Your partner receives a text from someone they don’t particularly like. If it was you, you would have hit reply within a minute and forgotten all about it later. Not your partner, though. Here’s what dating an overthinker could look like: Your anxious partner is now running drafts of a response in their head, trying to analyze the choice of tone and words, and thinking of all the ways their text could be perceived. They finally hit ‘send’ only to worry about: “Would they feel upset?” “Should I have messaged this/that instead?”
Research suggests that 73% of 25 to 35-year-olds and 52% of 45 to 55-year-olds chronically overthink. One seemingly small thing sets off a chain of mental events that they feel unable to control. You probably see your beloved partner tackle these mental gymnastics every day, and wish to learn how to comfort an overthinker in a situation like this. We will go through a list of 15 things that you can do for successfully dating someone who overthinks everything.
Why Is It Hard To Date An Overthinker?
From the above example, it’s clear that an overthinker feels pressured to do things ‘right’, they care what others think of them, they over-explain, they constantly assume that they are not seen in a positive light, and they second-guess their ideas all the time. Exhausting. If you’re dating a person with anxiety, it means you have learned to speak in your ‘slowwwly step away from the ledge’ tone a few times.
While dating an overthinker, you may face challenges because of the following behavioral patterns:
- They might have an all-or-nothing attitude: “We had a fight, so we must be breaking up or you must not love me anymore” “I disappointed you and messed up, I shouldn’t be in relationships at all” Heartbreaking how they jump to the worst, right?
- Making decisions could take a lot of time: This is one of the obvious things to expect when dating an overthinker. Time flies when you are caught up in a web of your own weaving, after all. Even after a decision is made, they may not feel sure about it
- They might be perfectionists: Loving an overthinker comes with dealing with the fact that they might have unrealistic expectations from themselves, and even you. “I should behave like this.” “Okay, I’m sure this time. Let’s go with the seventh plan that I came up with for our date.” “The gift you get for my second cousin’s uncle’s neighbor needs to be perfect.”
- They jump to ten different conclusions: This is how your anxious partner prepares themselves for a hard task, situation, or change. They build up all possible scenarios to a situation, because “just in case” and “what if”. Mostly, none of these conclusions are positive as they are reflections of their worries
- They can get stuck in the past or the future: The overthinkers in relationships might ruminate over past issues, they could be embarrassed anew by a past mistake, or feel distressed thinking of a past traumatic event. Or they might jump way ahead in the future thinking about your lives together, your plans, your finances, your goals, etc.
- It could get tiring to be the calm to their storm: If you’re in love with an overthinker, you would do anything to help them feel better when their mind spirals. But it could get tiring if they depend solely on you to manage this aspect of their personality. As per a Reddit thread, “It was exhausting with her trying to read a deeper meaning into every single thing I did or said.”
Related Reading: How To Stop Worrying About Your Relationship — 8 Expert Tips
15 Tips To Make Dating An Overthinker Successful
Overthinking is a person’s way to achieve a semblance of safety, control, and understanding of their inner and outer environment. Often, their brain reacts to a perceived and familiar threat, and leads them into an overdrive to protect them. Overthinking can be caused by stressors, health issues, financial problems, loss, or trauma. If one doesn’t manage their chronic overthinking, it can lead to mental health issues and even physical illness.
Dr. J. Christopher Fowler, director of professional wellness at Houston Methodis, says in this article, “Overthinking can feel an awful lot like problem-solving. But problem-solving is when you ask questions with the intent of finding an answer. Overthinking is when you dwell on possibilities and pitfalls without any real intent of solving a problem. In fact, a problem or potential problem may not even actually exist.”
Now that you know some of the things to expect when dating an overthinker, let’s talk about how you can date this person successfully. Here are our 15 tips to make that happen:
1. Hear them out
Alec, a reader from Dallas, tells us how to date an overthinker, “My partner overthinks a lot. I know it comes from a place of not feeling safe enough. So in order to be a better boyfriend, I do what I do best: I listen. I don’t offer advice unless asked. That’s really all that’s required sometimes. And a long hug, of course.”
Validate your partner; their feelings are important. If they could ‘choose’ to not overthink, they would. Clearly, there are bigger internal forces at play here and you need to respect the fact that your partner is anxious about something, regardless of your feelings on the subject. Listen to them. Let them let it out.
