Elaine Aron, whose book “The Highly Sensitive Person” I’ve discussed often on Beyond Blue, also writes about the topic of sensitive-types in relationships. In fact, she devoted a whole book to it, “The Highly Sensitive Person in Love.” Here are some interesting facts on sensitive people and relationships and why she wrote a whole book about it …

Most of us assume that the success of a relationship between friends or lovers depends on having good communication skills or sharing similar interests. But consider this: A 1995 study found that 50 percent of the risk of divorce is genetically determined. Does this mean success and fulfillment in social life are inherited? What can we do about that?

The single largest reason for this genetic effect is not a “divorce gene,” I’m certain. (To say something is genetically determined doesn’t clarify much–wearing skirts or owning a rifle is almost totally “genetically determined,” thanks to the genes for gender plus a lot of cultural moderators.) Genetics enter into marriage because of the way that certain inherited temperaments cause trouble in relationships. They cause trouble only because most of us are totally ignorant about the reality of the drastic differences that can exist among nervous systems. But with the right guidance, the many “mismatches” in this world can have the most fulfilling relationships of all.

HSPs in Love

Let’s start with the temperament we know, sensitivity. About 20% of us are highly sensitive persons (HSPs); at least 34% of love relationships involve an HSP. And everyone has at least one HSP friend. I have found that when HSPs aren’t understood by themselves and others, that spells trouble. That’s surely part of why my data show that, on the average HSPs, are a bit happier paired with each other. They understand each other.

My data also show that on the average HSPs’ relationships in general are less happy–implying that relationships HSPs are in are less happy, at least for the HSP. Why? HSPs have nervous systems that pick up more on subtleties in the world and reflect on them deeply. That means, for starters, that they will tend to demand more depth in their relationships in order to be satisfied; see more threatening consequences in their partners’ flaws or behaviors; reflect more and, if the signs indicate it, worry about how things are going.

Because HSPs are picking up on so much, they are also more prone to overstimulation, quicker to feel stress–including the stimulation and stress that can arise in any intense, intimate interactions. They need more down time, which can cause a partner to feel left out. They find different things enjoyable compared to others.

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