They say “opposites attract” — and when you’re an HSP coupled up with a non-HSP, it can make for a very healthy relationship. Here’s how.
When you’re a highly sensitive person (HSP), you may be surprised when non-HSPs don’t react to stimuli, and situations, the same way you do. They may not be the least bit bothered by crowds, loud noises, or bright, blinding-right-in-your-face types of lights. To you, they seem to walk through life as if nothing disturbs them. And for HSPs, this can be really confusing — at least initially.
Given that highly sensitive people (HSPs) represent nearly 30 percent of the population, we’re the minority — most of society is made up of non-HSPs.
When I first met my boyfriend, for instance, I was blown away by his pragmatic, overly rational, totally down-to-earth approach to life. He was able to move on from things easily, not be affected by others’ moods, and barely needed alone time to recharge. He’d go from one party to the next — no big deal. He was so different from me…
We’ve been together for three-and-a-half years now, and our differences are still a challenge sometimes.
Tackling Challenges Between HSPs and Non-HSPs
Being in a relationship with a non-HSP partner can be challenging because it means different rhythms, different lifestyles’ choices, different ways of seeing life, different ways of feeling life. And as HSP, we often feel different from others, and sometimes can feel miles away from our partner because we feel like they don’t ‘get us’.
So you might be wondering: so why do I need a non-HSP in my life?
Well, every couple has their issues, HSP or not. And when moving through differences and issues, being with a non-HSP can be really life-changing — for the best! They say “opposites attract,” and it’s true in this case. When you’re an HSP coupled up with a non-HSP, it can be a very healthy relationship! Below are some ways HSPs can thrive with non-HSP partners.
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9 Ways HSPs Can Thrive With Non-HSP Partners
1. Communicate openly about your needs, values, beliefs, and differences.
Yeah, the good old “communication is key” — but it’s true. How could you expect your partner to understand (and know) what you want if they have no idea about your core needs? Your non-negotiables? Your values that you want to share and pass on? Your beliefs about life, love, and everything in between?
Communication is one of the fundamentals of any relationship. It is okay if it is messy sometimes, and if you struggle to find the “right” words. But, the truth is, once everything is out there, it will be easier to repair and deal with those differences. And who knows? You might realize that your partner is not as different as you’d thought!
Plus, an advantage of being in a partnership with a non-HSP is that they can help us get out of our comfort zone. HSPs tend to be more introverted or anxious about uncertainty, and having a partner that pushes you to do your best and challenge your fears is a gift. It might not always be easy, but it is certainly a good way to learn new things about life, your partnership, and more importantly, about yourself.
Overall, when you have a non-HSP partner, they can help you balance things out — balance your complex and anxious nature; balance your introverted nature; and balance your overthinking nature.
2. Practice active listening — on both sides of the relationship.
You have a lot to learn from your non-HSP partner. They are humans, too. And maybe they don’t feel everything as deeply as you do, but it does not mean that they don’t feel anything at all!
Maybe some things are more meaningful to them than others, and it is totally okay. Listening to their views on things can teach you more about them, as well as about yourself, and can even help you to view things from a different angle.
And, of course, they also have a lot to learn from you — your open heart, your eyes that see beauty everywhere, your gentle touch… All of those beautiful qualities, and this amazing gift of sensitivity that you have been given, can help them see life in many colors and textures.
3. Take time for yourself — you do not have to be with your partner 24/7.
Nobody was ever meant to make you feel whole. It may be a tough pill to swallow, but it’s true. And if it is important that your partner adds happiness to your life, they are not meant to understand everything that you are, to validate and reassure you all the time.
You — and you alone — are the best one to know what you need. Taking time to take care of yourself — and get grounded in what you need — will help you understand that you are whole on your own.
4. Remember why you chose your partner.
So, yeah, your significant other may annoy you sometimes. You’re too different. It’s challenging. You struggle to understand how they view the world.
