If you find yourself overthinking your relationship, it may be time to reevaluate your habits and behaviours to see if there’s a way you can put more trust in your partner and spend less time worrying about him or her. Here are some tips on how to stop overthinking in a relationship, so you can enjoy that special someone more than ever before!
WHAT IS OVERTHINKING?
The term overthinking can mean different things to different people. Some people use it to mean things are not going well or they feel bad. Others use it to describe what we call rumination, which is when we get stuck on a certain thought and think about it over and over again.
To really understand what we mean by overthinking, we have to look at how our brain works when thinking goes wrong. There are two parts of our brain that control thinking: 1) The prefrontal cortex (PFC) and 2) The limbic system.
These two areas work together to help us make decisions and solve problems. When you’re feeling anxious or stressed out, your PFC shuts down because it doesn’t want you to make any rash decisions that could be harmful to you.
This leaves you with only your gut instinct—which is controlled by your limbic system—to guide your thoughts and actions. So if you’re feeling worried about something, chances are good that you’re getting stuck on one particular thought because your PFC has shut down as a protective measure against making any rash decisions.
If you find yourself worrying about something too much and nothing seems to help ease your mind, take some time away from those thoughts until they naturally fade away on their own.
WHY DO WE DO IT?
We’ve all been there. You like someone, and you want them to like you back and instead of enjoying a fun date or some quality time with your partner, you’re stuck thinking about how they might be judging your every word and movement. While overthinking might help us feel more secure, it doesn’t do much good for our relationships.
It can make us self-conscious and tense up around our significant other or crush, which results in fewer laughs and less romance. By trying too hard to seem smart or witty, we end up saying things that are actually dumb or not at all clever. Instead of being present in a conversation, we worry about what will happen next and miss out on enjoying ourselves.
Instead of focusing on what makes us happy, we’re stuck obsessing over everything that could go wrong. This is why learning how to stop overthinking is so important—it allows us to relax, enjoy life and have more fun!
In order to stop overthinking in a relationship (or any situation), you first need to figure out why you’re doing it. For example: Are you worried that your partner will leave? Do you think they don’t care as much as you do? Are they paying attention? Does their behaviour suggest they’re cheating?
WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
Many times, our relationships with others suffer when we are struggling with how we feel about ourselves. When you find yourself feeling bad about yourself, your first reaction is often, What can I do to feel better? However, instead of asking yourself that question, ask, What can I do for myself today that will help my partner feel loved and cared for?
It’s not always easy to take a step back from your feelings and remember what you have control over and what you don’t. The goal here is not to ignore your own thoughts or feelings; it’s simply to make room for someone else’s needs. Your partner’s opinion of you isn’t affected by whatever happened at work that day or by any other situation outside of your relationship.
WHEN SHOULD YOU CONTACT YOUR PARTNER?
If you’re like most people, you probably want some proof that your partner is on your mind just as much as you’re on theirs. So how do you get that reassurance? Don’t wait for them to contact you – take charge and reach out first.
This can be an emotionally loaded strategy, though, since being proactive means taking responsibility for things going well or poorly. That can be tough! The secret here is to always act with your best intentions at heart. Ask yourself what will bring peace of mind and then do it.
17 PROVEN WAYS TO STOP OVERTHINKING
Learn to trust your partner. Overthinking stems from low levels of trust. You’re afraid that if you don’t pay attention, you’ll miss some important cue or signal and your partner will abandon you.
However, once you learn how to talk openly with your partner about issues and concerns, and then ask for what you need from them, that fear often subsides. You can be vulnerable but also have faith that your partner is invested in making things work too. After all, if they weren’t interested or available, they probably wouldn’t be in a relationship with you—right?
Here are some of the proven ways to stop overthinking in a relationship
REFLECT ON WHY YOU ARE OVERTHINKING
Sometimes, it’s hard not to think about certain things. Perhaps you’re worried that your partner isn’t committed to you or you have something on your mind and can’t seem to quiet your thoughts. Whether it is day-to-day stressors or larger issues that cause us grief, we often turn our heads toward thinking as a way of coping.
The problem comes when we get stuck in our heads because doing so takes us out of real life. You can stay busy thinking all day long, but if you aren’t moving forward with real-life goals, then what’s really going on? If you find yourself stuck in thought patterns that make it difficult for your relationship, ask yourself how much time do I spend thinking.
