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How To Stop Overthinking in Relationships: 11 Tips That Work

Relationships are tough, and sometimes navigating them feels impossible, especially if you have a tendency to overthink all of your relationships.

I know what it’s like to constantly be inside your head, imagining every worst-case scenario, decoding every text and reply, and driving yourself crazy with a bunch of what-ifs and worries. 

It’s incessant. If there was an off-switch, you’d gladly flip it. But there’s not. It’s like your mind just does what it wants.

But here’s the thing: while it’s a common struggle, it’s not an inescapable one. Overthinking doesn’t have to define your relationship experience. You can stop.

Let’s talk about how.

Understanding Overthinking in Relationships: Why Do People Do It?

Overthinking is like a drunk neighbor crashing your backyard party. He’s there. You didn’t invite him. And now you have to figure out how to get rid of him.

But why do we do it?

Even when we don’t want to do it, why does our brain insist on doing it anyway?

Overthinking is caused by a lot of things, often a mix of past experiences, insecurities, and fear of the unknown.

Our brains are trying to protect us from getting hurt by anticipating every possible outcome. When taken to an extreme, we become absorbed in rabbit-holes and worst-case-scenario thinking.

Sometimes overthinking is a manifestation of our brains getting stuck in a state of hyper-vigilance. This can be a trauma-response to earlier neglect or abuse. If you spent a lot of time in your developmental years in a constant state of fight-or-flight, you may be prone to overthinking.

A woman sits on a chair with her knee up staring out the window
how to stop overthinking in relationships

Can Overthinking Ruin a Relationship?

In short, yes.

Overthinking in a relationship means you’re always worrying about what might go wrong or analyzing every little thing your partner does.

This constant stress can make you and your partner feel tense and uneasy.

It often leads to unnecessary arguments because you might react to what you think is happening, not what’s actually happening.

Plus, it can prevent you from enjoying the good moments because you’re too caught up in your head. Over time, this can really wear both of you down and harm the trust and connection you have.

So how do you stop doing that?

That’s what we’ll explore next.

11 Tips for Overcoming Overthinking in a Relationship

If you’re wrestling with this stuff right now, there are things you can do to break free of it. There won’t likely be one thing that cracks the code for you, but a combination of several strategies applied consistently that eventually lead to a breakthrough. 

1. Have Open and Honest Communication

Open and honest communication is your first line of defense against overthinking. It’s about creating a safe space where you can express your thoughts and feelings without fear of judgment. 

When you’re transparent with your partner, you reduce the chances of misunderstandings that can lead to overthinking. 

Discuss what’s on your mind, ask questions, and clarify doubts. This doesn’t just mean talking about the hard stuff. It’s about keeping the small things transparent too, so they don’t pile up into something bigger. 

Remember, it’s not just about talking. It’s equally about listening and understanding each other’s perspectives.

2. Learn How To Distinguish Between Rational Fears and Overthinking

Understanding the difference between rational fears and overthinking is one of the biggest steps you can take towards a healthier relationship dynamic. 

To be honest, it’s a skill that will help you in all aspects of life, especially if you are prone to overthinking and other cognitive distortions like catastrophizing

Rational fears are based on real, immediate issues affecting your relationship, while overthinking often involves creating scenarios and problems that don’t exist. 

Start by asking yourself: Is there solid evidence for my worry, or am I speculating? 

Reflect on past instances where you might have overthought, and compare the outcomes. Did the worst happen, or were the worries unfounded? 

By recognizing patterns in your thinking, you can start to challenge and change the spirals of overthinking into more constructive, rational thought processes.

3. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and engaged in the moment, aware of your thoughts and feelings without judgment. 

What does that have to do with what we’re talking about?

Surprisingly, a lot!

By practicing mindfulness, you can learn to observe your thoughts without getting caught up in them. Techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or even a mindful walk can help bring you back to the present and away from the endless ‘what ifs.’ 

Think of it like exercise for your brain.

