“Today I want you to think about all that you are instead of all that you are not.” ~Unknown
If you are a sensitive person like me, you may think being sensitive is problematic. Especially when it comes to love and relationships.
Maybe you’ve been called “too sensitive” by your partner or a parent. Maybe you feel overly emotional or have strong reactions to things or take things personally that don’t bother your partner, or you are easily irritated or get cranky all too often, or you feel the urge to be alone a lot more than you think you should in a healthy relationship.
If so, you may believe you really are too sensitive.
Now, sensitivity can cause problems in our relationships when we’re operating unconsciously and feel at its mercy. That tends to bring out the harder aspects of sensitivity.
I know this all too well. Not knowing I was a highly sensitive person, and not understanding how to work with my sensitivity, was the biggest reason my first marriage ended in divorce.
And even before that, most of my life I thought something was wrong with me because of what I now recognize is my genetic trait of high sensitivity.
I hear the same from so many sensitive women I speak with.
But I’d like to flip that perception on its head. Because high sensitivity is often misunderstood and totally undervalued. Particularly when it comes to marriage and intimate relationships.
Think about it: What do most women want more of in their relationship?
They want their partner to be more attentive to them. To have more understanding of what’s going on for them. To be more responsive to their words and gestures. To be more tender with them. To be more conscious of them.
I always wanted my first husband to be deeper with me. More caring and empathetic. More in touch with himself and his feelings…
If you, too, would like more of any of the above in your relationship, then what you want is more sensitivity. All those things are what “sensitive” means.
Sensitive is defined as: attuned to, aware of subtleties, caring, sympathetic, empathetic, compassionate, understanding, perceptive, conscious of, responsive to, alive to…
Sensitivity is, in fact, exactly what we need more of in our relationships, not less. It’s an asset in love.
And if you are also a sensitive person, you were built to embody it. To bring all of those juicy delights to your relationship.
If you were born an HSP, it’s a cause for celebration. We are made for love.
Once we’ve done our own work to develop the best aspects and manage the challenging parts of the trait, we gain access to what we need to have the depth, connection, understanding, love, and passion we want most with our partner.
In other words, we develop into the best possible role model for being in a loving relationship—one non-sensitive people should aspire toward.
Of course, there are unhealthy ways our trait can be expressed. Ways that do lead to more hurt and struggle than harmony and love in relationships. These more “negative” aspects (like “touchiness”) are really only expressed when we have not learned how to consciously work with our sensitivity.
Once we do, the “negative” aspects fall away, leaving us with all the good parts that are most needed for the healing and thriving of relationships—and even the healing of our world!
Many things keep us playing out the negative aspects, but I’ve found that the biggest thing is believing old, outdated (and frankly wrong) judgments about sensitivity being a bad thing. Because it leads us to being self-critical and feeling bad about who we are.
When we berate and look down on ourselves for our sensitivity, we feel ashamed, we close off, we become more negative.
If we are at war with ourselves like this, we can’t open up our hearts to others or life. We are likely to feel like others are at war with us, so we take things personally and feel gripped by negativity and inner turmoil. We can’t come from sensitivity toward ourselves or toward others because we’re too bogged down.
I know this because I judged myself for my sensitivity plenty in the past, and it only forced me into a hole, hiding my light under self-judgment and anger at myself. That anger poked out left and right and spilled over onto my husband, hurting our marriage and leaving us miserable with each other.
After our divorce, I learned about HSPs, and that I was one. What an aha moment! I stopped trying to squash my sensitive nature as I learned to accept and even love it. I felt safe to honor it, and much happier and more relaxed in my skin (finally!).
Then, the best parts of my sensitivity were able to shine through naturally. And I was able to powerfully guide my second marriage into one that is now, by my definition, amazing.
How to Tap into the Healing Power of Your Sensitivity in Your Relationship
I bet many things you’ve been self-critical about are actually aspects of your sensitivity! That was the case for me. So consider and answer this question:
How might the things you’ve judged about your sensitivity be the things most needed to take your relationship to the depth and health you long for?
