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130 – Being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) in a Relationship

Wandering Aimfully Through Our Podcast: What is it all for?

130 – Being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) in a Relationship

What’s it like to operate in the world as a highly sensitive person? What does being more sensitive actually mean?
Jason ZookJason Zook Jason ZookJason Zook

Written by

Jason Zook

Listen to our full episode on Being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) in a Relationship below (with full transcript) or find our podcast by searching What is it all for? in your favorite podcast player.

Five Key Takeaways for Being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) in a Relationship

1. Traits of highly sensitive people (HSPs)

They are easily overwhelmed by bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics or loud sounds. They desire to withdraw after busy days or stimulating experiences. They have a rich complex inner life and are deeply moved by art, music and delicate tastes. They are easily upset by violence and are easily startled. They are very attuned to others’ energies and moods and can be very sensitive to pain.

2. A highly sensitive person has to be their own advocate

It can be very hard for non-HSPs to understand and empathize with all the traits that a highly sensitive person deals with on a day-to-day basis. Especially in a close relationship, the highly sensitive person needs to be their own advocate and communicate how they are feeling for their spouse, friend, or family member to understand how hard certain situations are.

3. Communicate how you’re feeling as well as how other people are perceiving you in your mind

One thing we discovered was that the HSP in a relationship can often be good at communicating their feelings, but can also presume the other person in the relationship is perceiving them in a certain way (ex: as a burden or resenting them). It’s important to share those presumed and perceived feelings to avoid them becoming realities.

4. As the non-HSP in a relationship, try to ask lots of questions

When you are not an HSP (or the complete opposite in Jason’s case), it’s helpful to ask lots of questions to more understand what life is like for a highly sensitive person. The more questions you can ask to learn, the more you can build empathy and patience.

5. Try to create a “hardship scale” to express a current emotional state

We have a 1-10 rating scale, where 1 = things are going great and no hardships to worry about, and 10 = things are extremely difficult, overwhelming, and lots of support (and maybe space) is needed. By sharing where the highly sensitive person is on the 1-10 hardship scale, it can help the other people more easily comprehend the level of compassion and support needed.

Show Notes for Episode 130: for Being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) in a Relationship

This week we are sitting down to talk about being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). What’s it like to operate in the world when you’re a bit more sensitive than most people? What does being more sensitive actually mean? And what’s it like for your partner who may not be sensitive (AT ALL)? Let’s talk about it!

The term Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is becoming a lot more well-known and we think that’s GREAT! This trait is something that can be seen as a detriment, but we also know it provides a lot of benefits in our relationship and work.

We go through some of our history in understanding Caroline is an HSP and how our relationship works out with a very NON-HSP in Jason. We discuss some of the feelings and factors that define an HSP as well as ways to support an HSP in everyday situations. Hopefully, this episode is one you can share with the HSP (or non-HSP) in your life to help learn from our experience!

Some books we mentioned:

Susan Cain’s book “Quiet” –

Elaine N. Aron’s book “The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You” –

✈️ Our travel pramvel takes you to our time in The Netherlands!

Full Transcript of Episode 130: Being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) in a Relationship

⬇️ You can also download the .TXT file of the transcript

Caroline: Welcome to What is it All For?, a podcast designed to help you grow your online business and pursue a spacious, satisfying life at the same time. We are your hosts, Jason and Caroline Zook, and we run Wandering Aimfully, an UN-boring business coaching program. Every week, we bring you advice and conversations to return you to your most intentional self and to help you examine every aspect of your life and business by asking, What is it all for? Thanks for listening. And now let’s get into the show.

Jason: And I’m here, too.

Jason: Well, I got on my podcasting socks. I got on my dorts and I’m ready to rock.

Caroline: Dorts? Stop trying to make dorts happen.

Jason: Dorts, for everybody listening, actually, maybe it would be da-orts? Dad shorts.

Caroline: Da-orts?

Jason: They’re just khaki shorts.

Caroline: They’re khaki shorts.

Jason: They don’t have any cargo pockets, though.

Caroline: The only thing that makes them dad-like is that you, a 40-year-old man, are wearing them.

Jason: And I haven’t owned a pair of khaki clothing in 20 years, maybe?

Caroline: That’s a question for you. Not me.

Jason: Man, I remember Kelly dressing me up for, probably, church would have been the thing I dressed up for.

Caroline: Yeah.

Jason: Khaki pants.

Caroline: Oh, of course.

Jason: Sports blazer, like a blue blazer. I was like eleven. My hair was like coiffed. And you want to wonder why I don’t like dressing up? That’s it. I wasn’t allowed to have any style. Just had to wear that outfit.

Caroline: Did you have any hair gel or just water?

Jason: Of course. Absolutely. Always use hair gel.

Caroline: Did you ever go through that phase where you just used some water?

Jason: No, always hair gel. Yeah. Okay, that’s the beginning of this episode. Hello and welcome.

Caroline: Hello and welcome. We got to start with the pramvel, obviously.

Jason: Okay. We can do that for sure.

Caroline: So let’s just kick it off, I think, where we last left off for the people who have not listened to the last episode. I think we went over Kokomo Villas in Greece. So we were still in Greece.

Jason: I hope we did, because if we didn’t…

Caroline: According to my notes, if we didn’t, we’ll go back and we’ll parse that.

Jason: Figure it out.

Caroline: Right. So after Greece, we flew directly from Heraklion to Rotterdam the Hague Airport in the Netherlands.

Jason: I have two traveling logistical anecdotes I’d like to bring up.

Caroline: Great.

Jason: Number one, this was the flight you were the most nervous about so far?

Caroline: Yes.

Jason: Because it was a budget airline, which is totally fine that they are budget airlines, but we didn’t have our first row setup that we did in Ryanair.

Caroline: We usually like being in the front where we have more legroom and it’s easy and you get on the plane. Anyway.

Jason: So this was Transavia.

Caroline: We’re directly in the middle of the plane.

Jason: We’re directly in the middle of the plane, the row behind the extra row, but it was supposed to have extra legroom, which it did. And I think we can say…

Caroline: It was a pretty good flight.

Jason: Flight was pretty good.

Caroline: Flight was pretty good.

Jason: Now, the other part of the travel logistics I wanted to share. the Heraklion Airport is a very small airport, and there’s too many people that come through that airport.

Caroline: Too many people.

Jason: And even this was in, like, the middle of May, and we’re not even at the high season yet. What I found hilarious was you wait, you get your bags dropped off, you go to the security line, you’re in line. I have never felt like everybody in that whole circumstance had no clue what anybody else was doing. Some people were pulling laptops out, some people weren’t. Some people were pulling liquids out, some people weren’t. I got up there, and there was no person to tell me what to do. So I just pulled the normal things out. I put them in. I didn’t see a single bag get pulled aside for more screening, which I’m fine with.

Caroline: Oh, of course.

Jason: But it’s such a juxtaposition, like all the other airports we’ve been through. So it’s just weird. I like, armor up for the logistical nightmare that is that process.

Caroline: We’ve talked about this before, which is just Jason and I are both people who really like to learn from our mistakes. We really like to apply our lessons moving forward, to do better, be more efficient. We are the same in that way. And the funniest part of this whole trip has been with the airport experience. Every time we go through an airport, we learn something that we want to apply to a future airport.

Jason: Yes.

Caroline: And it does not apply.

Jason: It doesn’t.

Caroline: They are all different. So it’s very hard for us because…

Jason: I just want someone to tell me more rules. Like, I want to get there and just, like, give me explicit, like, shoes on, shoes off, belt on, belt off, Apple Watch on. Apple Watch off. Because I randomly had to take an Apple Watch off during one of these airports.

Caroline: It’s an exercise in just dealing with uncertainty, which we’ll talk about.

