Dating can be awkward, uncomfortable, and downright worrisome, no matter who you are. Getting to know one another isn’t always the smoothest road, but you’re bound to get the hang of it eventually.
Being a highly sensitive person adds a layer of difficulty to anything and everything, though, including dating. It’s tricky enough to navigate an overstimulating world, but adding another person to the mix? If this feels overwhelming, you’re not alone! It’s complicated, but it can certainly be done––and when it is, it can feel oh-so-rewarding.
All it really requires is communication and an open mind to begin feeling your way through dating and sensitivity. Whether you or the person you’re seeing identifies as an HSP, there’s a lot you can learn and try in order to make dating as comfortable and fun as possible. Hopefully, some of these ideas resonate with you and inspire your next conversation. Here are 10 secrets about dating a highly sensitive person.
1. An HSP will notice (and will care!) if you’re not being genuine
An HSP can likely feel what you feel. At the least, they can get a read on your vibe through tiny details such as body language and facial expression, but oftentimes, they just know. Something between you will probably feel off if you try to get away with a lie, even if neither of you can tell what it is at first. Just stick to authenticity, and a lot less will get lost in translation.
2. Communication is key
The more you know and communicate, the more you can be there for one another in any situation. If you have specific triggers that you feel comfortable talking about, let your partner know! Vice versa––if you notice the person you’re dating looks uncomfortable, it won’t hurt to ask. If anything, you’ll just be more prepared for the next date.
Communication can also help you avoid unnecessary stress or misunderstanding. For example, a moderately crowded cafe is probably relaxing for a lot of people, but some HSPs may be overstimulated by a few voices and machines in an echoing room.
3. Know that an HSP’s environment affects them greatly
Lisa Petsinis, a highly sensitive person and blogger at Highly Sensitive Refuge, recounts how sensitivity to sound drove her nearly insane: “As a highly sensitive person myself, I remember so clearly the time the house alarm system malfunctioned, and the alarm rang for two hours straight until I finally ripped the wires apart in desperation. I thought I would die from the shrillness and force of the sound.”
Unfortunately, Petsinis’ case is not unusual for highly sensitive individuals. HSPs will hone in on slight sounds, smells, movements, and even tastes that others don’t notice. This can be extremely overwhelming at times, especially when trying to focus on another person, so be patient with yourself and your partner if things get overstimulating.
4. HSPs feel emotions intensely too
Sensory stimulation might be easier to see and understand for non-sensitive individuals, but HSPs are just as perceptive of emotion. An HSP might be moved to tears by a sad song or a few sweet words, so keep this in mind when picking your next date night movie. Don’t feel like emotional expression needs to be avoided, though! Just as with any sensitivity, it can be just as beautiful as it is frustrating. If you’re handling your feelings in productive ways, they can bring the two of you closer together.
5. It may help to plan ahead
If you took your date ice skating as a surprise, you’d probably let them know to bring a jacket, right? You can think about sensitivities the same way: a little communication and preparation will help the date run a lot smoother. Going somewhere loud? Bring headphones! A long car ride? Maybe a fidget object and downloading a podcast will help.
Blogger Lisa Pensinis gives a great example: instead of worrying whether a restaurant will carry something your partner likes to eat, just call ahead and ask! Resources such as social media and good ol’ Google can help you think up the evening of your dreams.
6. Give HSPs some time to adjust
Practically everyone can relate: at some point in life, a change has been stressful, confusing, or even terrifying. This may have been the move to a new home or the arrival of a sibling, but for highly sensitive people, nearly any and every change can feel disruptive and scary. Even the change of seasons affects some HSPs (no, not in the same way as Seasonal Affective Disorder), so you can imagine how jarring sudden changes can be. Be patient if your partner doesn’t seem relaxed in a new place––or even in a new relationship––they’re still feeling things out.
7. You will probably learn something if you listen closely
Highly sensitive people take in a lot of information on a nearly constant basis. It can definitely be overwhelming, but it can also be pretty useful. When your brain is as active as an HSP’s, you’re bound to notice some interesting particulars throughout life. You might remember things that others don’t because you’re so detail-oriented. Talking to an HSP will likely keep you engaged; sensitive individuals tend to move beyond small talk rather quickly.
8. Don’t ignore their discomfort or make a scene of it
If you were in their shoes, how would you want someone you’re with to react if you told them something was bothering you?
It can be hard to know what to say or do when something comes up, especially when it’s sudden. Just remember that it’s more about how you react than the exact words you say. Ignoring their feelings certainly won’t help the situation, even if you’re just trying to distract them. Odds are, not much will be able to take their attention away from their surroundings, so a simple suggestion (“should we step outside for a minute?”) or straightforward question (“what would you like to do?”) should suffice. They probably already feel self-conscious about their reactions, so there’s no need to draw any unnecessary attention when a problem arises.
9. Choose surprises carefully
Planning a surprise date night for an HSP might be more difficult than you think. Because highly sensitive people are so perceptive, they may intuitively feel that you are hiding something, which might prompt them to ask. On the other hand, surprising an HSP with a hug from behind can be so startling that it takes more than a few seconds to recover from. Even the dreaded “I have to tell you something” sets an HSP’s heart pounding. So maybe keep the suspense to a minimum?
10. Stop using phrases like “too sensitive” and “too much”
You want to date someone who makes you feel good, right? For an HSP, this might translate into looking for someone who accepts their sensitivities without judgment. It’s already emotionally draining to deal with constant overstimulation, so it can be truly disheartening to feel like someone is simply tolerating, rather than choosing, to be with you. Simple phrases like “overly sensitive” and “too much” carry more weight than you think, so it’s important to choose words carefully and listen to each other with an open mind.