9 Signs Your Partner Is More Emotionally Complex Than You Think

by Kristine Fellizar
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When you've been with your partner for some time, you should have an idea of what they like, dislike, and how they'd react to certain situations. But if you find yourself completely clueless as to how they're going to react, it doesn't necessarily mean you don't understand your partner. According to experts, even if you didn't realize it you may have a more emotionally complex partner than you previously thought.

As Dr. Colleen Cira, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, tells Bustle, "Emotionally complexity can mean a lot of things, but generally I think it can be understood as someone who is difficult to predict [in terms of] how they will feel, think, behave or react." Although some may call that being indecisive or wishy-washy, feeling many things at once is referred to by psychologists as emotional complexity .

According to Caleb Backe, a Health and Wellness Expert for Maple Holistics, emotional complexity basically means you hold more than one emotion at a time and sometimes on opposite extremes. There are two distinct types of emotional complexity: emotional differentiation and emotional dialectism. The former happens when you experience all kinds of emotions at the same time, and the latter happens when you have the ability to see the good and the bad sides about any given situation.

If you're thinking everyone experiences that at some point, you're not wrong. As dating and relationship coach, Rosalind Sedacca, CLC, tells Bustle, "We are ALL emotionally complex." Some people are just better at showing it than others.

So here are some signs that your partner may be more emotionally complex than you think, according to experts.


They're Very Open With Their Feelings

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If you feel like you can read your partner's feelings really well, you may be an empath or your partner is just more emotionally complex than you think. "Emotionally complex individuals find it hard to hide their emotions," Backe says. "If your [partner] is open about their emotions to the point where you notice it, this may be a sign they’re emotionally complex." You may not always anticipate when they're going to have a change in moods or what their mood is going to be. But least you can identify what they're feeling because they openly show it.


Little Things Really Matter To Them

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"It’s not that they let things get to them per say, but emotionally complex people are ruled by their passions," Backe says. They have a tendency to overanalyze a lot and are "usually prone to doing the right thing." According to Backe they rarely act instinctually, so you may be able to expect them to spend a ton of time in their head formulating.


They Process A Lot Of Things Internally

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While you might feel like they’re fairly open with their emotions, emotionally complex people usually have a private side that allows them to think things through. "They are reserved and process things internally," therapist Alisha Powell, PhD, LCSW tells Bustle. Some may feel more comfortable expressing themselves through letters or long text messages. According to her, that's because it's just easier for them to share their feels when they've had time to reflect and aren't "in the moment."


They Turn Into A Whole New Person When You Push Their Buttons

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"When we trigger our partner or inadvertently push their buttons, that's when their emotional complexity can come into play," Sedacca says. Emotions are rarely expressed the same way between partners. Because of that, it's easy to misconstrue, overestimate, or even underestimate your partner's reactions to things. But your partner's feelings are not your own. If you find that your partner suddenly bursts out in anger after you've thrown a seemingly innocent joke their way, that's because their emotions may be more nuanced than you previously thought. "It's best to put ourselves in our partners' shoes and try to see the world through their eyes," Sedacca says. "Human beings are profoundly complex. When we recognize this we are better prepared for the profound differences we all see and experience."


They Value Alone Time But Can Also Be The Life Of The Party

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As Powell says, an emotionally complex partner will be "a chameleon of sorts." They have the ability to match their personality to the person they're speaking with. For instance, if a friend is loud, they might speak softer. If their friend is passive, they can be a little more assertive. "They match their personality to the one of the person they’re with in order to have balance," she says. Furthermore, you'll know your partner is emotionally complex if they value their alone time but can also be the life of a party.


They're Empathic

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"If your partner can easily take someone else's perspective and really feels what someone else is experiencing, chances are your partner is highly empathic," Dr. Cira says. People who are highly empathic tend to be emotionally complex because they can often change their moods based on the feelings and energy of the people around them. For some, being around a ton of people can have a way of draining their energy. So if your partner seems to want more alone time after a huge get-to-together, that may be a sign of emotional complexity.


You Can Never Really Anticipate What Their Mood Is Going To Be

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"If you feel like you never know what kind of mood your partner will be in, this speaks to emotional complexity," Dr. Cira says. For instance, your partner may be easily triggered by things that happen in their day-to-day life. So what starts out as a perfectly good day can turn bad pretty quickly. Learning how to effectively navigate your partner's moods can help your relationship run more smoothly.


They May Have Had A History Of Trauma

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This may not apply to all situations, but according to Dr. Cira, people who have experienced trauma in their past tend to become emotionally complex adults. "People who have experienced subpar parenting or any very stressful event during childhood often go on to become adults who are emotionally complex, for a variety of reasons," she says. This can happen due to a parent or caregiver being neglectful, having substance abuse issues, or having any kind of mental health or major medical issues. In adulthood, emotionally complex individuals are likely to be highly sensitive. "When people are highly sensitive, not only do they experience a wider range of emotions than folks who are not highly sensitive, they also experience their emotions more fully," she says.


They're Very Sure Of Themselves

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Someone who has a clear sense of self, knows who they are and isn’t afraid to show it may be considered emotionally complex. "It’s not that we don’t expect people to be true to themselves, it’s more that someone who is emotionally complex is more in tune with their emotions," Backe says. "This makes them more aware of who they are as an individual." That's a really good thing to know, if you want to maintain a successful long-term relationship.

Although dealing with an emotionally complex partner can be challenging at first, Sedacca says they can make for excellent partners once you have an open dialogue about it. "Having a partner who allows you to see their emotional complexity enables you to avoid playing games and be real with one another," she says. "When a partner hides their feelings and emotions from you, you are forced to guess what's going on an can misread how they are being impacted by situations in your life."

Everyone is emotionally complex. But some people tend to show it more than others. If your partner's changing moods or seemingly indecisive feelings come from emotional complexity, all you need to do is be understanding. Everyone processes things differently. If you can be open, and be understanding, and communicative about how their moods affect you, there's nothing you can't work out together.