Our Best Advice For Dating Someone Who Is Highly Sensitive

"You're so sensitive" is a phrase you should never hurl at your partner as an insult. However, some people are indeed more sensitive than others. According to Dr. Elaine Aron's website, a researcher of highly sensitive people (or "HSPs" for short), high sensitivity is a genetic trait found in an estimated 15 to 20% of the population. Your significant other might be an HSP if they're sensitive to environmental stimuli (like strong odors or loud sounds), their mood is easily impacted by the people and things around them, and they seem to pick up on small details that others tend to miss.

Dating someone who's highly sensitive can be a challenge, especially if you land somewhere else on the sensitivity spectrum. Still, it doesn't have to be any more challenging than navigating different backgrounds or a different set of hobbies. Getting to know how the trait works and what makes your favorite highly sensitive person tick can help you build a thriving relationship together (and spoiler: you'll likely discover how much of an asset sensitivity can actually be to love).

Know that sensitivity isn't a bad thing

Sensitivity doesn't exactly have the best rap in society. In many instances, people are expected to act tough, even when experiencing uncomfortable sensations and emotions. However, HSPs tend to struggle with these expectations. After all, sensitivity is an innate part of their personality, as per Dr. Elaine Aron's website. As the partner of someone who's highly sensitive, it's important to love them just as they are — and that means recognizing the strengths that sensitivity can offer.

According to Medical News Today, high sensitivity (often referred to as "sensory processing sensitivity" by clinicians and researchers) might make people better at noticing when something seems off, whether that be a potentially dangerous stranger or unspoken relationship tension. This intuitiveness can make HSPs great partners capable of detecting problems before they strike.

Highly sensitive types also tend to be empathetic and skilled at noticing others' body language and tone. They're often deeply invested in understanding their loved ones, perhaps just as much as they work to understand themselves. If this sounds like the person you're dating, take a beat to appreciate the compassionate and observant qualities they bring to your relationship together.

Show appreciation for their unique trait

Even if sensitivity can be a superpower, your highly sensitive partner may not recognize their own strengths. As Deborah Ward, an expert on HSPs, wrote in Psychology Today, sensitive people often struggle with low self-esteem, especially if their trait has been shamed by others in the past. HSPs can also feel used by partners who take their sensitivity for granted.

One of the best ways to make an HSP feel safe and cared for is by showing appreciation. Healthline suggests starting with small tokens of affection. Learn your sensitive partner's love language and use it frequently, like giving random hugs if they're into physical touch or bringing them snacks from the supermarket if they prefer gifts.

Additionally, be careful to not take advantage of their trait. While they may offer empathy and affection, often without even thinking twice, don't assume they're always available when you need comfort. Clinical psychologist Dr. Josh Klapow noted to Well+Good that HSPs tend to absorb other people's emotions, meaning they may not be able to listen to you unload if they're already feeling drained.

Don't be afraid to go deep

You might not be the type to be guided by your emotions or the kind of person who spends hours talking about their feelings, but for your highly sensitive S.O., that's just second nature. "Sensitive people can't help but [express] what they're feeling," Dr. Elaine Aron told HuffPost. "They show their anger, they show their happiness. Appreciating that is really important."

Don't be surprised if your partner easily opens up about their personal experiences and private thoughts. As someone who reflects deeply on their observations and emotions, your HSP significant other likely has a lot they want to talk about — and superficial chit-chat just won't cut it.

In fact, Aron's past research found that HSPs grew bored in their relationships more easily than non-HSP partners. The reason, her team discovered, was that sensitive people craved deeper, more meaningful conversations with their romantic partners. Though you never have to disclose any feelings or reflections you don't want to, consider sharing personal information your S.O. doesn't yet know about you. Talk about your future dreams, thoughts on spirituality, or even how a film you watched together made you feel. And when your partner brings up an intimate topic, practice active listening to learn more about their inner world.

Plan low-stimulation dates

Overstimulation is a common pitfall for HSPs, shares Dr. Elaine Aron's website, and that means your idea of a sweep-you-off-your-feet date could be a tad overwhelming for your other half. For example, an evening jam-packed with romantic gestures could leave your partner feeling exhausted, and a busy event with a lot of people might rattle them to their core.

To really impress your partner, stick with a less-is-more approach. Keep dates simple with built-in downtime (something HSPs need often, according to Cleveland Clinic). Generally, loud sounds, strong smells, bright lights, and big crowds can be uncomfortable for sensitive types, but feel free to ask your S.O. what environments they prefer and which to avoid.

Note that their dietary and drinking habits may differ from yours too. In an interview clip, Dr. Elaine Aron pointed out that HSPs are extra sensitive to the effects of caffeine, and their ability to notice subtleties may also make them sensitive to the effects of drugs, such as medication or alcohol. So, when it comes to date night, be aware that your partner could have a lower threshold for certain activities — such as sharing a bottle of wine — than you're used to.

Work with your differences

If you're not highly sensitive and your partner is, you'll likely run into numerous differences that can take some getting used to. Along with appreciating your partner's sensitivity, let go of any hope you may have that they'll become more like you over time. In a YouTube clip, Dr. Elaine Aron shared that people who date HSPs often have to "grieve" some of their relationship expectations. For example, if you fantasized about bringing your S.O. as a plus-one to social events, you might have to reckon with the fact that your HSP partner feels overstimulated at parties and would rather stay home.

Keep in mind that your significant other doesn't have to fulfill every need in your life. "Our partners end up playing a lot of roles in our lives, but we must strive to understand that they can't play every role at all times, and this is perfectly fine," Britanny Burr, editor at Large and Love and relationship expert for Psych N Sex, told Bustle. If your HSP partner hates loud noises, for example, call on a friend to be your go-to companion at concerts.

Dr. Aron also suggested finding creative solutions to cope with your differences. Show up at a party together but let the sensitive person leave earlier, or spend some time apart on vacation when the HSP feels drained. After all, strategic problem-solving is a crucial part of making a relationship work with a highly sensitive partner.