There is perhaps nobody who experiences love quite like a sensitive person.
For the past 20 years, Dr. Elaine Aron has been the lead researcher of what she calls highly-sensitive people, or HSPs, a grouping of men and women who make up about 15-20 percent of the population.
Major traits of HSPs include highly-emotional reactivity, high empathy, sensitivity to subtleness and an overall unique depth of sensory processing. These traits might be due to biological differences in an HSP's nervous system.
I tend to dabble a little in HSP territory myself, so I started thinking about the ways being a sensitive person in general can affect how you are in relationships.
I can't say I was surprised to find it affects pretty much everything.
1. If your partner is mad, you always think it has something to do with you.
Maybe your partner isn't answering your text messages in a timely matter or is being particularly quiet during dinner.
It's probably just because s/he had a rough day at work, or took a hard exam, or fought with a family member, or something else that doesn't have anything to do with you. Still, you can't help but think you're the cause of your partner's anger.
Even if your partner tells you why s/he is upset, you can't help but take it all way too personally.
This causes you to go through your entire day and wonder what exactly you did wrong: Did you say something rude? Did you post something unsettling on social media? What did you do?
2. You know all the details of your partner's life, including things you've only been told once and things you notice on your own.
Sensitive people like you are good at noticing details in all aspects of life, so when it comes to your relationship -- where your partner is your main focus -- you're even better at it.
You remember the easy things, like where your partner is from and what school s/he graduated from, but you also remember smaller details: your partner's favorite book, the name of your partner's childhood best friend, your partner's shirt size and most-used brand of cologne or perfume.
In fact, any detail you might've only heard about once will become permanently etched in your memory.
You also notice the most subtle changes in your partner's appearance (Is that a new shirt?) and mood (Are you upset about something?). You're so hyperaware of your partner's every move, it's difficult for you not to notice.
3. It's difficult for you to make decisions in the relationship.
It's a challenge for you to choose what movie you want to watch or where you want to go for dinner.
This is because you're hyperaware of the details of lots of possible outcomes, so you know your partner will get bored if you watch "Sex and the City" or "Transformers," despite how badly you want to.
You also know your partner doesn't love Italian food, even though you've been craving a ravioli dish all week.
A sensitive person like you is so constantly attuned to what your partner might also want, it's hard for you to make a decision based on what you want. "What you want" doesn't exist anymore -- only with a prediction of what your partner may want.
4. Any kind of criticism, even seemingly constructive comments, upsets you.
Because you're a sensitive person, you're already highly sensitive to criticism in general. Since you value your partner's opinion of you so much, however, his/her criticisms -- even ones that may be genuinely helpful or constructive -- upset you even more.
You think your partner's criticisms are a deep, personal attack on your very being, so you ruminate on them for a long time.
5. If you do something wrong in the relationship, it'll bother you for a really long time.
Everyone has that uncomfortable feeling of regret when s/he does something wrong, but because you feel everything very deeply, it hits you even harder.
Even if you and your partner reconciled the problem and everything seems fine, you can't help but think about it from time-to-time and assume it's still affecting your relationship.
You just want to be the best boyfriend or girlfriend you can be, so any indication you're straying from that makes you insecure.
Reminders of your partner's affection for you (see #10) will help here.
6. Your partner has seen your ugly crying face more times than you wish.
You cry a lot. It's just the nature of being sensitive. And your poor partner has seen your blotchy, swollen crying face far more than you wanted it to be seen by anyone, ever. It's embarrassing, but you can't help how easy it is to make you cry.
You're glad your partner still finds your face cute, though.
It makes sense your partner would see you cry the most. S/he is the person closest to you, so you feel comfortable expressing your emotions. Speaking of...
7. You're hyperaware of what's bothering you because you're so emotionally reactive.
You are so aware of how you're feeling at all times that when something is upsetting you, you simply can't relax.
While some people bury their feelings until they randomly explode, you have a hard time putting your emotions in the back of your mind until they just go away.
Dealing with this, however, is difficult. As sensitive people tend to want to avoid uncomfortable situations, you constantly go back and forth between wanting to tell your partner how you feel (which might create an uncomfortable situation) and not wanting to tell your partner how you feel (which would cause you to continue feeling tense).
The struggle with how exactly to deal with your feelings is real.
8. You deeply feel any emotion your partner feels.
Sensitive people are hyperaware of how their partners are feeling all the time. Even more so, because sensitive people possess such high levels of empathy, they also feel these emotions right to their cores.
If your partner is sad, you're distraught. If your partner is happy, you're elated. If your partner is angry, you want to punch whomever made him or her angry right in the face.
Carrying the burden of someone else's feelings all the time can certainly be exhausting, but you're also strangely happy to do it.
9. You've been mistaken for the shy one in the relationship.
There's a common misconception that sensitive people are always introverts, but this is simply not true.
In fact, 30 percent of HSPs are actually extroverts, which goes to show being sensitive and being social and outgoing are not mutually exclusive.
Sometimes, though, with your deep inner-thought processes and reflective nature, people assume you're the shy one in your relationship.
Your brain is constantly on overdrive, analyzing how you're feeling and what you're thinking at all times, so sometimes it's natural for you to retreat a little bit.
Sensitive people also don't really like to put themselves in uncomfortable situations, so your partner might assume your need to avoid conflict means you're being timid.
In reality, you just don't want to upset anyone.
10. You always have a hunch you're the person who loves more in the relationship.
You feel everything very deeply, so it's only natural for you to assume you may be more emotional about the relationship than your partner.
You feel insecure if you think you're smothering your partner too much with affection, or if you think your partner isn't giving you the same amounts of affection you're giving.
Because it's easy for you to feel like you're loving more than your partner, you need constant reminders of your partner's love for you.
These reminders don't need to be grand gestures, though -- just little somethings to let you know that you're both on the same page.
11. You always hear the phrase, "Don't take things so personally!"... but you just can't help it.
You, honestly, can't even count the number of times you've heard this. You're really, really trying, OK?
Stop being so critical! *Cries*