Creating a Satisfying Relationship

Elaine Aron recently said that The Highly Sensitive Person in Love was her favorite book (among those she wrote), and that she especially loves Chapter 7, Creating a Satisfying, Sensitive Partnership.  

I agree that this is a powerful chapter and decided to get the word out about her great ideas, so I’ve made a summary of them here.     

8 Ways to Move Towards a Satisfying Sensitive Partnership:

  1. Do exciting things together. It turns out that research shows that a person feels more satisfaction with their partner after they do exciting things together. The excitement, for example, of the wind-swept bridge crossing transfers into feeling better about your relationship. So do some exciting things together (no need to do over-stimulating activities).
  2. Dialogue to appreciate each other’s perspective. You naturally have good listening skills as and HSP, so take the time to tune in your listening skills to your partner and also to share your own truth with candid honesty. Listen—without interrupting, asking questions, interpreting, giving advice or sharing your own experience. Make sure you have really seen the beauty of their unique perspective, even if you do not share that perspective. And make sure both of you share openly. You can only sustain intimacy if both of you have your voices heard. Feeling heard and understood, even appreciated helps build your bond.
  3. Contain states of overarousal during conflicts. When there is conflict, emotions can run high. The very intensity of these emotional states can lead an HSP to become overstimulated and begin to not function well, even to shut down. If each person can carefully modulate the intensity of their reaction to the conflict, taking deep breaths and even 20 minute breaks to return to a more moderate level of arousal, then both people will be able to stay present as they navigate through the conflict.
  4. Engage: Do it your way, but do not disengage. HSPs have a tendency to avoid conflict and disengage. When two people disengage, there is a tendency to continue to disengage and eventually to have no relationship ("we’ve grown apart"). So be creative and find ways to stay engaged with your partner that work for both of you.
  5. Uncover unacknowledged lifetime hopes and fears. We all have hopes and fears for our life time, some conscious and some unconscious. When these are not conscious or not spoken, we may be finding ourselves reacting to them without understanding our response. Our partner’s certainly don’t have a clue if we are confused ourselves. So do the work of making these hopes and fears conscious and articulating them in words that both you and your partner can understand. Behind many repeating conflicts and issues are unacknowledged hopes and fears.
  6. Become sophisticated about complexes. Complexes are Jungian constructs that help us understand thinking loops that we tend to get stuck in. When we learn to recognize the loops we get stuck in and those our partner gets stuck in, then we have some chance of navigating through them without getting stuck, or at least to get stuck for shorter periods of time. Sophistication about our complexes allows us to be freed up for deeper connection with our partner.
  7. Sometimes help is needed. Any couple can get into issues that are deeper than they can navigate without someone’s help. We all reach the limits of our learning on being in partnership and sometimes need someone that can help us navigate the current issues so that we can break through to that next level of intimacy and connection.
  8. When to quit. And each person needs to recognize when the only answer to the dilemma you and your partner are facing is to end the relationship. Perhaps you are dealing with a deeply disturbed person and the only solution is to end the relationship. Perhaps there is so much distance that it is too late and the relationship is already over.

Want more satisfying relationships, need help?  Call or email me.