Your mind can be your worst enemy in a relationship, especially a new one. While doubts in any relationship can signify real problems, a lot of times they are irrational and based on fear and trauma from past experiences, rather than on reality. You might begin searching for clues in your partner's texts or going over every word he or she says to determine the deeper meaning. You may be wondering if you hang out enough, or too much. If she left early in the morning after a sleepover, did she really have to get to work early? Maybe you are driving yourself crazy trying to figure it all out.
To help you determine the difference and learn how to stop over-analyzing we turned to Gabriel Brenner, a relationship and dating expert. With his wife, he co-authors the blog SimplyTogether which helps people find and maintain love. Reassuringly, he tells us it's very normal for your mind to spiral when experiencing new love. "There are countless things that people can over-think about in a relationship," he says. Read on to learn more.
Meet the Expert
Gabriel Brenner is a relationship and dating expert. He is also co-author of the blog SimplyTogether which helps people find and maintain loving relationships.
Why You May Overthink a Relationship
There are so many reasons that this can happen. If you've been hurt or betrayed in a past relationship, you might be terrified it will happen again—and this is completely natural. Especially early in a relationship, you might be finding it hard to trust that your new partner is on the same page as you.
"Prevalent worries include overanalyzing your partner's behavior to determine whether they love you," says Brenner. "People are understandably afraid of being left and not loved, but sometimes the emotions get out of hand, and overthinking becomes a vicious cycle." If you have been disappointed in the past, this is an understandable concern.
Brenner says he has even seen people overthinking a relationship because they are scared of how the outside world views it. "There is overthinking about what friends, colleagues, and family think about your relationship," he explains. This can be true if you are dating someone who doesn't "fit the mold" of what some people around you consider to be an ideal partner for you. Keep in mind that ultimately, it's how you feel that matters the most.
10 Ways to Stop Overthinking Your Relationship
Even if you're subconsciously overthinking a relationship in order to protect yourself, the obsessiveness can get out of hand and ultimately cause more harm than good to your mental wellness. Some partners invent problems born from anxiety or get so nervous that it eventually drives away their partner. The good news is there are ways to ease your mind. Read on to learn 10 tried and true expert-recommended methods.
Find Empathetic Listeners
Because overthinking tends to come from deep-rooted fears, you need people around you who understand that and can give you empathy and compassion. The more understanding you get, the more you will feel validated, and your concern may alleviate. Share your obsessive thoughts with a trusted family member or friend. "Taking an emotional angle with understanding and empathy will help the person verbally ventilate and express their underlying feelings and fears," says Brenner.
Don't Try to Convince Yourself to Stop Overthinking
Whatever you do, don't try to convince yourself to stop overthinking, especially by shaming yourself or putting yourself down in any way. Not only will it not help, says Brenner, it will make it worse. "What's important to keep in mind, is that overthinking often stems from emotional concerns rather than logical ones. So trying to approach an emotional problem with pure rational often backfires and leaves the person overthinking even more and isolating themselves further," he explains. "Don't try to convince yourself to stop overthinking."
Talk to Your Partner
Especially if you are in a new relationship it can be scary to talk to your partner about your fears and concerns. You don't want to drive this person away or come across as unstable. But remember that a relationship is based on understanding and trust, and you need someone by your side who accepts you—even at your weakest. Try talking to your partner and see what happens, says Brenner: "Talk to your partner [about your thoughts] even if they are irrational or a little over the top." If he or she empathizes with you it's a good sign for your future and might even make you feel more confident going forward.
Get to the Bottom of Your Feelings
Overthinking doesn't come out of the blue; there are reasons it happens. Try to get to the bottom of why you are overthinking this relationship. Do you still need to heal from past trauma? Did you have a parent who abandoned you? It may be helpful to consult a counselor or therapist during this process. Once you identify the root of your fears and emotions you can address the problem from the source.
Focus on the Present
The tendency to overthink often comes from a concern that isn't necessarily tied to reality—meaning you aren't obsessing because there is something wrong with your current relationship; it may just be a symptom of a deeper, more personal trauma. So when you feel your mind starting to churn, try to bring yourself back to the present moment. Take deep breaths and focus on what you know to be true about the relationship.
Make a Gratitude List
It can be helpful to look at all the positive things happening in your relationship. Every day, whether it's before you go to bed or on your lunch break, list all the things that are going well and everything you are grateful for within your partnership. That way instead of thinking, "He didn't text me every hour" you will change your mindset to, "He texted me three times today." Positive thinking can go a long way.
Sweat It Out
Exercise is a scientifically proven way to reduce anxiety and keep your mind clear and focused. If you find yourself going obsessing over every detail in your relationship, try taking a break and going for a brisk walk or trying a workout class.
Meditation is also a proven way to reduce anxiety. Attend a meditation class or use a mindfulness app at home. It may help you feel more centered and allow you to more easily focus on positive feelings of trust and love, rather than nerves and doubt.
Write Your Feelings Down
Often, people experiencing anxiety find that writing down their intrusive or obsessive thoughts helps them go away. Try journaling, or even writing a letter to your partner that you don't actually send.
Harness the Power of Your Mind
Only you have the ability to change your mind, and you don't have to let your thoughts dictate your emotions. If you find yourself overthinking elements of your relationship, try "changing the channel" like you would a television. Say to yourself, "I am going to think about work or my friends or a really fun weekend I have coming up instead of this irrational fear." If you learn to harness the power of your mind and thought process, you'll allow yourself to move forward with clarity and confidence.