Highly sensitive people may just need a different kind of love.
I recently received a message from one of my readers that sparked my interest.
“My wife is (what she labels as) a “highly sensitive person” or HSP. Quite often, things that I don’t see as a huge deal can make her go running for shelter for hours on end. I love her to bits and I just want to understand where she’s coming from a bit better. Anything specific I should be aware of with her sensitivity? How can I better engage with my highly sensitive partner?”
First of all, let me say that I absolutely adore getting messages like these… messages that have the overarching subtext of “How do I love them even better?” Because people are amazing.
Second, I couldn’t understand this question more. It has been suggested that I’m an HSP, an empath, deeply introverted, and a number of other things (all of which have validity)…
The bottom line is that I am incredibly sensitive.
I get over-stimulated easily during every day activities.
I can read someone’s thoughts and emotions from across the room just by watching their face. I write my articles before sunrise because it’s the darkest and quietest hour of the day. I go to movies alone because I want to react to them at my own pace. I go for walks with ear plugs in and sunglasses on to limit stimulation.
Maybe some of these types of behaviours sound familiar to you (in terms of your personal experience, or you recognize these traits in your highly sensitive partner). Regardless, if you’re still reading, that means that you want to know how you can love your highly sensitive people better.
So what can you do to help your highly sensitive partner feel more loved and cared for?
1. Don’t rush them
Highly sensitive people tend to have rich inner worlds with a mass of swirling thoughts. So when you ask them something or are waiting for a decision from them, do your best to not rush them. They have a lot going on in their minds and might need a bit longer to respond than most.
2. Fully support their need for quiet time, alone time, or less stimulating time
Yes, it’s true that every person has some need for alone time… regardless of how extroverted they are. But sensitive people don’t just have a “it would be nice” kind of relationship to quiet time… they have a “I need quiet/alone time or else I can’t function in society” kind of relationship to it.
I know that, for me personally, if I do more than ten hours of coaching in a week and I don’t prioritize time in a silent, dark room then my mental and emotional energy gets thrown out of whack in no time. There’s a reason I wear ear plugs so often in my daily life when I’m outside of the house. HSP’s see, feel, and hear everything.
So even if your highly sensitive partner says that they’re fine, really make it known that you are always happy to make their sensitivity a priority. If they need to leave a dinner party because they feel overstimulated, go with them. If they get that dissociated look in their eyes because they’ve had a stressful week, ask them if they’d like to meditate or go lie down for a nap. Do whatever you can to let them know that you understand them and want to cater to their unique way of experiencing the world.
When a highly sensitive person feels and trusts that they are safe with you, they will give you access to the richness and beauty that is their soul. Being in an intimate relationship with a highly sensitive partner is one of the rarest gifts if you know how to make them feel comfortable with you.
3. Calibrate your environment to further suit them
This one was an absolute game changer for me.
Knowing that your partner is easily overstimulated by their environment, you can proactively calibrate your home environment to better suit them.
Have soft throw pillows and blankets lying around. Put dimmer switches on your lights. If you live in a noisier area or have loud neighbours, invest in sound proofing your walls. The less stimulating an environment is, the more your highly sensitive partner will feel like they can let their guard down and really be there with you.
4. Work out signals for when they’re feeling overstimulated
Sometimes your highly sensitive partner will become so overstimulated that it will become increasingly difficult for them to verbally communicate. When this happens, it can be massively beneficial to have some kind of signal worked out so that they can communicate their state without having to articulate it.
I have had clients use the following:
– Making a peace sign and putting it over their heart (to signal, “Give me a few minutes, I’m feeling a lot right now.”)
– Fanning their fingers out and waving them back and forth in front of their face (to signal “I’m overstimulated and not feeling very present right now.”)
– Putting their hands over their ears and looking down (to signal a combination of “It’s really loud/overstimulating here, and I’d like to change environments/leave soon.”)
Whatever signal you work out, make sure that it makes sense to you both and that the signal will be respected when it is used.
Just the fact that you took the time to read this article says so much about you as a partner.
As always, proactive communication from the mindset of “How can I best love you?” will always be well received. And since HSP’s are used to feeling like they don’t really belong in the world (because daily life often doesn’t feel like it’s geared towards being sensitive), the gesture of you trying to understand and love them better will be doubly appreciated.