Jason: So let’s talk about the actual country that we visited, not just the travel logistics.

Caroline: Which was so lovely.

Jason: This was almost one that got missed. But the fun story about this one is that specifically Utrecht or Utrecht was the first city that we looked at on our Year of Travel list.

Caroline: Which is so weird, but I can’t remember how I stumbled across it. I think I was just really…

Jason: I think what we did, if memory serves me correctly, we went… Okay, we’ve said this all along. We want to go to second tier cities, not main cities. The first city that for some reason comes to mind is Amsterdam. Okay, what’s a second tier city near it?

Caroline: Or I think you tracked us on many of those listicles that are, like, Lesser known cities in Europe or whatever. But what’s funny is, yeah, it’s like a mini Amsterdam. It still feels like a big city, but it’s lovely. And we’ll get to that in a second because we did do a day trip to Utrecht. So anyway, the Netherlands was high on our list. And then it kind of fell off because of the way that our schedule kind of ended up. And then we had this tiny window of time…

Jason: Eleven days.

Caroline: Eleven days leaving Greece, where we still had time to be in the Schengen region, but before… it had to be somewhere that was kind of on the way to… our destination now.

Jason: You almost spilled some beans.

Caroline: So the Netherlands is on our way. So if you draw a vector between Greece and the Netherlands and…

Jason: I hope one person listen, busts out a world map, draws a big circle around Europe, got like the circle, they’re like, “Okay, here it is. They’re in this vicinity.”

Caroline: I am triangulating the signal.

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: Anyway, and what a unique country. What a lovely country. Best way I can describe it is like the whole of the Netherlands feels like I’m in a neighborhood. It’s very neighborhoodly. And what I mean by that is like, it’s green, it’s family-friendly, it’s very well organized, it feels very like thought out.

Jason: Well, and I think what’s very interesting about this is we stayed in the smallest town that no one has ever heard of or visited for anything.

Caroline: Even our taxi driver picking up at this airport was like, “What? Where? Why?”

Jason: This is how this happens, is we end up looking for Airbnbs and then we end up for this trip, specifically this eleven day chunk. We were, chonk.

Caroline: Chonk.

Jason: Because as we told you in the Kokomo Villas, Kokomo Villas were the most expensive Airbnb to date.

Caroline: Worth it, though, if we’re being honest.

Jason: Very much worth it. But for this chonk of time, we wanted to save some money. So that’s how those things balance out. So that’s how we didn’t end up in Utrecht, that’s how we didn’t end up in Rotterdam, that’s how we didn’t end up in any of the bigger cities because the more affordable, with a little bit of space, although ended up not being that much space, we’ll get to that, places. This Airbnb that we found was in a small town of Reeuwijk. And that’s R-E-E-U-W-I-J-K.

Caroline: Reeuwijk. Reeuwijk.

Jason: Probably still saying it wrong.

Caroline: Just toss it out there.

Jason: The reason you’re saying neighborhoodly is because we basically stayed in the neighborhood for eleven days. We did do a day trip to Utrecht, which we’ll talk about. And it was, I will totally say, absolutely lovely.

Caroline: Lovely. My favorite thing is right when we arrived, first of all, Rotterdam the Hague airport is like a smaller airport.

Jason: But very nice.

Caroline: Very nice.

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: And we got to our little neighborhood via our taxi driver, and our Airbnb host welcomed us because it’s like he lives in a house where it’s like a gated over these little canals. And those of you who have an idea of Amsterdam and canals, yeah, canals are everywhere in the Netherlands and it’s just so lovely and such a little like boat culture. And everyone has little boats that go around the canals.

Jason: Think of like, tiny canals because if you’ve been to Amsterdam, you’ll see pictures of the…

Caroline: Oh, yeah, tiny…

Jason: There are bigger boats that are going to be passing. This is like you’re in like a single small boat.

Caroline: Like, yeah, in the United States, basically those, like, drainage ditches on the side of Florida, but too wide of those and filled with water and beautiful. But my favorite thing is our Airbnb host welcomed us to let us into the gate and give us our keys and everything like that. And we ended up just, like, standing outside the little guest house because the Airbnb is the guest house to their main house. And we’re chatting and we’re telling them all about our trip, and we’re chatting. He’s like, “Do you want to go back for a drink?” We’re like, “Yes.” And normally I would be so tired from a travel day, but because I did so well on my flight, we were like, “Okay.” And so we ended up going to this, he escorted us into the backyard and his wife came out and we just ended up grabbing just like a little effervescent, not cocktail, you had a beer, a little sparkling water in the backyard. We just chatted with our new friends in the Netherlands, all about life in the Netherlands, and we talk to them about our trip, and they asked us about places we had been. And anyway, it was just so lovely and it was a very welcoming way to begin the trip. And I found that Dutch people were very much like that.

Jason: Yeah, very much.

Caroline: The entire time we were there.

Jason: We found as well that… I was going, as you do with any country where English isn’t the first language, going, “Okay, how much language barrier are we going to have here?” We were just in Greece, but we were at a hotel and we were in an Airbnb, so it wasn’t a ton. And English is spoken pretty much everywhere. We went to a little cafe that was right in downtown Reeuwijk, which is the downtown, as small as you can imagine. And the person walked over, spoke some Dutch, I had no idea what they said, and we were like, “Do you speak English?” And they were like, “Of course I speak English.” We’re like, “Oh, okay, great.” And just had come to find that, we met up with a friend later on and we’ll talk about, but English is just spoken so prevalently, especially in the Netherlands, and so that ended up not being a problem at all. But yeah, this little town, we found a little gym that you scouted out.

Caroline: Oh, the gym was perfect.

Jason: And we just had like a 15-minute walk to this gym and it just took us through this little town. And this is one of the experiences that I think we were most looking forward to in this year of travel. All the adventure-y stuff is very fun and great, but this is like, “What’s it like to live in the Netherlands?”

Caroline: Exactly. And that’s how it felt for ten days. We got to experience what it would feel like if we lived there full time.

Jason: Yeah. And so I think this was just a great example of that life. Their lifestyle seems very much up our alley of what we would enjoy.

Caroline: Can I share two fun observations about the Dutch culture?

Jason: Absolutely. Please.

Caroline: Okay. The first one is more of like, “This is different and not what I expected.” And the second one is like, “I love this about their culture.”

Jason: Okay.

Caroline: The first one is our first grocery trip. What did we notice the second that we went in the store?

Jason: The Dutch love organization, but they really love single packaged items for every single thing you could possibly buy.

Caroline: Everything is packaged in plastic. And I don’t know why I had this idea of wind power and very environmentally conscious, which I’m not saying they’re not, but when I walked in this grocery store and everything was in plastic, I was like, “Y’all, we got to do something about this.” But I think, we decided and I don’t know this for sure, but I think it’s just the culture seems to be very organized and very, like…

Jason: Methodical.

Caroline: Methodical and just thoughtful. And so it seems very functional in order to have and it is, I’m not going to lie, very convenient to have, like, “Here’s a whole tapas board for a party packaged up in plastic,” and there’s just, like, the whole store is that. It’s like a million things in plastic. And so that was, like, a random observation just from what life is like there that I was like, “This is not something I’ve ever heard someone talk about, nor did I expect.” The other thing that I noticed just from observations of going into restaurants and places is how family-centered the culture is. I have never been, definitely not in the States, have I been to. Like, almost every establishment has a little corner in the back with just, like, books and toys, and it’s just basically, like, throw your kids over there so you as an adult, can hang out with your people. And I thought that was so wonderful that they very much think about families and think about, like, “Oh, parents are going to be coming here with their small children. How can we make this experience lovely for them?”

Jason: Yeah, you definitely got that vibe. Even when we went into the bigger city of Utrecht, we got that vibe as well, because we went to a coffee shop, and they had the same little corner for the kids.

