I’m a classic over-thinker.
I get consumed with “what-ifs” and end up trapped in my own head like a hamster on a wheel, the washer cycle on spin, or a weasel on a treadmill.
Overthinking is a challenge in everyday life, but doing so in a long distance relationship it can cause Godzilla-sized problems.
My husband and I have experienced lengthy periods of time apart due to his deploying with the Navy. As a Navy girlfriend, my learning curve was steep from the start. Not only did we live in two different states when we met, but he deployed for several months during our dating season.
And, we couldn’t communicate easily or regularly because he was on a ship.
Our front porch phone dates
I remember many summery days sitting on the scratchy, wooden front porch steps of my house, holding my phone in my sweaty hands waiting for him to call.
If 15 minutes passed our appointed phone date, I would run inside and check my email. (I didn’t have a smart phone so I had to get up)
Many times I would get a message from him saying “I can’t get a line out right now.”
But sometimes my inbox would be sad and empty.
Immediately my mind would explode with creative but unhelpful thoughts about what he must be doing or thinking instead of calling me.
He doesn’t like me anymore. I’m not important enough to call. He chose to hang with the guys instead of call me. Maybe he’s sick? What if he– gasp– died?
None were rational, yet the thoughts and fears still bounced around my head like lottery balls.
A “major” miscommunication
Once during that deployment, Adam and I had a miscommunication about where our relationship was headed. Then the connection failed. We tried desperately to reconnect, but every time we got through, the line dropped.
We emailed our thoughts to each other, but due to the time change we had to wait hours for the other to respond.
I made dramatic assumptions about what he was thinking. My stomach churned and I felt nauseous with worry about how it would be resolved.
How To Stop Overthinking In A Long Distance Relationship
It seems impossible to stop anxious thoughts from rushing into our minds, but we can learn how to stop overthinking and letting what-ifs consume us.
I’ve compiled a list of tips for you I have used personally in the years since I first became a military significant other.
- Give the benefit of the doubt- Try to stay positive and remember: most likely everything is fine. Miscommunications happen, and assuming the best instead of the worst will give you a lot more peace of mind. If a problem exists, you can deal with it when you have the chance.
- Don’t try to guess what they’re thinking- You aren’t a mind-reader (right??). Don’t put words in his/her mouth. If you don’t know what’s going on, remind yourself you can’t read minds and focus on what you do know.
- Distract yourself with activities– Get busy doing things with friends, projects around the house, hobbies, work, etc. Find something to keep your mind occupied rather than dwelling on the unknown.
- Talk it out, but set a time limit- We all need the support of friends. If you want to process with someone, limit how long you spend discussing it. At some point more talking leads to more overthinking and can add stress to the situation.
- Meditate– Ultimately God knows what is going on, even when you don’t. When I focus on an inspirational Bible verse, it helps me to stop overthinking and remember who’s in control (not me!).
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
- Use reminders– Wear a bracelet or necklace, post a note on the wall, or put something in your path to remind you to refocus your mind on the truth.
- Write a letter or email to your loved one– When you can’t communicate back and forth, you can still share your thoughts through writing. This helps you feel like you’ve expressed what you needed to, and even if they can’t hear it now, they still have the chance to later.
- Journal– Expressing your thoughts can help you think through what you’re feeling.
- Acknowledge your feelings– We need to label our emotions so our brain can process them; it makes them more tangible.
- Go for a walk– Walking in the refreshing air will bring some endorphins (happy feelings!) from exercising, and a change of scenery helps to distract your mind.
- Accept that relationships have ups and downs- Relationships aren’t like movies where everything is perfect. You’ll experience a wide range of emotions. Feelings of sadness, frustration and confusion aren’t indicators your relationship is doomed. They reveal you’re not on the same page. A relationship doesn’t have to feel perfect all the time to be right for you.
- See the good– Remember working through difficult challenges can strengthen your relationship if you let it.
- Rein in your imagination– The Bible calls it “taking captive every thought.” We can’t always control what thoughts come our way, but we can train our minds how to respond. This is a constant battle for me, but we have to choose what to allow ourselves to dwell on and what to avoid.
The result of my overthinking
I learned a lot during that deployment, much of it through mistakes.
When Adam and I got on the same page about our “major” miscommunication, it was shocking how much of it was blown up in my mind.
I had all those hours to spin a false reality in my head about our relationship, but the truth was we were headed in the same direction.
We still laugh about it to this day.
Now I choose to use the tips above when distance separates us and I feel myself getting wrapped up in “what-ifs”.
I’m hoping I can save you a lot of heartache by sharing these strategies with you. By using them, you can stop overthinking your relationship and enjoy more confidence and peace of mind in your long distance relationship.