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This post originally appeared at JordanGrayConsulting.com
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The article has some great tips. My partner is HSP and we have been together for 20+ years. I love her dearly. Everything I have read on HSP’s seems to be of the opinion/view that non HSP’s are obliged to bend over backwards to accommodate a HSP. No real narrative to the HSP on them accepting non HSPs have needs to. I think my HSP is in the early stages of menopause which seems to magnify the HSP traits. I am a mild extrovert and at times feel trapped because I don’t get the same considerations for my needs. If… Read more »
While I do find this list very interesting; as I’m a clairsentient in the form of claircognizant. Having to tune your environment for your significant other is a step too far. It’s actually a cop out; people have to learn how to deal with it. A safe room for them to retreat is more than enough. The point is this, you should never tip the scales in their favor, ever. It should be balanced for the both of you. When you allow the other to assert dominance in the household that’s not being fair to yourself, this also put you… Read more »
I got married last year, my husband loved me from depth of his heart but as we moved on in my relationship ,i mistakenly said some things which he did not like,he kept digging the past and I was confused ,frustrated and annoyed ,and so was he since I was not able to know the pain he was feeling inside. last week I read about HSP and I was surprised to see all the traits because they were so like my Husaband’s but my husband dont know this either(that he is HSP). I am already feeling guilty for what I… Read more »
Don’t feel guilty, because to a HSP type 1 (empath) they will feel the guilt even deeper. It’s best to talk about it when both of you are feeling better, level headed, at best. Ask him what was bothering him specifically, then talk it out “logically” because if it hit’s emotions, you’ll send him into the dumps really quickly. Another thing, while he may not like what’s happened in the past, as long as it has stayed in your past, he should be smart enough to leave it well enough alone. Also, it’s not really his business to be diving… Read more »
Glad to see there are people out there whose response to us isn’t “suck it up, buttercup”. I lived with parents for years who constantly made my cry because they didn’t understand my sensitivity and pushed me far past my boundaries. On top of which, I’m ADHD, so I have extra issues processing things.
I loved a person who is highly sensitive for two long years. But the problem is I could never really figure out he is highly sensitive until about a year ago. Since then I did attempt my best to make him feel home, gave him alone time when he required it, genuinely admired him and often complimented him, told ‘I love you’ a million times a day and told him he is accepted the way he is with me. But he often snapped at me, gave one word replies and even if it did hurt me I was silent for… Read more »
Do you have any articles for an HSP as a parent? As a mother of two young children I am finding the noise level hard to deal with at times. It is so overwhelming I either shutdown or get snappy and lash out ( which I hate and makes me feel guilty). My youngest is 18 months and experimenting with words and volume which I like to encourage. My other child is 4 going on 5. He also experiments with volume and after being at pre school and having to be quiet in class or yelling to compete with friends… Read more »
Thanks for this post. I have a book that also discusses such ideas I’m reading now called The Highly Sensitive Person In Love: Understanding and Managing Relationships When the World Overwhelms You it is a very good read!Thanks for this post. I have a book that also discusses such ideas I’m reading now called The Highly Sensitive Person In Love: Understanding and Managing Relationships When the World Overwhelms You it is a very good read!
I understand many of the above points being in a relationship with a HSP. My question would be to those HSP reading: when and where is the give and take ratio in your relationship? No I’m not saying it’s always a perfect balance. What I’m saying is from the opposite end these are all things that I am willing and some I have already tried with my partner. I need help understanding that where the above points are directed at making my HRP feel comfortable and secure, what is the balance and changes that a HSP makes in the relationship… Read more »
Sounds like you feel as if you are giving more than you are receiving. Try giving without condition and without expectation of receiving. Only give as much as you can and when you need to pull back and you can’t give anymore, your partner will understand and give you the support you need in the capacity that he or she can. Both of you can only do your best and you both need to work out what your boundaries are in giving.
I agree with Ness. Just make sure you’re not walking on eggshells for someone who is emotionally abusive; someone who isn’t understanding when you need to pull back because they are entirely self-absorbed… It’s easy for a highly emotionally sensitive person to be.
What I get from this article is that (and a really important one!) – I am an incredibly sensitive person. I am reading this article in the dimmest of light in my room. I NEED to have my earphones on and listen to soothing music as I walk back from the office everyday or else I just can’t think or talk…the city is too busy and loud for me. I stay up late at night only because I can only go to sleep when there is pin-drop silence outside my door. A single honk from the street will keep me… Read more »
Beautiful. So glad to hear you are in good company Vida. Thanks for your comment 🙂