Caroline: A nook.

Jason: The thing I wanted to share with everybody was the restaurant. I think it’s Landerij is what it ended up being. It has a ‘J’ at the end, and that’s usually, like…

Caroline: Landerij.

Jason: So this restaurant, we didn’t have a car. We were staying in this little neighborhood. So you could imagine, if you’re staying in a city and you don’t have a car. You can always get around places. There’s Uber, there’s taxis. You can walk most places pretty easily. But we’re in a neighborhood. We’re in like a suburban neighborhood…

Caroline: And we didn’t have bikes, which we look like doofuses.

Jason: Totally should leave the feedback for the…

Caroline: Every single person in the Netherlands, bikes.

Jason: Yeah, absolutely. There’s so much biking. We definitely saw people who were looking at us as we were walking on our two legs, being like, “What are you doing? We have bikes.”

Caroline: You don’t actually see a lot of people walking. You see a lot of people biking. And people looked at us weird, like, those are legs, not tires.

Jason: Yeah. So we found this restaurant, and this is one of those, it’s like if you’ve listened to our stories about travel, we live to eat. And this place looks so fun because it’s essentially, it’s on a farm. And it’s a restaurant that’s like high quality food.

Caroline: Farm to table, you could say.

Jason: As farm to table as you can absolutely get, but like, high quality food.

Caroline: Very.

Jason: So we look it up and it ends up being 4 km from the house. And so we’re like, “Okay, so you do the rough calculations.” That’s about 2 miles of a walk to walk there.

Caroline: Are you willing to walk 2 miles to a farm to table restaurant?

Jason: And so what we decided was, “Yes, we are.” So we packed up our gear. We got layered up because you just never know, the weather changes pretty quickly. And we made this walk. And it was perfectly lovely, the walk there.

Caroline: On the way there.

Jason: Totally lovely. And we were looking at some horses.

Caroline: We walked through a full farm.

Jason: And it was just like we walked through a farm, we saw some cows, blah, blah, blah.

Caroline: Also, because of the bike culture, lots of sidewalks, lots of places to walk, which I love.

Jason: Yes. And it was funny because when we Google mapped it, it looked like we had to walk along on the highway.

Caroline: And I was like, “I’m not going to walk that highway.”

Jason: But I zoomed in to the Street View. And there’s a full bike path next to the highway. So anyway, we get to the restaurant, it takes 45 minutes to walk there. So we’re like getting hungry.

Caroline: So hungry.

Jason: There’s a tasting menu that’s like a five course surprise, quote unquote menu, which I just love. That translation was fantastic. And the person serving us was great. It was us and just a bunch of blue hairs like all the older people, which is just fantastic. There was a couple that came in and they were speaking a little bit of English, which I thought was interesting. Anyway, the food was fantastic. Absolutely wonderful.

Caroline: Loved it.

Jason: So we finished our meal. The meal ended up taking like 3 hours. So then it’s almost I mean, it’s like 09:00 p.m.. But it’s dark.

Caroline: We thought, no, it must have been 10pm because…

Jason: It was still light.

Caroline: It was still light so late. We didn’t realize this based on where we were geographically and also being like the height of the summer. But we thought we’ll have plenty of light then because we went pretty early to this restaurant. We didn’t realize the restaurant or the dinner would take us 3 hours. So by the time we leave…

Jason: It didn’t feel like 3 hours to me.

Caroline: No, not at all. But by the time we leave it starts actually getting for real dark and we’re like, “Noo.” And so we’re like now we have to walk back 2 miles. It starts kind of sprinkling.

Jason: We had our rain gear though. We were planning for this.

Caroline: It was fine.

Jason: And our boots.

Caroline: I was like scuttling a little bit because I’m like, “Jason, pick up the pace.”

Jason: Well, yeah, here’s what happened is it’s now dark and we don’t want to be walking in the dark. I mean, it’s in a neighborhood like what’s going to happen? It’s fine, but it starts to rain so you don’t want to be walking in the rain forever. Then we start to hit these bug clouds of these little gnats.

Caroline: Because of all the canals and everything. It’s very wet. So you run into these little bug clouds.

Jason: And we just couldn’t get away from it. We were both like running. If anybody looks at us we look probably like crazy people. We’re just like, “Wahh,” but we ended up making it back and I think I burned… I keep track of my calorie burn on my watch. Every day is a consistent like 800 to 900 calories a day. This day I burned like 1700 calories. I was like, “Yeah,” Definitely that five course surprise meal, totally fine because we walked like 17 miles to get to it.

Caroline: It was such a great memory and just a lovely experience. Now, the height of our Netherlands experience though was our big day trip that we did.

Jason: To Utrecht.

Caroline: To Utrecht. One of the highlights, definitely we knew we wanted to do at least like one little day trip but one of the highlights for us of that entire trip was that we got to meet up with a WAIMer.

Jason: Hold up. Before we do that we have to talk about that, just very quickly. We had to take a taxi to the train station and we took a train in and Carol did a great job of helping navigate that whole setup. But my favorite part of it was the town where the train station was we had to get to was Gouda. This is Gouda. For those of you who are…

Caroline: It’s spelled G-O-U-D-A. It is actually where Gouda cheese is from.

Jason: But I just love this because I couldn’t get over the fact that, of course, as Americans, of course, the name of it is Gouda from the people who created Gouda cheese. That is the name of it. But as Americans were like, “How do you say that? Nah, I’m going to say Gouda. That’s how I’m going to say it.” So this whole time, I’m like that’s all I could think about was like, yeah, the name is beautiful. Like, let’s say Gouda cheese. It’s not that hard to say.

Caroline: In our defense and in our language, we don’t really have a way to show everyone. Like, this ‘G’ should be pronounced as [R]

Jason: But brie. We say, “Brie.” That’s how we pronounce Brie. It’s not like we say, like…

Caroline: Bry.

Jason: Bry. Yeah, exactly. You see what I mean?

Caroline: You really got me.

Jason: Okay, so that’s my stupid aside. So back to meeting a WAIMer, Cheryl, and I will just say this is one thing that I wish we had more time and energy. I think that’s really the thing to do on this trip. Granted, when the trip started, like, we wouldn’t have felt safe meeting up with a lot of people just because of all, COVID and everything. COVID is still going on, but it feels a little bit safer now as I think many people are getting back out into the world and doing things and we would love to see so many more WAIMers, but it was really fun to be able to see Cheryl and to go to this city and enjoy a full day with her, that we ended up having.

Caroline: So shout out to Cheryl because she was awesome and we just had a great day. So we had lunch and just, like, chatted and you even commented, you had this weird realization where you were like, it feels so good to laugh with someone who gets your humor because it’s their first language and it was just an ease-filled conversation and it made us realize, “Wow.” We’ve obviously had good conversations with people since being on this journey, but a lot of times you’re sitting and chatting and English is not their first language, and so you’re able to have great conversations but not full of ease the way that you can with someone who also their native language is English.

Jason: Yes, it was very interesting just to realize that halfway through. I’m like, “Oh, my silly jokes are landing and they’re not being lost in translation as they normally are.” Someone is just like, “I don’t understand what you’re saying.” Okay, that makes sense. Like, this is a colloquialism or whatever.

Caroline: You’re referring to the way that I respond to your jokes, right?

Jason: Absolutely. For sure. But, yeah, we got to have a delicious lunch with Cheryl. Then we walked, we found a coffee shop and then you actually did like a little bit of shopping because we were in a neighborhood and you’re not going to find much there. And then we went to a lovely dinner at a restaurant, but this was another like 30-minute walk to get to a restaurant. But I will say it felt easier in the city because you’re not going that far.

