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For the first time in my life I could truly explain, through your words the way in which I experience life and myself. Brenda… It all fell into place. I had found myself and had such a moment of clarity. It felt like such a big weight was lifted off of my shoulders. Finally I felt like it was ok to be me. I was not the only one. I had found people and a little space where I fit in. … I was at work and crying on the inside. Emotions ran wild inside me. I was ecstatic, sad, confused, motivated, i…
Niko
BRENDA: thank you SO much! Your advice is exactly what I need to do. I am amazed how much you “get” me after only exchanging a few messages!… Again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’ve helped me more than a year of therapy sessions! – Megan on space2live
Megan
Because of your blog, I know that it is possible for me to have the love that I want one day and that I don’t have to be alone.  — Indepthwoman  on space2live
Indepthwoman
Your site has saved my sanity and my life. Maybe even my marriage. I work part time and have two young boys at home, my husband is supportive of me but until recently I thought I was going crazy. … Reading your writing not only inspires me to pick up the pen again, but gives me nourishment in the deepest places. I will fight for balance. Everything you write is spot on… And wellness is so incredibly multifaceted.  I was ready to give up hope, but understanding myself through your words is bring…
J.K.
I think I want to print out your articles and hand them out as a sort of relationship waiver form. “You want to be my friend?….You are interesting in going out? Here read this first. Sign here to acknowledge that you have read and understand the enclosed material. Thank you.” Seriously. I think it would work. — Guerin Moorman
Guerin Moorman
Thank you for all the words. You’ve created the magic drug I’ve been looking for all my life. Your blog has transformed my life, and I feel like I am on the brink of a most satisfying fulfilling journey…You’ve made me see everything in a new light. I now feel calmer, able to care better for my toddler, less hateful of people around, and hopeful for my future. I am not so afraid for our marriage anymore. — Shilpa CB
Shilpa CB
Your words are my lifeline.  I sit down to your posts and as I read I can feel my acceptance of myself and my needs grow.  Your words validate my feelings about my life, motherhood, relationships and it is something I hold onto.  And during the times when I feel like I am not able to be a mother or a wife or a sister or a friend or whatever someone needs me to be, I go back to your words and find some peace…I send your posts to my husband when I need him to understand that I love him but I need …
D.R.
THANK YOU….. you just summed up my swirling thoughts into something i can read with out everything else in my head meshing with it. I finally feel like i can explain what happens within without getting distracted. I’m an Introvert with ADD and it makes it so hard to explain quite what im feeling sometimes. — M.G. on space2live
M.G.

“I was struggling with my daughter (16 at the time) and our constant fighting. You said something to me that changed my life! You were speaking about your own situation and you said to me “my child could not handle my emotions”. This was a HUGE “lightbulb moment” for me and it forever changed the way I dealt with my emotions when I was around my daughter!

I am happy to say that things have never been better between my soon to be 18 year old daughter and myself! I honestly never thought we would…

Mom M
During one of the harder times in my life I found Brenda’s website
and reached out to her. To say the least it has been one of the best
decisions I have made. Being an extrovert I never quite understood
what it meant to romantically involved with an introvert. Brenda does
an incredible job listening, giving in the moment feedback, and helped
me understand the how an introvert functions. She helped explain to me
that I am introspective extrovert, and this gave something to identify
with and allowed me t…
Evan H.

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Loving and Growing as a Sensitive Soul In an Intimate Relationship

Couple Park Winter HD Wallpaper - LoveWallpapers4u.Blogspot.Com

Like most people, I want love in my life. I want someone to ask me how my day was, make me laugh at life and myself, help me get through overwhelming to do lists, travel with me to unexplored places, make love with me before dawn, hold me until I relax and allow me to cherish them in the same way they care for me.

I want all that and appreciation for my way of being too.

