9 mistakes overthinkers usually make in a relationship, according to psychology

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It isn’t easy being an overthinker.

Look, it’s good to think about your actions and motivations. That’s how you grow as a person and become the best version of yourself.

It’s also good to think about the emotions, feelings, and motivations of other people. That can help you understand them on a deeper level and form meaningful connections.

But the truth is, there is such a thing as overthinking.

Obsessively questioning both yourself and those around you can end up doing more harm than good. That’s especially true in our closest relationships with one another.

Here are some of the mistakes overthinkers often make in relationships. If you’re an overthinker, keep an eye out for these hazards, because if you’re not careful, they can torpedo your relationships.

1) They create problems

“If you are a person who cares deeply about your relationships, you may overthink when interacting with a certain type of partner,” writes psychologist Erin Leonard.

“Although these are emotionally intelligent qualities that serve you well when you are interacting with a person who has the same gifts, they can go a bit sideways when you are dealing with an emotionally unavailable person,” she adds.

The thing is, overthinking, also known as rumination in psychology, is often an attempt to deal with problems before they happen.

You may worry excessively about the future to try and avoid something going wrong, or you may dwell on the past, trying to analyze it to figure out how things could’ve been better.

But overthinking can create more problems than it solves.

You see, overthinkers tend to analyze everything that was said and done in a relationship, sometimes over and over again. And often, they interpret what has happened in a negative way.

An overthinker may doubt their partner’s love because of one badly chosen word or phrase that meant nothing to the person who said it. They may read into what their partner does, drawing conclusions that are very far from the truth. 

2) They struggle to make decisions

Decision paralysis is a very real threat for overthinkers.

In other words, in seeking to make the best choice, these people go over and over every different option in their heads and find it very hard to commit to any decision they make.

“You might try to convince yourself that thinking longer and harder helps you,” writes psychologist Amy Morin. “But, overanalyzing and obsessing actually becomes a barrier. Research shows thinking too much makes it tough to make decisions.”

It could be something as simple as what to have for dinner. Or it could be a major life decision about what to do for a career or where to live or whether to have kids.

Considering every angle before you make a decision is good. Obsessively playing “what if?” and second-guessing any decision you do make is bad.

And the inability to make a decision can put enormous strain on your relationships. It may make your partner feel that you aren’t ready to commit to them or that you don’t know what you want.

3) They seek constant reassurance

The whole point of relationships is to provide emotional support to one another. But even the most loving partner can’t provide constant reassurance to a chronic overthinker.

Psychologists Martin Seif and Sally Winston point out that while it’s natural to seek reassurance sometimes, people with what they call “sticky minds” can get caught in “reassurance traps”.

“People with sticky minds can get caught up in doubts about anything, including one’s own motives, identity, health, and sanity (as well as those of others),” they say.

Naturally, this leads people to seek reassurance from their partners. And a good, loving partner will do everything they can to give you that reassurance.

But when it never seems to help, when their efforts to reassure you do nothing to calm you, your partner may become frustrated and irritated by your need for reassurance.

Over time, this can cause a rift in even the most loving relationship.

4) They avoid confrontation

It might seem like avoiding confrontation in a relationship is a good thing. But actually, it can do more harm than good.

Nobody likes confrontation, especially with the people they love. But sometimes, it’s necessary to reach the best possible decision for both of you.

After all, your partner can’t give you what you want if you don’t let them know what that is. And sometimes, communicating your needs can lead to confrontation.

“People who avoid confrontation often make excuses for their behavior, such as “I’m a peacemaker,” or “I don’t want to ruffle any feathers””, writes Amy Morin.

And overthinkers are especially prone to this because they analyze everything from every possible angle.

Before getting into any kind of confrontation, they will question themselves relentlessly, and may convince themselves that they are in the wrong and that they have no right to confront the other person.

This can lead to dissatisfaction in relationships and the feeling of always giving way to the other person. It can even cause resentment, which can quickly destroy a relationship.

5) They have unrealistic expectations

Part of the problem of being an overthinker is having unrealistic expectations. Many times, overthinkers expect too much from themselves and beat themselves up mentally when they fall short of those expectations.

At the same time, it’s also possible to have unrealistic expectations of a partner or of the relationship itself.

“Although there is nothing wrong with having expectations in a relationship, having unrealistic expectations can put stress on, and ruin, any relationship,” writes psychologist Tarra Bates-Duford. “No one is perfect in our world, so don’t expect a perfect relationship that can meet your high hopes.”

Signs that your expectations are too high include:

  • Expecting your partner to know what you’re feeling without you telling them;
  • Expecting never to have any conflict in your relationships;
  • Expecting things to never change;
  • Expecting to spend all your time together;
  • Thinking that good relationships don’t require work;
  • Thinking that all your problems will go away once you find the perfect person.

6) They misinterpret things

Misinterpreting things is the overthinker’s curse.

Analyzing every word, action, or facial expression from every possible angle opens you up to misinterpreting what you’ve seen or heard.

Ultimately, none of us know what other people are thinking, and while we can make educated guesses, there comes a point when you have to let it go and acknowledge that you can’t read minds.

But often, overthinkers can’t do this. They will ascribe negative motivations to the things their partner says or does, and start to mistrust them or feel unloved.

7) They never enjoy the present

Relationships – good ones, anyway – often produce those special moments that make life worth living. Spending quality time with your partner can be one of the most rewarding things you can do in life.

That’s hard when you’re never really living in the present moment.

The thing is, overthinkers are never really present, mentally speaking. They’re always thinking about the future or the past, so they never fully enjoy the moment.

“One of the big things that over-thinkers struggle with is the ability to live in the present moment,” writes psychologist Kelly Neff. “So consumed by the failures of the past and the worries over the future, the present moment does not get the attention and love it deserves.”

So how do you break out of this negative cycle of never really living the present moment to the fullest? Mindfulness is a powerful and proven way to fully experience the present and free yourself from constant rumination.

8) They project insecurities

Another highly damaging behavior overthinkers often display in relationships is projecting their own insecurities onto their partner.

So, for example, if you are insecure about the way you look, you may assume your partner doesn’t find you attractive, even if they say they do.

Or, if you’ve been cheated on in the past, you may accuse your partner of infidelities just because you are so scared of it happening again.

“Insecurities affect your relationship by adding an element of negativity that wasn’t there,” according to psychologist and relationship counselor Paulette Sherman.

No one likes to be accused of things they didn’t do. And projecting your own insecurities onto your partner is a guaranteed way to threaten your relationships.

9) They stress themselves out

Finally, as you probably know by now, it’s no picnic being an overthinker. Not only can it have a damaging effect on your relationships, but it also contributes significantly to your own stress and unhappiness.

And worried, stressed-out people are often not great at maintaining relationships.

“Not dealing with stress can create a negative cycle where partners “catch” each other’s stress,” claims psychologist Rosie Shrout.

So being stressed all the time is just another way an overthinker can make themselves hard to be around.

Stop overthinking

Stopping yourself from overthinking isn’t as simple as waving a magic wand. But it’s important to get a handle on your overthinking if you want your relationship to last.

Keep an eye out for these behaviors, and nip them in the bud wherever possible if you want to preserve your relationships.

Clifton Kopp

Welcome to my writings on Hack Spirit! I'm a bit of a "polymath" in that I like writing about many different things. Often I'm learning from the process of writing. I hope you enjoy, and please leave a comment on one of my articles.

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