A Short Guide to Love and Relationships When You are Sensitive and Smart — Part Three

Welcome back to our three part dive into love and relationships! Part One, looked at self-love and the many kinds of love. Part Two, ventured into partnerships. Part Three continues with partnerships, and then provides resources to expand your explorations. Quotes are from you, dear readers. Much gratitude!

Relationships between Two RFMs

Version One: “I reckon I am partnered with an RFM. He and I are different sorts. It is a clash of egos and took a long time to understand sensitivities and trigger points. But also, what he and I will see as an intense debate, people in our life often mistake for a fight. We always have a good laugh every time it happens…Working through communication was really, really hard, and we’ve only now found our own ways to work through that. It has not been the easiest ride being RFMs in an arranged marriage where you’re meant to share an intimate life with a stranger in a strange land. We’ve gotten to a good place though. We discovered really quickly that we agree on some basic values and that helps tide over the differences…There is the tendency my partner describes as my questioning/nit-picking and answering all the questions without letting him get a word in…One thing that was hardest early in our marriage was that he would seem detached and unemotional. It took me a long time to understand that it was, in fact, the opposite.”

Version Two: “It’s complicated…There can often be misunderstandings or other barriers, since we each have so many layers to unpack with even something as simple as loading the dishwasher…With him, I can be my whole complicated enraging ridiculous amazing brilliant self. In all of my relationships before him, there was always something to hide so that I didn’t emasculate or overshadow my partner. He gives me space to brood, to wonder about the universe, and to come back home to him and anchor my rainforest to his.”

Version Three: “…I am very glad for the companionship of my wife but the truth is that a degree of separation remains. Part of the work we have had to do in our marriage is coming to terms with the fact that, despite what Jerry Maguire said in a movie years ago, we do not complete each other. No amount of togetherness can do that. Together or not, we each have to bear our own burdens in this life. We have learned that the best we can do for each other is to listen and lend support, to be together in our loneliness.”

Version Four: “…But the experiment works right now because this person is intensely alive, invested in healing their trauma, empathically patient with mine, and RFM-ly weird in ways that are different from me, but do not preclude mutual celebration. I want to emphasize this last point. Even with other RFMs, difference is guaranteed. What are the chances another RFM will precisely share my enthusiasm for Old Norse, mycology and Bach? The combinatorics is unfavourable. There are some things that as mammals we probably require, like warmth, security and acceptance. As RFMs there will be further addenda, but a shared passion for mycology doesn’t make the cut. I can find other people to talk to mushrooms about! It’s more reasonable to seek someone who can celebrate the intense, often inarticulable richness we carry around in our heads, who loves it, and by virtue of that love gives us joyous permission to expand into the world…”

Version Five: “…As we said in our marriage vows, inspired by Alain de Botton, and which I strive to live up to every day, ‘I promise to remember that we are both – as is all of humanity – deeply imperfect, and instead of being discouraged by this, to celebrate with humour our imperfections, to not expect to be fully understood, and to embark with hope on our journey together to become the best versions of ourselves’:-)…

Version Six (not actually 2 RFMs…this one defies categorization!): “…When I was in love with each of my partners I learned SO much:  how to build from the carpenter, how to cut hair from the hairstylist, sociology from the professor, political science and activism from the other professor, sailing from the boat guy, rock climbing from the climber, skiing from the snow man, hang gliding from the pilot, etc., etc.

Meanwhile, in separate pursuits I engaged in my multiple, serial careers, finally working in landscape architecture and city planning for the final 20 years. These provided such diversity within work that I remained interested and learning.  Paralleling my careers was an interest in art that drew me to learning painting, drawing, silversmithing, batik, glassblowing, ceramics, spinning, weaving, and a few more. Now I’ve landed in botanical printing “eco printing” and natural dyeing, which may last a while because there is so much to learn and explore.

This is just by way of explaining that the same desire to create a learning, growing edge in careers and art has led me through several relationships.  Most have been wonderful, and many are still friends.  Now, at 72, I am single and that’s just fine.  My most recent attempts at partnering (the last with a therapist, a mistake!) have helped me realize that at this stage in my life I have no desire to expend the time and energy required to maintain a close woman-man relationship.  There are too many interesting avenues to pursue – volunteer activities, friendships, always art, growing food, community involvement, children and grandchildren, always art – to feel like it’s worth the effort when I don’t feel I’m lacking anything…My love life was rich with learning and making and exploring, and the partnerships with other RFMs were the best of all – challenging and exciting and stimulating.  But the maintenance, at this time of my life, is more than I wish to do, and I’m finding much intellectual stimulation without partnering to do it.  For me, ‘how to find a partner’ is just the wrong question.”

Resources to explore:

Talks by Alain de Botton. His book, The Course of Love.

Anything by Esther Perel.

John Welwood books. Dr. Sue Johnson. The Gottman Institute.

James Hollis, The Eden Project: In Search of the Magical Other


To my bloggEEs: So ends the three parter on love and relationships. You see, there really wasn’t enough for a book. I hope you found it helpful. I’m sure I will be adding more on the topic over time. Thank you so much to all of you who sent in your experiences. Now I am working on the guided journal project for my third book. Let us know in the comments what you are thinking, feeling, and wondering. Much love, as always.

Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

6 responses to “A Short Guide to Love and Relationships When You are Sensitive and Smart — Part Three”

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  1. Mia Avatar

    The group wasn’t growing so is now deleted.

  2. pprober Avatar

    I’m not a part of this group, just FYI. Hope it works out well for you all!

  3. noksnauta Avatar

    Very happy with your three blogs on love and relationships Paula! It really helps me to deal with my current emotions in this area. Although I am 74 I can still be moved in this. And it helps me understanding my struggles in earlier relationships.

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Thank you, Noks. I’m glad they were helpful. It became clear that I did not want to write a whole book on this topic but that I could share something important in the posts. Thanks for sharing on Linked In! Always good to hear from you.

  4. clignett Avatar

    Oh, how beautiful and heart warming these reactions are! Exceptionally extraordinary brilliantly beautiful! They all give me hope, in ways that I don’t know how to explain properly. I really feel the quote from Alain de Boton, it just cuts right to the core!

    And now I just hear the newborn baby crying nextdoor, and that couple reminds me every time that it is possible, to love someone so utterly and completely and still be yourself in the relationship. With everything that you are, or aren’t.

    Love comes in many forms, ways and beings. Friendships, romantic partners, or the love of a pet (Indie!! 🥰🐶). Or the paths life takes you on with exploring your interests and passions. It’s all love to (and for) me.

    Thank you, Paula, for giving us this three parter on love! It really helps clear things up in my mind and heart, makes me make connections in my mind where I otherwise wouldn’t even see them. Which go straight back to the heart.

    (And off topic: I’m always so happy to see a new post reminder in my mailbox! Look forward to reading it while getting ready for sleep, it’s a happy me-time thingy! ❤️)

    1. Paula Prober Avatar
      Paula Prober

      Oh, I love hearing that you are happy to see my posts show up in your mailbox, clignett. Others have told me that, too. 🙂 It has been fun for me to write this series. The statements from readers were so powerful and fascinating!

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