Highly Sensitive Refuge
an HSP and non-HSP in a relationship

The Challenges of Being an HSP in a Relationship With a Non-HSP

The reality that we humans cannot choose who we fall in love with is both a blessing and a curse, especially for the highly sensitive person. As an HSP in love with a non-HSP, I often find myself wondering: if I could choose, would I choose another HSP? These thoughts are driven by one of our trait’s most common tendencies — to overthink and analyze, to imagine all the possibilities. Yet, if I’m being completely honest, they’re also driven by the countless times the very existence of my relationship with my life partner (and subsequent living situation) throws me into over-arousal.

Here are some of the challenges I’ve experienced as an HSP in a romantic relationship with a non-HSP, plus some tips I’ve learned about how to deal with these issues.

The Challenges of the HSP and Non-HSP Relationship

First, it should be stated that my partner is not just any non-HSP. It seems as though I’ve found the man with the loudest voice and fiercest personality. We’ve been together many years, and it should have gotten easier over time. Yet it’s only been in recent months, upon my discovery of the HSP trait, that I’m beginning to get somewhere. Finally, I’m not putting the blame and unreasonable expectation for change on myself each time the nuances of my trait clash with the general expectations of society.

Perhaps any partner who isn’t an HSP may appear to have a fierce personality to the HSP in love with them. Voices are loud and yours is not, therefore you get spoken over thousands of times in the course of your relationship — during gatherings with mutual friends or even just in deep conversation with one another. You may avoid employing the boldness needed to object, so you come across as being someone with little to add, or at least fear such an assumption.

However, this tendency doesn’t equate to weakness. It’s merely a reflection of your innate (and completely understandable) desire to control the rate with which you exert your energy.

Your partner’s choice in music may seem abrasive to you, and you marvel at how they have zero qualms about putting it on — loudly — for the entire household to hear when there’s been no prior discussion or agreement. Conversely, when in your partner’s company, you yourself may neglect to put on the music that you really want to listen to. You may fear being a burden, or that their presence will detract from the pure bliss and auditory beauty you experience when indulging in “your” music alone.

Another thing — you feel the impact of words, whether brutally negative, amazingly positive, or anywhere in between. If you’re in love with a casually negative non-HSP, you may have no choice but to listen to flippant comments about their life and the people and events in it. You feel the effect of these words, even if they’re not directed at you, and your high empathy may cause you to flinch and wonder if the comment was really worth the energy it took to proclaim it.

This isn’t your battle, however, and often it does more harm than good calling the person out on it. It can help to try to let such comments roll off your back, disallowing them to penetrate your layers of emotion.

When the comments are directed at you, however, this may be a very different story indeed. This is when the HSP can get substantially hurt; when the relationship is forced to endure the unavoidable burden of conflict, the HSP’s system can cop a real beating. Whoever said, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” was obviously not an HSP.

When it comes to socializing, the non-HSP may have difficulty understanding your reluctance. Your partner may push you into social interactions when you’d otherwise avoid them. But this often comes from a good place. They’re likely worried that you’ll become reclusive or isolated. For me, this push often results in a favorable outcome; enjoyable events, conversations, and encounters may be experienced as a direct result of their insistence — even if you do have to dedicate extra “me time” afterward to recuperate.

How I’ve Learned to Thrive

Thankfully, there are ways around these dilemmas. If you’re reading this, and are aware of your HSP trait, you’ve already come so far by simply arming yourself with information. Trust me when I say you no longer need to ask yourself to “get a thicker skin” or force abrasiveness when you’d prefer subtlety.

How have I dealt with the challenges of the HSP/non-HSP relationship? Here are four tips:

1. It’s worth it to make the time and space for yourself to enjoy your music and other art forms.

If your partner simply can’t understand why you don’t want their music to be so loud, it’s time you carefully (and lovingly) explained your trait of high sensitivity, if you haven’t already. Here are some tips to help you do that.

2. During conflict, consider asking for a “time-out” to gather your thoughts.

If it’s an ongoing conflict, write a letter in your own time and space describing your thoughts and feelings.

3. Attend social gatherings when you can find the space in your soul.

We are social creatures (even us highly sensitive introverts!). We benefit greatly from creating meaningful bonds with others. But find balance. If your partner is coercing you to go out every other night, this will take a toll on your system, unless you can find substantial downtime in between to refill your cup.

4. Although you’ll have to make compromises, remember that there is much to enjoy about the HSP/non-HSP union.

In addition to having someone who can go inside the busy shopping center to pick up your dinner while you wait in the solitude of the car, you can also bring one another balance. And HSPs are graced with the gift of seeing the sheer beauty in everyday sights and experiences which may otherwise pass non-HSPs by. Conversely, your non-HSP partner can help expose you to a wider glimpse of the world through their unreservedness.

Your sensitivity truly is a superpower, one that your soul mate can also benefit from greatly. The first step is to educate your partner (and yourself!) about your trait. When you do that, and each of you approaches the relationship with mutual respect and understanding, your union can become a joy in both of your lives.

You might like:

Did you enjoy this article? Sign up for our newsletters to get more stories like this.