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How to stop overthinking in a relationship: Tips, tools, and what might be behind this unhelpful thinking style

How to stop overthinking in a relationship: Tips, tools, and what might be behind this unhelpful thinking style

Overthinking is something we all do from time to time. However, when it happens all the time, it can become unhelpful, even detrimental. When your brain is constantly overthinking things, it can be easy to believe that everything it’s telling you is true, making it hard to trust people and possibly causing damage in your relationships with others. 

Learning how to stop overthinking about someone you love can be a long process, since overthinking can become a habit that is hard to break.

However, there are many effective ways to break out of this thinking style. Overthinking is a common trait that can be developed for many reasons, but in order to stop your brain from continuing to deceive you, it’s important to start paying attention to your thoughts and assessing their validity as they come up.

Why Do I Overthink So Much in a Relationship?

Overthinking a lot in a romantic relationship or friendship has a variety of causes. Some common ones include:

  • Childhood experiences
  • Attachment issues
  • Cognitive biases (also referred to as distorted thinking)
  • Trauma
  • Limiting core beliefs

Unlike with codependency, which involves being overly close and attached to someone you love, overthinking can cause you to withdraw from people in your life due to a lack of trust. 

Essentially, overthinking often boils down to a lack of trust in others due to being hurt or abandoned, past relational trauma, feeling insecure, or wanting to control things that are external from oneself. Hurt like this can be difficult to overcome, but one of the first steps is acknowledging that hurt and its ties to the overthinking and negative thoughts that are currently affecting your life.

Is Overthinking Toxic in a Relationship? Can Overthinking End a Relationship?

Overthinking strikes all of us at some point, but if it goes unchecked and unresolved, overthinking can certainly morph healthy relationships into toxic relationships. If you fall victim to your thoughts and allow them to go too far, they can end up driving a wedge of distrust between you and other people in your life. 

The constant internal chatter in your brain that happens when you overthink can make you believe thoughts that are not necessarily true, such as convincing yourself that people you love don’t actually care about you. This can lead to you not communicating effectively, becoming more guarded, losing trust, not being present in your relationship, feeling anxious, slacking off in self-care such as eating or sleeping well, or having even more distorted thoughts. 

If you feel that you have a tendency to overthink and see this happening in your relationships and want to learn how to stop overthinking relationships, you can still turn things around. A great place to start is trying to connect with your partner by opening veins of communication, being honest with yourself and them about how you’re feeling, and talking it through with them. It’s also important to make it clear that, though you might need their support going forward, you are taking accountability for your own emotions and letting them know that they’re not responsible for your emotional regulation.

If that feels like too much, perhaps start with vocalizing your thoughts and feelings to yourself in some way, whether that’s journaling about them, saying them out loud to yourself, or even just writing feelings or words that pop into your head and thinking about why you feel that way. This way, you can get a handle on everything you’re feeling and perhaps allow yourself to see that they may not be logical. Every feeling happens for a real reason, but they can be misdirected sometimes if you don’t know the real reasoning behind them.

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How to Apologize for Overthinking in a Relationship: What Are Some Tips for Apologizing and Resolving Conflict?

When apologizing for overthinking, it might be helpful to think about what the fears, thoughts, and worries truly are and state how you are truly feeling. Talk to your partner about what the root issues are and seek professional help if necessary. 

How Do I Stop Overthinking in a Relationship or Even a Friendship?

If you’re wondering how to stop overthinking everything in relationships, self-awareness and self-reflection are the first steps to stopping overthinking and cultivating a healthy relationship or friendship. As you become aware of your thoughts, it is important to get to the root thoughts and fears that are leading you to overthink. 

Some good steps to follow are: 

  • Notice your thoughts: What are they, and where are they coming from?
  • Challenge your thoughts: Ask yourself, “Am I catastrophizing, mind-reading, or even filtering out all of the positives?” These are all cognitive distortions that reinforce our negativity.
  • Reframe thoughts: Try to fashion them into more accurate statements.
  • Practice acceptance: There are always facts of life that we can’t control. Work to accept them and accept that you can’t change them.

Another helpful way to stop overthinking is to work on being more mindful. Mindfulness and meditation help you to control your thoughts and become more focused. Journaling your thoughts to de-clutter your mind or keeping a gratitude journal to help reshape the way you think about things can be great tools to keep the anxious thoughts at bay. If your thoughts feel too jumbled or fast, take a few deep breaths with the intent of stilling your mind. Often, lowering your heart rate and taking deep, calming breaths can improve focus.

Also, try giving yourself a self-care boundary to not give as much space or “real estate” in your brain to unhelpful thinking patterns such as overthinking. Overthinking can easily make someone feel overwhelmed, so by letting go of some of those thoughts or not allowing them to linger in your mind, it might allow you to spend your energy on viewing the thoughts that come up more objectively.

How Do You Fix Overthinking in a Relationship?

All of these tactics are great tools to use in and alongside psychotherapy. It’s great to help yourself, but often it can be difficult to sort your thoughts and decide what to do about them on your own. A therapist can give you a new perspective on your thoughts and feelings, help you delve into your past to seek answers, and help you decide what approaches and treatments would work best for you. Therapists also provide a removed, nonjudgmental space for you to be honest about everything you’ve experienced and all you’re feeling.

  • Clinical writer
  • Editorial writer
  • Clinical reviewer
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Theresa Lupcho, LPCLicensed Professional Counselor
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Theresa Lupcho is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) with a passion for providing the utmost quality of services to individuals and couples struggling with relationship issues, depression, anxiety, abuse, ADHD, stress, family conflict, life transitions, grief, and more.

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Alexandra “Alex” Cromer is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) who has 4 years of experience partnering with adults, families, adolescents, and couples seeking help with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and trauma-related disorders.

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Hannah DeWittMental Health Writer

Hannah is a Junior Copywriter at Thriveworks. She received her bachelor’s degree in English: Creative Writing with a minor in Spanish from Seattle Pacific University. Previously, Hannah has worked in copywriting positions in the car insurance and trucking sectors doing blog-style and journalistic writing and editing.

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