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Relationships for the Emotionally Intense and Sensitive

Challenges that come from relationships, or the lack of them.

From the get-go, intense and sensitive people feel the world on a different vibration. They may be told they are ‘too intense,’ ‘too extreme,' ‘too much,' or ‘too sensitive’ all their lives.

Intense people are fierce and passionate lovers. However, they face specific challenges due to their heightened sensitivity, speed of operation, and high level of intuition.

If you are emotionally intense and sensitive, here are some obstacles you may face in intimate relationships or the lack of them.

You are easily bored.

Compared to the rest of the world, you move fast. You process and absorb a large amount of information in an instant, and while it takes most a while to process their own emotions, you pick things up and feel things at the speed of light. As a result, you are ‘out of sync’ with the world.

It is not anyone’s fault, but the predicament sets you up for irritability, impatience, and misunderstanding from others. Most emotionally intense people are also highly intelligent and intellectually rigorous. Combining this with the depth of your feelings, it is difficult for you to find someone with whom you are both romantically and intellectually compatible.

You are enthusiastic about learning new things and curious about the mysteries of the world. In contrast, your partner may be content with the ‘known.' You are eager in your search for life’s meaning and yearn to explore the world — physically, psychologically intellectually, spiritually, visually and sensually. If your partner is not as rigorous or excitable as you are, and has little understanding of your yearnings, you may feel understimulated and trapped in a two-person world.

Since you are highly imaginative and energetic, you bring ideas and inspirations into the relationship but your partner may not have the capacity to reciprocate.

You may try to fill the gap with friends and other exchanges, but you may also see other couples who seem entirely in sync and feel sad about the gap in your life. When the boredom overrides any sense of affection, it is a warning sign that something needs to change. Because it is in your nature to learn and grow continuously, you find yourself outgrowing people rapidly.

You don't enjoy couple's activities as much as other things.

As an intense person, you are imaginative and have a rich inner life. You have a wide range of interests from art to music to politics. When you fall in love with a hobby, a project, or an idea, your brain doesn’t stop. To others who do not function in the same way, you may seem obsessive, excessive, or unhealthy. To you, however, nothing is more painful than knowing that time is slipping by and that you are not making the most of it. Inside you have always known you have the potential to achieve something great, and the clock is ticking.

You are highly reflective, and whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, you need time to yourself to gather energy and creativity. Your partner may not understand your desire for alone time, and they may feel left out.

In a relationship, there are social expectations you need to meet — how much time you spend together and what you do together. You may find yourself saying yes to doing things you would not otherwise agree to. For example, you find yourself thinking about work when you are stuck in a movie theatre or at a party with small talk.

Your partner does not understand your sensitivities and needs.

Emotionally sensitive people also have physical sensitivities: You get jumpy at loud noises, and dislike too many sensory inputs. When you are bombarded with stimuli but not the right kind, your body reacts with allergies, migraines, pain, and fatigue.

What excites your partner may aggravate you — the roller coaster, the loud music, the constant background noise, humor from bringing people down, overpowering perfume. If those around you do not honor your sensitivity, you may be criticized for being too much, too dramatic, too difficult, and so on.

It is important that you understand your nature, and do not judge yourself for your idiosyncrasy. Your needs are legitimate, though it may take clear and assertive communication to make things work in a partnership.

You pick up on every emotion and nuance.

You are highly intuitive toward subtle changes in people’s emotions, and with that sensitivity comes intuition. You are highly perceptive and can pick up all the social nuances and small changes in human dynamics. Your gut feeling is especially amplified in the context of a close relationship. When your partner is dishonest, you have a sense of it. When they are upset or angry, you know it even before they do. Due to your hyper-empathic tendency, you ‘absorb’ whatever they feel, or even feel feelings for them. Being the more emotionally aware one, you may always have to be the one who initiates meaningful conversations or addresses issues in the relationship.

Your perceptivity creates two problems: 1. Being an emotional sponge is exhausting for you. Without healthy emotional boundaries, you get burned out. 2. Your partner feels intimidated or violated by you as you always seem to see through them.

You look for depth in a shallow world.

With the advancement of internet and technology, our world is moving at a pace that is sometimes too fast for our soul. Getting to know someone is a sacred process that requires patience, commitment, and gentleness. In our fast-moving world, these virtues are hard to come by.

An increasingly shallow world is challenging for a sensitive and intense person, especially when it comes to the quest for love. Research has found that in online dating people tend to represent how they want to be seen rather than who they really are; most lie online (Ellison, Heino, & Gibbs, 2006; Toma& Ellison, 2008). As a truth seeker, this frustrates you. You do not separate sex from an emotional and soulful connection. You need more time to get to know someone than the social norm prescribes.

Your emotional depth and complexity mark you as apart from the crowd. It is hard enough not to be part of the mainstream culture. You may be the artist, the mystic, the black sheep. Being out of sync is lonely, and it takes more effort for you to find people who are on your radar.

You prioritize others' needs before your own.

Being the sensitive child, you have always in one way or another — physically or emotionally, visibly or invisibly — played the role of caretaker. If your parents were vulnerable or unavailable, it is most likely that you, as the most sensitive and intuitive child, stepped in as a mini-adult. This role reversal in the family system is known as parentification. You might have been your siblings’ caretaker, or your parents’ confidant, or even their therapist.

Having been parentified means you are conditioned to prioritize others’ needs before your own. It may feel like being on auto-pilot, but you are so in tune with your partners’ unvoiced needs and desires that you sometimes try to solve their problem before they request it.

You had to grow up so fast, so soon, that you were deprived of an innocent childhood. If you never had the chance to express your needs and have them met, it makes sense that you don’t know how to seek help now.

Since you are used to taking care of yourself, you may not share your distress or vulnerabilities with your partner. Even if they try to help and be with you, they feel like they hit a wall. This leaves both of you feeling alone in the relationship.

To conclude:

You are not alone.

The above challenges are faced by many people who, like you, are emotionally sensitive and intense. With self-awareness comes understanding and compassion for yourself.

Just because there are challenges does not mean love and relationships are not possible for you.

For example, you can start by sitting down with yourself and clarifying your values, beliefs, and desires. Then, go into the world, knowing what is it that you want.

It is not easy, but for the right journey, it is worth it.

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