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Is overthinking things affecting your relationship and you're looking for tips on how to stop? Well, you've got company. Whether you're a man or woman, overthinking is a common issue that can destroy just about any relationship. In fact, thinking too much is a national epidemic; particularly among 73 percent of US adults aged 25-35.
I was once a part of the statistics. I used to question every detail and scrutinize my husband's every word, action, opinion, feeling and whereabouts. My mind was in overdrive and I felt paranoid and anxious. Overanalyzing my partner's behaviors often lead to unfounded suspicions, false accusations, and emotional distress for both of us.
Like you, I didn't know how to stop overthinking in a relationship and my marriage suffered because of it. On the bright side of things, you have the power to kick the habit, starting with the 13 practical tips I followed to quit being an over thinker.
Why Do We Overthink Things?
We overthink things because it gives us the illusion of control and keeps our feelings of helplessness in check. While overthinking itself is not a mental illness, it is often associated with conditions including: depression, anxiety, eating disorders and substance use disorders.
Overthinking is magnifying your thoughts until you become overwhelmed and lose control. Dr. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, the author of Women Who Think Too Much, refers to overthinking as rumination. As motivational speaker Tony Robbins puts it, you think of something so much you can't get it out of your head.
Being an overthinker can lead to fears, fault-finding, hasty conclusions and negative attitudes in your relationship. After recognizing thinking too much was a problem, I searched for what could be the underlying issue and found it may relate to various factors including these:
How Overthinking Everything Affects You and Your Relationship
Whether it's due to jealousy or insecurities from being hurt in the past, worrying about every little thing causes us to nitpick and look for or try to prevent problems that don't exist. The behaviors may lead to unnecessary arguments, defensiveness, or a breakup.
No partner wants to be on the receiving end of attacks that stem from our fears or unmet needs we never told them about. Think of how you'll feel if your partner is constantly anxious over your whereabouts or who you're texting. What about if they throw jealousy tantrums whenever you speak to a guy or accuse you of having an affair because you arrived home unusually late?
These behaviors will make you and your partner miserable and eventually wear down the relationship. Researchers found evidence persistent scrutiny contributes to chronic distress, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and substance use to cope.
13 Tips on How to Stop Overthinking in a Relationship
Awareness of the habit of overthinking empowers you to consciously retrain your brain and self-regulate. This can be achieved through subconscious reprogramming to get rid of limiting beliefs and shifting your mindset using the strategies below.
1. Identify destructive thought patterns
Our thought patterns largely influence the results of a lot of things in our lives. Try and observe what thoughts, feelings, or events trigger overthinking. Is it when you wonder if you're attractive enough or whether your partner really likes you? Does this leave you feeling insecure, stressed, anxious, and on the verge of being abandoned? Figuring out your triggers empowers you to take steps to manage what you think, change how you feel, and positively influence the outcome.
2. Stop connecting things
The occurrence of one thing doesn't always mean it's linked to other events. Being hypervigilant or always connecting the dots only makes situations complicated. For example, it's Friday morning and your girlfriend hasn't confirmed your date. Later that day, she asked to reschedule. You begin to think she must be going out with someone else. Linking unconnected events might create a false picture in your head. She could have canceled simply because she was no longer in the mood to socialize.
3. Look for evidence that contradicts
Reframing the stories you tell yourself keeps you in a good mood and allows you to enjoy your partner instead of pushing him away with false accusations. Here's a scenario. Your husband comes home and dashes to the shower without greeting you. You're like, “Oh my God! He's cheating! “Why else would he rush to clean up?” you ask yourself. Girl, stop. Where's your evidence? Is your conclusion reasonable? Could it be insecurities that stem from being cheated on in the past? One contradicting evidence could be he felt sweaty and just wanted to cool down.
4. Build trust
Trust comes through open and honest communication. It provides a sense of security and enables you to be vulnerable with your partner. Feeling confident and emotionally secure minimizes things like doubts and suspicions that provoke conflicts. I get it. It's not easy to trust after you've been lied to, betrayed, manipulated, or cheated on. However, mistrusting your partner solely because of prior painful experiences or unresolved trauma is unfair to them. I let go of hypervigilance by offering to trust my significant other upfront and giving him the choice to honor or betray that trust.
5. Let go of rumination
Going over past events or unpleasant experiences over and over in your mind (ruminate) is mentally debilitating and unhealthy for your relationship. By accepting and letting go, you'll prevent those issues from resurfacing and causing conflicts.
A past relationship fraught with lies or infidelity may cause rumination, anxiety, and distress in your current relationship. You might constantly look for signs of infidelity or create scenarios that never happened, although you believe they did. You, then, confront and accuse your partner of dishonesty or unfaithfulness without tangible evidence. Accusations based on mere suspicions have destroyed relationships.
