If you struggle with feeling too much…
If you’re slow to trust and cautious before rushing ahead…
If you hate casual relationships and prefer depth to flash…
If you’ve been called “too much” or “too intense” or “too sensitive”…
Then you might be a highly sensitive person.
Dr. Elaine Aron’s work on highly sensitive people inspired a beautiful film I watched recently called “Sensitive and in Love.”
It’s about the struggles sensitive people have in their love lives.
If you’re a sensitive person, you don’t need to watch the movie to know how much of a struggle love can be.
Maybe you’ve been told by past partners that you overreact, you take things too seriously, what’s wrong with you, why are you crying again, you should toughen up, you should get over yourself.
And you try so hard.
You try not to let your feelings show. You try to act like everyone else. But there’s so much going on inside that it can get overwhelming.
Hopefully you have a creative practice where you can let those feelings out, through music or words or pictures or baking or gardening or posting your thoughts on the internet.
But wouldn’t it be nice to have a partner you could share those feelings with?
A partner who wasn’t scared away by your feelings?
A partner who was in awe of the way you respond to beauty and fun and majesty and pain and suffering and tragedy?
Because not everyone feels as deeply as you do.
Not everyone sees as deeply as you do.
Not everyone cares as much as you do.
And it would be so nice to have a partner who could hold space for you, in all your multi-dimensional complexity.
A partner who listens. A partner who grounds you. A partner whose easy steadiness holds you when your emotions threaten to sweep you away.
That’s the dream.
Although I can’t find you that partner, I can give you some tips to help recognize him when he comes around.
Tip #1. Pay Attention to His Reactions
The first tip I have for you is to pay close attention to how any new man responds to your sensitivity.
Does he make fun of it? Does he find it difficult? Does he seem disgusted by it?
Or does he sit with it and try to understand it?
I used to make the mistake of assuming that any man who’s interested in spirituality would know how to honor my sensitivity. Surely a spiritual guy would be sensitive, right?
Well, not always. An interest in spirituality or personal development or New Age stuff doesn’t mean that he’s comfortable with female emotions.
A lot of guys don’t know what to do with a woman’s emotions.
They’ve been taught to stuff down their own emotions. They automatically shame their girlfriend or make her feel inferior for having an emotional reaction. They tell her to calm down, get over it, stop being so crazy.
That isn’t helpful.
It’s your job to explain your sensitivity to your partner. Tell him all the science stuff. The statistics and research are often a language he can understand.
Once you’re sure he gets it, show him what support you need. Don’t assume he knows. You’ve got to ask for what you need and be direct about it.
Once you’ve done all that, if he’s STILL responding with frustration or impatience or disgust, then he’s not your guy. Set boundaries and move on.
Tip #2. Look for a Guy Who Does His Own Thing
The second tip I have for you is to look for a partner who’s comfortable doing his own thing while you do your own thing.
There are just as many highly sensitive men out there as there are highly sensitive women, but you can be happy with a partner who’s not highly sensitive, too.
If he’s not highly sensitive, he’s not going to have the same needs as you.
He may not get tired as fast at parties. He may be the type to stay up late and fall asleep immediately. He may not need as much down time.
And that’s okay.
You just need to let him know what you need, and feel comfortable taking it.
Maybe you end up with different bedtimes. Maybe you take separate cars to parties so he can stay later and you can come home whenever you want. Maybe you spend some of your weekends apart, so that you can get some down time in while he goes off with his friends.
Strong relationships don’t require being tied at the hip. The best relationships make space for you to be yourself AND for you to be a couple.
Tip #3. Look for a Guy with Steady Energy
As HSPs, we’re really sensitive to other people’s energy.
If you end up in a relationship with a guy who blows hot and cold, or who plays with your emotions, it can emotionally destroy you.
You don’t want to be with a guy who blows in like a storm cloud, or who appears in your life like fireworks and disappears.
You want to be with a guy who is like a sturdy house. He can hold the chaos without collapsing or swaying or shattering.
Yes, he sees how you’re feeling, but your emotions don’t change how he feels. He knows that your emotions are YOUR emotions, and his emotions are HIS emotions, and they’re not the same.
I’ve been with partners in the past who made me responsible for their feelings.
I would be stressed or worried or low, and they would blame me for ruining the mood. They just wanted a girlfriend who was happy all the time and didn’t demand anything from them.
But in my world, when I’m stressed, I would hope that I’d have a partner who wouldn’t catch my stress and treat it as his own.
I would hope I’d have a partner who’d look at my stress and feel empathy and want to support me.
Sometimes, in relationships, you can get so caught up in each other’s feelings that you don’t know where one person begins and the other ends.
That’s dangerous for an HSP.
HSPs are already so empathetic anyway. We do tend to catch other people’s feelings. So we need a partner who can help us maintain boundaries. Someone who doesn’t confuse our feelings for his, and vice versa.
That’s where a steady partner comes in.
Maybe he’s not the passionate exciting type, maybe he doesn’t turn heads and drive a fancy car, but he’s emotionally solid. He’s there for you. He’s not going to cut and run.
There are a lot of good guys out there who get overlooked because they’re not flashy or they don’t have the slick lines or they’re kind of shy. But those guys are the gems in disguise.
Go out there and hunt for them!
Set your sights on a GOOD guy. Someone who admires and appreciates your depths, who takes the time to build trust instead of pushing you too fast, who leans towards you rather than turning away.
Want more information on how to succeed in love as a highly sensitive person? This minicourse might be for you.