If you are one of the 15 to 20% of the population deemed highly sensitive, all relationships are a challenge for you…especially the one with your spouse.
What exactly happens with highly sensitive people
You feel boomeranged around by chaotic people, loud noises and bright lights. You prefer excavating a heavy novel to a shallow conversation. And, you are highly reactive to perceivable or ambiguous comments by your spouse.
You were born this way and while you may try to be “like everyone else” you are keenly aware and highly reactive when your partner hurts your feelings or misunderstands you. And, It takes you a much longer time to recover than most people.
As a result, many highly sensitive people try to convince themselves that they need to be less sensitive. They talk themselves out of their hurt, distract or deny how upset they are and ultimately find that this doesn’t work. It only serves to keep them stuck in anger or, sometimes, even depression.
Accept that you are hurt, be compassionate with yourself and, when you are ready, invite your partner into a conversation about it. The key word here is Communication. Do not blame, shame or attack your spouse who may have no idea what you’re feeling or why. After all, most highly sensitive people partner with those who are more cognitive and less emotional. These partners offer balance for your sensitivity but they don’t always understand how they trigger your upsets.
Invite your partner into a dialogue where you can both express yourself. You can speak first and then await their response. If your partner argues or debates with what you are feeling simply let them you know that your feelings are not debatable and that you can’t be talked out of them. Ask them to just listen. Then, if they can do this, give them room to express their feelings in return.
One way to start the conversation might be- “I don’t think you intended to imply that I am fat, but it sure felt hurtful when you said that my pants looked too tight.” Await for the response.
You must be strong to do this and ignore the “you’re just too sensitive” comment that is either coming from inside your head or from your partner who is rolling their eyes. You are not too sensitive. You were injured and are longing to repair your hurt.
For over 27 years as a therapist, I have seen many sensitive people argue with their spouse, demanding that they listen and understand them… but to no avail. These people are longing to feel understood and validated yet their partners just don’t get it. Arguing and debating with your more cognitive spouse just leads to more stress, misunderstanding and distracts you from the real issue…your hurt.
It is challenging for your spouse to understand your highly sensitive experience just as it would be for you to understand theirs. After all, they approach and respond to the world differently from you and if you had made this comment to them, they are likely to just blow it off.
Keep an open mind
Realize that just because your partner cannot understand your hurt, doesn’t mean that they don’t love and care for you deeply. It only means that their temperament and brain works differently than yours.
In short, if you accept your sensitivity without judgment and speak up for your hurts, your spouse may begin to understand the complexities of what you are experiencing. Hopefully, this will make you both more empathic to your highly sensitive nature.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
More by Nancy Simon