Navigating Marriage to a Non-HSP by Cary Randall

Navigating Marriage to a Non-HSP

I once got mad at my husband for blowing out a candle too soon.

Yes, that’s right, “too soon.”

I tend to burn a candle or essential oil almost every day to set the right aroma in the place I spend the most time. I’m very sensitive to aesthetics and ambiance.

One night we were winding down and getting ready for bed. The candle I had been burning for a few days was down to its last bit of wax. My husband walked over and blew out the candle.

I felt my breath sucked out of my chest.

“Why would you do that?” I asked.

“Do what?” he replied.

“Blow out the candle.”

“It was almost done,” he said.

“Exactly. It was almost done.”

Standing there, perplexed, he said, “Sorry?”

Sometimes I attach a personification to inanimate objects. I’m very sentimental. I like when my candles burn out naturally on their own. It’s like they have a lifespan and he ended it too soon.

My husband is not an HSP. We’ve been together for fourteen years and bless his heart for managing the delicacies of my sensitivities. Or, at least trying to.

Blissfully naïve to the surrounding nuances, sometimes he gets caught off guard by my requests. That’s totally fair and I have to remind myself to communicate my logic.

We’ve had to leave countless crowded public places such as concerts, sporting events and theme parks due to my overstimulation. The sights, the sounds and the smells amalgamate and cave in on me. I start to shut down emotionally signaling it’s time for me to go. Hundreds of dollars have been wasted because of leaving early.

I struggle with guilt naturally but in these times I remind myself not to feel guilty for doing what is right for me in that moment. My husband has never once made me feel bad about wasting the money. Once I have a chance to decompress at home, I gather myself by remembering tomorrow is a new day.

For a long time, I avoided graphic movies and TV shows. Too much violence or sex punches me in the gut. I was missing out on all the new hit TV shows. My husband would have to watch them when I was sleeping or at work. If I walked in on a graphic scene, I would feel it viscerally and have to walk away.

My sister would tell me to remind myself that it’s fake and to look at it as special effects. It took me awhile, but I was able to desensitize myself enough to start watching shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. I had to catch up on the seasons that my husband had already seen. He didn’t mind. He actually said re-watching them helped him understand the storylines better, and he was able to help me follow along as well.

I’m grateful I was able to desensitize enough to watch new shows like this because I became emotionally attached to the characters and storylines. I couldn’t believe what I had been missing out on!

I’ve suffered from insomnia, nightmares and sleep paralysis my whole life. My husband, who falls asleep 2.5 seconds after sitting on the couch, does not struggle with sleep.

When he falls asleep before me I accuse him of “leaving me.”

He says, “What? I’m not leaving you. I’ll never leave you. I’m right here. I’ll always be by your side.”

While I know he’s there next to me in the physical sense, when he falls asleep before me I feel left alone. I hate the feeling of being up alone during the night. It’s a huge trigger for me from my childhood (but that’s a separate article entirely). God forbid he works hard all day and conks out on the couch while we catch up on our shows.

Again, I have to communicate to him why it feels like he’s leaving me in a conscious versus physical sense.

Yet, I don’t like to be touched. I’m not physically affectionate. When I’m touched, poked or caressed I want to squirm out of my own skin. Hugs make me feel suffocated. This is hard on my husband who is the total opposite. His love language is Physical Touch. He takes it personally, and  how can he not? It’s totally understandable.

I tell him it’s not just him I don’t like being touched by, it’s all people I don’t like being touched by. Except kids and animals. I can’t get or give enough affection when it comes to kids and animals. While he’s patient and understanding about my physical boundaries, it hurts his feelings. I try to compensate with handholding and butterfly kisses. And, well, sex of course.

My love language is Acts of Service and Quality Time. I adore little love notes and creative date nights.

I have saved every single concert ticket stub, cards and even the flowers he’s given me over the years. I made three different shadow box displays full of each of them that reside in our bedroom. Our photo booth strips from the local summer fair over the last fifteen summers hang in our living room. I have a memento box full of date night receipts, jewelry boxes and even the shirt I was wearing during our first kiss.

I keep the important memories. This is how I show my love.

My husband will never be an HSP and I will never not be one. Like two perpendicular lines that cross, we meet in the middle. I’m so lucky to have such an understanding partner. His level of patience deserves some sort of medal.

Our relationship will always be a work in progress and requires a deeper constant communication.

Two things I’ve learned is to communicate, because people aren’t mind readers; and to not assume, because I’m  not one either.

Are you married to or dating a non-HSP? How do you work out your “love” language?


Pic credit via jillwellington

Cary is an introverted HSP. She is an aspiring poet, writer and photographer. On the weekends you can find her at local beach clean-ups, museums or photographing nature and architecture. She is passionate about wildlife and nature conservation. She and her husband travel when they can and are dedicated parents to two kitties.


  • Erin Davis

    I relate to this on so many levels! Enjoyed reading this so much. Well written, concise and easy to understand.

    • Cary Randall

      Hi Erin! Thank you so much! I had a lot of women reach out to me about how much they can relate, which tells me that we are not alone in our sensory struggles! It’s so much more than just being “dramatic.” You’re in the right place for future relatable posts! Sending some HSP love!

  • Tina Hoff

    Your relationship is a mirror of mine — I’m definitely an “acts of service” / “quality time” HSP who isn’t as affectionate or touchy-feely as my husband (a non-HSP, “physical touch” / “words of affection” person). We often joke that I am the “guy” in the relationship, and he is the “girl.” You are right. Honest / open communication and dropping assumptions has been the key to making it to 19 years and raising two sensitive boys. But it was a long road, and a HARD one, too. Having a spouse who is not only willing but ABLE to open himself up, lay his own stuff bare, and work at the hard stuff is the key; and of course, being able to match that with your own willingness and openness. During the harder years, it took a lot of strength, too, to keep the faith and push through when I felt like my energy would NEVER withstand his, and maybe we would never find an emotional balance that worked out to be more than just “tolerance.” It’s nice to know there are others out there making it work!

    • Cary Randall

      Hi Tina! Wow that’s so crazy that my experience resonates with yours so much. It gives me comfort knowing I’m not the only one navigating a marriage like this. Your openness and awareness will certainly be a guide for your sensitive boys to navigate their own relationships and friendships. As a sensitive child it is such a gift to have a sensitive parent, your boys are lucky. HSP-Non HSP marriages can not only work but also give us the gift of different perspectives from our spouses. Since I wrote this blog I’m learning HSP-Non HSP marriages are way more common than I ever realized and our Non HSP partners are learning they’re not alone either. I wish there was an HSP-Non HSP marriage workshop retreat because it can be so rewarding if we have the right tools and insight. Thanks for the comment!

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