Mindfulness will teach you to acknowledge your thoughts and let them pass without letting them control you. 

Over time, mindfulness can help you understand the difference between being aware of your thoughts and getting lost in them.

4. Self-Reflect on Your Fears and Insecurities

Take the time to understand the roots of your overthinking. Often, it’s tied to deeper fears and insecurities about yourself or your relationship. 

Are you afraid of being abandoned? Do you feel unworthy of love? Understanding these underlying issues is crucial to addressing your overthinking. 

Reflect on your past, consider how your experiences might shape your current thought patterns, and be honest with yourself about your vulnerabilities. This self-awareness can be uncomfortable but it’s a powerful step towards healing and managing overthinking.

And if this process feels too big or overwhelming, don’t worry. We’ll talk about what do in those cases as well. 

5. Prioritize Building Self-Esteem and Working on Yourself

I used to hate getting this advice when I was struggling with a lot of heavy problems like feeling lonely, depressed, and trying to self-medicate it all by drinking. 

It always sounded so patronizing, and to be fair, at the time, I needed to do some other big work before diving into this particular work. (Although I wasn’t even doing that.)

But it is important. 

Your self-esteem affects how you perceive yourself and your relationship. If you’re constantly questioning your worth, you’re more likely to fall into overthinking traps. 

I’m going to give you a woefully summarized list of steps you can take, so I acknowledge that up front. This can be a good jumping off point for further research and steps. 

  • Be Kind to Yourself: Understand what makes you happy, challenge negative self-talk, learn to say no, and do things that bring you joy.
  • Recognize Positives: Celebrate small successes, accept compliments, ask others for positive feedback, and make a list of your strengths and accomplishments.
  • Build a Support Network: Confide in trusted people in your orbit, spend time with positive influences, and seek peer support for shared experiences.
  • Try Talk Therapy: Consider therapy to build self-esteem and cope with underlying issues affecting your self-perception. (This will come up again.)
  • Set Challenges: Engage in volunteering, set small goals, and explore new hobbies or interests.
  • Look After Yourself: Ensure proper sleep, balanced diet, physical activity, time in nature, mindfulness practice, and avoid substances that negatively affect mood. I think people too often underestimate just how much basic nutrition and exercise can affect how you feel about yourself. 

6. Set Healthy Boundaries

Setting boundaries is about understanding where you end and your partner begins. 

Define what you’re comfortable with in terms of personal space, communication, and emotional sharing. 

Boundaries aren’t just physical; they’re also about what you allow in your mental and emotional space. 

By setting clear boundaries, you give yourself a sense of control and security, which can significantly reduce overthinking. Communicate these boundaries to your partner and be respectful of theirs as well. 

This mutual understanding creates a healthy environment where overthinking has less room to grow.

A woman looks onward while her boyfriend sit son a rock in the background
the impact of overthinking in relationships

7. Practice Gratitude

Practicing gratitude shifts your focus from what’s wrong to what’s right. Start by acknowledging the good in your relationship and in your partner. 

What are the things you appreciate and love? Writing down three things you’re grateful for each day can dramatically shift your perspective. 

This habit doesn’t just increase your overall happiness; it also puts the minor issues into context, reducing the urge to overthink the small stuff. Over time, this positive mindset becomes a buffer against the negative spiral of overthinking.

8. Find Healthy Distractions and Hobbies Away From Your Relationship

Putting energy into hobbies and activities outside your relationship is vital. It gives you a sense of individuality and achievement unrelated to your romantic life. 

Whether it’s painting, hiking, reading, or anything else that brings you joy, these activities provide a healthy outlet for your energy and thoughts. 

They also remind you that your happiness isn’t solely dependent on your relationship. By cultivating a rich, fulfilling life outside of your partnership, you reduce the pressure and focus that feeds overthinking.

I’ll be honest with you. 

There was a time when I could not do this. I tried, but my mind was just non-stop focused on my romantic life and I completely disappeared from myself during these periods. 

If you feel like you’re trapped there too, it’s a big red flag to get additional help and support – something I wish I had done years sooner. 

