The (Over)Thinker: On How To Be A Human With Another Human

Being cerebral and someone who “over thinks” (which if you are, you don’t quite grasp how MOAR THINKING could ever be a bad thing), you’re aware of your flaws and you either fix them or decide that they’re a deserving piece in the wacky jigsaw of a person you’ve come to be. That’s all well and good until you’re in a relationship and this carefully crafted person you are is face to face with someone who believes in your greatness but is sometimes upset by how it plays out. So what do you do when someone doesn’t like this masterpiece you’ve created? I mean, you know you’re not perfect but it took a long time to get that way and you’re happy with the current version.

You, this impeccable human being that embraces their flaws and flaunts their strengths, have to come to terms with the fact that you might have to change the way you operate in some cases. That can be a hard pill to swallow (you don’t even like pills). Because if you think you’re great, and they think they’re great, but you have problems, maybe you two aren’t supposed to be great with each other. Didn’t you build yourselves up so you wouldn’t have to change? Relationships include relinquishing some amount of say in your happiness to another. And who are we kidding. You’re a control freak and that freaks your shit out.

Here is this other person with a whole background, life, and years of experiences completely separate of yours. No matter how much time you spend with her, you can never know her whole story and she can never know yours. You just hope that she can apply what she does know to guess at how your lived experience informs your everyday. Most of the time you bumble around unaware of the individuality of everyone around you but when you finally feel like you connect with someone and are experiencing a sense of oneness, you have moments of, “Whoa. You are a completely different person.” It’s crazy. You’re crazy. To expect someone other than yourself to “get” you is a few inches short of sane. And as someone who feels constantly misunderstood, this is your ultimate life goal — to find someone who can make sense of you when it’s been such a journey to make sense of yourself.

You always think you need things figured out before you jump into shit. Unfortunately, relationships do not escape this fate. If anything, it’s more apparent there than with any other aspect of your life. What you’re currently finding is when two people that think they know themselves SO WELL are in a relationship, they think they can predict the problems they will have in the future. Instead of waiting until those problems actually arise and deal with them as they come, they try to nip it in the bud before it happens. Or worse, they contemplate succumbing to these yet-to-have transpired problems. They talk about the relationship in this cerebral, philosophical way. Every relationship is like infinity; the possibilities are limitless… but also, no one really knows what the fuck they’re talking about because no one’s been there before. +

And so here you two are. The over thinkers. Positive that given your command of knowledge of yourselves, you can predict what things will cause you problems. There’s no way you can but you pretend anyway so when it happens, it won’t feel like failure in the same way it would if you’d given yourself up to the possibility that maybe it doesn’t have to fail. You want to have a rational cushion to pad your fall. So you rely on, “Oh, I knew this would happen because I’m a genius and no one can get anything past me!” But the only thing that could be getting past you is your relationship.  You have to know. You have to be prepared. And you’ve been prioritizing being right over being happy.



People think that early in the relationship, you shouldn’t be thinking about these things. You shouldn’t be imagining years down the line and you don’t get that. That seems like poor fucking planning. You don’t know how to stop being that person. To be someone that just lives and enjoys and doesn’t worry about it. But yeah. That’s kind of what you have to do. In every other instance, this is the person you want to relax with. This is the person that somehow finds the magic button that turns your brain off, even if just for a second. So maybe you should chill the fuck out. You kind of owe it to them. And to yourself.

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Brittani Nichols is a Los Angeles based comedy person. When she's not tweeting about white people or watching television, she's probably eating pizza. Actually, she's probably doing all three of those things concurrently and when she's not doing THAT, she's sleeping. Brittani also went to Yale and feels weird about mentioning it but wants you to know.

Brittani has written 328 articles for us.


  1. thank you :) I had a similar thought this morning regarding why I haven’t been in a relationship in so long. It is because I live in my head and I convince myself that crush could never be reality. I do it every single time. I fall in love and then I talk myself down. At least now I know if I ever get to that place, I should probably just enjoying being there rather than freak out about not knowing everything. Brittani is Hilarious and also full of neurotic girl wisdom. Hail, Hail!

  2. Wow. Wow. This might just be my favorite thing that has ever been on Autostraddle. This is honestly so me….I’ve never seen the way my mind works written out so accurately before I’m basically speechless. I really needed this. I do need to chill the fuck out, and now I know. Thank you!

  3. So this sparked off a conversation between my friend and I where I’m overthinking how I overthink.

  4. “whoa. you are a completely different person.”
    why am i always surprised by this!
    brittani, i already knew you were awesome. but this was amazing. every single sentence i was like, yes, exactly, i do this! this is totally about me!

  5. “Relationships include relinquishing some amount of say in your happiness to another. And who are we kidding. You’re a control freak and that freaks your shit out.”

    oh control freaks unite. ;) thank you for writing this!

  6. Oh god this is me. I’m going to print this out and hand it to anyone I date in the future. That should save a lot of headaches…

  7. I’m lately beginning to understand that I am a control freak. I know that I over-think all of the things and I know that I am constantly trying to make connections between all the particulars of my life. But it never occurred to me that I am obsessed with this process and that it does in fact render me completely fucking neurotic most of the time. I get that now, BUT…

    It’s taken a serious breakup from a long term affair for me to understand this. And the thing is, the more I understand this, the less I ever want to undertake the process of merging forces with someone else.

