Can highly sensitive people have healthy relationships? YES!
However, there are some caveats. You have to identify what can and cannot work or you and what kind of person is good for you.
The Problem Of Fitting In
One of the dangers for highly sensitive people is that in trying to have healthy relationships what really happens is that the sensitive person tries to fit in, sacrificing too much of themselves. What passes for a healthy relationship is really a sacrifice of the self and so the relationship becomes filled with unhappiness and resentment. This applies to all relationships, not just romantic ones. In particular, it applies to family relationships – the place where we cut our relationship teeth.
Of course, there are many different forms of fitting in. Conforming to traffic laws is one. Celebrating many cultural holidays is another. But these are small conformities compared to conforming to the religious values, sex roles and aspirational values of the culture. This is where it gets tricky and difficult for highly sensitive people. Therefore HSPs need to associate with people who share their values to have a positive common ground in their relationships. If the values work, everything else is negotiable.
How Do You Know If You Have Healthy Relationships?
So how do you know that you have a healthy relationship?
- friendship. A healthy relationship has friendship. You can feel the positive regard and trust in the energy between the two people.
- communication. The communication in a healthy relationship has positive expectations which are open, flexible and trusting.
- mutuality. In a healthy relationship, there is give and take. There is enough trust that there is no concern about being taken advantage of. Under these circumstances, the relationship is created together.
- common ground. One of the most important forms of common ground in a healthy relationship is shared values. However, common interests whether activities and entertainment can work as well depending on the type of relationship.
- ability to grow. A healthy relationship honors where each person is today and allows for the growth and change of each person. It feels supportive rather than confining and stifling. The willingness to adapt and change is one of the most important parts of a successful relationship because if the relationship is predetermined it usually will die.
- space. A healthy relationship is given space in the person’s life and each person also has space to be themselves with their own pursuits. It also has space for all aspects of a relationship from ups and downs to sadness and joy.
These are all important parts of a healthy relationship, which as you can see is really a living, breathing thing. So often when people talk about relationships, they talk about something that perceive as static or a possession. Relationships are alive and if they are not there is something very wrong.
Healthy Romantic Relationships
Romantic relationships are more challenging than other relationships because of the investment we have to make to have a successful romantic life and also because there is a lot of risk in a committed relationship. Committed romantic relationships bring together more important aspects of a person’s life than other types of relationships and therefore require more care.
In addition to the general requirements for a healthy relationship cited above, romantic relationships also include:
- emotional and sexual intimacy. Both sexual and emotional intimacy can be frightening for anyone. If there has been a significant experience of abuse of any kind, the challenge of intimacy is greater.
- the ability to deal with gender wounding and work at changing gender based behaviors. This is particularly true for HSPs who often have challenges with cultural gender ideals.
- family issues. A committed romantic relationship comes with two families. Those relationships have to be supportive of the couple or there will be tension in the couple’s relationship. Hostile families can destroy a relationship.
- goals and purpose. A committed romantic relationship requires goals that both people work toward. Goals cement the relationship in the minds of the individuals and also give rise to the time and energy commitments of the couple. They help create an “us.”
Highly sensitive people have difficulty in many areas of relationship. If any significant abuse or wounding took place in an HSPs childhood, therapy or counseling would be extremely useful. At a minimum, discovering one’s relationship sore spots and being able to own them and communicate in a positive and effective way about them, can make relationships more sustainable and rewarding.
HSPs have legitimate reasons for finding relationships difficult. By being as selective as possible about the people in one’s life, and working on relationship challenges, HSPs can have healthy relationships that are as rewarding and anyone else’s. Perhaps more so.