Knowing someone with an emotionally sensitive personality can allow you to have one of the deepest and most meaningful relationships or friendships you’ll ever experience. However, their sensitivity can also lead to some challenges.
Here we will look at how to have a healthy relationship with someone who is emotionally sensitive, in a way that will ensure you both remain happy and understood.
What’s Great about a Relationship with an Emotionally Sensitive Partner?
People who are emotionally sensitive, or a highly sensitive person (HSP), make up around 30% of the adult population. Being highly sensitive, or having sensory processing sensitivity (SPS), is a personality trait, not a disorder.
HSPs are highly observant, recognizing the beauty in everyday life. They are also deeply empathic. These traits, alongside often excellent communication skills, mean that being in a relationship with an emotionally sensitive partner can offer you a connection that is close and meaningful.
However, being highly sensitive also means becoming easily overwhelmed by social stimuli. This may occur in city centers, inside busy stores or at parties. HSPs might also feel emotionally overloaded by physical intrusions such as loud noises, busy spaces, or bright lights. This often means that your emotionally sensitive partner will require downtime to decompress from stimulating situations, which may make them less likely to want to attend parties or events.
Understanding how your emotionally sensitive partner feels is a great way to begin supporting their personality trait. In this way, you can help draw out the wonderful side of their nature, whilst protecting them from feeling burned out or stressed.
How to Deal with an Emotionally Sensitive Partner
If you are wondering how to deal with an emotionally sensitive person, the first step is to accept their personality trait. Your partner has not chosen to be sensitive, and the basis of their sensitivity is often neural or genetic. It is therefore important to find effective ways to support your partner’s needs.
Make Home Feel Safe
When you are highly sensitive, it is important to have a safe space to retreat to. After a day in a busy office, or upon returning home from seeing friends, your partner may need to decompress.
You may need to set up dedicated quiet or safe spaces, such as comfortable sofas away from the TV. Your partner may want to retreat to a reading corner or a space where they can practice being mindful. If your home tends to be noisy, invest in soundproofing one room that your partner can relax in, away from the chaos of everyday life.
Dimmable lights or the use of lamps may also help reduce visual stimuli from overhead lights. Fitting heavy blinds or thick drapes may help darken a room in the middle of the day, too.
Support Their Need for Quiet Time
Although you might love nothing more than to come home from work and chill out in front of the TV, your sensitive partner might be craving some quiet time. Finding a compromise might involve limiting the TV to weekends only, or reducing the number of hours of TV you watch each day.
As a TV lover, you may be able to continue enjoying the TV with the sound down low, or by using wireless headphones. Try not to be offended if your partner declines to watch with you. Remain respectful of their need to have some time away from the TV and other sources of noise or visual stimulation. However, your partner should also respect your enjoyment of the TV by accepting your desire to indulge in your favorite shows.
Support Your Partner in Busy Situations
Busy situations can easily result in sensory overload for your partner. This over-stimulation may cause them to feel emotionally or physically drained for several hours or even days afterwards.
Be aware that your partner may want to leave busy events early. It may be easier to decide in advance whether you will both leave together when your partner is ready, or if they will leave first with you staying for longer. Whatever you decide, try not to become offended when your partner says they are ready to leave.
Sometimes, those who are emotionally sensitive may become so over-stimulated that they cannot communicate what they need. Learn to recognize the signs that your partner is ready to leave, and support them in making a swift exit.
Don’t Rush Them
As a result of their deep cognitive processing, highly sensitive people are processing a lot, all the time. This means that it can take longer for them to make sense of information and come to a conclusion.
They may need longer to order from a menu or may take hours to reply to a text or email. Whilst they are processing, try not to rush them for a response, as this will only increase the pressure they feel, slowing the process down further.
How to Communicate with a Highly Sensitive Person
Your partner may have the skills to be an excellent communicator, but conversations need to be held in the right way. That’s why it’s important to think about what to say, and what not to say to a highly sensitive person.
When you are in a relationship with a sensitive partner, it can feel difficult at times. If you are feeling frustrated by their sensitivity, be mindful of your own emotions as this may come across in the way you communicate with them. As your partner will likely be attuned to any sign of frustration or unhappiness on your part, they may become emotionally alert and distressed if you allow your frustration to cloud what you need to say.
When imparting any important information, make sure that you choose the right time. If you start a conversation somewhere busy or when your partner is already in sensory overload, the conversation is unlikely to go well. Wait for a quieter moment to talk to them.
When relaying a lot of information, be sure to pause to allow them time for processing. Try not to overwhelm them with your thoughts. If you have ten issues you want to discuss, you will be far more successful if you cover two or three at a time.
Those who are sensitive often find it difficult to say no to friends or family. From time to time, check in on your partner’s stress levels. They may need you to gently point out that they are at risk of becoming burned out by helping everyone else at the detriment of their own health.
Sometimes non-verbal communication is best. Even just holding hands on the sofa, or enjoying a quiet walk together, can help you reconnect with each other more than a conversation might. This form of communication can be a great way to decompress after a busy day.
If you are struggling to support your emotionally sensitive partner, seeking help in the form of online therapy or counseling may be one of the most effective ways to ensure your relationship is successful. Understanding how your partner feels, and working through ways to support them whilst remaining content yourself, can make your partnership stronger than ever.
Being with an emotionally sensitive partner can offer you a deep, meaningful connection with someone who is empathic and supportive. However, it is important to learn how best to support your partner’s need for reduced stimulation and quiet time so that your relationship remains healthy.
Hannah England is a freelance copywriter with a medical degree. After working as a doctor for several years, she now writes medical and well-being articles. Hannah endeavors to empower people by providing informative content that allows them to make healthy choices for improved physical and mental health. Hannah is part of the LGBT+ community and an inclusion expert, allowing her to write copy that is relevant to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, or identity. Hannah lives in a village in the South West of England.Read more