EXPLORE ANY CONTROL ISSUES
Whether you’re trying to assess if you have control issues or are just looking for tips, it can be helpful to explore your perspective on control. Do you like to think that everything is firmly in your grasp? Do you believe that people should exercise complete self-determination?
Are there things that make you uncomfortable because they’re out of your control? How do these perspectives influence your day-to-day interactions with others? If there’s an area where you feel like things are out of control, then exploring your underlying motivations may help prevent you from getting overly anxious and making rash decisions about a current situation.
IMPLEMENT MINDFULNESS PRACTICES
Mindfulness is one of those buzzwords that’s thrown around a lot these days, but it’s also one of those terms that deserve it. In order to start to break free from your brain’s constant worrying and panic-inducing chatter, it can be very helpful to learn some basic mindfulness skills.
Try out meditation or relaxation exercises if you don’t have an existing practice; there are plenty of apps and books designed for beginners out there. Whatever route you take, just be mindful when you do—so you can worry less about overthinking things with your partner!
PRACTICE CLEAR COMMUNICATION
The first thing you can do is be very specific about your feelings. Vague statements like “I’m worried” or I’m disappointed” leave things open to interpretation, which leads us right back into overthinking territory.
Instead, try talking directly: When I don’t hear from you for two days after we agreed on meeting up tonight, I worry that you might be losing interest in me. When that happens, it makes me feel lonely and sad.
Would you mind checking in with me when something like that happens? Just so I know not everything is okay. It would mean a lot to me. Thanks!
SEE A THERAPIST
Oftentimes, relationships become rocky because one or both partners are stressed out and don’t know how to effectively communicate. If your relationship is constantly going downhill due to seemingly inconsequential arguments, you might want to consider seeing a therapist together.
Having a third party help guide you through specific communication exercises can be incredibly beneficial when trying to improve overall mental health. Just keep in mind that therapy isn’t always right for everyone; if it seems like you and your partner would have trouble being honest with an outside party, then consider other ways of getting healthy first before putting yourself through therapy together.
FIND OUTSIDE SUPPORT
The best thing you can do if you’re finding yourself stuck on Why isn’t he interested? or What did I do wrong? is seeking out a therapist. It may seem like an unnecessary expense at first, but trust us, it will save you money—and tears—in the long run.
The beauty of therapists is that they exist outside your (still-developing) relationship and aren’t invested in whether your boyfriend decides to be with you or not. They aren’t afraid to bring up red flags (from his lack of communication to bad financial habits) and can provide perspective when something doesn’t feel right for no good reason.
FILL YOUR TIME
Overthinking occurs when we sit with our thoughts for too long and spend more time analyzing problems than solving them. Over time, you may even convince yourself that everything is hopeless or that there’s no way out.
However, when you have an overwhelming amount of time on your hands, it can be difficult not to overthink. Instead of isolating yourself with your thoughts, look for ways to fill your schedule with positive activities so you don’t have as much downtime to worry about.
After all, less thinking and more doing is a basic yet effective way of keeping stress at bay (and preventing those pesky headaches).
MAKE POSITIVITY A HABIT
Overthinking can sometimes become a habit and some have said that changing habits is much harder than creating them. By using affirmations, like I am happy with my partner or my partner loves me for who I am you will be able to help yourself break free from these negative thought patterns.
But don’t just say it once and then forget about it, you must keep repeating them throughout your day if you want them to stick. Remind yourself of your positive thoughts when you feel overwhelmed with negative thoughts by writing notes and keeping them somewhere where you can see them frequently.
Additionally, journaling can be an excellent way of coming up with creative ways to think about how great life is going for you instead of thinking about all your problems.
COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR PARTNER
Communication is key to any great relationship. While it might be difficult, it’s important that you don’t bottle up your feelings and thoughts when there’s an issue with your significant other.
Try not to avoid conflict either; if you always avoid talking about problems, they never get resolved. Instead, talk them out! If your partner responds positively then you’re on the right track; at least you know where each other stands.
If not, take some time to think about how you can improve your communication and ask for feedback from trusted friends or family members.
You may be freaking out because your boyfriend or girlfriend has been distant lately, or maybe you’re feeling nervous because they want to make an important decision alone. Overthinking can ruin even the most serious relationships—and it’s often brought on by our lack of trust in others.
