solitude is not a rejection of the time and affection they may offer. Instead, it’s what HSPs must do so they can fully receive and enjoy the time and affection their partners want to give them … later.

We enjoy giving and receiving love once we are recharged, and we need a partner who is able to not only understand our need for quiet time, but who encourages us to seek this solace. 

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10. The willingness to seek help: they are open to resolving issues that come up.

Being highly sensitive allows me to not only be more in tune with my surroundings, but also absorb others’ emotions as though they’re my own (for better or worse). I also love that I can gauge temperature shifts within my close relationships, especially my marriage.  

Whether a shift is due to something my husband is experiencing, or whether it’s due to something with me — such as my anxiety — noting that something had changed has allowed us to seek counseling, research solutions, and work through issues together. 

His willingness to work with me to find solutions has been key to demonstrating his support for both me and our relationship.

11. Patience — since an HSP’s partner may not be an HSP themselves.

Most non-sensitive people don’t go into relationships with HSPs understanding what it means to be highly sensitive, so a key component in a healthy relationship with an HSP is patience.

In the beginning of our dating relationship, my husband would get frustrated with my inability to “relax and enjoy our relationship” (true story, his words). He had to be patient and learn that, as an HSP, I analyze — and overanalyze — everything. It wasn’t until I was (sort of) satisfied with my analysis (so to speak) that I felt safe enough to go all-in with our relationship. 

We must practice the patience it takes to learn triggers, understand each others’ reactions to things, and how to operate in a way that more positively affects our relationship.

12. They embrace the differences and see the beauty in them.

My husband and I are quite different. He is an extrovert, and I am not. He thrives with crowds and noise, and I do not. He is not highly sensitive, and I am. 

What almost 15 years of marriage has shown us, however, is that rejecting our differences could eventually destroy our relationship. Instead, accepting that we are wired differently has made a huge difference in the way we operate within our marriage. 

Sometimes that looks like just the two of us going out to dinner together (he gets to have the social aspect of being out, and I get to have the benefit of an intimate dinner). Other times, that compromise looks like him going to meet a group of friends while I happily stay at home to read or write.       

Rather than expect him to be more like me or me to be more like him, we accept one another as we are. We have learned to celebrate the beauty in our differences, and the face of our marriage continues to adapt to this acceptance

Highly sensitive people want our partners to love us because of our high sensitivity, not in spite of it — it is an opportunity to amplify the uniqueness of our love. Allow your (or your partner’s) high sensitivity to add substance to your relationship and build upon what you have established.

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