Why You Shouldn't Run From Your Sensitive Side In A Relationship

Toughen up. Calm down. Brush yourself off. Grow a thicker skin. These are all things that many of us were told as children by well-intentioned adults, but if you're in touch with your sensitive side, chances are these messages didn't totally stick.


This is especially true for highly sensitive people, or HSPs. According to Dr. Elaine Aron, a researcher who has pioneered research on sensitivity, between 15% and 20% of the population are thought to have the HSP trait. Moreover, Aron believes that high levels of sensitivity are normal and rooted in biology. In other words, sensitivity may come just as naturally as being right-handed or fast at running.

Whether you're an HSP or not, you still have a sensitive side. And even if you were told to bury it while growing up, tapping into this mushiness can offer several advantages, especially in romantic relationships. Here's how to embrace your sensitivity in your love life.

What it really means to be sensitive

Being sensitive isn't the same as being weak, nor does it mean strapping yourself in on a rollercoaster of emotions. "As a personality trait, being sensitive just means you take in more information about your environment and respond more to it," Andre Sólo, an author and co-founder of Sensitive Refuge, explained to Bustle. That can include the information in your relationship. Sensitive people may be quicker to notice when something feels off or when a boundary has been crossed. They may also recognize subtleties that others would miss, witnessing them with the dial turned up.


When harnessed well, sensitivity can strengthen relationships and help partners confront their issues head-on. Dr. Elayne Daniels, a psychotherapist specializing in HSPs, says, "[Highly sensitive people] have trouble just sweeping conflict under the rug and are more inclined to notice if there is an elephant in the room. Perceptiveness is an HSP strength and helps to pre-empt potential rough spots." Clearly, there's a lot more to sensitivity than being prone to stress or crying fits — not that there's anything wrong with the occasional ugly cry, of course.

If you're sensitive, you're probably naturally empathetic too

While some people look for a modelesque physique or fireworks in the bedroom, less sexy traits like empathy are what really matters when choosing a significant other. Being empathetic towards your partner (and vice versa) is one of the best ways to make them feel seen, heard, and accepted. And coincidentally, empathy and sensitivity often go hand in hand.


"HSPs' brains show greater responsiveness to others' emotions," social neuroscientist Dr. Bianca Acevedo told YOU Magazine. She adds that their ability to read the air can lead to greater intuitiveness overall. Acevedo's research backs this up: In her 2014 study published in the journal Brain and Behavior, highly sensitive people showed greater activity in brain regions associated with empathy when shown photos of happy and sad faces.

If you're in touch with your sensitive side, there's a good chance your brain will light up when watching your partner smile or cry too, making it easier to place yourself in their shoes. Showing up for each other in this way can solidify your bond, especially when one of you is going through a tough time.


Sensitivity can lead to deeper, more meaningful relationships

Sensitive types often steer clear of superficial relationships, choosing to nurture close connections instead. Dr. Elaine Aron discussed this topic during an interview at WebMD Live's Mind and Body Auditorium (via MedicineNet), saying, "I think HSPs are ideally designed for close relationships. They are conscientious, good listeners, loyal, aware of little signs that the relationship needs work. They tend to be spiritual, so that love and close relationships have a deeper meaning for them." In short, being an HSP, or just a non-HSP with a soft spot can make for the deep, sweep-you-off-your-feet kind of romances many only dream of.


Part of this comes from having greater self-awareness, according to GoodTherapy. When you embrace being soft, you'll likely spend more time reflecting and listening to your feelings. Then, the deeper your relationship with yourself becomes, the deeper the relationships around you become too.

An added bonus of preferring emotionally intimate relationships and wearing your sensitivity on your sleeve is that others who want something different — like a dead-end situationship or a casual fling — may be scared off by your intensity. Though this can shrink your dating pool, it also weeds out incompatible matches.

Your sensitive side includes happiness and gratitude

The stereotypical poster child for sensitivity might be gloomy and teary-eyed, but being sensitive can also include feelings of intense joy and gratitude — two things that can benefit pretty much any relationship. By appreciating all those big feelings, you might be inclined to celebrate the everyday wins you and your S.O. achieve. The experts at Healthline also note that you'll likely savor your partner's tiny (though important!) gestures of love, like spontaneous kisses or a favorite treat after a bad day.


Because you're so moved by the little things in life, you probably sprinkle small moments of happiness and acts of affection where you can in your relationship. Deborah Ward, author of "Sense And Sensitivity: Why Highly Sensitive People Are Wired For Wonder," shared with Stylist, "We care deeply about people and we want to help. We want to help others reach their potential and we want to be there to listen and offer our support. We're not expecting anything in return. We do it because we can feel other people's feelings so intensely."

What if your partner shames your sensitivity?

Even though sensitivity can be a superpower, especially in romantic relationships, not everyone is comfortable with it. If your significant other criticizes you for being overly sensitive, wait before reacting. "Pause for a second, make sure you're calm, and tell them something like this: 'I am a sensitive person, I'm proud of it, and I need a partner who's going to love that part of me. Can we plan a time later when we're both calmed down to talk about what my sensitivity means to me?'" Andre Sólo suggested to Bustle.


Taking a break also gives you a chance to reflect on your actions. Though sensitivity itself won't wreck a relationship, some common pitfalls of being highly sensitive might. Psychology Today says that HSPs may struggle to set boundaries, honor their own needs, and choose partners who won't take advantage of them. Sensitive types may also use their intuitiveness to "mind read" or jump to conclusions — even though their assumptions may be wrong.

It's important to be with someone who appreciates your tender side and all the relationship benefits it offers. However, if you find yourself falling into unhealthy patterns, or regularly feeling overwhelmed by your emotions, talk to a therapist or couples counselor who can help you tune into your feelings in a more balanced way.