We are all guilty of overthinking: Whether you are a few months into dating a new person, are in that early and agonizing (but fun) “talking” phase, or are years into a committed long-term relationship—the going-down-the-rabbit-hole habit can cause a ton of issues…
So why do people overthink, anyway?
Overthinking is almost always in relation to someone else, since you have no possible way of knowing what another person is thinking at any given time. In other words you “try to figure it out”…Let’s say a man suddenly starts texting you less frequently, or a woman you’re attracted to hasn’t initiated a third date, much to your surprise. You start rehashing everything that you said on your last date, rereading messages, trying to find hidden meaning in whatever they’ve done or haven’t done, all in an attempt to pin their change in behavior or lack of engagement to a particular moment.
Because if you’re able to “figure it out,” then you’re able to “fix it.” Or, at least, so it seems. Truth is, in most cases, you’ll never really know why someone didn’t move forward with you, and even if you somehow do, it’s probably not something that can be “fixed.”
The extreme type of overthinking is likely the kind that brought you here—catastrophic overthinking. You may know it well: He’s never going to call me again. Or, I totally blew it. Or, That’s the worst thing I could have possibly said; I’m such an idiot. These are the overblown negative thoughts that you might unknowingly use as a defense mechanism, to protect yourself from the sting of anticipated rejection.
If you’re worried that someone might be rejecting you or losing interest in you, it feels easier to jump to an absolute conclusion. That way, if you do hear from them again, you feel a sense of relief and surprised excitement. And if you don’t? Well, you’ve already braced yourself for that.
That’s not all that detrimental on its own (you need to protect your heart, after all), but when it becomes a regular habit, all that negative thinking can really take a toll on your self-esteem.
It can also damage your relationship with partners overall, because you’re so used to imagining reasons why someone might reject you. You could end up projecting those imaginary reasons on the next person you date—effectively turning yourself into an anxious, walking-on-your-own-eggshells body rather than a present partner and preemptively blaming someone for things that aren’t really there.
If the person has already exited (or ugh, ghosted), listing all the possible reasons why and analyzing each in an attempt to understand what happened will only drive you even crazier. Again, there’s no way of knowing what someone is really thinking or why they do what they do, so playing Sherlock to figure it out won’t do you any good…
As mentioned…we are all guilty of overthinking and we includes me…So…how do we stop overthinking in our Relationships?
- Don’t analyze everything that comes out of your partner’s mouth: Just because your partner doesn’t say I love you several times a day or is not comfortable with PDA, it doesn’t mean you don’t have an amazing relationship. Stop obsessing over certain words or lack thereof, and if you feel a certain way, ask your partner — don’t obsess over it.
- Focus on how you feel instead of assessing the relationship: You could be overthinking the relationship when you should be worrying about how you feel about the relationship/your partner. Ask yourself how you feel about yourself within the context of the relationship.
- Ask yourself, “Do I have too much time on my hands?”: Maybe you’re bored and need something fulfilling to consume you. Get interested in yourself and make yourself more interesting. Finding a hobby, passion or something that excites you may put the focus where it belongs — on you,” You’ll become so busy you won’t have time to spend your time overthinking a relationship.
- Say what you mean & mean what you say to model effective communication: You shouldn’t have to read between the lines to understand your partner’s needs and intentions, so don’t ask them to do the same. You’ll find that the more you model direct communication, the more they’ll reciprocate similarly. You can then listen to what they have to say and trust them instead of analyzing and looking for hidden meaning.
- Remember that you have no control over others: Going with the flow is hard, but when you realize that you have zero control over what other people do or say, it suddenly becomes much, much easier. If it’s meant to be with your partner, it will be. Stay present with them and be aware of how they make you feel…
Yes, I remind myself of all five of these bits of advice as I have learned from my past mistakes with overthinking in relationships and realize that I do not want to sabotage a budding relationship with someone because I am worried about things that are out of my control or nonexistent…
Just Keeping it 100,
Picture Courtesy of @kishburries