The Ultra Loving and Somewhat Mercurial Sensitive Introvert

The more relationship experience I gather, the more I realize I am complicated and at times, difficult to understand. It is not intentional but it is true. A highly sensitive introvert often puzzles and challenges those closest to them. We are super soft, intuitive and encouraging and we are emotional, mercurial and intense over-thinkers.

We provide the most empathetic and expansive kind of love out there. It is rare to find someone as interested in personal potential and intimacy as the acutely aware and reflective introvert.

We also pull away when the stimulation or conflict becomes too great for us to integrate into our intentionally low-key, sensual and mindful cocoons of thought, feelings and meaning.

Photo by Ryan Pouncy

Photo by Ryan Pouncy

woman by cold dark water

Photo by Chris Lawton

Two important lessons I’ve learned about loving as a complex, deeply feeling being are:

1. Maintaining integrity, rather than changing myself to please others or expecting my partner to change to fit my needs, is essential and

2. Relationships are crucibles where intense heat and clashing expectations cause the people involved to evolve

Now, at first glance that sounds like two contradictory lessons. One, I have to be myself and not change for anyone and two, I have to be open to changing in a relationship. The fascinating thing about employing both of these practices is if I maintain my own values and learn how to self-validate then I can participate in a relationship fully without fear of losing myself. I can be me AND be OK with someone different from me.

Owning your sensitivity

I avoid conflict and competition because I get an incredibly uncomfortable feeling when going against others. Harmony sits better with my spirit. It is hard for me not to get outwardly upset if I don’t meet expectations or let someone down. My feelings get hurt easily. Negativity adds sad weight to my thoughts and takes precious energy to eliminate. These are all sensations I experience involuntarily and daily. I cannot control the waves of feelings. I spent many years burying tears and emotions because I thought they made me look weak and incompetent. I now know they are just part of who I am. There is beauty in my deep empathy, intuitive thinking and sensitive reactions. I often experience warm, nourishing connections with people, nature, art, music, writing, and places. So much so, that at times it feels like I don’t need anything or anyone else.

girl alone over water

Photo by Julia Caesar on Unsplash

I’ve learned to own my sensitivity but it still greatly affects my relationships.

Intimacy does not hinge on validation from others

I made a vow to myself after my divorce that I would not remain silent when something bothered me. I would no longer ‘people please’ or downplay my values just to avoid conflict or criticism. Highly sensitive people tend to give in for the sake of harmony and ultimately belong more to everyone than they do to themselves.

Dr. David Schnarch, author of Passionate Marriage:Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships, says, We assume that intimacy hinges on acceptance and validation from our partner… We never consider the kind of intimacy where we validate our own disclosures when our partner doesn’t. This is self-validated intimacy. 

We want someone else to make us feel accepted and worthwhile. They validate us rather than owning our own way of being. We consider that validation intimacy or connection when in reality we are missing out on true intimacy by selling ourselves short. When we don’t know who we are or we don’t own our way of being, we aren’t truly connected to another. They can’t really know us. If we maintain our own integrity then our partner can know, trust, and (hopefully) love us. They can relax and not feel pressured to make us happy because we know who we are and how to self-soothe.

Emotions AND judgment are valuable

Dr. Schnarch also says we can shape our own lives by channeling our emotions and our judgment, rather than burying one or the other. Growing the feminine and masculine within us is part of the differentiation process (holding on to your integrity while holding on to someone else) which leads to stronger more mature relationships.

Judgment challenges me in that I see the world through everyone’s perspective and often have a ‘gut feeling’ but am hesitant to follow it because a) I haven’t fully learned to trust my intuition and b) if the judgment affects someone else it is difficult to justify my decision. Society values data, logic and reasoning, that I am often at a loss to provide. I am aware of these hesitations and am striving to self-validate my decision-making process.

My emotions are constantly present. My work is to channel them through awareness, humor and constructive sharing (versus impulsive implosion). In my current relationship, I’ve kept my vow to speak up when something goes against my beliefs or makes me upset. That has caused some tension, worry and conflict. I can’t lie, strong conflict makes me almost physically ill. I lose sleep. I feel heavy. I feel doubt about a relationship with conflicting beliefs and behaviors.

