Are you suffering from overthinking relationship anxiety?
If so, you’ve got plenty of company.
In fact, overthinking in relationships is so common that you can probably think of a TV series or movie character who does what you do.
You hate what it’s doing to your relationship.
But what can you do to stop yourself from doing it?
And what if the opposite (underthinking?) is even worse?
What Is Overthinking a Symptom Of?
Here you are thinking, “Why do I overthink relationships?” And that leads to other questions (you’re on an overthinking roll…again):
- What if this overthinking is a symptom of something worse?
- What if your overthinking is your unconscious mind trying to warn you?
- What if overthinking is making you paranoid?
Generally speaking, overthinking is a symptom of stress or anxiety. It also relates to low self-esteem and self-doubt.
Maybe you’re anxious about your relationship and constantly worry that you may say or do something wrong. Or you might regularly second-guess what your partner is thinking.
Whatever is going on behind it, the overthinking itself is taking your life and your relationship down a dark and thorny path. You want to find your way back to the sunlight.
You’re ready to take a closer look at this habit, what it means, and what it could lead to.
How Overthinking Can Ruin a Relationship
If you’re asking yourself, “Am I overthinking my relationship?” look for the following clues in your behavior:
- You obsess over little things said or unsaid between you and your partner;
- You take your partner’s moods and behavior personally;
- You’re constantly jumping to conclusions about your partner and others;
- You tend to assume the worst about someone’s motives toward you;
- You tend to create improbable scenarios in your mind and obsess over them.
When you’re caught up in suspicious or judgmental thoughts about your partner’s words or behavior, it makes you less able to respond to them when they need your empathy and understanding. Your default setting is suspicion rather than love.
Your compulsive need to question their motives or uncover their “true intentions” also impacts your partner’s ability to connect with you and eventually drives you two apart.
Fortunately, there are ways to fight this compulsion and repair an otherwise healthy relationship before it implodes.
How to Stop Overthinking in a Relationship with These 11 Strategies
Read carefully through the following strategies for the best ideas on how to stop overthinking in a relationship. Make a note of the points that stand out for you.
1. Find out why you’re overthinking.
The more aware you are of the reasons behind your tendency to overthink in your relationship, the sooner you can address those reasons and make constructive changes.
What are some possible reasons for it? Maybe you use it as a coping strategy. Or you’re insecure in your relationship and don’t expect it to last.
Maybe overthinking gives you the illusion of control. It may be your way of protecting yourself from the disappointment and heartbreak you’ve come to expect.
It’s time to take a closer look at where that expectation came from.
2. Cultivate trust in your relationship.
Ask yourself if your partner has actually done or said anything that proved their lack of trustworthiness. Have they cheated on you? Have you spoken ill of you behind your back?
If they’ve done nothing to justify your doubt in their trustworthiness, ask yourself why you persist in doubting them? And if you doubt them, why are you still together?
Try a new tactic: If your partner has proven themselves worthy of your trust, practice consciously giving it to them. Act as if you trust them implicitly.
And pay attention to what happens next.
3. Prioritize communication with your partner.
Talk to them regularly. Get comfortable asking them what they meant by what they said if you’re unsure. Just be careful to ask in a way that doesn’t imply you suspect the worst.
Then, if they’ve given you no reason to do otherwise, practice taking them at their word.
The more you prioritize communicating with your partner as a loving couple, the less likely you are to obsess over what they’re doing or saying behind your back.
4. Notice your overthinking triggers.
When do you notice you’re most likely to overthink something your partner has said or done? Think back to moments when you went overboard with this, and ask yourself what those moments had in common.
Were you exhausted? Were you hungry? Were you just in an argument with your partner or with someone else? Had you read or witnessed something disturbing?
Then bring yourself back to the present. Acknowledge your trigger for what it is. And remind yourself that you—not your triggers—are in control.
5. Get clear on what you really need from this relationship.
Maybe you’ve never taken a hard look at what you really want or need from this relationship. What is it you most want to gain from being with your partner?
How has their behavior deviated from your expectations? If your relationship has fallen short somehow, you must identify exactly what you want that it’s not providing.
Otherwise, you’ll continue to find fault with it and with your partner. And no relationship survives that for very long.
6. Steer your thinking in a more positive direction.
Neutral may be the best stopping place much of the time. It is better to acknowledge a difficult situation with “Is it what it is” than to blame or catastrophize.
You don’t have to spin everything into sunshine and sparkles, but neutrality is attainable. From there, you can honestly assess what you’d like to change and decide what actions to take.
Neutrality brings you back to the present moment, which is where you belong.
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7. Practice acceptance of your thoughts.
Let the thoughts come, acknowledge them as something separate from yourself (even if it is a product of habitual thought patterns), and then let them go.
Those thoughts are not you, and you’re not obligated to believe them, let alone act on them. Neither do you need to judge them.
Simply accept them as they are, and let them pass.
8. Be present for others—and yourself.
Overthinking tends to be rooted in the past or the future—not so much in the present, which is where your attention is needed.
Practice mindfulness meditation to cultivate a habit of mindful presence and build self-awareness. The more aware you are of your thinking habits, the more effectively you can address those that aren’t serving you.
And thoughts that trap you in the past or future are not serving you well.
9. Start journaling.
Get yourself a journal (if you don’t have one already), and start writing in it every day. If it helps, use journaling prompts to get the ideas flowing.
The important thing here is that you do a daily self-check by writing. Use the journal to get to know yourself better and to get clear on what you really want.
You can keep this journal at home in a safe, private place or take it with you. And this can be a physical journal or a digital one. Check out our post on journaling apps for ideas.
10. Find support outside your relationship.
True, an outsider won’t know your relationship as well as you do. But they can still challenge you to focus on what you have rather than on what you fear.
Friends and close family members are great, but you don’t want to spend most of your time together ranting about your partner. Their headspace matters, too. And no one wants to be the designated sounding board—all the time.
Make it a priority to not only find a good therapist but to keep weekly or bi-weekly (or at least monthly) appointments with them to discuss your relationship and other concerns.
11. Focus on your own learning and growth.
The more time you spend working on your own personal development, the less time and energy you have for overthinking.
So, what can you do to use your time and energy better?
Try something new. Rediscover an old hobby and take it in a new direction. Or take a closer look at your goals and see if different ones might serve you better.
Get busy building something you love. Make your continued learning and growth a daily priority. If your relationship serves you both well, it will only benefit from your efforts.
Now that you know how to stop overthinking in your relationship, what strategies stood out for you?
You can’t control what your partner says or does. And you can’t control what they think of you or what they feel towards you. You can control how you react and what you do with your time and attention.
What will you do differently today?