2. Don’t generalize or mock their overthinking
This is one of the relationship red flags in a man/woman that one needs to watch out for. Never resort to telling your partner that they are overthinking when they have ‘legitimate’ concerns. Yes, you have an overthinking partner. That doesn’t mean that every line of thought or every insight they share is a result of their anxious brain. You can’t censor, shut them down, or judge their reasonable worries by telling them that they are “just overthinking”.
3. Dig up the source of their present anxiety
Okay, so what’s going on? Help them name the ‘specific’ emotions they are experiencing. Are they feeling frustrated, concerned, hungry, guilty, angry, jealous, rejected, betrayed, lonely? This will help you get to the root of the issue.
- Did a close friend cancel on them at the last minute? They might perceive this as a personal rejection. They might think their friend doesn’t like them anymore and they are feeling scared and hurt. But this manifests through overthinking about “all’ their friendships and how “I’m not doing enough”.
- Did their mother call them in the morning and is emotionally blackmailing them to marry? It’s frustrating. They don’t feel seen and heard by their parents, and they feel their worth is reduced to their marriage status. But the way they present this anxiety in front of you is by overthinking about their life goals and future.
Their mind is a jumble. Expressing their feelings is not easy for them right now. If you can be a kind mirror to their anxiety, that would be helpful. So, name the problem to solve the problem.
Related Reading: 8 Ways To Cultivate Emotional Safety In Your Relationship
4. Remind them gently that emotions and feelings are not necessarily facts
Do this only when they are receptive to you. Feelings are pieces of information provided by your brain based on your heart rate, your senses, environment, body temperature, thoughts, etc. When your partner is distressed, remind them that this is temporary, help them figure out where the emotion is stemming from, what it’s trying to tell them, and help them feed ‘new’ information to their brain that helps the brain understand that things ARE okay. (You can do this through grounding techniques that we’ll discuss later.)
Dr. Julie Smith says in her book Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?: “We can’t just press a button and produce our desired set of emotions for the day. But we do know that how we feel is closely entwined with: a) the state of our body, b) the thoughts we spend time with, c) and our actions. These parts of our experience are the ones that we can influence and change. The constant feedback between the brain, the body, and our environment means that we can use those to influence how we feel.”
5. Always be clear with your intent and communication
Keep the following in mind when dating an overthinker:
- Don’t make them assume things. The overthinker in a relationship can catch on to your vibes. Spell out what’s on your mind
- If you are mad at them, tell them clearly how you feel without being passive-aggressive for days
- You need space. Okay, tell them. Don’t just withdraw in the hope that they will catch a hint
- When dating an overthinker, be kind and keep your communication clear, intentional, and complete
- Don’t surprise them if they are uncomfortable with surprises
6. Never send messages like “we need to talk” without context
Basically, don’t scare them to death. Cryptic messages, vague intentionality, letting them think something is wrong (when it’s not) – just no. They ‘will’ jump to the worst conclusions and reach the darkest corners of their mind. If there’s an important discussion regarding finances, instead of texting “we need to talk”, tell them, “Hey, I was thinking we can go over our finances when you get some time. Let’s brainstorm about our monthly budget and savings, yeah? I can use your help.”
Related Reading: 10 Ways Overthinking Ruins Relationships
7. Learn more about their past
If you’re in love with an overthinker, try to ask yourself, and them: What is causing them to overthink? Dig deeper. You need to learn about their:
- Losses and griefs
- General landscape of their mental health
- Physical health problems
- Upbringing and relationship with parents
- Common/recurring stressors
- Experience of systemic discrimination, like racism, classism, colorism, queerphobia, etc.
There’s a reason for them to be in self-preservation and survival mode, and why their body and mind feel threatened. To be a loving partner to them, you must understand where they are coming from.
8. Redirect them gently and break down the problem
Help them take baby steps when they fail to do so. See if you can get them to zoom in to just one part of the problem. So, the refrigerator broke down. They don’t have enough money. A friend owes them money but hasn’t given it back yet and they are now mad at the friend too. They forgot to get the refrigerator serviced when they were supposed to, so now they are wondering, “Oh no, is it MY fault?” They don’t have enough time OR money to purchase a refrigerator right now. There’s food in there that will spoil and they don’t know what to do with it — this is their state of mind.