But… my boundaries are clearer. There is a real chance of him loving me for me. My man is gaining a better understanding of the way I think and feel. I am learning about him too. I see where he refuses to compromise. His integrity and more masculine decision-making and actions force me to communicate more directly, which is helpful. I now can express my feelings in a more direct way. Sort of.;)

Relationships are the space where we grow into our utmost humanity

As an introverted feeling type, it is my underlying drive to become the best human I can be. I am an idealist. I prefer kindness over winning. I prefer positive encouragement over honest criticism. I want harmony and genuine caring versus getting the facts down and being more right. I don’t want to hurt anyone because it is easy for me to put myself in their shoes. I want to be ‘good’ because I feel what others feel.

Within relationships, we find the tools and practice to move us forward.

I found it a huge relief when I read in Passionate Marriage that it is normal to be out of sync with your partner. We often need to disengage from our partners to self-regulate (get ourselves together). Permission to step back and come back to ourselves? Heaven to an introvert’s ears.

I did a kind of double take/aha! when I told my boyfriend I felt out of sync with him and he said, Yeah, so what? It didn’t bother him. He doesn’t expect to be on the same page all the time.

Relationships inherently include impasse and gridlock. Sometimes it comes down to changing your behavior or losing the relationship. Most of the time we want to change our mate or change the relationship. Changing ourselves comes later in the process after soul searching and/or hitting rock bottom.

Isn’t it nice to know that relationships are supposed to be tough? They are supposed to fuel our personal growth.

You can’t avoid conflict. The only way to growth and a healthy relationship is to go through the gridlock, and it hurts/sucks/feels really bad but it’s part of the process for everyone.

walk-932965_1920

My man is action based and makes decisions founded in logic. I am more about being and make decisions based on empathy and my personal values. We butt heads and hearts sometime but I have grown more in the last year with my steadfast loving partner than I have with any other intimate relationship. We find ourselves at odds sometimes and that hurts, but we go through the heat together. We don’t sidestep the issues. We both strive to maintain our integrity while leaving an opening to receive new wisdom from the other. My voice has never been so challenged or strained. I’ve never been so vocal and frustrated but the growth in me and him along with the way he always asks me about my day, helps me with to do lists, laughs with me, explores with me, makes love with me and holds me until I relax, makes this love thing incredible.

 

Can you appreciate the growth you experience in your relationship? What have you learned from your partner? How has your sensitivity affected your relationships? Can you channel your emotions and make judgments? 

 

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20 Comments

  1. […] “Two important lessons I’ve learned about loving as a complex, deeply feeling being are: 1. Maintaining integrity, rather than changing myself to please others or expecting my partner to change to fit my needs, is essential and 2. Relationships are crucibles where intense heat and clashing expectations cause the people involved to evolve Now, at first glance that sounds like two contradictory lessons. One, I have to be myself and not change for anyone and two, I have to be open to changing in a relationship. The fascinating thing about employing both of these practices is if I maintain my own values and learn how to self-validate then I can participate in a relationship fully without fear of losing myself. I can be me AND be OK with someone different from me.” Loving and Growing as a Sensitive Soul in an Intimate Relationship – Brenda Knowles […]

  2. Morena November 6, 2015 at 8:28 pm - Reply

    This whole article describes me. I hope one day to find a love like this. My last relationship, he was emotional based and so was I, he was not logical at all. He left everything up to me and it made me physically sick. I ended it.

    “There is beauty in my deep empathy, intuitive thinking and sensitive reactions. I often experience warm, nourishing connections with people, nature, art, music, writing, and places. So much so, that at times it feels like I don’t need anything or anyone else.”

