Understand your highly emotional partner

A common myth is that women are highly emotional, sometimes irrational,
and perplexing to deal with. The reality is that emotionality typifies a
certain personality style found in both women and men. Partners of
intensely emotive people love them but at times feel overwhelmed by
their reactions.

The highly emotional individual may be described as a warm,
compassionate, creative, intuitive, and dramatic person. He or she is

also moody, self- referenced, easily hurt, overly critical, needy and
prone to depression. Those who are blessed by these traits describe
having intense and compelling feelings that rule their lives.

They also speak of the wonders and pains of their empathy with others.
Their deep doubts about their own value lead the emotional partners to
seek attention as proof of their merit. They tend to be easily hurt and
feel abandoned when their needs for recognition and validation are not met.

Partners of highly emotive individuals appreciate the vitality, caring,
sensitivity and charm of their mates. They also watch with compassion
and sadness how mood changes impact their loved ones and how much pain
they suffer.

“His fluctuating moods leave me so confused, I don’t know what to
expect next, and how to ease his pain.” “I try to be as attentive as I
can, but I often fail to please her and she gets very angry and
critical.” “He seems to need so much time and connection with me that I
find it overwhelming”.
These quotes are typical of partners dealing with their highly emotional

Often the family history of the highly emotional individual reveals a
poor connection with both parents and frustrated attempts to be
recognized by them. The child then felt emotionally abandoned and
unworthy. This led to a lifetime quest for recognition and validation.

As adults, they judge other people’s conduct as either affirming or
hurtful and witholding. Feeling ignored or slighted may trigger rage in
the highly emotional individual. This is often followed by accusations,
verbal attacks and shaming retorts. At times the intensity and duration
of these reactions exceeds the partner’s capacity to withstand it.

The reactive partner also tends to create dramatic situations in which
the mate’s love and allegiance are tested. Margie would have an argument
with Carl’s mother and ask him to “speak his mind” about the situation.
Carl’s responses were never sufficiently reassuring to Margie and she
would keep him up half the night with her indignant yelling.

Luanne complained about Roger’s mood swings and his deep depressions.
She was at a loss to help him feel better. His recovery at times would
be abrupt and unexplained. She also found his negative view of himself
and others hard to combat.

People commonly label the highly emotional partners as “too emotional,
too sensitive, too moody, too unpredictable, too unstable, too self
centered and too difficult to deal with”. Being labeled
“too emotional” implies that there is something wrong with them. That is
not the case. These people are often too misunderstood. Their mates,
however, may use these labels because they feel frightened, overwhelmed
and unsafe.

To be supportive of a highly emotional partner you may choose to:

  • Understand that emotionality is an integral part of your partner’s
    makeup and charm.
  • The qualities you find difficult to deal with are the same ones that
    also attract you. (The tears about other people’s suffering are the same
    compassion and caring you receive and cherish).
  • Be aware that the drama comes from needing attention. Provide as much
    as you can and frequently.
  • View the negativity, anger and envy as expressions of loss and
    yearning- not as a personality deficit. Do not personalize the content
    of the anger outbursts.
  • Listen with compassion; do not deny your partner’s feelings. Loving
    attention will remediate the situation faster.
  • Remember that you selected a partner with qualities that may be more
    subdued in you. You can learn to access your compassion, tenderness,
    empathy and sensitivity by observing your partner. Together you help
    each other appreciate all the facets of your personalities.

If you are a highly emotional partner you may want to:

  • Make an effort to concentrate on the positive aspects of your partner
    and your life.
  • If you feel slighted or abandoned, let your mate know how you feel as
    calmly as possible and ask him or her to change the offensive behavior.
  • Believe that your lovability comes from your whole personality
    including your emotionality. Stay compassionate, but attempt to modify
    the intensity and duration of your anger outbursts.
  • Practice reducing your hurt feelings by ascribing positive intentions
    to your mate’s behavior.
  • See your partner as your supporter, not your critic, and allow
    yourself to create the connection with him or her that was not there for
    you in childhood.
  • Pride yourself about your strengths and reassure yourself often of
    your value and worth.

Being a person who is highly emotional or a partner of one- may be a
challenge. Yet, when this personality style is understood and
accommodated by both partners, the joys that follow are immense.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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