Highly Sensitive People and Divorce

William Allen
6 min readDec 19, 2021


At some point in your life, divorce will touch you. It could be you, a friend, a family member, or even your parents. Divorce touches us all.

Because HSPs feel more deeply, this can mean that we can be more impacted by strong emotions and the adverse effects of couple breakup and may leave lasting impressions on us.

I have been divorced twice in my life and know how this impacted my children and me. It can create a sense of failure, inadequacy, or even great guilt if your actions hurt someone else.

I wanted to touch on this, especially with and for HSPs, because divorce has become so common. It makes me think that the old romantic ideal of one love, one marriage, and the lifelong commitment to that notion is becoming archaic. Should we be looking now at a new model for coupling relationships? How does this impact HSPs?

HSPs and Love
Dr. Elaine Aron, noted for her work with HSPs and defining the trait, is also with her husband, Arthur Aron, considered one of the leading authorities on love. Divorce is regarded as a significant stressor event in a person’s life. Emotions run the gamut from disappointment, fear, anger, a sense of failure, and rage. The feelings can be quite intense in HSPs going through split-ups.

Dr. Aron cautions us first to understand the difference between love and attachments. The is a key distinction because love is an attraction to someone that is strong and deep and causes you to want to be near them, understand and know them fully, and help them as much as possible. Attachments form when others meet a need, forming an instinctual bond. The key differentiator is that we always create attachments to people we love, but we don’t always love the person we are attached to. The attachments are the sticky glue that binds us to people even when the initial reason for bonding is departed.

Because shame and guilt are often twin shadows lurking in and around divorces, these strong emotions often impact HSPs more because of our psyches’ self-reflecting and self-deprecating nature. HSPs are always finding ways to hang on to responsibility to others and often overlook our needs. The guilt and shame of the relationship often land on our shoulders.

HSPs being the conscientious souls that we are, often are the least likely of the couple to end the relationship, even if it is in our best interest. In addition, because we are less impulsive, we don’t always rush out of relationships to seek other alternatives; therefore, we dig in and try to hold on to the relationship we know.

HSPs are naturally good partners because of our loyalty, our cognizance of the state of the relationship, our tendency towards deeper love, and establishing deep meaning in the relationship. Yet, one of our greatest weaknesses may be our avoidance of conflictual emotions, which may spur avoidance behavior which is not always healthy in a dynamic relationship.

Is the divorce rate in HSPs greater, lesser, or about the same?
Yet, even with that, HSPs don’t appear to have a greater tendency towards divorce than non-HSPs. I feel that we value the comfort of a relationship, belonging, and having a significant other, more so than the pursuit of a replacement, which is often a difficult and taxing process for HSPs.

We will endure a painful and turbulent relationship to avoid the inevitable uncomfortable divorce. But does that make us more difficult to love? Does our partner have to guess more about what’s ticking inside us? Both good and bad. Could that lead to more choppy waters for HSP relationships, even if the immediate outcome is not divorce?

How do HSPs/HSS personalities do in matters of love?
And what about the HSP wildcard, the High Sensation Seeking (HSS) HSP? These individuals tend to look for novelty in life, albeit with a cautious HSP nature. Could this impact relationships for those HSS/HSPs that may easily be bored? Does boredom alone lead to divorce? Dr. Aron has suggested that HSPs are prone to boredom in relationships, but does that necessarily drive them to divorce? Not necessarily. At this point, there isn’t enough research on HSS/HSPs and divorce to draw any kind of conclusion.

We can step out on a limb and say it might suggest a greater tendency towards disinhibition and higher boredom susceptibility. HSS/HSPs might experiment with behaviors that would lead to extra-marital affairs. We know that this type of behavior is a leading cause of divorce.

Handling divorces and the strong emotions and separation.
A divorce is a high-stress event. On the Life Change Index, it ranks just below Death of a Spouse as the highest source of stress in one’s life, with Marital Separation following closely behind. As mentioned before, the high-stress emotions surrounding divorce make navigation separations and divorces some of the most difficult life challenges anyone can face. HSPs, by their nature, will likely amplify these emotions making divorce a difficult and turbulent situation for highly sensitive souls.

If we as HSPs are in this situation, it is important to remember not to overwhelm ourselves with feelings of guilt and shame. If your partner is the source of this, be sure to set boundaries and work on your self-esteem. Protect yourself from unrelenting attacks from your partner if they are acting like a wounded animal. Realize that you are not perfect and that no one is. If you caused the pain, the rift, or the split, own your part and be honest for your reasons. It is never easy for an HSP to hurt someone they have loved or are in a relationship with. We often own the burden for life’s imperfections, even if we have no way to control them. It is our nature to protect those dear to us, even at our own expense.

Most importantly, the stigma of divorce is less today than it used to be. If you find you are in an uncomfortable, unworkable relationship, and you have done all that you can manage to work through the problems, then leave with your head up, knowing that you did your best. Sometimes, love leads us into impractical relationships for nothing more than a biochemical high. When that fades, we see through the veneer to sometimes untenable foundations. This is always an individual decision, weighing up the costs and the benefits of the relationship. No one benefits if you are miserable, admit the mistake and move on. Patch up where you can and consider the fallout to the family. It’s never simple. I’ve never known a no-fault divorce nor a divorce as easy as tearing up a contract and walking away.

What is the future of marriage?
According to research, the trends around marriage and family suggest that more adults live in non-traditional living arrangements, more children live in single-parent homes, there is a lowering in fertility rates and increases in older populations. Increases in cohabitation have occurred, the divorce rate is rising, and more changes in gender roles. Marriage is being postponed to a later time in life, if at all.

Many things can be speculated about these trends. However, I suspect that we are moving towards a time when parochial reasons for marriage are waning. Aside from property ownership and full spousal benefits, marriage may be declining because it has become an archaic institution. The premise of marriage and creating a family in the past generally have required certain gender-based rules about roles and responsibilities. Today, the gender role issue is fully on fire, and I suspect that within a generation will aid in architecting a new form of marriage. Which indeed may be more fluid due to the liquidity of our modern lives. In today’s world, marriage must survive the stressors of working couples, finances, sexual boredom, gender roles and responsibilities, and of course, raising children. Where this leads is anyone’s guess.

Wherever it goes, HSPs will be in the thick of it. We may need to adapt our lifestyles, love, and relationship styles to match the changing form. This may be challenging for many HSPs, although I suspect we will manage just fine. Although “love and marriage, don’t always go together, like a horse and carriage,” love will always endure. Some of us are serial lovers, some are serial monogamists, while others are strict monogamists bound for life, while a few opt for the celibate life. Good luck with your love choices.

Please share your thoughts in the comment section.



William Allen

William Allen, the author of Confessions of a Sensitive Man, An Unconventional Defense of Sensitive Men , writes on male sensitivity at TheSensitiveMan.com.