7 Relationship Challenges Faced By Emotionally Intense And Sensitive People

relationship challenges faced by emotionally intense and sensitive people

The more intense and intelligent you are, the more likely it is that you are an independent thinker, and are aware of how your beliefs and values are inconsistent with those of the crowd. You might have tried to conform, to play by the rules of the modern dating book, only to realize you are sacrificing your integrity by adjusting to a society that is increasingly ‘primitive and confused’ (Dabrowski).

Forced conformity not only hurts your integrity but also hinders your development and holds you back from reaching your full potential. Even if you see that the problem is in the culture and not in you, not being able to fix the situation overnight leaves you feeling helpless.

Related: 11 Typical Behaviors That Emotionally Hurt People Display Unknowingly

6. You pick up on everything.

As an empath, you are highly perceptive and intuitive. You naturally spot the inconsistencies, absurdities, and dishonesty in human interactions, so when your partner lies, you can sense it. At the same time, truth matters to you, so you feel compelled to confront them; even when you know it will cause conflict.

Your hyper-empathic tendency means you pick up on other people’s emotions. Being in close proximity to someone means you almost always feel what they feel. The problem here is two-fold: 1. Absorbing every subtle emotional cue in the room creates information overload and is overwhelming for you. 2. Your partner feels threatened by being ‘seen through’ all the time.

The situation is particularly frustrating if your partner disowns or denies what they feel and discharges it onto you. The process by which you feel your partner’s feelings on their behalf is called Projective Identification. In a relationship, the person who is more emotionally developed and has a larger capacity to feel things would take on the feelings the other person disowns or could not admit to themselves.

For example, your partner may complain about their boss and tell stories about themselves being mistreated, without owning legitimate anger. Instead, you feel anger on their behalf and express it for them. Or, you feel rage towards their abusive parents, while they remain unemotional and deny the problem.

7. You suffer from the consequences of being parentified.

Many intense and sensitive people may have been parentified as a child. Parentification is a ‘role reversal’ between parents and child at home. You might have been the confidant, counselor, or emotional caretaker of your parents, or had to play the role of a para-adult and take care of your siblings. Being parentified affects our attachment patterns and how we approach adult relationships in several ways (Earley & Cushway,2002; Hooper, 2007a, 2007b; Katz et al., 2009; Macfie, Houts, et al., 2005; Macfie, McElwain, et al., 2005).

For one, you are highly independent. You have never been able to lean on anyone else — to solve problems, to share feelings, to help you out. Even in a time of crisis, you may keep issues to yourself without sharing them with your partner; as a result, they feel frustrated or left out.

Even without the impact of parentification, you are by default highly sensitive, have a deep sense of identification with others, and are able to empathise to a deep level. Being a pseudo adult at home and having to take on the emotional responsibilities of an adult even when you were little amplified this.

If you grew up in a volatile and abusive home, to protect yourself, you have trained yourself to become hyper-attuned to the nuanced changes in other people’s motives and feelings. As a result, you have a chronically aroused nervous system and are always in a hyper-vigilant state. You may struggle to separate your own feelings from your partners, and their needs from yours.

It may feel like an auto-pilot reaction because you are used to adapting and responding to the needs of others before your own. When you sense your partners’ needs or mood changes— often before they do— you take actions to fix things. If your partner presents with vulnerabilities or needs your physical or emotional care-taking, you may do so at a personal cost— spending less time with friends, foregoing your own hobbies, being less focused at work. This pattern fosters co-dependency, and eventually derails both you and your partner’s sense of self and esteem.

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” ― Elie Wiesel

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Imi Lo

Imi Lo is a consultant for emotionally intense and highly sensitive people. She is the author of Emotional Sensitivity and Intensity, available in multiple languages, and The Gift of Intensity. Imi is the founder of Eggshell Therapy and Coaching, working with intense people from around the world. Imi has practiced as a social worker and therapist in London (U.K). She has trained in mental health, psychotherapy, art therapy, philosophical counseling, and mindfulness-based modalities. She works holistically, combining psychological insights with Eastern and Western philosophies such as Buddhism. Imi’s credentials include a Master in Mental Health, Master of Buddhist Studies, Graduate Diploma in Psychology, Bachelor of Social Science in Social Work, Certificate in Logic-based Therapy, and an Advanced Diploma in Contemporary Psychotherapy. She has received multiple scholarships and awards including the Endeavour Award by the Australian Government. She has been consulted by and appeared in publications such as The Psychologies Magazine, The Telegraph, Marie Claire,and The Daily Mail.View Author posts