But if you are still together — happy, healthy, and not in a toxic relationship, the thing is, your partner might bring more to your life than you give them credit for. Is it their values that match yours? The way they always try to understand your perspective and support you, no matter what? Is it their unique humor and how they always manage to make you smile?
As you are unique and special, your partner is, too. And remembering this can help you realize that despite some differences and issues, in the grand scheme of things, their presence is most important.
Keeping a journal of your memories, the things that you appreciate about them, or the different moments you’ve shared together can help you bring more gratitude into your relationship. You don’t necessarily have to share this with them, but it can help remind you why you’re together.
As an HSP, it is easier to get carried away by life, living on a roller coaster of emotions and sensations. Having a partner that is more down-to-earth and rational can help ground us and bring us back to reality. Sometimes (okay, a lot of the time!), things can get to be a bit too much and emotionally overwhelming. But having a more practical perspective on things — via your partner — can be really beneficial.
5. Spend time together doing things you both love.
And, sure, it is important for each of you to have your own hobbies, but going the extra mile to learn about your significant other — and trying to do what they like sometimes — can be very beneficial for your relationship. And who knows? Maybe you’ll discover a new passion!
Need to Calm Your Sensitive Nervous System?
HSPs often live with high levels of anxiety, sensory overload and stress — and negative emotions can overwhelm us. But what if you could finally feel calm instead?
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6. Get ready to get real and have deep conversations.
The truth is, relationships take work and courage. You might have to compromise sometimes, and maybe you sometimes wish your partner would be more like you.
But learning about different ways that you both feel love, for example, exploring your different love languages, can help to strengthen your relationship.
Evaluating your own expectations of a relationship — and being ready to not feel understood 100 percent of the time (which is impossible!) — is also a good way to understand your beliefs and why you have them.
As an HSP, I tend to prefer deep and meaningful conversations, but it can easily get overwhelming to take on the weight of the world upon my shoulders. Having a boyfriend who is less sensitive to every small detail brings me back to what is the most important — the present moment. He helps me realize that it is okay to not have to feel and think about everything, and that I can be funny and silly, too.
So, despite appreciating our long conversations about life, not taking everything so seriously is sometimes just what I need.
7. Realize that there is no “right” way to feel your feelings.
Everyone is different. Everyone has their own background, life story, and education that influence their perspectives on things. So, if all that you ever knew is being an HSP, it might be hard to understand how people can function in another way from you.
But, just because your partner may not be as empathetic as you are does not mean that they are “bad” people. Or not at all sensitive. You two are just different. You feel things one way, and they do another. No one way is “right” or “wrong.” (Remember the “opposites attract” point?)
8. Build up your social resources.
Your partner cannot be your own world. Psychotherapist Esther Perel has talked about how our ancestors lived in a community, and their different needs were met by different community members.
Today, and especially in Western societies, we expect our partner to be the whole community — to be our parents, and best friends, and teachers, and mentors, and idols, and on and on…
But they can’t be. And you can’t be that for your partner either. And it’s perfectly healthy and normal.
Having other people around you — especially other HSPs who can easily understand your need for deeper conversation, for calm and stillness, for philosophical questions about life — can be a real asset for you and your partner. Building up a support system of family members, supportive friends, and as many people that you want and make you feel good, can help you not expect (and depend so much on) your partner.
9. Most important of all, keep true to yourself.
The most important thing is to find a partner with whom you can be yourself — no judgment, no manipulation, no abuse.
That said, I’d like to give you a few reminders regarding an HSP/non-HSP relationship:
- My content does not apply to abusive and toxic relationships. Please, if you think that you are being physically, sexually, or psychologically abused, seek help immediately!
- My vision of a partnership with a non-HSP is based on the belief that we are not seeking a “perfect” partner who knows everything about us — they don’t read our mind. I believe long-lasting love is built, and takes time and effort, and having a partner who shares your vision of a partnership is key.
- Keep spending time with yourself to learn who you are and what you need. You can do that with or without a partner. You are unique and whole on your own.
You deserve to be loved and respected and cherished for who you really are. Remember: You got this!