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.
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.
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.
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?