Break it down. Tell them that we don’t have to buy a new refrigerator right away. Let’s call the customer support and wait for them to tell us what the issue is, and then we can come up with a plan. Offer to go to the neighbors/friends to request them to keep some of the perishable items in their fridge. When the panic subsides a little, you can even use light (not insensitive) humor to bring them to the present moment.
Related Reading: 8 Expert Tips To Navigate A Rough Patch In A Relationship
9. Dating an overthinker will require you to stay calm
That’s the key. It might seem like they want you to follow them inside their storm, but that’s not what they ‘need’. Yes, your nonchalance in the face of their anxiety would be insensitive. But they do need you to stay calm and compassionate so they have an anchor to tug back to.
Here’s what to say to an overthinker boyfriend/girlfriend/partner:
- “This is a lot. Of course you’re stressed, I’m so sorry you have to deal with this”
- “You’re not alone with your thoughts. I will always be there for you“
- “I understand, babe. I’m so glad you’re sharing this with me. Please let it out, I’m listening”
- “What do you need me to do? I’d like to help”
10. Help them with self-soothing techniques
Here are some of the calming things that you can do with them:
- Breathe deeply, exhale fully – do this for a few minutes
- Go with them for a walk in the park
- Put on the karaoke video for their favorite songs, sing them!
- Get them to shake their body – movement usually helps
- Dance with them
- Get them a glass of water
- They can wash their face/take a bath
- Light a candle for them. Looking at the flame for some time stops one from overthinking
- Declutter their living space
- Put on a scented candle that helps them relax
- Get them salt water so they can gargle with it (yes, this helps)
- Hug with both arms/cuddle
- Sit or lie down on the ground together
- Book an appointment with their therapist on their behalf/Help them find a trauma-informed therapist
- Remind them to journal if that’s something they do already
- Make sure they’ve eaten, hydrated, slept enough, taken their medicines – the lack of these basics can cause overthinking too
- Get them away from overstimulating or triggering environment, if any
11. Say “we can do this” instead of “don’t think like that”
An overthinker needs a good communicator. Be the person who comes up with solutions (or just a listening ear), and not the one that goes up to a person who has a cold and tells them “Don’t sneeze”. Like we said before, if they could have stopped overthinking, they would have.
While giving them a solution, remember this:
- Don’t be condescending, irritable, or angry
- Ask them if ‘they’ think it’s a good idea
- Offer your help. Eg.: If they’re experiencing phone anxiety, and are overwhelmed at the thought of having to call people, then offer to make the calls on their behalf
Related Reading: What Is Texting Anxiety And How To Rein It In?
12. It’s draining to overthink, so take care of them
If you’re dating an overthinker, they’ve run twenty circles around the huge question of ‘us’, i.e. you and them. According to a user on a Reddit thread, “I found I was applying a double standard for my relationship. Why do I think of it with a lens of idealism? Yes, a relationship is a large part of one’s life and should be, for the best, done as optimally as possible, but if you can tell me something else you did perfectly or idyllically, I will be surprised.”
Apart from their overthinking on the relationship front, they will be hard on themselves – their mistakes, their failed/stalled/imperfect plans, decision-making skills, etc. Be kind to them and accept them as they are. Place your faith in them because often, they can’t do the same for themselves.
13. To comfort an overthinker, you’ll need to be patient
You’d think that their thought process should go from A to B. But they might take a circuitous route and hit C and F, roll down to Q and Z, before they finally land at B, and wonder if they should go back again. For them, covering those bases is important at that moment. Try to understand the reasoning behind their thought process, scattered or hyper as it seems, in order to achieve emotional attunement with your partner.
14. Remind them of their worth
“I’m not good enough,” this is what Alyssa, a 26-year-old wood sculptor, used to think whenever they hit a bump on the road. “I would fall down the rabbit hole of self-deprecation and think that no one would love, hire, befriend me – depending on the area of my perceived rejection.”
