Being an HSP can either enhance or harm your relationship, depending on how well you nurture your trait.
I’m a highly sensitive person (HSP), which means I process all forms of stimulation deeply, from sights to sounds to everyday stress. But like many HSPs, I didn’t know it for most of my life. That is, until my first marriage crumbled under the stress of a life that was simply too much for our love to bear.
Having children, owning a home, and making a living appeared fairly easy for others — but were exhausting and overwhelming for both my then-husband and I. Turns out, I wasn’t the only one in our relationship who was an HSP; he was too, but also had no clue.
Two highly sensitive people in a relationship together can be wonderful, but also extremely challenging — especially when neither one understands the root of their constant overstimulation.
‘What Is Wrong With Me?’
Typical of HSPs living in our fast-paced, unforgiving culture, we secretly kept asking ourselves, “What is wrong with me?”, “Why is everything so overwhelming?”, and “Why can’t I hold it together?” We both felt flawed and run down much of the time.
Without understanding the unique needs of HSPs, we simply kept pushing through, going about life as we always had, trying to make it all work. Of course, this backfired, and eventually we could not keep our marriage alive.
Had I known then what I know now about how high sensitivity affects relationships — that this personality trait can either be a hindrance or an asset, depending on how well you understand and nurture it — I believe I could have kept the love alive in my first marriage.
Understanding My Sensitivity Changed Everything
Since learning about high sensitivity, my love life has been completely revolutionized. As my awareness grew, it empowered me to learn the skills and do the inner work to amplify the beautiful qualities inherent in my trait. I began to see that being an HSP actually allows me to have the most incredibly rich relationships.
Now I am happily remarried to an amazing husband. Even when we have hard moments, we bounce back quickly, and we feel even closer having come through them together.
As a result, I’ve made it my mission to help other unsuspecting HSPs stop feeling flawed and inept when it comes to love and start developing the intrinsic gifts of high sensitivity — so they, too, can have amazing relationships.
I believe it starts with understanding how sensitivity can either enhance or harm your love life. So, here are 19 ways. If these points resonate with you, you might be a highly sensitive person.
How Being an HSP Enhances or Harms Your Relationship
1. You’re naturally compassionate and aware of your partner’s feelings.
As a result, you’re great at being supportive or loving when they need it. You care very much about their wellbeing and always want the best for them.
2. The downside is you take on their feelings as your own.
Due to their deep awareness of others and their empathy, HSPs tend to absorb others’ emotions as their own. So when your partner is down, so are you. This can be especially hard on a relationship if your partner is often moody, anxious, stressed, or depressed.
3. Your observant nature sees the subtle beauty and goodness in others.
Because of this, you draw out your partner’s gifts, point out their inner beauty, and are a great source of confidence-building and affirmation for them.
4. However, you take things in your relationship extremely seriously.
This can lead to obsessive thoughts and behaviors, worry, and heartache when thing aren’t going well. Due to their depth of processing, highly sensitive people tend to ruminate and overthink.
5. You are blessed with the gift of perspective.
You see both sides of the coin. This gives you strength and perseverance to work through challenges when they arise.
6. You often feel insufficient or not good enough.
HSPs tend to be very conscientious and have high standards for themselves, and when they fall short of those standards — because nobody’s perfect — they get down on themselves. This can be a hallmark wound they walk around with, leading to neediness or a fear of opening up to intimacy, which in turn creates even more distance.
7. You need a lot of downtime to be at your best.
This is true even if you’re an extroverted HSP. All sensitive people need downtime to soothe their overstimulated systems. But you may not give yourself the self-care you need, as you’re so concerned with being a “good” partner.
8. As a very conscientious person, you tend to think everyone is as caring, considerate, and aware of others as you are.
This can lead to high expectations of your partner’s ability to be attentive and aware of your needs and desires. When they don’t live up to them, disappointment or even a sense of them not loving you enough can ensue.
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9. Because you easily pick up on your partner’s subtle cues and are very caring, it’s all too easy for you to get caught up in meeting their smallest needs.
As an unintended consequence, you often forget to meet your own. Unfortunately, this exhausts and depletes you over time.
10. You are easily over-aroused by stimulation.
When anyone (HSP or not) is overstimulated, we act unskillfully and rashly. Because it happens quicker for an HSP, this can lead to a higher level of reactivity in relationships.
11. You are a calming, grounding presence when you are healthy and centered.
This is one of the biggest strengths of all HSPs. You emanate calm to your loved ones, and it nourishes them.
12. If your partner talks a lot, is very active or frenetic, listens to music or news a lot, watches TV frequently, or brings up intense or upsetting world news events, it can quickly overstimulate you.
Then you may find yourself with a short fuse, irritable or angry with him or her.
13. Your deeply observant nature allows you to see faults in your partner that loom large.
Without meaning to, this can lead to nit-picky, critical, and judgmental behavior, setting off their defenses.
14. It can be simply too stimulating to deal with confrontation.
This can hold you back from honesty, leaving the relationship at risk for a lack of intimacy.
15. But, you are likely to try to work things out — at length — inside yourself.
This can lead to great self-awareness, which can enhance your ability to grow and flourish in your relationship, especially as you learn to be open with your partner.
16. You are content with life’s simple pleasures.
You may pass on the more “exciting” (a.k.a. overstimulating) events that your partner enjoys, for example, a big party or family outing to the amusement park. Though this can feel like taking care of yourself, if you always avoid such events, it can also lead to the relationship losing its sense of expansion and excitement.
17. Not feeling heard or understood is common for HSP partners.
HSPs tend to take longer to speak up in conversations (again, due to their depth of processing and desire to find the most meaningful response), which often means they get overlooked or misunderstood in a fast-paced dialogue.
18. Being vulnerable can be scary (for everyone).
19. You are deeply insightful, and can support your partner to better understand himself/herself and your relationship.
HSPs are meaning-driven. In a love relationship, they will be dedicated and willing to work hard at creating deeply meaningful connection — making them more likely to have a rich and healthy committed relationship, despite the challenges they face.
There are many more ways that being an HSP can affect your love life. Be on the lookout for ways that your trait may influence not only your relationship with your significant other, but also others.
(Still not sure if you’re a highly sensitive person? Here are 21 signs that you are.)
I attribute the deep love, connection, and very potent joy I feel in my relationship with my partner to both of our understanding and ability to honor my sensitivity. I believe that HSPs who invest the time and energy into understanding and working with, instead of against, their trait have the potential for developing some of the most beautifully connected relationships on the planet.
You might like:
- The Difference Between Introverts, Empaths, and Highly Sensitive People
- Why HSPs Get Mentally and Emotionally ‘Flooded’
- 14 Things HSPs Absolutely Need to Be Happy