Living with anyone is challenging, but more so when you’re an HSP who’s affected by everything in your environment.
For most of my life, it was just my mom and me in our quiet apartment. This was an absolute dream for a highly sensitive person like me, who often has a hard time dealing with conflict and overstimulation. While my mom isn’t a highly sensitive person, she was always accepting of my sensitive ways.
So when I went off to college and lived with different roommates, I realized that living with people who didn’t “get” me — and my sensitive ways — can be exhausting. From fights about the dishes to absorbing my roommates’ emotions when they had bad days, it took a lot out of me when I’m someone who processes information more deeply.
Living With Anyone Is Challenging, but More So When You Are an HSP
Okay, living with people is hard, regardless of if you’re an HSP or not. You and the person you’re living with may have different opinions, lifestyles, and habits, and it may take some time to adjust and make it work.
But when you’re a highly sensitive person, this idea kicks into overdrive because you can process information deeply, you react more strongly to criticism, you feel emotions more strongly, and you can pick up on things that most people may miss.
As someone who has lived with 10 roommates during my four years in college, I have lived with all kinds of people. Whether they were a fine arts or science major, clean or messy, introverted or extroverted, every roommate came with a set of challenges. But no matter who my roommates were, being a highly sensitive person and constantly feeling everything made it much harder.
Whether you’re moving in with your significant other or a roommate, here are five struggles that I experienced when living with people as a highly sensitive person.
5 Struggles of Living With Someone as a Highly Sensitive Person
1. Their moods can have a big effect on you.
You could be having the best day ever… and then your roommate walks through the door and everything changes. Whether they’re having a stressful day or say they are too tired to spend time with you when you had plans, their moods can impact you, too. Most people probably wouldn’t even notice, but when you’re a highly sensitive person, you can immediately sense someone’s mood and absorb their emotions. This can sometimes put you in your own head — not only is your mood affected, but you become full of self-doubt, second-guessing, and overanalyzing. Over time, this can get incredibly overwhelming and exhausting.
What you can do: It can be helpful to get out of the living space for a while and practice some self-care. Go for a walk, to a museum, or grab some food. By getting out of the house for a bit and doing something you enjoy, you can take a breather and get some perspective before heading home.
2. You’ll likely have clashing habits and routines.
While this is a standard part of living with someone, it doesn’t make it any easier when you’re a highly sensitive person. From different routines to different decorating styles, moving in with somebody means big changes. Even though change can be good, big changes to your routine as a highly sensitive person can be challenging and upsetting at first. For instance, if your roommate enjoys listening to loud music, watching scary movies, or having guests over a lot, it can be overstimulating when you prefer a quiet home.
What you can do: Remember, it’s your space too, so don’t be afraid to express how you feel. But, it’s also about compromise, so it might be worth looking into creative solutions, like buying noise-cancelling headphones or leaving the room if they have friends over.
3. You’ll probably have different ideas about alone time.
It’s no secret that HSPs need their alone time to recharge. But this can be hard to find if you’re sharing a space with someone else… especially if the person you’re living with is not a highly sensitive person and doesn’t quite understand your need for alone time. When tensions run high — and believe me, they will at some point — it can sometimes feel like you’re losing your mind (and your freedom) when you don’t have a private space to decompress.
What you can do: You can go for a walk, ideally in a quiet area like out in nature, or you can see if you find a peaceful spot in your home, like a bedroom or an office. Creating an HSP sanctuary is a good idea, a calming place to call your own. The main thing is just letting your partner or roommate know your needs and asking them to give you some interruption-free alone time.
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4. At some point, you’ll have to deal with conflict.
Whether you’re highly sensitive or not, fighting with someone you care about sucks. When you are highly sensitive, though, you feel tension so much more deeply, sometimes so much so that you will do anything to avoid conflict because it’s so painful. So when an issue like dirty dishes comes up, you may be torn between confronting the person you’re living with and having to deal with their angry emotions or bottling it up while quietly feeling irritated.
What you can do: It’s important to find a healthy way of expressing how you feel and setting boundaries — as hard as that is for us HSPs! You don’t need to yell at your partner about the dishes to feel heard, but you also don’t need to stay quiet just to keep the peace. Even if it’s hard, if it’s bothering you, sit down with the person and gently bring up your concerns using “I” statements and go from there. So instead of accusing them of “never doing the dishes,” you can say, “I feel frustrated when I come home to a sink full of dirty dishes every night.”
5. You’ll probably feel misunderstood sometimes (or a lot).
From feeling so deeply to getting startled by loud noises, not everybody will understand you when you are a highly sensitive person. So when you live with somebody who sees you daily and learns more about you and your routines, they may think you are odd, anxious, or “too sensitive.” While this is more likely to happen with a roommate than with a significant other, it can still feel frustrating when you’re misunderstood.
What you can do: Just keep being your awesome self. The truth is, not everyone will understand what it means to be a highly sensitive person, but it doesn’t matter. I have tried to explain it to a couple of my roommates, but most of the time, they don’t really get it. You never know, though — you can try to explain it to them and see what happens. It may end up working wonders for your living-together relationship! Regardless, you only need a select handful of people in your life who understand and love you for who you are. And that’s okay if it’s not the person under the same roof as you. All you can do is be yourself.
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