Caroline: I have to say, I loved the city of Utrecht. It felt very much like the closest equivalent I could say is Boston in the United States. It felt very green with so many green spaces. Like a city, but very neighborhood-y. Lots of these row houses, great restaurants. I just really enjoyed it.

Jason: Yeah. And I think for anybody who has the Netherlands on their travel list, but they’re like, “I don’t know if I want to go to Amsterdam.” We heard from so many people that were like, “Just go to Utrecht.” It’s a little-r Amsterdam. You get a lot of the same canal feels. There’s cafes on the canals. The city definitely feels like a big city, but it doesn’t feel overrun with tourists. Like, we’re tourists, but we didn’t see too many people.

Caroline: Yes. The country is definitely a place I’d like to go back to and maybe visit some of, we had talked about even wanting to visit, like, Den Haag, which is, like, The Hague, which is on the coast. So it has a beach.

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: What’s a Dutch beach look like?

Jason: Exactly. Yeah. The other kind of last realization about the Netherlands that we both thought was very interesting: it’s so flat.

Caroline: Oh, yeah. It’s so flat.

Jason: We’ve come from places where we’re just used to like mountains and hills. And in Greece, like, the place we had just stayed, everything is mountainy around you. And then just to come to this place, it’s like the flattest place you’ve ever seen in your life. It was just very interesting. And I remember driving to the airport on the day that we left and just looking in, like, forever. You could see the Netherlands, like, just non-stop you could see things.

Caroline: Yeah. I also just wanted to say that as far as the emotional roller coaster of being on this trip, I was so excited to just kind of, I’ve been eyeing the Netherlands as like, “Okay, once we get past…” I mean, Greece was kind of vacation vibes, and that really recharged us. But I was kind of eyeing the Netherlands. Once we hit that, we’re past the really busy spring season of when we were traveling all the time. And I was just so looking forward to kind of, like, getting my feet back under me, getting my routine going. I was feeling so good those first couple of days. I felt like I was in my element in a neighborhood. And then what happened? Do you remember?

Jason: No.

Caroline: It’s so funny because we’ve already forgotten. On my last day in Greece, I was eating a salad for lunch.

Jason: Oh, yeah.

Caroline: And I bit the inside of my lip really hard.

Jason: I cannot believe that was that long ago.

Caroline: I know. And I don’t know if anyone else has that. It happens to me every once in a while. But anyway, I bent my lips so hard that I didn’t even notice. It really caused, like, a gash the first few days. By the third or fourth day that we were in the Netherlands, I’ve now developed this extremely inflamed…

Jason: Yeah, it’s like a fat lip.

Caroline: Yeah, I had this huge fat lip, and it was so painful.

Jason You really couldn’t catch a break.

Caroline: Well, we’re going to talk about that. It was so painful, and it was all I could think about and all I could do. I couldn’t even talk. It was why we had to push the podcast back and all these things. And so I just wanted to share that because we’re going to talk about being highly sensitive in this episode. And it just was such a bummer because I felt like I was really going to hit my stride. And then for the next two weeks, I had to deal with this. And it sounds so silly, right? You’re just like, “Oh, a cut on your lip.” But it really affected my ability to do just about everything. And even going into Utrecht and talking for a lot of hours during that day was really hard because then the whole next day, it was so painful. So I was just like, “Damn it.” But it still didn’t take away from how much I enjoyed the country. And it did eventually heal, and it’s almost completely healed now.

Jason: I think big takeaway from us being in the Netherlands, if the Netherlands is on your list, one hundred percent go. We loved it. We thought it was so beautiful. We thought the people were so friendly. There’s just so many interesting things to see that are different from so many other countries and just the way that they do things. Yeah, go check it out.

Caroline: That’s just us with every country, though, right? Every single place we go, I’m like, “Put it on your list.”

Jason: And I think that’s a really good metaphor just for why we’re doing this year is because you can think about all these places and you can hear people talk about the ups and downs. But it’s like when you actually get on the ground in a place and when you actually meet the people and you actually see it, there’s always something.

Caroline: It’s always a net positive.

Jason: There’s always something. There’s a memory you can make. There’s a nice person you can chat with. Even where we are, like, right now, here. The coffee shop that we go to, I love it. I love that we have a person who knows us and we chat and like, those are my favorite things on this journey this year, is just finding all those in every single country and going like, “Oh, okay, yeah, we’re all doing this thing together.”

Caroline: You mean life?

Jason: Yeah, and it looks a little bit different. Like it’s all good. We’re all just here trying to figure this out.

Caroline: For sure.

Jason: All right, let’s get into being sensitive because, as a sensitive person who’s higher than sensitive, that’s me.

Caroline: This is the bit where he pretends that he’s me and he does thought patterns that are me.

Jason: No, so I’m actually very interested to see how this episode goes because we have kind of talked about this in, like, little spurts here and there, but this is kind of our first deep dive.

Caroline: We’ve never done a dedicated episode to this?

Jason: No.

Caroline: That’s interesting.

Jason: Not at all. We’ve done dedicated episode on anxiety where we talked about some of these same things. But I think and then we were just talking about this, and we were making notes for this. I’m going to jump around in your notes, but just I think this is a good place to start, which is, I think the idea of people being highly sensitive people is now becoming more known in culture.

Caroline: Absolutely.

Jason: Just like any mental illness is becoming more known, and it’s becoming more understood, and it’s becoming more recognized as a thing that’s like, “Oh, you’re not just being sensitive, you are sensitive.” Like, this is like a thing that you are. And so we have to figure out, “Okay, this is who you are. How do we navigate that in our lives?”

Caroline: That’s also just to be clear about what you just said, because I don’t think this is what you were saying, but I just want to be clear. I don’t think it’s characterized as a mental illness.

Jason: Yes.

Caroline: Nor is it I’m not even sure if it’s a disorder of any kind. It’s just a trait. And so before we get started, for those of you who actually haven’t heard this term because we think it’s so known, but I think it’s very known to those of us who identify as HSP because we’ve, out of sheer necessity, had to find this as a means of understanding our own traits and inner worlds. But for those of you who don’t know, we’re referring to a term called Highly Sensitive Person or Highly Sensitive People that is sometimes abbreviated to HSP. And so I first stumbled upon this term when, I remember it so distinctly, I was reading the book, Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, which is the book on introverts. And we were on vacation in Ohio, and I brought this book, and I was reading it, and I get to this section where she starts talking about this idea of a highly sensitive person. And she was actually citing the psychologist, Elaine Aaron. That’s the person who started spearheaded this research in the early 1990s and started doing all this research on identifying this trait and trying to create research studies to actually kind of formalize it as a thing observed in people and to just be really… To oversimplify it, it’s just basically people who process stimuli in a way that makes them highly sensitive to stimuli, basically. So it’s also sometimes called Sensory Processing Sensitivity. And so, yes, literally just more sensitive to forms of stimuli. She estimates roughly 15% to 20% of the population is actually highly sensitive. So it’s quite a big section. And I’ll just go over some traits in case you’re someone who hasn’t heard of this. And maybe…

Jason: Maybe you just think, like, “Am I more sensitive than other people?” Maybe this is the trait that you have.

Caroline: Because I started reading this list, this list isn’t pulled specifically from the book that I read, but I started reading things like this, and it was just like light bulbs going off in my head. So here are just a few. There are lots and lots of observed traits in highly sensitive people. But here are a few that have been studied: so easily overwhelmed by bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics or loud sounds. Let’s see, check, check, check, check. A desire to withdraw after busy days or stimulating experiences. Check. A rich, complex inner life. Deeply moved by art, music, and delicate tastes.

Jason: You are so deeply moved.

Caroline: I live to eat. I am so deeply moved.

Jason: A butterfly flies around and you just melt.

Caroline: Also just like music. Or like I was watching a dance clip from So You Think You Can Dance the other night, I cried.