    I feel this way all the time.it scares me, because I’m like how can I share my love with anyone else. I know I have it in me, but I’m scared because the men I meet keep trying to hold me back and they want a family with me and they don’t even know me. They have no idea ho it is to be an HSP person and an introvert and to be intuitive. Sometimes I don’t feel normal. I feel like Michael Jackson when he said during the “Thriller” dialogue to his co-star Ola Ray, that he’s wasn’t normal or like other guys and that he was different.

    I feel like the next guy who wants to be with me, is going to be in for it and he’s going to have to read a manual just to know how to deal with the type of person that I am. I’m an intense person on so many levels and feel everything and pick up on things. I’ve always been this way.

  3. kath unsworth November 2, 2015 at 3:54 am - Reply

    We humans are such complex creatures aren’t we and then add relationships to the mix. Embrace who you are I say.
    Kath.

    • Brenda Knowles November 2, 2015 at 7:56 am - Reply

      Yep, embracing ourselves is the foundation to everything.:)

  4. Shelley Patterson October 22, 2015 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    Brenda, did you write this too? You continue to amaze me. All these thoughts I have and you hit the nail on the head every time. I have learned so much about myself while reading your blogs. Wow! Thank you!!

    • Brenda Knowles October 23, 2015 at 8:26 am - Reply

      Yes, this is my writing. We must be kindred spirits.:) I’m thrilled you are learning more about yourself through my words.

  5. Evan October 18, 2015 at 9:36 pm - Reply

    Hei Brenda!!
    glad to know you,, I’m learning much about my lover from your website,,
    Can i ask you something?

    So we are in LDR and one night she said, one night she said that, “it seems that we doesn’t have much time now, i already decided to be more active and feel angry when youre with the “other”, and she said also that, “everyday i thinking that your act showing that you bored with all of these, bored with me, bored with my act, I think im very careless, but i dont want to be possessive, because it’s very bad”

    and also she write her hope, “i hope you won’t stay away, whatever our circumstances, whatever my circumstances”…

    Because of her tight schedule (she was a Junior
    college student, and live just with her brother, whos working everyday), we begin to have a distance in our conversation (in the past a week), idk what’s going on, but i try to keep greet her and make her smile (maybe), and she just respond it with, “What is that?, I dont know, etc”,,

    And after i read your article about solitude, i say to her that i’ll give her some space (but maybe i do it wrong, because i still give her chat, and hope she smile, and maybe i just afraid of losing her, because beside that, she often alone in her home (because her brother went late to home), and i just wanna chat her. and maybe i just don’t understand that my act is driving her thinking im bored with her act, Ok im confuse!,, 🙁

    So today, im begin to chat her Greeting and maybe something very” bad,, my chat is, “do you understand how it feels to be ignored?” (Ahh mann,,, F***, i just make her sad,,,)

    And she didn’t respond me until now,

    Could you please help me Brenda?

    Thanks..

    • Brenda Knowles October 19, 2015 at 3:27 pm - Reply

      If she is an introvert and needs space, she will need time alone to gain energy and be a good partner. I would ask her straight out how much communication she would like with you. Is a text a day OK? Talk on the phone every other day? Hopefully, she will answer honestly and then you will have to decide if that works for you. Your question about feeling ignored probably made her feel bad about needing time alone. She doesn’t want to make you feel bad. Her comment about you getting bored with her is her asking if you are OK with her style and way of living. You will have to consider what you want from a girlfriend. Is her personality a good match for yours? Thanks for sharing your relationship story. Let me know how it turns out.:)

      • Evan October 20, 2015 at 9:58 pm - Reply

        Thanks Brenda for the respon,
        Honestly i take it personally,,

        And Brenda, i’ll already told her that i will give her space, would you suggest me to directly ask her about the communication, or just wait for her?, and do you know how long she will needed her space (specially for this situation)..

