Being a highly sensitive person (HSP) is a pretty spectacular personality trait to have, and that’s especially true when it comes to dating. Sure, there are aspects of being a HSP that can be downright difficult, but in many ways, it allows me to experience life in a brighter, bolder way.
Over the past few years, I’ve had my fair share of good dates and bad dates. And before I learned about my HSP trait, I often thought there was something weird or wrong with me. When friends would tell me about their dating experiences, like going out on 3-4 dates in one week with a different guy each time, I would cringe. That sounded like so much work. I felt as if I was dating wrong, as if the only way to find my special person would be to go on as many dates as I possibly could, throwing caution to the wind.
But the truth is that dating is a personal journey and there is no one right way to date. I have friends who did the date-as-much-as-possible way and found true, lasting love. I have friends who only went on one or two dates before meeting the love of their life. There’s no algorithm for something like dating. There’s nothing to say that going on a lot of dates will yield a boyfriend or that going on as few dates as possible will yield singleness. It’s all up to fate.
And the truth is that dating when you’re a highly sensitive person and an introvert is a vastly different experience. It’s both completely magical and incredibly draining.
While I can’t speak for all introverted HSPs, this is my experience about dating as one:
When I fall, I fall fast and intensely. When I meet someone I like, it consumes me. I can’t focus at work because I can’t stop thinking about him and imagining our future together. All I want to listen to are sappy romance songs. All I want to do is spend as much time as humanely possible with him. This starts as soon as the first date. The feelings are intense and all-encompassing and ruin my entire life for a few weeks. In the best possible way, of course.
I need at least a month to get over a breakup. I’m not even talking about breaking up with a longtime boyfriend because, well, I’ve never had a longtime boyfriend. I’m talking about those relationships where you’re just going on dates and seeing each other. Nothing serious has been established, but when those relationships end, I can’t jump right back into the dating pool. Those few weeks were intense ones for me and I need time by myself to let go of all my visions for what could have been and to find myself again.
I can only handle one date per week, and I need at least a few days notice. Truthfully, one to two dates a month is plenty for me. It takes a lot out of me to prepare for that first date. First, there are the messages sent back and forth over a matter of days (or weeks, if I’m talking to someone who is particularly gun-shy), and that alone depletes some of my energy to make small talk and ask all those “initial questions”. Then, the date itself is draining, especially if the date isn’t going well and I’m trying to find a polite way to end it. Usually, I enjoy the dates while I’m on them and truly enjoy getting to know someone new and discovering shared interests, but I’m also always ready to call it a night after dinner. First dates that extend past two hours are not my cuppa tea.
I never “go for drinks” because bars make me so uncomfortable and are too loud and overstimulating. I really dislike the advice that a first date should always be grabbing a drink at a bar or going for coffee. Honestly, if I’m going to get all worked up for a date, I prefer it to be dinner where there is a specific start and stop point. With coffee or a drink, it’s a date that can end in 15 minutes or linger for an hour. I also dislike the advice about going for drinks because bars make me uncomfortable. They are usually loud and overstimulating, so I can never focus on the guy and our conversation. There’s just too much happening around me, too many energies to take in, that I’m never my best self. Add to it that I’m not much of a drinker, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. For me, I much prefer going for dinner as a first date… and the reason why will be evident in the next fact.
I have a few creature-comfort restaurants that I always suggest because I know how to get there, the atmosphere, the menu, etc. This has been key for me as an introverted HSP in the dating world. I have very specific restaurants that I suggest as places to meet up because I’ve been there so many times that they feel comfortable. I know exactly how to get there and how long it will take me. I know the parking situation. I know how the restaurant is set up, the atmosphere, the menu. It means I don’t have to waste precious energy worrying about driving to the restaurant, how the parking is, what I’ll order, etc.
I always have a backup plan ready for when a guy wants to extend a first date. Having a backup plan is just Dating 101, but I don’t only have a backup plan for if the date is going south, but also for if the date is going well, but my energy is just depleted and I need to go home… without being all, “Sry, introvert battery drained. Must go home.” Usually, my dog is my excuse. “Oh, I’d love to, but I need to get home and let my dog out. He’s older, so he can’t go too long between bathroom breaks.” It’s lame, I know, but it’s sometimes the best I can do.
When I am in a relationship, I get easily overwhelmed by sharing my life with someone. One of the most difficult things about being in a relationship is sharing my life. Yes, it’s really exciting and super fun and, usually, all I want to do is spend time with him… but it can also be overwhelming because I’m more comfortable single than I am in a relationship. I’m not used to checking in with someone or planning my weekend around him. I’m not used to going out as much as I do in new relationships. It can be overwhelming for me.
Because I so value deep conversations, I never go out with people whose messages don’t go beyond the “what do you like to do for fun” questions. It’s probably due to my intuitive nature, but I can pretty quickly tell whether or not I have a connection with someone I’m messaging with online. If the conversation doesn’t flow past the usual “how are you?” and “what do you like to do for fun?” (<– one of my least favorite questions ever!), then I know that there’s no point in even setting up a date. As an introvert, I value deep conversation over small talk and I want that reflected in messages. It also means I am very, very picky about the guys I agree to go on a date with, which limits my pool a bit, but I’m willing to take the risk.
Being a highly sensitive person means life is more intense for me, which makes sense that dating would be a more intense situation. Love comes very easily for me because I am so in tune with my emotions and my surroundings, so I tend to fall in and out of love quickly. (Some may say that’s not really love, and I won’t argue the point. I just think it’s the easiest way to explain how I feel.) But isn’t there such a radical beauty to that? It means I get to experience love in all it’s glory again and again and again. It also means that when my heart is crushed, the feeling is intensified and the weight of it nearly unbearable. I remember when I was ghosted on by a guy I was falling head over heels for, and this was just after two dates. But my feelings for him consumed me. And then when it ended, and ended in such a terrible way, the pain was crushing. I spent an entire weekend in bed, barely able to summon the energy to eat or move. It sounds dramatic, and it is, but that’s just the dichotomy of living an intense life. I have to take the good and the bad, and I would never trade the good – the brightness, the boldness, the fierceness – just so I would never experience the bad.