How to Stop Overthinking a Relationship

There’s a saying that true love prevails. It’s accurate, to some degree. If a relationship is meant to be, it can withstand time and distance, maybe even more. But there are still asterisks there, and at the top of the list is overthinking your relationship, especially in the early stages of dating.

Overthinking is common, and it can be totally understandable. Maybe you’ve had bad dating experience before—you were cheated on and ignored the red flags, or you’re rusty after being out of the dating field for a while.

Maybe you just really, really like them and you want to do everything you can to make it go well. But you can’t control—we know, that word hurts a little—how relationship goes, and overdoing things is a surefire way to make things go south in a hurry.

Formulas on a white board

Stop Thinking Everything Has to Mean Something

You’re making plans, and they tell you they’re free on Saturday but busy on Friday. Don’t worry about what they’re doing Friday night. For starters, if it’s early on and you haven’t had a talk about committing or otherwise dating exclusively, it’s not actually your business.

Resist the urge to work your way through their Instagram (they didn’t volunteer it, but you found it anyway) posts Saturday morning to see what they might have been up to. Oh, and seriously—resist that urge to make a burner so you can view their stories without blowing your cover.

Texts: Don’t give it a second thought if they don’t respond immediately, even if they’ve got their read receipts on. They may be in a place where they can check their messages, but don’t have the time for a conversation—they could be at work or in class and can take a look at their phone but can’t be obvious. While sometimes not responding to a message is a message in itself, seriously, don’t read into it until it’s been a day or more if you haven’t gotten serious yet.

Stop Watching Reality TV

Watching reality TV means watching a show where a week’s worth of action is condensed into 45 minutes, plus whatever editing they’ve done to heighten the drama. Real life doesn’t happen that way.

Real life is a mix of good and bad moments, but a healthy relationship shouldn’t feel like a rollercoaster. Healthy relationships are not that high-drama, and you should take it as a red flag if they are.

Your relationship is your own, and the high-drama model is not worth paying attention to. Trying to intuit someone’s feelings or trying to move a relationship at a faster pace than it needs to just to soothe your own anxieties is a sure sign you’re overthinking your relationship.

Don’t compare your relationship to anyone else’s, especially a “reality” that’s scripted and intentionally overdramatic. Don’t train yourself to see the worst in the moment. The healthiest pace for a relationship to take is the one it takes on its own.

Live in the Moment

Sure, great. You hear this one all the time. What does living in the moment actually mean? Without diving in deep to mindfulness and meditation, living in the moment is simply what it sounds like. Don’t focus on what happened on the past and how it might influence what happens in the future. Don’t play your relationship like a chess game where you have to think three steps ahead to get it right.

Enjoy the moment you’re in, secure that it’s exactly what it needs to be. Don’t spend your time shaping and engineering a relationship that’s anything other than authentic and in the moment.

Never expend more energy than the amount of energy you’ll be getting back. Don’t spend four hours trying to read the tea leaves from a single text. Are you overthinking it because you’re dealing with anxiety, or because you think it will actually change anything?

It doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to be anxious or curious. It just means that once you have the thought, you should acknowledge it and move on. Journaling is a great way to stem overthinking: if you have a worry, write it down and walk away.

There’s an added bonus here: If you find yourself having the same worry over and over again, you have a record of how often you feel that way. It can keep you from absolutist thinking like “they always [fill in the blank].” Just be careful not to hyper focus on going back over your journal regularly to look for clues like Sherlock Holmes.

If Something is Still Bugging You, Talk About it

Still—if you’re spending a lot of time thinking about how your relationship is going, be open about it. The person you’re dating is almost surely feeling the anxiety you’re putting out there.

Having a State of the Union style talk for every second is just as harmful as you overthinking things in your own time or in a group thread full of screenshots dissecting exactly what they meant when they said “sounds good.” (Though in truth, most of us have done that. It’s okay from time to time…maybe.)

But if you’ve got a gut feeling that things aren’t right, you have two choices: talk through it or head for the hills. Both of them are better options than expending undue energy trying to find a reason for every blink or sneeze. But talking it out is the more grown-up option. If something is bothering you, they may pick up on it but not know why. Tell them. It’s possible you’ll find it’s something they can’t compromise on, but it’s still better to know that sooner rather than later.

Ultimately, a good relationship is meant to make both of you happy. There’s no way overthinking a relationship makes you happy. Learn how to embrace the moment you’re in and enjoy the journey. A relationship isn’t an elevator; there’s no ultimate destination you have to reach, other than making yourself happy.