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“Do They Really Love Me?”: Rumination in Relationships

Maybe one of the more agonizing experiences of being in a relationship is rumination or being stuck on an anxiety-producing thought without being able to move away from it. No matter how hard you try to evict it, once that thought is there, it is living rent rent-free in your head. We have all been there at one point or another. Analyzing the other person’s behavior, what they say and don’t say, what they feel and don’t feel. “Do they love me?”  “Do they still want me??” Maddening, to say the least.

 

To deal with our rumination, we often unconsciously (or consciously) test the other person to see if our worries are right. We scan their face with AI-level thoroughness when we ask if they are mad. We watch their reaction like a hawk when we act out…because will they still stay? We run analysis over and over and over because what did they mean when they said “fine”?  

 

What makes rumination so difficult to move away from is that it focuses on the other person’s state (their mood, thoughts, and feelings) and not our own. As you may already well know, it is hard to regulate what is not yours or inside our own body. Trying to parse out and play detective in someone else’s mind usually makes us feel more anxious and more ruminative than ever.

 

To deal with our rumination, we must own it. What is making you anxious about this situation? What vulnerability is emerging right now? Is there something actually bothering you that you are not acknowledging? Projecting much?  By redirecting the rumination to your own feelings, you have a much better chance of managing and regulating them. You also have a much better chance of communicating what you may actually need from your partner because rumination can make it difficult to decipher if it is all about the other person’s experience and not your own.

 

So, next time you are ruminating, start asking yourself some difficult questions instead of starting with your partner. Get curious and own your stuff. It might just be a game-changer.

 

Until next time,

 

Dr. Jess

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