Dating can be tricky for a highly sensitive person, but by using our HSP gifts — like our intuition — it can be enjoyable more than overwhelming.
Let’s be honest: Dating can be tricky for a highly sensitive person (HSP). New people and experiences, flirting, the emotional highs and lows, excitement, opportunity, our love for alone time (even when sleeping), and failure are all part of the dating experience. For an HSP, this can seem like a recipe for disaster, and if not approached with your specific needs and gifts in mind, it can be.
But here is the good news: Dating as a highly sensitive person doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience. In fact, with a little guidance, HSPs can thrive in the dating world.
As a sensitive soul who has chosen to be single for many years, I’ve been through it all and have learned some valuable lessons along the way. If you are frustrated or worried about dating, I have some solid advice that will not only help you navigate the dating world, but will give you some insight into how being an HSP can be beneficial to you and your partner in your dating journey.
5 Dating Tips for Highly Sensitive People
1. Trust your intuition to guide you.
It’s a given that HSPs have good intuition. We observe and pay attention more than the average person — everything from someone’s tone inflections to their body language — and this allows us to make solid judgments about situations and people.
When I first started dating, I did not know I was an HSP… but I did notice that I had an uncanny ability to quickly make accurate conclusions about the people I was meeting. Unfortunately, it took me a while to trust my gut, so I wasted a lot of time questioning my initial reactions and putting my intuition to the test. Since then, I’ve learned to give more weight to the little voice in my head that tells me what’s what from the beginning.
When heading out into the dating world, make a point to listen to your gut. This is practical advice for anyone, but is especially relevant to sensitive types since our intuition is so finely tuned. When something comes up on your radar, don’t push it aside! Instead, explore what your inner wisdom is telling you. Chances are, you’re seeing and feeling something that you shouldn’t ignore.
2. Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more.
One of the biggest challenges I’ve found as an HSP when dating is that it gives me many opportunities to think about the relationship (or the stages before the relationship). And when I say think, I mean overthink. Most HSPs are no stranger to overthinking, but it can become problematic when it leaves us exhausted or overwhelmed.
I’ve found that sometimes it’s hard to relax around someone I’m seeing because I notice and question everything. And although this is part of my strength as an HSP — we love deep, meaningful conversations — it can also be distracting, which makes it difficult to connect with a new person.
My solution has been to hone in on, and use, my communication skills. When I catch myself overthinking about how someone feels, I ask them how they feel. If I notice they reacted strangely to something I said, I ask them why (instead of inventing 101 stories in my head). Granted, it’s not always easy to have these conversations, but having a clear picture of what another person is thinking and feeling leaves less to the imagination.
If this sounds overwhelming, my advice is to start small. Get into the habit of vocalizing some of your thoughts and feelings, and try asking your partner about theirs. Not everyone will be receptive or comfortable with a large amount of open dialogue, but as I’ve learned, those people do not usually make great companions to us HSPs anyway!
3. Forge an emotional connection first and foremost.
No matter what kind of relationship you are in, be it casual, monogamous, polyamorous, or what have you, do make sure you establish a solid level of emotional connection. The “S” in HSP stands for “sensitive” for a reason — we are sensitive creatures! And it is vital that we feel seen and heard, regardless of whether we are with someone for the short- or long-term. Of course, we are pros at picking up on others’ emotions, but we want to make sure it’s a two-way street.
For me, this has meant that I usually take my time and really get to know someone before committing to spending any amount of time with them. Sometimes this takes longer than I would like (hormones can be the darndest things), but I’ve found that I have a much better experience when I establish an emotional connection where I feel valued first. (And, yes, this can even apply to one-night stands if your partner is receptive and you are comfortable communicating your needs!)
Putting in a bit of work to feel safe and comfortable with a new person may sound like dampening the excitement, but riding a high can be tricky business for an HSP and could inevitably lead to an emotional crash. And, in my experience, by digging a little deeper and sticking to what works for you, you’ll likely find yourself forging very special connections with people who appreciate and value you.
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4. Be open and honest about your dating expectations.
There are a lot of amazing people out in the world. And sometimes when you are dating, those people can overlap. Although there is nothing wrong with dating multiple people at once, I’ve found that it can be a challenging experience as an HSP.
Switching emotional gears, not being transparent with the people we are with, and managing multiple people and emotions at once are not skills I am very well-equipped to handle. I’ve gotten mightily overwhelmed in the past trying to navigate two (three?) relationships at once. I’ve learned that I am not good at being covert and don’t like multitasking!
If you find yourself in a situation where you are involved with more than one person at once, keep it simple. Make sure all parties are aware of what is going on and be honest and transparent with everyone involved. Again, this dynamic does not work for everyone, but it’s better to keep yourself out of a situation that will leave you depleted and overwhelmed in the end. And when I say honest, you don’t have to divulge every last detail, but just let them know you are “dating around” (and are not exclusive with them).
5. Set the scene and make sure the dating environment is HSP-friendly.
One of the greatest strengths an HSP has in the dating world is our ability to connect meaningfully with other people. However, this will be a challenge if we are in an environment that is not well-suited to us. Noise or a lot of activity will make it difficult to focus on the person we are out with, so it’s important to choose an environment that will let us be our best selves.
I have made the mistake of going to concerts or noisy bars on a first date and it has never gone well. I was inevitably distracted, jittery, and unable to focus on the person in front of me. This side of me is quite different from the witty, engaging, and compelling side that comes out when I am on a date in a quiet café with a cup of (decaf) coffee in hand.
When going on a date, know what works for you! Choose an activity and place that will let you take advantage of your strengths as an HSP. Pass on the noisy bar and go to a low-key café. Skip the concert and suggest a walk in the park. By putting yourself in an environment that is ideal for you, you’ll find out quite quickly why HSPs do so well on the dating scene!
Now Get Out and Date…
Whether you are newly single or a veteran of the dating world, know that, as an HSP, you have unique gifts that can greatly benefit you and your future partners, including your empathic nature, deep conversation and listening skills, the way you can notice all the subtle nuances around you… and the list goes on. Allow yourself to explore what really works for you and your needs. You may not end up with quantity, but I guarantee you’ll end up with quality, in both partners and experiences.
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