How To Stop Overthinking In A Relationship, According To Experts
Being in a relationship that you hope will lead to something long-term can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. When you think you've found "The One," you're going to do all you can to make sure they're really it. Sometimes, that can unfortunately lead to a little bit of overanalyzing and overthinking on your part. When you're overthinking in a relationship, nothing good ever really comes out of it. But according to experts, there's no need to worry too much. There are effective ways to stop it.
"All of us overthink from time to time," Dr. Kathryn Smerling, PhD, LCSW, a marriage and family psychologist, tells Bustle. "The key is distinguishing when it’s a once-in-a-while occurrence from when it’s becoming a serious problem and can shatter even the strongest relationships."
According to Dr. Smerling, overthinking can do more harm than good. In fact, too much overanalyzing can cause anxiety in your relationship. "A perfect example is when the overthinker starts to create scenarios in [their] own mind and they base their actions on events that haven’t happened yet," she says.
Take infidelity for example. Overthinking about the possibility of cheating is only going to create an insecure attachment. "You’re not going to be able to be attuned to your partner if you’re constantly worried, looking over your shoulder, and checking their phone," she says. "When you’re anxious and overthinking, you’re not in the moment, so you’re not able to truly enjoy time with your partner. And if you’re not present, how can you possibly grow in your relationship?"
Overthinking in your relationship happens. Sometimes, you may not even realize you're doing it. So here are some ways you may be overthinking your relationship too much and effective ways to stop it, according to experts.
1. You Spend A Lot Of Time Picking The Right Words To Text
Should I lead with "Hey," "Hi" or "Hello"? Is the kissy face emoji too much? I want to seem casual, but still super into them. Should I straight up ask them out or just hint that I'm interested in seeing them again?
If you ever spent a long time going back and forth with yourself over what you're going to text your partner, you might be overthinking things. And if you ever spent half an hour trying to decode a simple text from them to find some sort of hidden meaning, you could be overanalyzing in that respect, too.
"I find that a lot of people who are looking for a more serious relationship often times overthink connection with someone way too early," therapist Melissa Divaris Thompson, LMFT, tells Bustle. "It’s totally normal to be excited and anxious about a new potential relationship but overthinking can also lead to its distraction."
So take your time getting to know them by talking to them, and try not to focus too much on things that don't really matter. Don't let texts control how your day is going to go. "Slowing things down and allowing yourself to balance your life and this new person will help you not overthink it," Divaris says.
2. You're Always Asking Others For Advice On The Same
The tendency to overthink usually comes from a place of previous hurt, licensed marriage and family therapist, Anna Osborn, MA, LPCC, LMFT, tells Bustle. When you've been hurt in a previous relationship (or hurt in the existing relationship), it makes it harder to trust what's right in front of you. "You will tend to overthink in order to manage the fear or anxiety that comes up when trying to trust your partner," Osborn says. But this behavior harms relationships because "it creates a continual pull back into the past." In short, it keeps you feeling stuck.
When you're stuck, you might reach out to friends or family for advice to try to find a way out of those feelings of hurt or insecurity. So if you find yourself asking for advice about this over and over again, that may be a sign you're overthinking too much. "Stop asking everyone for advice," Osborn says. "Instead, use some time to pause and evaluate how you actually feel." Maybe things aren't as bad as you think.
3. You Always Have A "What If" To Worry About
There are two types of people who overthink a relationship, Sheryel Aschfort, a relationship expert at South Florida Introductions, tells Bustle. "One is the controller personality that pretty much overthinks everything. They want to prepare for the negative and tend to overthink," Aschfort says. "The other is the individual who leans towards insecurity. When you're insecure, your mind will always take you to the negative side of a situation."
Regardless of which type you tend to be, overthinkers have the ability to instantly find alternative possibilities to reality. In other words, you've probably thought of all the different kind of "what If" scenarios you can possibly think of.
If you want to break out the cycle, Osborn suggests to set a boundary of time around how long you'll dissect the aspect of the relationship you're overthinking. Use a timer if you have to. "Slow down," she says. "Really become aware of how often you're turning assumptions into facts about your relationship." It's important to use that time to evaluate both what can go wrong and what can also go really right.
4. You Never Really Trust The Things That Are Happening In The Present
"I want to stress here that overthinking does not happen to every person," Xanet Pailet, a sex and intimacy coach, tells Bustle. "However there are certain individuals who definitely have the overthinking tendency, which can be quite harmful to the success of the relationship."
According to Pailet, people who overthink don't typically trust that what they see and experience is the whole truth. There's always this underlying anxiety and questioning about whether your partner really wants you like they say they do.
Something that can help is to remember to stay grounded, Pailet says. "Grounding helps you stay in the present and will reduce the anxiety and tendency to allow your thoughts to spin," Pailet says. This way, you remind yourself to live in the present moment, rather than dwelling on the possibility of negative outcomes.
5. Your Mind Is Always In The Future
If you're constantly worrying about what your relationship will be like two months from now or what you two are going to be doing for Christmas, you may be overthinking your relationship too much. "Focus on the present," couples therapist, Dr. Alisha Powell, PhD, tells Bustle. "Instead of always thinking about what the future holds and the end goal of the relationship, take time to enjoy whatever phase you’re in currently."
According to Powell, it's a good idea to check yourself and get into the habit of correcting your own thoughts. "Acknowledge emotions but state the logical counterpart," she says. For instance, instead of tapping into your emotional side by saying "my partner doesn't spend any time with me," think about it more logically with, "my partner is working on a stressful project at work and will spend time with me when the deadline has passed.” That will help you change your perspective.
6. You're Always Wondering What Your Partner Really Thinks Of You
"Overthinking occurs when someone doesn’t have the confidence to trust their intuition around the emotions they’re feeling within the relationship," Emmy Brunner, psychotherapist and CEO of The Recover Clinic, tells Bustle. "As such, they engage in a cycle of overanalyzing situations because they haven’t learned to tune in and trust their emotional signals."
When you're looking for a sense of security that your partner really loves you, looking for outside validation may create more worry. "Consequently, they will seek out reasons to validate their insecurity, such as constructing scenarios without proof merely to justify their emotions — indicative of a self-fulfilling prophecy," Brunner says.
Instead of worrying so much about what your partner really is or isn't thinking about you or the relationship, fall back in love with yourself. Make peace with who you are and what you bring to the relationship. "There’s no real success without deep personal fulfillment," she says. "I’ve gained the deepest sense of peace and fulfillment through nurturing the core relationship that I have with myself, and learning to listen and trust my own intuition." When you're at peace with and comfortable with yourself, you're more likely to realize which thoughts are just thoughts and which ones are actual fact.
7. You Always Question What Your Partner Actually Means When They Say Something
"You might be overthinking your relationship because you have unclear communication," relationship expert Dr. Megan Stubbs tells Bustle. "Maybe your partner speaks in generalities and that can leave you wondering what they specifically meant." For instance, you might ask them how they feel about you and they respond with a, "You know how I feel." If this is the case, both of you can do your part in fixing this.
To alleviate any concerns, ask your partner for clarification. "You can go down a spiraling rabbit hole if you allow your mind to wander into unknown territory," Dr. Stubbs says. "Using our words and being forthcoming with the truth is one of the best ways to avoid misunderstandings. If they say you are just 'keeping things casual' and you both don't know what the definition of that is, ask for clarification. What casual means to them can be completely different with what casual means to you."
Overthinking your relationship just happens, especially when you really like someone and you want it to work out. But if you really take a step back and think about it, overanalyzing everything is neither fun nor healthy. It may be hard to slow down and just let things happen as they come, but it may be worth it in the end.