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: Things like that. I mean, of course you don’t have to be a highly sensitive person to be moved by art, but if you’re someone who maybe that happens too often, that might be something. Easily upset by violence. Again, most people are upset by violence, but to a degree that you feel more, right. A lot of these are just about being heightened. Like, do you feel like it affects you more than most people? Very attuned to others energies and moods. Very sensitive to pain. And this is what I thought was funny, that we haven’t talked about being very hungry creates strong reactions.

Jason: Oh, wow.

Caroline: Isn’t that interesting?

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: Oh, I forgot, easily startled.

Jason: Easily startled, I was just going to say…

Caroline: In reading research, so there’s a lot that Jason and I talk about, a lot that helps understand some of my behaviors. But easily startled is one that we never thought of before. And we’ve had this fight is a strong word. It’s not a fight, but like this point of friction in our relationship before where when we’re in a car, I’ll gasp, and Jason’s like, “Hey, as the driver, that’s really distracting because it makes me feel like we’re about to get in an accident.” And we’ve been over this a million times where it’s like it is involuntary. And I’ve tried to control my gasp, but I’m very easily startled by things.

Jason: Sometimes you look out a window and a leaf falls out of a tree and you’re like (gasps). And I’m like, “Oh, is a truck going to hit us?” And you are like, “No, a leaf fell.” I’m like, “Okay, great. That’s awesome.”

Caroline: So that’s just a quick introduction. And so this has been on my mind lately because I played a podcast clip for you about highly sensitive people as a means of trying to better understand me because I felt very seen in it. And so we’ve been talking about it a lot lately. Also, a friend of mine who is a highly sensitive person is also raising a highly sensitive kid, and she’s going through it right now because that is a tough thing to navigate. And so we just thought maybe a whole dedicated episode, literally just about our personal experience of what it’s like to be in a relationship with someone who is highly sensitive, my experience of what it has felt like to be highly sensitive. And my hope is just that if you’re in a relationship with someone who is an HSP, maybe this can help you understand them. If you are a person who is an HSP, maybe this makes you feel more seen.

Jason: Yeah, I think from my perspective, why I really wanted to share this, because I know that this episode can feel a lot of, it can feel very vulnerable for you because this is you that we’re talking about for the majority of this is that I am the unemotional one of the two of us. And so for those of you who are listening, who are the sensitive people in your relationship, maybe this will help you to explain things to your significant other or to people in your life who are like me, where I’m not highly sensitive. I’m like the complete opposite of highly sensitive. I am…

Caroline: Lowly sensitive.

Jason: I have low sensitivity. I stub my toe and I can compartmentalize the pain within a second. You stub your toe and like, the week’s schedule has to be cut clear. It’s just like it’s over.

Caroline: I bite my lip and our podcast is gone. Yeah.

Jason: But I do think, in all seriousness, our hope is that in having this conversation, those of you who are wondering if you’re a highly sensitive person might be able to name the things that you’ve been feeling for quite a long time in your life. But also you might have someone in your life that you feel like, “Hey, this podcast episode… get past the 20 minutes of them talking about their travels. I think this could really help you listen to, like, you’re the Jason in my life who may not have ever understood how I feel. Maybe this will just help you understand…”

Caroline: Right, because that’s what I just did to you recently in another podcast. I said, “Can you listen to these for 5 minutes? Because it really makes me feel seen and it will help you understand how I feel on a day-to-day basis.” And you were so wonderful in listening to it. And we had a long conversation.

Jason: After that I said, “Don’t tell me how to live my life.”

Caroline: No, you didn’t. And it was so lovely and it was a beautiful point of conversation to help us communicate. Anything I think that helps you feel more seen and understood that you can then communicate to your partner that will help you feel more seen and understood in your relationship is a positive thing.

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: And we’re not going to be able to cover it all in this episode, but maybe we’ll do like a little Q and A, a follow up.

Jason: Yeah, I think if this episode goes well, we would love to keep chatting about this because again, the more that we talk about these things, the more that we normalize them, the less it becomes, “Oh, you’re just a sensitive person.” And then more it becomes, “Oh, you’re a sensitive person.” That is the mindset shift that I have made in our relationship. In the beginning, when these things started to pop up, I’m like, “Stop gasping at leaves out the window.” Stop deleting your entire Google Calendar when you stub your toe, like, get over it. I was never that brash about it. But it has become a shift in how I think when especially this year, like, “Oh, my gosh, we’re putting you through the ringer,” and you’re doing a great job. But there are certain times when it’s just like, “Hey, I can’t do anything for days.”

Caroline: Yes.

Jason: And for my brain, and it will probably take more years. I don’t understand why it takes you days to recover. And it’s only because my personal lived experience is that it does not take me days to recover.

Caroline: Exactly. And that’s all life, right? Like, it’s hard to put yourself in the shoes of someone else, but I think that’s actually a really good place to start, because what you’re just describing is the way that the world often treats, I feel like sensitive people, which is that or at least this is how I felt. Maybe I won’t say that, but this is how I felt. Growing up is like, something was wrong with me. Because our world isn’t set up for sensitivity. Our world is set up for, “You should be able to fire on all cylinders all the time. You shouldn’t have need of resting.”

Jason: Especially the US.

Caroline: Exactly. The US culture, the work culture, like, all of that. And also, when you’re a kid, being a highly sensitive kid brings about a lot of difficulties for your parents, and you end up feeling like a burden a lot of the time, because processing your emotions, that takes time. Or even when you’re a kid and you don’t know how to process your emotions. It’s very inconvenient. So for me, personally, I grew up, my parents were divorced, but most of the time, I lived with my mom, my stepdad, my older brother, and then my two older step brothers. So there were three older boys and me in my household, and I felt like the black sheep all the time, because not only was I the baby, but I was the highly sensitive baby. And so that’s how they treated me, the baby, like the cry baby. “You’re so sensitive. Your skin is so thin.” And that was always the narrative that was being kind of, like, pushed to me. And so I grew up with this feeling of like, “Oh, it’s just me. I’m just, like, defective in this way. This is a personality flaw.” And that’s why it’s so powerful. When I read that book and I realized that there’s a term for it because I realize I’m not alone. That’s what that feeling was. It was like, “Oh, I’m not defective. I’m just biologically built in such a way that my brain is processing in a different way.” Like, I’m experiencing pain in a different way. I’m experiencing emotion in a different way. That’s not to be like, “Oh, whoa, I’m so special.” It’s just to be like…

Jason: It’s just different.

Caroline: It changes my own self narrative to where it’s not so negative. It’s like, “Okay, all right, this is the way that we’re built. Like, what can we do with this?” And so that’s why I want to start with there, because I think that highly sensitive people can often fall into this self narrative of being a burden and feeling like we’re so difficult to deal with. You know what I mean?

Jason: Now, how do you think that’s evolved in our relationship? Because I was asking you when we started talking about the notes for this, not to throw another question at you, but I was asking, Do you feel like you have gotten… Have you always been as highly sensitive as you are, or have you gotten more sensitive as you’ve gotten older?

Caroline: So this is a really interesting question.

Jason: Thank you.

