When we get into romantic relationships, our emotions are all over the place. But you may be trying to figure out how to stop overthinking in a relationship — especially if it’s making you anxious.
Let's just get something straight: overthinking is completely normal, and all of us overthink from time to time. We overthink work, friends, relationships, and whether we’ve turned the stove off when we leave the house.
But overthinking in a relationship, especially when you’re doing it all the time, can cause stress — and could harm your relationship in the long run.
So, how do you stop overthinking about your partner, keep your relationship healthy, and feel more confident at the same time? Keep scrolling to find out.
Overthinking means your mind starts to spiral with negative thoughts, and you can find yourself obsessing over every tiny detail in your relationship. That one little thing your partner did, or didn’t do, may make you worried, paranoid, or jealous, and cause an argument.
Instead of focusing on the positive aspects of your relationship, every conversation becomes dominated by worst-case scenarios and anxious thoughts.
Say you’re a year into your relationship and the honeymoon period has reached its inevitable end. You’re both busy with work, your social lives, and family obligations, but a niggling feeling that your partner doesn’t text you as much as they used to comes into your head.
You could just put it down to how busy you both are and leave it. But if you’re in the habit of overthinking, you could start overanalyzing their text messages now and how they used to text you. Then with the distortion of your own anxiety, you can find a hidden meaning, where there might be none at all!
If you continue this kind of thought pattern, it’s easy for trust issues to develop and contaminate your otherwise healthy relationship.
Overthinking can damage your relationship because it makes you act out of fear of rejection or anxiety, often projecting your insecurities onto the relationship.
Relationship anxiety is also bad for both your physical and mental health, as well as your immune system. A study of 85 married couples looked at their anxiety levels around their relationships and found that those who were more anxious about their relationships or had higher levels of attachment anxiety would suffer from more stress.
Levels of the stress hormone cortisol were 11% higher in those with relationship anxiety, while their ability to fight off disease was also affected. Couples with higher levels of relationship anxiety also had between 11-20% fewer T-cells, the white blood cells that help fight off disease.
"Significant prolonged stress can have a major negative impact on our relationships and ourselves," says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a licensed marriage and family therapist and In-House Expert at Paired.
"Often, we cannot control external stressors such as health or systemic issues related to our environment. However, unlike stressors that are out of our control, overthinking is something we can work on changing to reduce overall stress.”
The first step is to find your triggers and understand why you’re prone to overthinking. There are several reasons why we tend to overthink.
Maybe you feel insecure about your current relationship or have low self-esteem, or maybe you’ve been hurt in the past by an ex-partner who was emotionally distant and is struggling with letting go. Maybe you struggle with an anxiety disorder or have an anxious attachment style. Or, in many cases, overthinking often boils down to a lack of trust in others due to past experiences and you may be projecting these fears onto your loved ones.
Whatever the reason, understanding why you tend to over-analyze everything will help you break the habit. When you feel like an overthinking cycle is starting — it might be time for some self-care. Take a few deep breaths, and try to practice self-awareness before you fall down the rabbit hole!
Make some time for self-reflection and try journaling to dissect your thoughts, considering what may have triggered you to overthink. Taking this time to reflect on your own thoughts, you might notice a certain pattern emerging that can give you some clarity.
This kind of routine can help you stop overthinking everything, helping you to reframe your relationship in a more positive way.
One way to stop overthinking as much is to try and stay in the present moment. When you’re constantly dwelling over a past relationship, or worrying about the future, you’re not seeing what’s right in front of you. It can be fun to look ahead to the future or reminisce about your past together, but it becomes unhealthy when it’s making you anxious or pulling you away from your partner.
Instead of stressing over past events — or those that have yet to happen — try to stay grounded in the present and be grateful for what you have with your partner now. Practicing mindfulness can help you stay present when you’re constantly overthinking your relationship.
"Simply taking a moment to interrupt your overthinking thoughts can make a huge difference in how present you are in the relationship," explains Seeger DeGeare.
"First, start by just noticing when it is happening. What else is happening around you? Do you notice any consistency in when this seems to occur? Then, bring in bigger ways to interrupt the pattern, such as journaling, talking to your partner, or reaching out to a trusted friend to process.”
If you’re not talking to your partner, then you’ll never know what they’re thinking. Instead of filling in the blanks yourself, open communication can help counteract these negative thoughts.
Overthinking can often make you find problems where there aren’t any, and ruminating over hypothetical scenarios or making assumptions about what your partner is thinking is all but helpful.
You’re not a mind reader, so if something’s bothering you, or you catch yourself overthinking, bring it up with your partner! Instead of playing scenarios over and over in your head, explaining how you feel to your partner can bring in the outside perspective you need to get out of your head. We know it’s easier said than done, but once you’ve talked it through it will be a weight off your shoulders.
This is also an opportunity to let your significant other know what your needs and expectations are. A problem shared is a problem halved, as they say.
"Actively listen to how your partner responds when you share your anxieties. Does their response feel supportive or defensive? Are you able to truly hear them when they give you reassurance?” says Seeger DeGeare.
“If it feels hard to feel secure after that conversation, get curious about what other things in the relationship need some attention. It could be that your communication needs some attention or that you need to work individually on some old wounds that need mending.”
Lastly, it’s important to cultivate your passions and relationships outside of your life with your partner. Staying independent, having your own friends, and keeping up with your own hobbies will give you both space to be your own person, and also help you appreciate each other more.
"It can be easy at the start of a relationship to want to spend as much time as possible with your new partner,” says Seeger DeGeare.
“As you transition from the initial dating phase and the relationship becomes a part of your life, it can be a time when overthinking shows up. During this adjustment period, focus on the parts of your life that you put on hold as you were falling in love. Remember that you are a whole person with a whole life, and hopefully, this partner enhances that life, but you exist beyond them. Even in the most secure and happy relationships, having autonomy is key.”
You may be a couple, but you don’t have to spend 24/7 with each other — a healthy relationship is always a balanced one, not a codependent one. Having time to yourself and your interests can help you foster a sense of self-esteem and security within yourself that is crucial for feeling less anxious.