Overthinking is a killer. It’s like your mind has had too many cups of coffee and won’t stop gabbing away, except the thoughts are often dark, dramatic, and relentless. These thoughts don’t have to ruin you, though. Here’s how you can stop letting overthinking destroy your relationships and why it happens in the first place.
Why you tend to obsess in relationships
You’re scared of being hurt. It’s only natural that you end up overthinking your relationships when you’ve had your heart broken in the past and are terrified of it happening again. Recovering from a bad breakup can be extremely difficult and leave you with lasting effects such as a lack of trust and certainty in yourself. Overthinking your relationships won’t change them or prevent things from going wrong in the future, but that’s not always easy to see.
You need to feel in control. Part of you likely feels that if you’re on top of every single element of your relationship, you’ll be able to retain some level of power and protection over your heart. You may also have controlling tendencies, which naturally lead to overthinking in relationships (and in life in general). Of course, no amount of working things through in your mind will change how they play out.
You have low self-esteem. Perhaps you end up overthinking your relationships to death because you don’t back yourself enough. You worry that you’re not thin enough, pretty enough, smart enough, etc. for the person you like so you’re constantly wracking your brain for ways to make sure your partner doesn’t lose interest or abandon you. You must work on bolstering your self-confidence. You deserve so much more.
How to stop overthinking your relationships
Accept that thinking plays a legitimate role in life but may not always be useful. Thinking is important. If you didn’t think, you’d forget to pay a bill or you’d stay in a relationship that isn’t good for you. Thinking is valid and necessary, but useful thinking turns into overthinking when you’re worrying about things that are totally unreasonable or out of your control.
Stop trying to read between the lines and instead take your partner at their word. When you’re an overthinker, you like to mind-read. You create an entire scenario about another person that has no basis in reality. You feel like you have no control over how much you get carried away. A really radical practice is to start taking people at their word. If doing this with a romantic partner is too much, start by doing it with friends or family. When they say something to you, assume they mean exactly what they said. Do not assume there are hidden messages. Once you get the hang of this, relationships will be far less exhausting!
Distinguish between what you can and can’t control. Your partner is going away on a business trip. Maybe you’re worried they’re going to be unfaithful. Make a list (on paper or in your head) of what you can and can’t control in this situation. What you can control is what you do while he’s gone (maybe you can keep busy so you’re not obsessing), you can talk to him about how you feel, and you can ask that he calls you at least once a day. What you can’t control is what he’s doing while he’s there. Knowing this could help restore your sanity slightly.
Question if your lack of trust is an indication of an unhealthy relationship. If you’re in a relationship and you regularly find yourself overthinking about if your partner likes you or is loyal to you, take a closer look at what’s going on. Maybe your gut instincts are guiding you towards the truth. Perhaps this person you’re with really isn’t worth your trust. I’m not saying this is always the case. Sometimes you just struggle with trust issues, but it’s definitely worth examining.
Be sure to have a life outside of your partner. It’s a lot easier to turn down the volume on your mind if you have a hobby or a sport to do instead of just sitting at home. If you’re alone, your mind is going to start racing about what your partner is up to. Do yourself (and your lover) a favor and have a life for yourself!
Talk to friends about how you’re feeling. I know it’s tempting to talk to your lover about everything. For the most part, all of this discourse is good — being emotionally intimate with one another is nice, but you also don’t want to smother them. Be sure to talk to your gal pals about what’s going on for you. Use them as a resource, but also be careful not to use them too much, otherwise, they’ll get sick of hearing about your stuff!
Know that uncertainty is a fact of life. Think about it — how often do things change around you and inside of you? So much! The world is always shifting and evolving. There’s hardly anything to grasp onto for good. According to Pema Chodron, author of Comfortable with Uncertainty, the more you can let go and know that your whole experience is uncertain, the more peace you will find. I know that it’s easier said than done, but it’s worth it in the end.
Ask yourself questions that will bring you to the present moment. When you’re overthinking, your mind is way in the future or in the past. You never overthink about the present moment. This is a great secret to know! The present moment is safe from overthinking. To bring yourself back here, ask yourself questions like, “Where are my feet? What emotions am I feeling right now? Where do I feel them in my body?” These questions force you to come out of your head and into your physical body, temporarily relieving you from the exhausting overthinking.
Start using mantras to ground you in reality. Your mantras can be based off what the overthinking voices tend to focus on. If your voices are self-loathing, your mantras can be self-loving. You can say, “I am enough. I am lovable. I am worthy. I’m doing the best I can.” If your overthinking focuses on your partner, you could say something like, “My partner loves me. I trust them. I can take them at their word.” At first, it may feel like you’re lying to yourself, but I promise that after a while these mantras will start to sink into your spirit.
When you find yourself worrying, redirect your attention to something else momentarily. One of the biggest mistakes overthinkers make is listening to the thoughts in their minds as if they are facts. Your mind screams something mean at you and you believe it. Instead of going down the rabbit hole with all your charged thoughts, consider ignoring them. I know it’s easier said than done, but momentarily distracting yourself can get you through overthinking in spite of yourself. Try jumping in a hot shower, calling a friend to see how they’re doing, or blasting emotional music.
Don’t beat yourself up when you do find yourself overthinking. Look, overthinking is a totally human thing. No one is exempt from it. Even if you practiced all of these ideas perfectly, overthinking would still creep in. Be gentle with yourself — you’re doing the best you can.