Caroline: So I think I’ve always been the sensitive, I’ve always been this innately highly sensitive person. Like, I think it is an innate trait. But when you’re a kid and you experience what I just said, which is you start to feel like a burden, you develop coping mechanisms in order to survive where to survive in my family as this very different person and for a whole host of other reasons that we won’t get into. Thank you, therapy. But I became this highly functioning version of myself who buried herself in academics and people-pleased and made everyone happy and became a star A-student, and overachieved my way into not being seen for the thing that I felt so self conscious about, which was being so sensitive. And that will only last you to a certain point. So I think it’s very fascinating. A lot of people, whatever their coping mechanism of choice is, I think it really starts to break down around the age of 30. And so you see a lot of people at the age of 30, like, major burnout, major midlife crisis, like, health problems, anxiety, everything starts to get so loud. And I think it’s a combination of two things. I think the coping mechanism just was exhausting for so many years that you… Finally your body just says, this is just exhausting. And I think it’s a combination of that. And also with age, becoming more comfortable with who you actually are, and so you start to feel comfortable enough to drop some of those defenses. So for me, I just have become a lot more comfortable with being my authentic self. And so now I can actually, instead of keeping up the ruse of, like, push through, push through, overachieve, overachieve, hustle, hustle. Now I’m in a safe, loving relationship where I feel seen and heard.

Jason: Damn right, you are.

Caroline: And so I can go to you and say, “This is how I’m really feeling.” So it might seem like over the years it’s gotten more prevalent, but it’s only because I’ve truly been this way inside, but now I feel safe enough to fully be able to voice how I’m feeling.

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: And so what was your original question? It was like…

Jason: How do you think this has evolved in our relationship over time?

Caroline: Okay, so that’s probably like, one answer to that question. It’s just that I feel you have provided a safety and a comfort in our relationship now, twelve years in, to where I feel like I can voice, I need rest, or I’m feeling really depleted right now, or I need time alone, or like all those things. But I think also we’ve just gotten so much better at, like, communicating and having language around all of this stuff. I will say that one area that I think will continue to have to just adjust over time is that as I’ve become more vocal about what my needs are, I become equally as fearful that you will resent me for having so many needs. And this is something that we have to kind of, like check in on all the time, the resentment piece of it.

Jason: And I do think that’s a big part of from my side of things, of trying not to build that resentment, because in any relationship there’s a give and take, obviously, but I think that there especially in a relationship with a non-emotional and a very emotional person, there is a lot more give from the non-emotional person’s side because I’m trying to walk around a lot of different things to make sure that I’m giving you space and I’m being there and I’m listening and all this stuff that doesn’t come naturally to me. And so it’s like, I have to give a lot in those things. And so over time, you can absolutely develop a resentment of like, I wish I could just stop doing this, but for me, I’ve never thought that way at all. I’ve always just thought like, “Oh, you’re my person, I love you.” You have so many other amazing qualities which we just don’t have time to list here, otherwise we would. But there are the highly sensitive moments that are just challenging.

Caroline: Of course.

Jason: And they’re the moments, I think, in our relationship where they are also little inflection points for us to help us grow as a couple. But they’re not anything that gets fixed right away either. They’re like, “Oh, hey, I need you to be a better listener when I’m telling you how I’m feeling.” And so for me, I’m like, “What the hell does that mean? I listened to you.” “Yeah, you didn’t hear me.” And it’s like that whole game. And it’s like, “But no, I heard the words.” You’re like, “Yeah but you didn’t soak them in and really understand them.” And I’m like, “Yeah, no, I don’t know what that means.” All I can do is just listen and try and figure out what to do. But I think that’s been a big thing for us that we’ve worked through for now in twelve years is as much as my brain wants to immediately fix every problem, I try and slow down from that and just ask, “What do you need from me in this moment?” That’s my go to now.

Caroline: Yes.

Jason: Which is just, I don’t find that to be a very helpful question because if anybody asked me that, I’d be like, “I don’t need you.”

Caroline: Right.

Jason: That’s the difference, is like, “I’ll figure it all out myself.” But for you, you don’t necessarily need me. But you need something.

Caroline: Yeah, because it’s really interesting. I don’t know if this is true across all HSPs, but I know for me, being this way is a very isolating experience. Because you imagine and maybe this is like some of that childhood trauma, I don’t know, of just growing up in a family where I didn’t feel very validated for my feelings. But by the way, that’s not anything wrong with the way that I was raised or they had no way of knowing that that’s what I needed.

Jason: That’s what I was saying at the very beginning, right?

Caroline: Exactly.

Jason: It’s just that we didn’t know.

Caroline: So when I say that, I say it very non-judgmental or blaming. I just say it as a very matter-of-fact, like just growing up in that way. But it’s like it can be a very isolating experience to have all of these deep feelings, to have all of these deep sensations and perceptions happening all the time, and to have this rich, complex inner world where you have this awareness of all of that, and then to feel like nobody understands that that’s happening. It’s like you’re living all of these lifetimes within you at all times, and nobody knows where you’ve been. That’s a really weird, abstract way of describing it. But that’s what I feel like. I feel like I’m constantly going on journeys within myself, but I can’t describe where I’ve been or what I’ve learned or how I’m feeling or how hard it was or how exhausting it was. And so it’s like now I’m engaging in a conversation and I feel like I’ve lived twelve lifetimes in the past day. And you’re like, “What do you want to eat?” And I’m like, “I’ve just been on, like a journey across the Sahara.” Metaphorically speaking.

Jason: And I’m like, “No, you haven’t. You’ve been sitting on the couch all day.”

Caroline: Exactly, right. You’re like, “You haven’t moved.” I’m like, “But haven’t I?” So that part is hard. And so I do think that a lot of times, when I’m feeling a certain type of way, that’s what we’ve now learned, what we were sharing in that conversation the other day is like a lot of times I just want my pain validated. A lot of times I just want my exhaustion validated. I just want someone to see that I’m having these experiences so that I don’t feel so alone in that. But it’s on me also to try to communicate that and try to tell you that because you’re not a mind reader and you’re not built like me. If I live the rest of our marriage expecting you to understand the journey that I’ve been on, which is an inherently inside journey, it will always lead to… like, you will never feel enough and I never want you to feel that way.

Jason: And I think that’s a big part of this that we have really started to learn too. And you wrote about this in a recent email newsletter that we sent out to the WAIM fam in our Emo-Tactical Tips series. What a great series that was. But it was just about this idea of, you’re having this whole discussion and thought and things in your head and I think, as a highly sensitive person, that’s going on all the time. Like in my head it’s like, “When’s the next time when I have coffee?” That’s it. There’s not a whole lot of things going on up there or cinnamon rolls would have been the better thing if we’re being honest. But what we’ve really come to is that I just need you to explain to me and to share with me what you’ve been thinking about and where you’ve been in your head so that I can understand where you’re at in that moment.

Caroline: Yeah, and something… so not only just my thoughts, right? So this is another distinction I want to make that maybe we haven’t even talked about.

Jason: Breaking news here at the podcast.

Caroline: There’s my thoughts, there’s the journey that I’ve been on in my thinking brain, like the chatter that’s in my head, the inner dialogue. Here’s the story I’m telling myself about this, all those things. And that is something I have to communicate to you. But there’s also this unspoken thing in my brain that’s just straight perceptions that adds to… I don’t know how to describe it except to say like a hardship tax on any given day. For example, I have a weird pain in my left leg right now. I don’t know where it’s from. It feels like my muscles have ripped apart and now they’re like sore from that. Okay. My lip is still healing. I was a little dizzy yesterday because of my eye condition and it’s like at any given moment, my brain is like rolling through these perceptions without any words attached to them. But it’s just an awareness that I have and it’s like this ticker of awareness. My leg hurts, my lip hurts, I’m tired, I’m hungry. All of these perceptions, loud noise. Oh my gosh. Yeah, exactly. Like leaf falling, scary. The best way I can describe it is just perceptions. It’s an awareness. And when I say as a highly sensitive person, my brain processes stimuli differently. That’s what’s happening. It’s like this zapping conversation that’s happening between brain and sensations all the time and so it’s exhausting. And I don’t have the mental capability to just compartmentalize the way that you often describe that you do. So, like, you were talking about, joking about your stubbed toe, but you can stub your toe and somehow you have this thing in your brain that just goes, “Oops, stub my toe. Hey brain, any pain that you sense from my toe, put it in that box from now on forward.”