6. Live in the present
Focusing on each moment and taking it in as it comes is what living in the present really means. It's an aspect of mindfulness, a stress and anxiety reduction practice that encourages you to let go by not attaching labels or meanings to your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Putting the wrong meanings to things makes you obsess over the what-ifs and whys of today, yesterday, and tomorrow.
You'll worry yourself sick trying to find all the answers even about things you have no control over. While developing the mindfulness habit takes daily conscious effort, it eventually becomes second nature. You'll soon notice you're less inclined to exaggerate every detail.
7. Develop a positive mindset
Overthinkers generally expect the worst possible results because they talk themselves into believing it can't turn out any other way (negative self-talk). Take control of your mind and pessimistic views on things by replacing them with positive ideas, thoughts, and affirmations.
Positive thinking and attitudes promote cheerfulness and pleasant outcomes, even when faced with adversities. Ride on the facts and put aside opinions that are detrimental to your relationship. If you're going to rely on assumptions, assume your partner has good intentions if there's no evidence to the contrary.
8. Practice journaling
Journaling is a way of getting your positive and negative thoughts and feelings out instead of projecting them onto your girlfriend. Another benefit of journaling is taking control of your emotions as they unfold. You'll also catch yourself in the moment and avoid spiraling into a frenzy of unwanted thoughts or speculations that she no longer loves you.
You might get triggered and start searching for answers in your mind on why she seems aloof or distant. Is she angry? Did I do something wrong? Writing in your journal serves as a distraction from doubts and negative self-talk and helps calm your nerves. Reassure yourself on paper that you are enough.
9. Detach from the outcome
Wanting to take control in shaping the way things turn out can send our minds into overdrive. There's a great sense of relief when you agree to detach from the outcome. That outcome is any expectation of what should happen, when, or how. Let's suppose your partner usually responds to your texts and calls in a timely manner.
Whenever she doesn’t, you tend to feel abandoned, unloved, or that she's out with someone else and can't pick up. Ask yourself if it's reasonable to expect your partner to constantly stay connected when she's at work or engaged in other life matters.
10. Accept you don't have control over everything
Many things in life are unpredictable and unforeseeable. You'll work yourself up trying to make all aspects of your relationship the way you desire. You can only control your actions. Everything else, including your partner's behaviors, thoughts, feelings, preferences, and choices are theirs to handle. Think of the mental and emotional freedom that comes with allowing life to unfold if you stop trying to manipulate the outcome.
11. Know your attachment style
Attachment styles refer to the inherent ways people enter into, attach, and behave in relationships. The theory is grounded in psychology. Unlike the secure, the anxious and fearful-avoidant attachment styles are prone to overthinking things mainly because they are, by nature, insecure in relationships. Psychologists explain that a chronic underlying fear of abandonment and insecurity causes them to persistently overanalyze their partner and try to fix anticipated problems. The behaviors stem from a need for constant validation and attempts to avoid a breakup.
Meanwhile, fearful-avoidants tend to shut down after overthinking things and getting angry over unmet needs. These are needs they haven't asserted but expect their partners to fulfill.
12. Share your relationship needs
Take the guesswork away by telling your SO what you like and need from them to feel loved and happy. Sometimes we're too proud or insecure to ask for things that will minimize dissatisfaction and emotional pain in the relationship. It's unfair to expect your girlfriend to meet unstated needs and then have to deal with your crabbiness when those physical and emotional needs aren't met. Remember to use positive language and “I” statements. For example, “I feel loved when you listen and value my opinion.”
13. Have a life outside of your relationship
Some of us tend to attach quickly to a relationship and lose ourselves in it. I found myself constantly thinking of my husband, what he was doing, and when he was going to text again. That was until I decided to get a life. Things didn't change overnight. I had to learn how to stop overthinking in a relationship by addressing the root cause and overhauling my negative mindset.
You had a life before your partner. Continue investing in yourself and fill yourself up by staying socially connected. Focus on daily routines and enjoying your hobbies, whether it's cycling or learning new things like painting or crafting. I'm sure your partner will appreciate the space. They'll miss you and want to draw closer.
Final Thoughts on How to Stop Overthinking in a Relationship
Do yourself a favor and set yourself free by quieting the voice in your head. Change your mindset and curb the impulse to hold a magnifying glass over everything.
Using the strategies outlined here, you'll move one step closer to being part of a healthier and happier relationship. A relationship where you trust your partner and feel emotionally secure… perhaps for the first time in your life. For more help with this, be sure to check out Letting Go: How to Let Go of the Past and Live in the Present Moment.