When I learned that I am a highly sensitive person (HSP), it taught me a great deal about myself. I suddenly understood my needs, and why too much stimulation overpowers me. I understood why I feel things so strongly, and need so much time to process my thoughts. But perhaps most strikingly, when I discovered I’m an HSP, it instantly illuminated why relationships can be such a struggle for me.
To be clear: Being an HSP is not a negative thing, nor is it a disorder. There are plenty of strengths within highly sensitive people that make us kind and gentle individuals. But, whenever you have something which sets you apart from others, it can be a challenge to feel truly understood by those around you — even (especially) your romantic partner.
As an HSP, I have unique needs in love and dating, and it’s taken me a long time to learn how to communicate them to a partner. I’m going to share the five biggest ones below — in the hope it will help other HSPs and their romantic partners.
What You Should Know About Your HSP Partner
1. We absorb your emotions.
The fact that we have a heightened awareness of everything around us means we also have a tendency to absorb others’ emotions. We can feel when those around us are stressed, angry, or hurt — and this becomes emotionally exhausting at times.
However, this trait can also be a wonderful thing in a relationship, since it enables us to know when those we love are in need, which in turn makes us want to jump to your aid immediately. When I love someone, I will do almost anything to make them happy and soothe those painful emotions that I sense.
And, partners, it’s not something we can “turn off.” I have spent time trying to block it out, but it’s not easy. Sometimes accepting those feelings is a much better path to take, rather than trying to block myself off from part of who I am.
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I realize that having someone “read” your emotions can feel jarring. It’s almost like a superpower, although it does not always feel this way. For our partners, this can be unsettling, especially if they were hoping to keep these emotions inside. We don’t do this intentionally, it is something we simply feel, like an energy in the room around us.
That doesn’t mean we have all the answers. Our naturally powerful empathy can “know” something is wrong with you, but still not give us the answers as to why you are feeling this way. So please be patient with our need to understand you and where your feelings are coming from. While it can be a difficult thing for you as our partner, it is infinitely more painful for us than you could ever realize. Imagine feeling your own inner emotions, as well as the emotions of those around you on top of that.
2. We need space sometimes… but we still love you.
While we crave connection and want to feel close to our loved ones, we also need space sometimes. We can’t always predict when this emotional and physical exhaustion will strike, but when it does, we really need to have time to ourselves.
This isn’t an “introvert” or “extrovert” thing. It’s because we’re sensitive to all of the stimuli around us, and when there is too much for too long, it makes us feel a sudden exhaustion. We need that time to ourselves to shut things out, and to recenter ourselves into a more manageable mood. It can be hard to explain, but it really is nothing directed at you personally. (It’s not always convenient for us, either; it can happen even when we’d much rather be spending time feeling connected to the ones we love.)
We know this isn’t easy for you, either, but it’s so important that you don’t take it personally — because in truth, we are probably already anxiously worried about upsetting you or hurting your feelings. You are always on our minds, even when it seems like we are focused on something else.
3. We don’t experience crowds like you do.
Being an HSP means we often dislike crowds, especially when we are not in the right mood for them. While we want to be around you and might really want to go out, it doesn’t necessarily mean we have the energy for it. Since we feel overwhelmed by constant stimuli such as noise, bright lights, smells, and pretty much anything we can pick up from those around us, we can become drained by all the noise and chaos of a crowd.
This can happen very suddenly, even if we’re enjoying ourselves, and it’s unnerving. It may come with anxiety or fatigue. And, while we might appear fine on the outside, internally we feel like screaming.
4. We need your patience, not your anger.
Although we are sensitive to every emotion, anger is likely our least favorite. If you are upset with us, sometimes taking a few moments to relax and calm down can mean the world. Otherwise, feeling your anger is like daggers to our heart — something we often want to cower away from.
This doesn’t mean we are weak. It just means that our natural sense of empathy can make it difficult to experience your anger without feeling overwhelmed by it. Please try to be patient when we are in an argument, and try your best to express things without allowing anger to take control of the conversation. We want to hear why you are upset, and we want the truth. We just don’t want to drown in the emotions you are feeling.
5. Remember what you mean to us.
On the days when we need space, or get hurt easily by your words, or simply appear anxious and worried about our relationship — try to remember what you mean to us. Try to remember that we love you so deeply that you have become part of our soul and our inner being. As an HSP, I know this has made me a stronger and more compassionate person. I love with every part of my soul and would do anything (and I mean anything) for the people I love.
We HSPs are fiercely loyal people, and while we can certainly feel negative emotions very deeply, we feel positive emotions even more. When we love someone, it isn’t some flighty or momentary thing; it’s powerful. It becomes part of our being.
Remember this during those moments when things are challenging. Any relationship has its ups and downs, but you have something special. You have someone who will love and cherish you even in the darkest of times. You have an HSP.