Here’s what you need to keep in mind when your overthinking partner jumps down this rabbit hole:
- When they start to spiral about their career, remind them gently about their important role at work, their professional growth, their learnings, and their success stories
- When they start to worry too much about your relationship, remind them of their value in your life. Provide them with the assurance of your love by expressing your feelings sincerely
- If they are indignant about someone’s bad opinion of them, remind them of the 90-10 formula where 90% should be a person’s self-worth versus only 10% of assigned worth and external validation
An overthinker needs a good communicator to help them calm down. You will need to be one if you’re thinking of dating them.
Related Reading: How To Use Words Of Affirmation As A Love Language?
15. When their overthinking is a boon, thank them
It’s not all gloom and panic. You’re both going on a trip? They may have covered all the bases of the travel logistics that you didn’t even think of. They’ve planned ahead, thought things through, made the bookings based on maximum mutual comfort, confirmed the said bookings, charted out an itinerary, checked out activities in advance, decided the appropriate clothes for the weather, and basically over-prepared till the end of time.
This is one of the great things about dating an overthinker. Express your feelings of gratitude and adoration. Maybe cook for them or pick some chocolate gifts to express your love? Many a time, they overthink because they have your safety, health, pleasure, and well-being in mind.
16. Mutual boundaries will sustain your love
Remember this when you’re dating someone who overthinks everything. Ultimately, if you don’t have the capacity to listen or indulge at any point, and need some time for yourself, tell them so gently. Take care of them out of love, not out of obligation or a growing feeling of resentment. Try these:
- “Hey, I know you’re stressed, I’m so sorry you’re feeling this way. But I want to be honest, I’m unable to absorb any of this properly right now. Can you give me some time to self-regulate?”
- “I really need to focus on this task right now as I have a deadline, but I promise I’ll listen to you once I’m done. Do you think you can call one of your friends or family members in the meantime?”
- “Remember all those grounding techniques we learned recently? Do you think you can try a couple of those? I’ll check in with you later, I promise, I need to rest right now.”
Basically, reassure your partner of your love, but also look after yourself.
What Kind Of Partner Does An Overthinker Need?
The truth is, loving an overthinker can actually be a beautiful experience. They strive to create perfect memories in the relationship and sincerely wish to be a great partner to you. Here are some of the qualities most people who are naturally anxious look for in their romantic interests:
- Someone who listens patiently without judgment: Tia, a graduate from Ohio University, shares, “I know when I’m overthinking. I usually catch myself doing it. But I still need to reach the end of the thought process sometimes and my partner does a stellar job at providing me time and space for just that.”
- Someone who is willing to learn about their triggers and anxieties: You can’t just say you love an overthinker and not put in the effort to learn about their mental patterns and intrusive thoughts. Is it because of trauma? Financial trouble? Childhood events? Mental health illness and disability? Physical disability? Find out
- Someone who can love them ‘with’ their overthinking and not despite it: To the guy who is dating an overthinker, you can’t edit your partner’s personality and only like the parts that fit into your ideal notion of a relationship. You gotta love them entirely
- Someone who doesn’t run away from conversations: A user on a Reddit thread, who thinks too much, says, “Both my partner and I have a tendency to do this, and openly talking about it has helped us a lot. We both make sure the other knows that they are free to bring up insecurities or anxiety, and we do it by checking in with each other. Often I will say something like, “this may just be my anxiety, but when you said X did you mean [what I’m feeling]?”
- Someone who doesn’t make them feel worse about their overthinking patterns: They know they overthink. They analyze a lot. They second-guess everything. They are aware of how anxious they are. Don’t make them feel worse about it by pointing it out to them when they are feeling fragile
- An overthinker doubts their every opinion and thought, goes back on their decisions, worries a lot, is a perfectionist, is stuck either in the past or the future, and is generally in an anxious state of mind
- They overthink in order to feel safe, to do the ‘right’ thing, and because of present/past health issues, systemic discrimination, traumas, or upbringing
- The way to support your overthinking partner is to hear them out, not judge them, learn about their past, reassure them, try to gently bring them back to the present through mindfulness exercises, and to appreciate them when their overthinking ways end up helping you
Related Reading: 6 Signs Of True Love: Learn What They Are
Your partner worries a lot. So they must have had hundreds of doubts about you and your relationship too. Of all the permutations and combinations that your overthinking partner came up with, you still ended up winning their love. No matter how much their anxious brain tried to think of the worst possible outcomes for dating you, they still knew they wanted you in their life. And that’s something, isn’t it?