If you think that your partner might be cheating on you (or vice versa), for example, then obviously you don’t trust them. And if we don’t feel like someone is trustworthy, then that puts our minds into a crazy whirlwind—we’re always replaying conversations and analyzing behaviour, trying desperately to figure out what’s going on in their mind.
To get out of overthinking mode, try developing more trust with your partner and work towards building a more solid foundation for your relationship.
FACE YOUR FEARS
While it may sound counterintuitive, confronting your fears can be an effective way of managing them. The more afraid you are of a particular outcome, thought or person, the less likely you are to take action that is potentially beneficial.
While there is value in knowing what scares you and why it does, it’s equally important for you to face these things head-on so they don’t control your behaviour.
For example, if you’re scared of getting turned down by someone and you constantly avoid taking risks with potential romantic partners, as a result, recognize that fear and then do something anyway — even if only small steps like asking someone on an innocuous date or telling people how attractive they are.
FIND THE TRUTH IN YOUR OVERTHINKING
Most of us are guilty of overthinking things once in a while, but it’s when it becomes your default way of thinking that you need to make some serious changes. People who obsessively think about their relationships are wasting time that could be better spent working on them.
Remember, just because you have questions doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with your relationship. Most of our worries centre on what we fear might happen, not on what has happened or is happening. Once you start worrying, it’s hard to make yourself stop—and worse yet, trying can often set off an even bigger cycle of worry and rumination.
ENJOY THE CURRENT PHASE OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP
One of your first thoughts, when you meet someone new and fall for them, is, When is he going to propose? Then if he doesn’t, you start thinking about all the reasons why it didn’t work out. Instead of fretting about what might happen, enjoy where you are now.
If things change, later on, they will do so naturally. You can’t force something that isn’t there yet. Don’t let your mind make up stories about what could have been or how he could have changed his mind.
He has not done that yet and you don’t know him well enough to be able to tell whether or not he’s even capable of doing that. You’re just making yourself miserable by letting your mind wander into negative territory! Enjoy being with him right now! Stop expecting everything to be perfect right away because it won’t be perfect at first!
EXPLORE YOUR OWN INTEREST
A big reason that you’re over-analyzing your partner’s every move is that you lack something else going on in your life. When we feel lonely or bored, we become preoccupied with what’s going on around us.
In order to break out of an obsessive thought cycle, make sure that you are keeping yourself busy and having fun outside of your relationships.
Focus on hobbies and projects that you care about—or join a club or other group where you can meet like-minded people who also enjoy doing what you do. This will make it easier for you to stay away from unnecessary worry, which can ultimately help bring stability back into your personal life too!
IDENTIFY YOUR DESIRED OUTCOME
To help you get out of your head and make better decisions when you’re with your partner, think about what you want to accomplish. Do you want to be happier? Do you wish things were different?
It might be helpful (and healthier) to write it down. The act of writing something down can help solidify your goals and put them into perspective. Sure, there will be trial and error along the way, but once you know exactly what you’re aiming for, every decision becomes much simpler—for both of you.
QUESTION YOUR THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS
It’s no secret that our thoughts and feelings can often do more harm than good. When we obsess about something, our mind tends to get stuck on auto-pilot, replaying what-if scenarios until we’ve convinced ourselves that it’s all but inevitable.
One of my favourite techniques for stopping unwanted patterns is mindfulness—which simply involves bringing our awareness to how we are thinking, feeling, or behaving at any given moment.
If you feel like your partner isn’t spending enough time with you, ask yourself why and then question whether it’s true. If so, dig a little deeper: Why does that matter? Does it really have an impact on your happiness or well being? What evidence do you have for that belief?
GIVE YOUR THOUGHTS AN OUTLET
Don’t let your thoughts spiral out of control. It’s easy, when you think about something day and night, for that thought to get bigger and bigger until it seems insurmountable. So set aside some time each day just for thinking.
Don’t try to come up with solutions or answers—just write down your thoughts on paper or into a computer file. Putting your worries on paper will help you realize just how small they really are, allowing you to put them into perspective and get back to enjoying life with your significant other!
Be present. Be real. Be honest. If you feel something, don’t hold back. By being as genuine and honest with your partner as possible, you’ll create an environment where she feels safe enough to be open with you too.
Overthinking things just makes things harder than they need to be — so instead of getting lost in what-ifs and maybes, take some time apart if that helps bring clarity and space for reflection. And remember: It doesn’t make sense for a relationship built on love and trust to involve so much second-guessing.