        And could you tell me what i should become with her, i mean with how i act and how to love fully to my introvert (via LDR)

        Once again, thanks Brenda,,

        • Brenda Knowles October 22, 2015 at 3:17 pm - Reply

          I suggest talking about the communication expectations as soon as possible. Ask her how often she would like to communicate with you. Only she can tell you how much space she needs. It depends on how burned out and tired she is. You are on the right path by reaching out to learn more about her introverted nature. You could show her some of the posts on space2live and discuss them with her if you think she would be up for that. You have to be you too. Don’t change, but do be respectful and honor her needs, which may be more quiet and alone time. Best of luck!

          • Evan October 23, 2015 at 6:28 am

            Brenda,,
            So recently she already respon me, and we’ve been talking to her,,
            But she said that she doesnt feel the same again, and she said that i know the condition between us,,
            Do you an advice, because she seems cold and building a wall to our relationship,,

            Thanks

          • Brenda Knowles October 23, 2015 at 8:33 am

            I wrote this post, Does Your Partner Need a Lot of Space:Introverted or Not That Into You?, a while ago. It may offer some insight as to how interested she is in a relationship with you. Hope you find it helpful.

      • Evan October 26, 2015 at 10:25 pm - Reply

        Hi Brenda,,

        May i ask something,,
        Somehow if any problem trigger in our LD Relationship, she feel guilty a lot (and with the last problem she said that the problem is with her), and i always to make her feel better again,,

        do you have an advice how to make her worth (and only introspective) without feeling guilty all the time?, and make her believe that it just a part of the process (of our relationship?)

        Thanks Brenda

        • Brenda Knowles October 27, 2015 at 10:13 am - Reply

          Introverts and especially sensitive ones, tend to feel bad if we can’t make others feel good. She probably wants to have more energy to give you and your relationship. She may not understand why she needs time away. You may tell her what you do like about her. Tell her you like her just as she is. Perhaps you like the deeper conversations you have with her. Tell her that. Perhaps you like how she thinks or how she treats other people. Tell her that. I like how you said her feelings are just part of the process of the relationship. There will be an ebb and flow, back and forth to the relationship. It is not always going to be smooth and you two are not always going to be on the same page. That’s OK, as long as you both know and understand that.

  6. Ace October 17, 2015 at 3:16 pm - Reply

    It’s interesting. Through your last few posts, I’ve begun to draw a few parallels between your relationship and my own, though there is some role-reversal going on.

    I’m the sensitive feeler, while she’s the logical thinker, but I’m the extrovert (more ambiverted) and she’s the introvert.

    I think it adds another level of difficulty. I’m always wanting more contact, support, and intimacy, and as an extrovert, the desire for that form of companionship hits me more as an aching “need” that a normal “want”.

    As for her, well, she’s perfectly capable of just being without me. There’s nothing wrong with that, by any means, but it still scares me a bit.

    I think, as you said before, that there are inherent times of discord in all relationships. Times where logic would tell you it’s not right, but love keeps you steadfast. Being that she’s the “logical thinker”, I worry about what will happen down the line when one of those moments come.

    She’s really bad at expressing her emotions in any way that I can see or understand, and because of that, I really have no idea how much her love for me outweighs her sense of logic and order.

    I know I need to have faith in her and our relationship, and I’m trying. But sometimes it’s just really hard to have faith when there is so little obvious evidence to act as proof.

    I feel bad because I KNOW she loves me, but I still want to be able to see it, even though I know she doesn’t know how to show it.

    So here’s an interesting question that just popped in my head…

    When you examine your relationship and find that you and your partner have certain differences, you work together to reconcile them. But at what point do you draw the line and accept that you’re trying to change the other person? Obviously, your goal should never be to change someone, but at the same time, does that mean that you just give up and leave? Say it’s something that is fundamental to you.

    For instance; my “Love Language” is Touch. The most fundamental way I express and feel love is by touching her. It could be something as simple as resting my hand on on the small of her back while we stand in line for something, or sitting close enough that our knees touch. It could also be a lingering embrace that goes beyond holding her body, to feeling as though I’m holding her very soul to my chest.

