Challenges & How to Master Dating as a Highly Sensitive Person

Published: July 27, 2021
Updated: May 23, 2022
two people dancing under a star sky

Are you sensitive? No, that isn’t an insult. Some people are truly more sensitive than others, and understanding your own sensitive nature can help you handle online and offline dating challenges, romantic relationships, and rejection with ease.

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What Is a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)?

There’s a wide spectrum of sensitive people and empaths. Some have an especially strong intuition, while others are highly attuned to others’ emotions.

Psychologist Elaine Aron researched people with sensitive characteristics to discover a type of person with especially high sensitivity and depth of processing: the highly sensitive person, or HSP.

She realized that sensitivity is more than a personality trait for many people, and it may even be genetic. HSPs are especially unique in the way they can receive a lot of information and stimulation, almost like they experience life with the dial turned up.

But this can lead to overstimulation easily, with the nervous system going into overdrive and burnout happening quickly.

It’s no surprise, then, that HSPs feel deeply and are more easily moved by the little things—both positive and negative. Chaotic environments with a lot of stimuli like loud noise, bright lights, and strong smells can be especially stressful for sensitive people.

On the other hand, HSPs love to get lost in their rich inner world, enjoying reflecting and thinking deeply about life. In fact, it’s in this downtime that HSPs often find comfort, typically preferring to withdraw and decompress alone at home.

If this sounds familiar to you, you may be a highly sensitive person. And given that HSPs experience emotions and life so deeply, this can certainly have a major influence on your dating experiences and love relationships.

sensitive person screaming

How Being a (Highly) Sensitive Person Affects Your Love Life

Part of what makes sensitive people unique is their sensitivity to stimulation. Dating can be emotionally and mentally (and even physically) stimulating for everyone, but for highly sensitive people, that stimulation level is amplified.

This can create some difficult challenges, but it can also be a gift for sensitive people and their dating partners.

Dating and Relationship Challenges

Because your sensitive nature affects so many aspects of how you function, it can create some special challenges—and, at times, bad habits—when it comes to dating. Here are a few to watch out for:

Dating as a highly sensitive person has its challenges, but it isn’t as hopeless as it may seem. In fact, HSPs bring many special strengths and gifts to their interactions and relationships with others.

man kissing his girlfriend on her temple

Secret Strengths of Sensitive People

One of the most empowering things you can do as a sensitive person looking to date or start a relationship is to get to know your own sensitive superpowers.

The truth is, society often looks down on sensitivity, judging and shaming some of the unique traits of HSPs. You may, then, internalize these judgements and begin looking down on yourself. To do this, however, is to overlook the amazing qualities sensitive people bring to relationships and the world in general.

Here are some typical characteristics of HSPs that can be extremely beneficial in dating and relationships:

Which of these traits can you most identify with? If you’re a sensitive person, you likely relate to many of them. Though society may not always appreciate your sensitive side, and others may not always understand you, remind yourself regularly of the strengths you possess as an HSP.

Tips for Dating as a Sensitive Person

You’re now aware of the challenges, as well as the strengths, that come with dating as a sensitive person. Still, you might struggle with dating and not know how to use your unique traits to your advantage.

If you don’t feel particularly confident, it might help to date yourself first before rushing into love. Here’s Renee Slansky’s advice on how to establish a great relationship with yourself.

One tip to remember is to take your time. Keep conversations and dates light and do simple activities together. Dating can be overstimulating for many sensitive people, so pace yourself as needed.

It’s also crucial to have a form of self-care that you know works for you. Resist the temptation to lose yourself in someone else and give yourself the care you need.

For example, do you need alone time everyday? Do you require space to process after finishing a date? Make sure to prioritize your own wellness and replenish your energy as needed so you can show up as your best self in dating.

On that note, also get to know what will help you be comfortable on dates. Maybe you’ve found that active, high-energy dates aren’t for you, or staying out late with a new person is exhausting.

Prioritize your well-being, and remember that the discomfort of saying “no” is only short-lived, while the discomfort of neglecting yourself and your boundaries will likely linger much longer.

Finally, become familiar with what is triggering for you. Sensitive people tend to have an overwhelming response to too much stimulation and arousal. And sometimes, HSPs make the mistake of misattributing that feeling.

For example, you may think your feeling of being stimulated is due to attraction towards the other person (as mentioned previously). On the other hand, you may also misunderstand your feeling of being stimulated as a sign of distress.

Remember that, as a sensitive person, it’s normal to become overstimulated, and this could be unrelated to the date or the other person. Become aware, then, of what is triggering for you, and check in with yourself and your feelings often.

woman holding hands over her heart

Tips for Dealing With Rejection

To truly master dating as a sensitive person, you must also master dealing with rejection. Rejection is a completely normal and inevitable part of dating, yet for HSPs, it can stir up a lot of fear.

When faced with rejection, sensitive people often react one of two ways: wanting to pursue and chase the other person even more, or shutting down and becoming more avoidant, promising yourself that you’ll never let this happen again.

This relates to a response strategy Elaine Aron calls being either “too out” or “too in.” HSPs often cope with discomfort by either pushing themselves way beyond their limits and ignoring their own needs, or indulging those needs too much and overprotecting themselves.

When it comes to dating and dealing with rejection, you must find a balance: give the other person space and don’t rush things, but allow yourself to get out of your head and your comfort zone too.

For example, take time to process how you’re feeling, but still push yourself to take action and message the other person to see if they want to meet. In other words, balance your sense of caution with action to overcome your fear of rejection.

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Online Dating for Highly Sensitive People

Dating sites and apps can be a great option for HSPs because you can connect and meet with matches while also, to some extent, controlling the amount of interaction and stimulation required.

Online dating allows you to end conversations when needed, take breaks from chats, and go slow with responding to others.

To get the most out of online dating, choose sites for serious dating and relationships. A lot of swiping and talking to dozens of people at once is likely not suitable for you, so choose services that are designed to limit your options to only the best matches.

And remember: because of your sensitivity, and not in spite of it, you will also be the best match for someone else too!