9. Journal To Help Identify Thought Patterns and Triggers

Journaling is a powerful tool for understanding your thought patterns and triggers. I’ve used it a lot along my journey

By regularly writing down your thoughts and feelings, you can start to see patterns in your overthinking. 

What triggers it? What times of day is it worst? How does it manifest? 

Seeing your thoughts on paper can make them less intimidating and more manageable. Plus, journaling provides a safe, private space to express yourself fully, which can be incredibly cathartic and healing.

10. Create a Support System

Having a solid support system is crucial. 

Friends, family, or even online communities can offer perspective, advice, and a listening ear. 

Sometimes, just talking about your worries with someone who cares can lighten the load significantly. 

They can provide reassurance, a fresh viewpoint, or just the comfort of knowing you’re not alone in this. 

11. Reach Out for Professional Help

If overthinking is significantly impacting your relationship and well-being, reaching out for professional help is a wise and brave step. 

Therapists or counselors can provide you with tailored strategies to manage your thoughts and feelings. They offer a safe, non-judgmental space to explore the roots of your overthinking and can guide you towards a healthier mindset.

And honestly, sometimes we need that. 

Even if we intellectually know everything we need to do to get into a better headspace, something blocks us from getting there on our own.

That’s when you need to have an honest conversation with yourself about talking to a professional.  

There’s no shame in it! 

If you’re struggling right now, feel stuck, or don’t know what to do next, talk therapy can help. Getting started with BetterHelp is easy!

  • Answer a few questions.
  • Get matched with a licensed therapist.
  • Schedule your sessions.

Get 10% off your first month with code SOBERISH.

Soberish is proudly sponsored by BetterHelp.

How To Break The Rumination Cycle of Overthinking

Another big component of overthinking is rumination. 

These thoughts and worries get stuck in our head and then they just roll around in there, growing into monster-sized stories that we’ve largely invented. 

If you can break free of that, you’re going to make incredible progress towards freeing yourself from overthinking. 

Alicia Muñoz, LPC, an expert featured in the Greater Good article, sheds light on how ruminative thoughts can distort perceptions and lead to a breakdown in communication and intimacy. 

She emphasizes that overthinking often acts as a defense mechanism, protecting us from vulnerability and uncomfortable emotions like heartache and longing.

1. See Thoughts to Become Aware of Rumination

Begin by pausing and directing your attention inward. Notice your mental activities and ask yourself if you’re engaging in thoughts or a series of thoughts. Recognizing these as mere thoughts, not reality, can help interrupt the momentum of negative cycles like blame or control.

2. Label the Mental Habit or Pattern

Once you identify that you’re ruminating, label the thoughts. Determine whether they’re facts or ‘pseudofacts’—opinions or assumptions mistaken as truth. 

Identify the rumination cycle they reflect (blame, control, doubt, worry, or self-pity) and the trigger behind them. This step moves you from a place of passive rumination to active analysis and understanding.

3. Open to What’s Going On in the Moment

Rumination can block you from experiencing your true emotions and physical sensations. To counter this, ask yourself about the sensations in your body and the emotions you’re feeling at the moment. Be patient and curious as you tune in to these feelings, recognizing them as valid and informative.

4. Welcome Vulnerability and the Unknown

Embrace what’s arising within you by asking, “What’s under this?” This question helps you acknowledge and accept your own experiences, even if they don’t make immediate rational sense. 

It’s about increasing your tolerance for uncomfortable emotions and remaining present to your vulnerability rather than getting lost in imagined scenarios.

None of these steps will make these thoughts disappear entirely. But what they do is prevent them from completely overwhelming you and running the show. 

It does get better…

Overthinking sucks. Most people who do it know it is an issue, but feel helpless to stop it. It’s like the brain just does what it wants. 

But there are tools you can utilize to train your brain to handle and experience relationships differently, as well as trained professionals who can give us an extra hand when we need it. 

All you have to do is take the first step!

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