    For her, though, there are many times when she simply doesn’t want to be touched.

    I know that this is something about myself that I cannot change, and if I reign it in, I know I will start to feel disconnected from her in a way. But I feel wrong to bring it up to her because I feel I’d be asking her to change something that’s fundamental to her.

    • Brenda Knowles October 18, 2015 at 11:41 am - Reply

      I think the fundamental question you are asking is, how do you know when you are too incompatible to work. As you said, it is not a good thing when you are aiming to change your partner rather than work with them. If your work, family, and personal well-being are being compromised, something needs to be done.
      Your partner sounds like a very contained person. She doesn’t express herself outwardly easily. My questions to you are: Has she always been that way? How long have you been together? Do you know her love language? Have you made your feelings known? Your need for more intimacy and physical touch?
      Does your partner get much time to herself? My first suggestion would be to talk to her openly and vulnerably about how you feel, if you have not already. My second suggestion would be to make sure she gets enought time to herself so that she is re-energized. That energy could fill her up and susequently allow some verve to spill over on you in the form of outward love (verbal, physical, emotional). I know you crave her companionship but you may have to accept quality over quantity. Is that something you could live with?
      She may respond better to slow, sensual touch as opposed to fast, hard or abrupt touch. Is it mostly public displays of affection that she rejects or all physical touch? Introverts are sensitive about having our space invaded but I’ve found personally I enjoy it more if it is sensual, sweet and relaxing. Not that it can’t evolve to hotter and faster but at least start out loving. The ‘hand on the small of the back’, ‘knees touching’,touch you mentioned sounds nice and non-threatening. How about dancing? Does she like that? Kissing?
      I know I asked a lot of questions but hopefully they get you thinking from different perspectives. Be open to learning from her. She should do the same for you. It’s a two-way street. I suggest getting away to somewhere new together. This shakes up the routines and opens each of you to new ways of seeing things. Let me know how you two evolve. Thank you for sharing your story.

  7. Denise October 16, 2015 at 5:00 pm - Reply

    Brenda,

    I read your words and sometimes I am really at a lost. Your articles seem to hit my inbox when I’m thinking the same thing. Except I don’t have the love you speak of but I know its coming :). I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know who I am, because of what I seen others do, when not knowing themselves. I’ve never committed the crime of holding someone else responsible for making me happy in any way. If I wanted love, I had to be love. Whatever didn’t work out in the past, simply was because it wasn’t suppose to be with that person. I’m an introvert and HSP. I thought too, at times it made me weak but I see the beauty of my soul within it. I’m very direct with people and they have a problem with that, but I’m not into people pleasing. I’ve always stood up for myself since I was little. I hate conflict too but if I don’t it makes it sick when I can’t express myself or people try to stifle my growth. When I feel a certain way, I just do and that needs to be respected.

    • Brenda Knowles October 18, 2015 at 11:00 am - Reply

      Good for you for being direct and honest. I am working on that skill. I think we can be direct and be diplomatic. That’s my goal. You have to do and say what let’s you sleep at night. You have to be you. It sounds like you are. It’s hard not to think of others as a path to happiness. Relationships can bring joy to your life but, as you said, it’s best to be love already. I do believe relationships are where we learn and grow, even in the imperfect ones. I am still on the fence whether or not we have to be totally whole coming into a relationship. I think relationships are the space where we develop so much of ourselves. We have to take the risk sometimes and reach out for love. Knowing yourself, so you don’t compromise your values, is important but we can gain perspective in relationships too. See other angles. Now I’m just babbling. But this is what I am learning in my current relationship. Always learning…:) Thanks for sharing Denise.

  8. Michael October 16, 2015 at 3:35 pm - Reply

    Thank you, for your words of wisdom. This hit me right between my eyes. Your lessons are very informative for where I’m at right now.

    • Brenda Knowles October 18, 2015 at 10:58 am - Reply

      Awesome! You’re learning along with me.;)

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