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How to Stop Overthinking in a Relationship

Brenda Gil, Seattle Therapist

Sep 13, 2021

Overthinking may occur when people feel insecure, battle with low self-esteem, and experience difficulty letting go of negative interactions. In this article, we discuss how to stop focusing on these negative thoughts and start focusing on factors that shape a successful relationship. In other words, let’s explore how to stop overthinking in a relationship.

Exactly what is overthinking / overanalyzing in a relationship?

Overthinking may include perseverating on what could be going wrong in the relationship or with the individual to justify emotional discomfort. This may present as worried thoughts about the future fueled by fear and doubt. Overanalyzing may look like searching for hidden meaning, personalizing a behavior, and developing false narratives. The outcome of these methods of thinking often consists of low energy, poor self-esteem, and lack of security in the relationship.

3 common signs of overthinking

What does overthinking look like? As you invest your energy into these worried and scary thoughts, you may become self-critical, misinterpret intentions, and build a negative perspective of the relationship.

1. The Self-Critic

Perhaps your struggle to trust that your partner’s actions are genuine or feel that you’re “walking on eggshells” trying to avoid conflicts for fear that it may end the relationship. Some folks may label themselves as “needy” and withhold bids for connection or reassurance for fear of what their partner may think of them, especially they or others have previously dismissed their feelings and bids.

2. The Mind Reader

People that start overthinking may find themselves searching for hidden meanings or assuming negative intentions. Sometimes these assumptions can reflect how people previously treated us and serve to protect ourselves from being taken advantage of again.

Unfortunately, new positive interactions can be easily forgotten or dismissed if you continue to keep an eye on the past. Increasing trust in yourself and building resiliency can support you with letting go of this guard to better focus on new opportunities.

3. The Negative Filter

These perspectives can develop as a result of personal insecurities, distrusting your partner, and difficulty accepting negative events. This is where you may start to feel that you and your partner are adversaries rather than teammates or perhaps you no longer feel hopeful about the future of the relationship. This filter can also lead to difficulty addressing issues head-on so you may find yourself either wanting to change yourself or your partner to mask the underlying insecurities or issues.

How to stop overthinking in a relationship

Ways to stop overthinking starts with identifying the emotion driving the thoughts. Then, you may be able to narrow the down factors you can control from those you cannot and redirect your energy from past concerns and future worries to present action.

Consider getting relationship advice by talking to friends, family members, or a relationship expert. A licensed clinical therapist can help to combat anxiety and identify if there may be issues to resolve in the relationship. Here are a few things relationship experts recommend to stop overthinking in a relationship.

1. Shift from Thoughts to Feelings

We tend to get caught up in our thoughts when we are not as comfortable exploring and sitting with our emotions. However, our emotions hold information that can better define what it is we need from ourselves or from our partner. Journal or discuss your feelings with a trusted other to better identify how your thoughts may be trying to justify your emotions.

For example, I may be worrying about all the reasons my partner doesn’t truly love me. If I take a deep breath and a step back, I may realize this fear is coming from a concern that I could end up trapped in an unhappy relationship. Now I can focus on actions in my own life that cultivate the happiness I’m seeking, rather than feeling frozen by thoughts that can contribute to increased distance and continued unhappiness.

2. Focus on the Present, Accept What You Cannot Control

By investing energy into helpful choices in the present moment, you can take power away from the unhelpful thoughts. Consider using your spare time to invest into relationships with others or into your hobbies to keep your mind focused on building happiness and stop obsessing on reasons why you may feel unfulfilled. These choices can serve to distract you from unhelpful thoughts and promote self-efficacy.

Remember that you cannot control your partner’s responses, but you can choose to engage with them in a way that can lead to greater satisfaction. If worrying is causing you to pull away, it may be best to do the opposite action and lean towards. This can involve risk, but will give you back power to grow into the partner you want to be rather than allowing the fear to have power over you and how you show up in the relationship.

3. Share Your Concerns With The Other Person

Talk to a reliable friend explore whether you may be overthinking or if your concerns are legitimate. You can also seek support from a relationship coach or a licensed couples therapist to explore the origin of these insecurities and build your best self while exploring new perspectives to combat unhelpful thoughts and end self-sabotage.

Finally, talk to your partner about these concerns to identify potential compromises or solutions that can support you with combating these thoughts. Being honest about your worries can increase your ability to work as a team and give you an opportunity to heal from old negative experiences. Allying with your partner against these worries can promote intimacy and provide you the security you’ve been searching for.

What makes people overthink things?

Overthinking can be fueled by insecurities in the relationship due to perceived differences in communication, affection, and commitment or by personal insecurities due to low self-esteem or discomfort with security, vulnerability, or closeness to others. These difficulties may originate from past attachment injuries caused by early caregivers, friends, or other people which can make connection feel unsafe or unfamiliar.

Consider how memories of negative or traumatic experiences can activate your nervous system and activate your fight or flight response despite being in a partnership with a new person. This fight or flight state can flood our thoughts with doubt, fear, panic which can paint ourselves or our partner in a negative light. By recognizing that this is a physiological response, it may be easier to catch next time it happens and seek relaxation through deep breathing, exercise, or physical touch to help you stop the thoughts and identify what you may be needing from yourself or from your partner in this new relationship.

Overthinking gets in the way of a healthy relationship

Overthinking and overanalyzing can lead to an unhealthy relationship dynamic if you dedicate more time to second-guessing and deconstructing the entire relationship or your partner rather than cultivating and engaging in effective communication to strengthen the relationship. When you allow doubt and fear to drive the relationship, you may find it hard to discuss concerns or even make space for positive actions that can provide the reassurance you seek.

Thus, overthinking can lead to self-sabotage by driving a wedge and creating barriers to engaging in productive behaviors that increase connection and intimacy, especially when these patterns of thinking can lead to unconsciously summoning problems where there are none. This cycle can perpetuate itself as you continue to avoid engaging in positive things that further increase disconnection and insecurity because of the doubts.




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