Take time to recognize the brilliance of your sensitivity, the healing it can bring your world. You are naturally wise, so go to your own mind and heart to come up with your answers.
Here are some hints from my experience and ponderings to get you going:
Could your emotionality be the antidote to the numbness and disconnection that are so often the kiss of death in an intimate relationship?
Could your capacity to feel big feelings be the deepest, most sustainable source of love in your partnership, carrying your partner in its tide?
Could the moments when you are flooded with overwhelming feelings in your relationship be an internal request to pause so you can process deeply—and reap the wise insights that arise from that pause that will take your love and understanding of each other to the next deep level?
Could your natural tendency to see the little things in yourself and others as flaws or problems help you diagnose the areas that need to be healed or developed in your partner—and inside yourself—so you can thrive together as a couple? Could it be the call to become the most conscious, empowered, loving version of yourself, able to navigate both the joys and challenges of love with grace?
Could that same tendency to be bothered by little things and get easily irritated because of your subtle attunement to detail also be the very thing that helps you really know and be deeply attuned to your partner, and help him feel really known and loved? (My sensitivity helps me know my husband’s inner world without a word from him and allows me to understand what he’s going through. He’s told me many times some version of these words: I feel so supported, seen, and loved for who I am. I feel you really get me. I’m in awe of how in tune we can feel.” Hearing that feels like music to MY ears.)
Could your people-pleasing tendencies and over-concern about making sure your partner and others in your life aren’t upset be the compassion and conscientiousness we need to survive and thrive as a species? The very thing that inspires others to look out for each other with fierce care and kindness—once you’ve learned to bestow the same grace on yourself?
Could your need for quiet and space alone to decompress be just the example other humans need in order to put an end to this toxic fast-paced culture that robs us of actually enjoying life—and is even robbing the planet of life itself? Could it be just the thing our society needs to learn to slow down and de-stress so each of us can access the love, insight, and creative problem-solving we need to thrive in our partnerships and on this planet for generations more?
When I recognized the asset my sensitivity is, I was able to climb out of the hole of self-rejection and shame and change how I showed up in my relationship.
I could suddenly pay deeper attention to my partner, offer a little support here, a little insight there, say just the right thing at just the right time because I’m so sensitively aware, come up with creative solutions to navigate those inevitable sticky moments couples have, let my big wide heart out, and be all those things that I want my partner to be for me: loving, reassuring, aware, understanding, respectful.
I started living out the kind of love I’d only dreamed of before. And it caught on. My husband has learned to be way more empathetic with me, more caring, more attuned to me. Way more… sensitive.
We can pass on our gift of sensitivity to our partners by modeling it, by leading the way.
Do you see how your sensitivity is an underutilized healing resource in your love life? The highly responsive superpower of sensitivity that you embody enables you to lead your relationship in a much healthier and more loving direction, if you honor it.
It should be a goal to not only feel great about your sensitivity but to become more sensitive. In a healthy way.
The lack of tenderness, the instinct to shut down and disconnect, the lack of empathy and compassion and understanding that is so destructive in our marriages and in our world—it can end here with you. Now. Your sensitivity is the remedy!
We sensitives are the particular variation of human needed to sway our relationships into healing, if only we give ourselves the sensitivity, care, tenderness, and encouragement we need, by believing in ourselves instead of berating ourselves.
We are the ones to lead ourselves and others back to our hearts, back to compassion, care, and being in tune with others. Back to sensitivity.
Start by telling yourself the truth:
You are different from the “norm.” But different in just the way that’s most needed for love to thrive in your home and community.
If you really believed that, would you finally start appreciating the qualities that make you, you? Would you do all it took to cultivate them instead of squashing them? I would. I am. Let’s do so together.
About Hannah Brooks
Hannah Brooks is a love and marriage coach for sensitive women (and their partners). She helps them create the supportive, loving, light and connected relationship they really want. Don’t miss her podcast, Highly Sensitive, Happily Married. For further tips and guidance grab her free guide, The 7 Most Powerful Phrases To Deepen Connection in Your Marriage. Find her at lifeisworthloving.com.