Jason: That black box you put it into for twenty years.

Caroline: That we will definitely get to at some point. And so I envy that because, god, that sounds so lovely to just be able to put all that in a black box, but I don’t have that gear. And so what we’ve started doing that we need to do more regularly. We used to do this from an anxiety perspective back at home, we used to have an anxiety scale. So any given day, Jason would be able to see my anxiety is at an eight today.

Jason: There was like a physical scale, slider.

Caroline: It was a physical slider that, in my office, that I would put and it’s like, “Today’s a five” or “Today is a ten. I’m going to be in the dark room meditating for 2 hours. Don’t talk to me.” But for this trip, especially since my anxiety, knock on wood, has been a lot better lately, I’ve been just calling it a hardship scale so that you know… because at any given moment, I’m having some sort of hardship. This is what you need to understand and I get it, but this is just what it is to be me. And I know that compared to what other people are going through in their lives, I know it’s nothing, okay? But that’s not how this works. If you’re in HSP, there is no comparing what you’re going through. It’s just hard. And so I have to find a way to communicate to you, like, is this a minor inconvenience or is this like a code red? I am done for the day. I’m wiped out. So I’ve been trying to find this way to quantify it to you so that you know, and also so I can keep myself accountable, right? Because this is another thing about being an HSP. It can sometimes drift into this place of victimhood staying in a very victimy place where it’s like, nobody knows how hard this is for me. This is so difficult, like blah, blah, blah blah. But that doesn’t actually help you in your life. And so I have to work through this all the time and go, “Okay, Caroline, how hard is it though? And do you have any energy left in the tank to push through this right now or to still do the dishes even though you’re totally wiped out?” Like, “Where are you on that scale?”

Jason: I’m such a stickler about you doing the dishes.

Caroline: You know what I’m saying? So it’s almost like I have to decide when to cash in my chips a little bit because that’s also the contract that I think I’ve made with you as my husband of, like, I’m trying here. And that goes back to the resentment piece, which is, I think part of what keeps the resentment at bay is that if you know that I’m trying within my capability to contribute to the household, to contribute to whatever the task at hand is that we’re trying to accomplish as a team, whether it’s traveling and buying a train ticket or doing this or doing that, if I just went strictly off of how my energy is at any given moment, I would never do shit because I would just be like, “I’m done. Everything’s hard,” but I have to be honest with myself and go, “Okay, in this contract, in being a team, in being in this marriage together, I need to be honest about what I can actually give right now because that’s the only way that this works.” Because the second that I just decide that it’s your job, because you’re the less emotional person to do everything and I’m the one with the more needs, and that’s just the way it is, you will get resentful of that.

Jason: Absolutely. Yeah. And I think getting back to kind of like the takeaway from that whole piece that I really wanted to make sure people hit home, especially for those of you who are the me in the highly sensitive relationship, is what I’ve really learned to understand and try to ask you to share is like a perfect example, is maybe earlier in the day we’ve been like, “Hey, are you going to make dinner?” And you’re like, “Yeah, I’m going to make dinner.” And so we go through the day and we’re doing the things or whatever. Nothing has happened in the day, nothing to derail you. And then I’ll come in and maybe I’ve been on my computer for 2 hours just like, editing, and I haven’t even noticed you exist. And then I come to you and it’s like 6:00 p.m. And I’m like, “hey, are you ready to make dinner?” And you’re like, “No.” And I’m like, “What the hell happened? What did I miss?” And this is where I just have to get you to tell me, “Oh, my leg hurts and my this, and then I’m super dizzy. And then that’s freaking me out because I don’t know why.” And all this stuff. And I’m like, “Oh, okay, I get it. I’ll make dinner.” But I think a big part of that is what we’ve tried to do is not let it get to that place.

Caroline: Totally.

Jason: And have it get to a place where ahead of time, you can be saying, “Hey, I just want to let you know.” And this is like the hardship scale, right?

Caroline: Yeah.

Jason: Ahead of time, “I’m feeling really dizzy this afternoon, and I don’t know why and it’s freaking me out” or whatever. And just like, “I just need you to just let me be.” And I’m like, “Okay,” first of all, that sucks. But second of all, I’m glad that I know, because otherwise I would have gone under the assumption for the rest of the day, “You’re making dinner. Why are you not…” like, you agreed to this. This is a social contract we had in our relationship.

Caroline: Right. Yeah. And I think as the highly sensitive person in the relationship, it’s taken me a while to also put myself in your shoes and realize how in the scenario that you, the very exaggerated scenario…

Jason: It’s so unrealistic, it never has happened.

Caroline: Never has happened. Okay. Feeling a little scene, feeling a little exposed.

Jason: Don’t you see that I noticed you?

Caroline: I did feel like, first of all, I would never like a 13-year-old teenager goes, (sobbing sound). But that’s how it feels. So actually, that’s pretty accurate, I guess. But what I was going to say is it’s taken me a while to put myself in your shoes and realize if I don’t communicate that and you’re just walking right into that, it can very easily start to feel like you’re walking on eggshells and you’re in a minefield, right? And that’s what I never want it to feel like. And this is something that I really have… We’ve talked about, like, wanting to get dialed in before we have kids, too, because I don’t want to create a volatility or like an emotional volatility that people have to tiptoe around. I never want it to be that because I think that can create some unhealthy patterns. So instead, I think it’s about communicating, over communicating. Sharing when something has derailed me or when I need rest or I’m feeling particularly overstimulated or whatever.

Jason: I wish I had an app. I just look at my Caroline app.

Caroline: Like I’m a sim or something, and you’re like, “My app needs to rest.”

Jason: The dizziness is up and the pain is up.

Caroline: I wish that too. I’ll create that so I can just change my levers throughout the day. And you’re like, “Ahh.”

Jason: Yeah.

Caroline: This is a good idea.

Jason: “How to save a relationship.”

Caroline: Listeners, do you think this is a good idea? If you had an app where you could let your partner know where your inner world is at any given point during the day, so they could respond to you accordingly, let us know.

Jason: It’d be better if you could just swallow a chip and then the chip just talks to the app and you don’t have to say anything.

Caroline: Oh, we got vaccinated, so we’ve already got that.

Jason: Okay. Wow. Interesting. All right, what do we have left here? Because we’re encroaching on an hour, so we want to be mindful of everybody’s time.

Caroline: I’m going through our notes and something that we kind of touched on, but it’s important. It’s just that it takes time to develop a communication between each other in order to navigate these situations. And it wasn’t just like, “Oh, I read that book and discovered HSP, and then I told you about it” and you were like, “Cool.” And then our relationship was like a million times better from that point forward. It’s been a conversation that we’ve had to have for years and we’re still having it based on what I just said about playing you a podcast episode the other day.

Jason: Yeah. And I think one of the things I wanted to mention, when we were talking about that scenario that’s very unrealistic and has never happened with…

Caroline: It was just for illustration purposes only.

Jason: Is that as the other person who’s not the highly sensitive person, all I know is my world view. So I’m coming to you and I know that you’re highly sensitive Caroline, but I don’t see you as that in every minute of life. I see you as like the full picture of you.

Caroline: Yeah.

Jason: And so I’m like, “Okay, Caroline is ready to do the task that we agreed upon earlier today.”

Caroline: Right.

Jason: That’s how she feels. And yes, maybe you’ve been in a pile on the couch and haven’t moved for 4 hours, but in my brain, I’m just like, “She’s been being comfy.” I don’t know that you’ve been feeling like crap and you’re like, your day has taken a turn.

Caroline: Or that I’m trying to recharge. You don’t know any of that.

