I’ve had some interesting comments and emails from readers lately asking about an issue that seems to recur for highly sensitive people, and that is the tendency to find themselves in unstable relationships. Why are needy, unhealthy people attracted to HSPs? And why are HSPs attracted to them? More importantly, what can we do to find the loving, healthy relationships we want, need and deserve?
In a previous post I’ve discussed why negative people are often attracted to HSPs. Highly sensitive people are warm, gentle and compassionate, understanding and caring. Highly intuitive and great listeners, we are genuinely interested in helping people with their personal problems. We are often unaware of our empathy or just how attentive we can appear to others. It’s the HSP’s natural state. And all kinds of people are attracted to our caring nature.
But for many people, especially those with self-esteem issues, unmet needs or mental illness, this kind of compassionate warmth and concern for their feelings is the first such experience for them. They will do anything to hang on to it, whether that means attempting to hide their own weaknesses with a show of confidence or begging the HSP not to abandon them.
For some HSPs, the intensity of such a relationship keeps them holding on. Sensitive people, while gentle and often quiet, are also highly expressive, emotional and passionate, so there is often a tremendous spark, if not a bonfire, of attraction and energy in their relationships with people who are struggling emotionally. It can then become easy to confuse this kind of chemistry for a soul mate connection, destiny or love. The reality is that an instant attraction or a fiery romance is often a sign that the relationship will eventually self-combust.
Finding someone with a creative spirit can also create an enormous attraction. Sensitive people are creative people themselves, and they cannot help but become attracted to people who share these qualities. Unfortunately, many people who are unstable are also intense, passionate, emotional and creative. While we can easily recognise and feel attracted to their sensitive, creative side, their unhealthy side may not be so obvious until much later.
Highly sensitive people are natural nurturers with a strong, driving desire to foster others’ personal growth. We are the world’s counsellors, finding great personal fulfilment in helping and encouraging other people. HSPs can often sense another person’s deeper feelings, seeing not only those presented on the surface, but the emotions buried down deep. Knowing that these deep-rooted feelings and beliefs are painful, the HSP tends to respond compassionately to try to help that person. Furthermore, the awareness of these feelings is a powerful and rewarding experience for both the HSP and the other person, who often feels they have not only been heard but seen, recognised, at last.
Highly sensitive people are so attuned to their external world and the people in it, that they tend to feel others’ feelings more than their own. Most people keep a barrier between themselves and the world and bury all their vulnerability inside. But like a person turned inside out, HSPs wear their sensitivity on the outside, showing their soft side to the world and absorbing every nuance. This can cause HSPs to feel overwhelmed, and importantly, to become so engaged in their external experiences, especially with other people’s feelings, that they lose touch with and ignore their own needs.
While it can feel like you are working against your own instincts if you let go of relationships with people who need help, HSPs need to remember that their own needs are just as important as everyone else’s. Sensitive people need to find the balance between helping others and helping themselves, so that we can enjoy the fulfilment of supporting other people while caring for ourselves. That means establishing and expressing clear boundaries with others so that any kind of unhealthy behaviour is not tolerated.
HSPs need relationships that are supportive and caring in order to thrive. And while there can be excitement and drama with a person who needs help, it will ultimately be exhausting, if not debilitating. Setting boundaries and expressing your needs clearly will not only detract unhealthy people from seeking you out, and make them less attractive to you, but it will also attract people who are healthy enough to be there for you as well. And that is where the real passion, excitement and true love will emerge.