Can You Be "Too Sensitive?"

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Conflict in relationships is inevitable. In marriage, count on it. We can’t live with another human being, especially one of the opposite sex sharing the same tube of toothpaste every day and not experience disappointment or friction.


Learning how to manage that can save our hearts, our sanity and perhaps even our marriage.

I began diving into the study of relational behavior with a vengeance, in year two of my marriage. As I mentioned, I had accepted the definition “overly sensitive”. And I can own that now. I am. But that isn’t a bad thing. Which is how I saw it most of my life. Isn’t that what we do?

Most of our deeply held beliefs occur before we reach puberty. And here I was surround by a superwoman mom, and a younger sister, both of whom were much more direct, bolder and far less likely to cry, or be sad.

I was primed for nuclear relationships. I had doubts about who I was, what I needed, or even wanted, much less how to ask for it. Add to that the fact that I grew up without a lot of fatherly influence because he lived 5 hours away. One weekend every 6 weeks and a week in the summer - BOOM.

I was a relationship disaster waiting to happen. What I have discovered in my work however, is that I am not alone.

As women, it comes naturally to be the peacemaker, the pleaser, the caretaker. It was easy for me to put my dreams and passions aside for the good of my husband and family. Then, wonder why I was sad.

And, the years rolled along until sadness turned into resentment.

I hear this with clients, too. Typically, one of two things happen. Either they have only suddenly realized how unhappy they have been for years, often because of falling in love with someone else. Or, they have grown bitter over lost life because their husband seems deaf, dumb and blind to their needs. Most of these women have one constant thought train running through their minds on a regular basis. Which was so me, btw.

Know what those thoughts typically are? Usually a nose dive into the past, hurts, disappointments, misunderstood intentions, growing apart, lack of intimacy. This happens either because we put everything aside in the hopes it would make our marriage happy, or because we never really knew what we wanted in the first place.

Marriage rubs salt in the wound of our perceived failures, inadequacies, or defects, like my hypersensitivity. As I said, I finally, at age 49, realized being sensitive isn’t a defect. It is part of what makes me a good coach. It is what allows me to spend alone writing. It is what helps me see beauty, gives me a sense of wonder. It makes me a richer person. But I spent 48 years apologizing for being this way.

So, the question I ask my clients is can you hang in where you are long enough to get a sure footing on where you want to go, besides out? It is not a question they usually like to hear. But, to leave anything, job, house, country, we must first be able to “be” with us.

Until you know you, what you want, what you can live with, what you can’t, what you need, what your expectations of a partner are, you are simply trading one problem for another.

Ouch, perhaps that sounds harsh,

But, as wonderful as it may seem to start a new life with the “right” person, know first that you are the “right” person. Stay or go, just know you. Because, wherever we go, there we are.

Here is a little insight into how our thoughts work. Ready?

List five things about your husband that made you marry him?
List five reasons you want to leave him?
Which question was easier to answer? Why?