Monday, August 15, 2011

Over-Thinking Relationships

Over at Baggage Reclaim, Natalie has a fine post on overthinking and it's impact on relationships. This particular paragraph, early on in the piece, was really striking:

I have a friend who spent over a decade (yes you read that correctly) ruminating on her relationship. Every time we caught up about what was going on, she was trying to “work things out” or “figuring things out” or “deciding what the best thing to do is” and even “trying to avoid making a mistake”.

Having done some of this myself, I totally know how you can fall down that rabbit hole. Part of me knew six months into my first long term relationship that we were a poor match, but I didn't have the experience and insight yet to overcome the fear of ending it and being alone. We stayed together over three years.

I have also been on the other side of this equation. Another long term girlfriend, instead of breaking up with me fully, asked for a month a part so she could "think about things." That seemed reasonable enough to me, and I wanted to give it one last shot myself, even though the previous several months had been fairly miserable. Then that month stretched into two, three, four, five months, with all of my attempts to meet her to have a conversation rebuffed. Finally, I just gave up, and moved on. And found out later that she had moved on long before I did, but for whatever reason, decided to keep answering my requests to meet with "I'm not ready to see you yet," instead of just telling me she was seeing someone else.

You might think that this example demonstrates something else, and not "over-thinking," but those several months previous had been filled with her thinking about and reconsidering things. As well as some of my own. And it's also the case that she did spend the first month or two after the "break up" thinking about what to do before fully entering into the new relationship.

I'm all for thoughtfulness and spending the time needed to suss out what you really want and how you want to move forward. However, there comes a time when that place becomes like a cave you go to hide in. A protective zone from all the possible consequences you can imagine. Consequences from leaving someone. Consequences from staying with someone. And eventually, the consequences that come from waiting too long to make a decision.

How about you? Are you someone who over-thinks your relationships? Do you sit on the fence for weeks and months on end, wondering about the many what ifs? Have you dated people like this?


  1. I overthink EVERYTHING. The number of times my last partner told me I was overthinking stuff when I'd ask a question in a conversation, was just ridiculous - it became a shared joke between us (and was never really a problem for either of us).

    It's why I sucked at being a football (that is, "soccer" to you colonials) referee: I overthought everything, which made it hard for me to give a clear verdict, unless the situation was crystal clear (i.e. ball in the back of the net, I could clearly award a goal!) I think being a cricket umpire, where you're allowed to mull things over for a few seconds before giving a decision, would be more my thing.

    Incidentally, it's a big problem I have with PUA/SC advice - they say not to think about it, just do it, but I can't help it - I overthink everything!

    I have moreorless figured out how to handle my overthinking and keep it under control so I can relate to more "normal" people, but I can't stop it.

  2. I'm in a better place with all of this now, probably due to my meditation practice. I've learned to see through a lot of the thinking about whatever is happening in a relationship, and am better at letting go of knowing. However, that doesn't mean I don't struggle sometimes. It's just that I spend less time swamped in that analysis zone.

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