Jason: I don’t know any of that. And so I just think that is the so important part of this is the communication piece and just understanding the time that it takes. Like I told you when you played that podcast episode for me in that 5 minutes, I was like, “I’m just going to be totally honest with you. I am going to forget this in like two weeks” because as much as I love you and I care and I want to remember it, I’m going to be thinking about all the travel logistics that we’re going through, but all my normal life things that are wired into my brain hard.

Caroline: Yeah. And that’s like you saying to me, like, when we have to talk about this again, please don’t receive that as I don’t care.

Jason: Exactly.

Caroline: Please receive that as, I’m just a human being. And if we need to have this conversation three or four more times before we come up with a way to integrate it into our daily interactions, let’s do that. And I think that’s a really smart thing to do so that I don’t then make up a story about that when it comes. And also what I’ve learned too, as a highly sensitive person is like, you are so different from me. And I now have realized in those moments when I bring those things to you, don’t make up a big expectation in my head about how you’re going to respond, right? Because it’s impossible for you to live up to that. So reminding that it’s just a conversation starter and there’s no right or wrong way for you to respond. And all I can do is try to open the door for you to better understand my inner experience so that we can know each other deeper. Another thing I wanted to say that I just want to commend you for…

Jason: Oh, nice.

Caroline: Is that, I talked earlier about this self consciousness as an HSP of feeling like I’m a burden or feeling like I’m the one limiting our relationship in so many ways, because traveling is a perfect example. I can’t travel at a pace that maybe you would want to travel at because I physically can’t handle it. And so we have to go at my pace. And it’s hard for me to feel sometimes like I’m the one holding us back. But I was thinking to myself, I’m like, “I’ve never felt like a burden to Jason on the whole.” And I was, like, trying to dissect, “Why is that?” What have you done that has facilitated that? And I think it’s because there’s this mutual respect that we have, because you’ve never treated me like it’s something about me that you wanted to change. Like, you’ve never treated me like, “I wish you were not like this.” And I think that’s a really powerful thing for partners of highly sensitive people to hear and to maybe carry into their relationship. And I think the way you communicate that is by, even when you’re frustrated, it never comes off as, like anger…

Jason: Like, “Ugh, this is too much.”

Caroline: Yeah, it’s never anger. It’s never frustration. It’s never, “I wish you were different.” If anything, it’s sometimes just confusion and curiosity. Help me understand what you’re going through.

Jason: Yeah. Legitimately, I don’t understand what you’re saying in a feeling capacity.

Caroline: Yeah but it’s, what do you say after that? It’s like, “I don’t understand. Please help me understand.” And there’s, like, an opening too. There’s, like, an invitation there that is so necessary in having a strong relationship, rather than just being like, “Why are you like this?”

Jason: Yeah. And I think for any relationship where you’re just very different people, which is all relationships, really. Exactly. It’s just trying to understand that the whole picture of the person is who you chose. And a part of this picture and we’ll just use a metaphor of a framed picture that has a piece of glass, has a small crack in it. It doesn’t ruin the whole picture. It’s just a part of the picture you have to be mindful of so that you understand how it works.

Caroline: I don’t love the metaphor because of the broken…

Jason: Oh, well, it’s not broken. It’s just a crack. It’s wabi-sabi.

Caroline: Yeah.

Jason: Which is the art of…

Caroline: That’s beautiful.

Jason: Yeah, see?

Caroline: Oh.

Jason: Oh, we turned it around. We turned it around.

Caroline: Touche on the wabi-sabi. No, I totally hear what you’re saying, and that’s for every person.

Jason: But that’s also a really good example of a lot of times my simpleton emotional brain will use words that will say something, and you’re like, “Hey, that makes me feel…”

Caroline: “X type of way.”

Jason: Yeah. And I’ll be like, “Oh, that’s not what I meant at all.” And sometimes I want to backtrack. But it’s important, I think, for both of us to be able to give me the space to not feel like I’m a bad person when I just said a thing about you. It’s more of just, you understand, like, “Oh, that’s just how I saw it. It wasn’t, like, a terrible thing. That’s how I saw it.”

Caroline: Totally. And there’s nothing wrong with it. But I actually did write that down, and we didn’t cover it, but I wrote this down as, like, an important tool that we’ve developed in our relationship. So level one of communication is, like, communicating how I’m feeling and all the things we did talk about, which is, like, you know, this is what I’m going through in my inner world. Like, I’ve got this pain, I’ve got this this, and I’m tired and all this stuff and kind of communicating that so you know where I’m at. But another, like, level two is also communicating how I’m perceiving what you’re feeling.

Jason: Absolutely.

Caroline: Because, again, going back to the traits of a highly sensitive person, we’re often very intuitive. We pick up on the energy of other people. So I’ll pick up on something that is unspoken in what you’re doing, and I will sometimes not make up a story in my head, but I can make it mean something in my head without giving you the chance to really clarify. I’ve learned now that I’ll say, like, “Hey, I’m picking up some energy on that, and I’m feeling like it’s because of this.” And you’re like, “Oh, my gosh. No. 100%. I’m not feeling that way at all. It’s just that I actually am on a time crunch with this other thing. And so that’s what you’re picking up on.” And so I go, “Oh, okay.” And so that’s another tip that I would give people, is get comfortable expressing your inner world and how you’re feeling to your partner, but also get comfortable expressing what you’re picking up from them so that they can actually verify that.

Jason: Yeah, and it’s the… is that Brene Brown and “The story I’m telling myself”?

Caroline: Yes, I think in one of her books, she talks about this of just verbalizing and saying, “Okay, the story that I’m making up about this interaction or this thing that happened is X, Y, and Z.” And that allows that to be on the table so that the person can be like, “Oh, no, that’s not what I’m feeling at all.”

Jason: Exactly. All right, you want to wrap up there? And if folks want more discussion about this, they can send us an email and we can maybe, if you have questions…

Caroline: I hope that was helpful. I don’t feel like we came to any real sort of solutions, but this is just what it’s like.

Jason: Don’t you know this about our podcast? We don’t come to solutions.

Caroline: That’s a good point.

Jason: Yeah, that’s not the point of this podcast.

Caroline: We’re solution-less.

Jason: It’s just less solutions. That’s all. That’s our podcast. Less solutions.

Caroline: No rules. Just right. Less solutions.

Jason: Gouda cheese. Get some Gouda cheese. We really appreciate you folks listening. We hope this episode was helpful, especially for the fellow HSPs out there.

Caroline: I love all your beautiful sensitivities. And just know that there’s one person on the other end of this microphone.

Jason: There’s definitely not two.

Caroline: Who’s going through it, too.

Jason: Yeah, there’s another person who doesn’t understand it all that you’re feeling at all. But I’m doing my best, that’s all I can…

Caroline: I do a great job, and thanks for never making me feel broken. Only metaphorically.

Jason: Damn it. Should have gone with the wabi-sabi first. That would have been great.

Caroline: You did great.

Jason: Thank you. All right, everybody, thanks for listening. We appreciate you. We’ll be back next week. And again, if you want to hear more discussion of specifically this topic, shoot us an email, Feel free to ask any questions. We’ll save them in our notes, and we’ll maybe come back to it if we get enough questions to come back around to this topic.

Caroline: Great. Everybody go take a nap and rest.

Jason: Yeah. Bye.

Caroline: Love you. Don’t bite your lip.

130 – Being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) in a Relationship

(Big Fat Takeaway)

The term Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is becoming a lot more well-known and we think that’s GREAT! This trait is something that can be seen as a detriment, but we also know it provides a lot of benefits in our relationship and work.


This article written by

Jason Zook

I'm all about that Cinnamon Roll life (that just seemed like a "cool" way to say I love baking and eating cinnamon rolls). Also, I co-run this WAIM thing as well as Teachery. Currently, 75ish% completion of Tears of the Kingdom 🧝‍♀️⚔️.

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