Sunday, December 6, 2009

HSPs and Intimacy

Intimacy and relationships are a touchy subject for highly sensitives. After all, it's one of our main achilles heels. Inside we're already at the finish line, riding through on our white horse or throwing down the rope from the tower's window. On the outside it's often a combination of the mixed signals of hesitant caution and irrefutable lightbeam reflections intertwined with soft whispers of affection.

The bridge between what can be and what is can often be a wobbly one for us, filled with many moments of taking "two steps forward and two steps back." This has certainly been my personal experience, with all types and levels. This also includes the relationship one has with oneself. To me, this is the foundation, the starting point. In order to get to know someone else, you have to know and accept your own self fairly well before you can connect. The irony in this is that we also get to know ourselves through others.

Making the decision to embark on any relationship requires a leap of faith. It involves slowly unveiling what's hidden behind the walls that we have unintentionally built. HSPs often go about this process more tentatively than others, which can be a challenge when you're involved with someone who is not highly sensitive. There are often two different sets of expectations, polar opposite perspectives, as well as different communication styles involved in the "HSP with non-HSP" relationship dynamic.

I've had the joy and challenge of experiencing this dynamic for almost ten years now (yes, we're one of those "we've redefined marriage" couples, but not in a negative sense). My personal dynamic is further complicated by the fact that I'm an introvert and he's an extravert and we're currently trying to "manage" this partnership between two states. Somehow, though, we've managed to survive our differences and our intermittent geographical distance. I'd like to think that the HSP traits of loyalty and attentiveness have something to do with that, but I can't give myself all the credit. Despite our differences, his capacity for understanding and realizing my need for independence is not a "brush-off" have also gone a long way.

Differences, especially stark ones, can often be viewed as obstacles to making a genuine and enduring connection. Yet, I've found that those differences can also be the very thing that keeps a relationship going and makes it worthwhile. It's an opportunity to develop a new perspective, teach each other a few things and complement each other as a "team."

It's critical to realize that differences and the inevitable conflict that can come from them is not always something to turn away from. Conflict doesn't mean that the relationship is not successful, that it's suddenly over and that your partner can't possibly understand you. Conflict is an opportunity to help those that have a different view of the world catch a glimpse of ours. While it may be something that HSPs are not comfortable with, learning to navigate it can be an invaluable lesson in learning that the "all or nothing" philosophy we often take isn't what a partnership is about.

A partnership is a process of rediscovering yourself through someone else's eyes while simultaneoulsy helping them do the same. It's about finding out what works, what doesn't work, and what you truly want. It's about mutual sacrifices that enable you both to receive something more important than what you gave up. It's a trying, fun and magical journey that HSPs shouldn't let their tentative nature stop them from taking; even if it involves a little rule breaking here and there.

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff.

    I think perhaps one of the conundrums HSPs wrestle with in relationships is how much we care about "what others think," vs. the fact that we have a PARICULARLY strong need to define our relationships for OUR purposes.

    The most successful relationships I've seen have been based on the ideals and desires of just the TWO people in them (NOT the "popular opinion" of what marriage "should" look like) and making one's "own" contract.

    Elaine Aron is a good example of an unconventional HSP marriage (to a non-HSP)... she spends six months of the year living alone, while she teaches in New York, the other six months in the Bay Area of California, with husband of 25+ years, Art.