    And THIS line: “Relationships include relinquishing some amount of say in your happiness to another” in particular does not inspire me to try again, EVER. Fuck relinquishing this kind of power to someone who is completely fucking inept.

    I think I’ll get on with my plan of being a Professional Old Maid, for the rest of my life. Yep.

  8. okay, so this weekend i met a nice girl at a teachers’ union-workshop thing, and she looked a little bit like lindsay shaw and had feminist tattoos and uh, a long-term boyfriend, sadly. however i still spent A LOT OF TIME & ENERGY overthinking a relationship that is NEVER EVER GOING TO HAPPEN…

    (after a while i decided that things would probably end badly when her very communist opinions would clash badly with my slightly less marxist family’s views…but the sex probably would’ve been hot as hell)

    • I DO THE SAME THING! i’m almost embarrassed to admit the number of fantasy relationships that have devoted time and energy into.

    • Oh my god, yes to overthinking relationships that probably will never happen. It’s very diverting, unless you actually somehow DO end up in that relationship and have had wayyyy too many thoughts.

      Not that this has ever happened to me, of course…>.>

  9. Oh burn! So true.

    I’m guilty. I have a tendency to decide that things will go wrong due to some intolerable flaw in my partner, rather than as a result of my own bountiful shortcomings. This usually equates to me being hyperfocused on my partner’s behavior instead of working on myself, or (imagine!) just being in my relationships. Like, I have to tell myself to stop being a crazy self-centered overthinker all the time to make things work.

  10. Oh man, this feels like looking in a mirror.

    Although it doesn’t jive with the popular mythology (where cat ladies have given up on relationships), I feel like recently becoming a cat owner was the best possible thing I could’ve done to help me become less of a control freak. Even though the cat’s needs are FAR less complex than another human’s, it has been pretty educational for me to have to deal with another creature’s intrusion into my space. I’d gotten used to living alone and having executive control over all of the arranging and decorating decisions, and it was surprising to me how much I initially resented having the cat knock everything off my shelves. I spent the first few weeks stubbornly replacing everything where I thought it should go, after all, I knew best, right? I can only imagine the disaster that would’ve ensued had I tried to move in with another human first!

    It also helps that I can’t over analyze the cat’s motivations, or convince myself that I can affect its behavior with my rational thought and clear arguments. It’s a cat, it doesn’t care. Hopefully, I can bring my newfound tolerance of things being taken out of my control to the next go-around with another person. If not, I’m sure the cat will happily continue to train me in the art of letting go.

  11. I’m the queen of over-thinking. I am anxiety girl, able to leap to the worst possible conclusion in a single bound. And it’s just. not. good. I wanna be the kid that just lives in the present, like for reals! Can we get an Autostraddle DIY on this? Please?

  12. “You always think you need things figured out before you jump into shit.” This. This is what I do sooooo much of the time. Thanks for this!

  13. Holy shit, stop spying on my brain. But seriously, this is making me think about the way I overthink in terms of relationships. Which means I’m overthinking, but, I mean, I was going to do that anyway.

  14. This is timely — i just recently discovered the Enneagram, a personality system divided into 9 types (look it up if you don’t know it, it’s pretty f’in interesting), and low and behold i’m a 5 – which means cerebral, over-thinking, tends toward isolating oneself. It’s somewhat comforting to realize that it’s not just a personal deficiency but part of your personality that you overthink things all the time and tend to shy away from relationships and all that. The up-side is that you can learn to relate differently to people, and more compassionately to yourself and negotiate those rocky bits where you tend to take refuge in your head … but yah, I’m still working on that…

    • I was just going to reply along the lines of, “If you study or know about Jungian psychology, then I bet most of the respondents in this article are “T” types, blah blah blah….” but I figured I should refrain because it is a particular “niche” that not everyone is aware of or knows about. I’ve had a vested interest in Enneagram, Jung, Socionics and other related personality systems for about 3 years now, so I am pretty familiar with it all. I too am a 5 and it is pretty characteristic to “over think” with them. Of course, other enneagram types over think as well, just in different ways. I have a term I use called “mind fucking one self,” or “analysis paralysis” for situations such as these. Anyways, It was cool that I didn’t have to be the first one to mention this and that there are other people who are aware of such systems.

      • yup, analysis paralysis and mind fucking oneself sound pretty apt. i’m familiar with jung, but will look into socionics… true to the type i enjoy the knowledge-gathering phase – but am by no means a psychology expert. nice to virtually meet another type 5 tho (and the many other 5’s interpellated by the title of the article…)!

  15. I’m an over-thinker, and currently in a relationship with another over-thinker. However, we’ve talked about it and are consciously making an effort to NOT plan our future. It really helps to know that I can tell her the things I’m over-thinking, and she will take it for what it is: over-thinking. And ditto for her. But yeah, it’s tough letting that control go…

  16. I should probably forward this to my girlfriend. Maybe then she’ll understand my brain, which I’m pretty sure is the opposite of what this piece is telling me to do.

  17. Even more fun is when you know you’re a chronic over-thinker and eventually you get fed up and jump into something more or less at random just because you’re sick of being you.

    It rarely ends well.

    • Oh yeah! That part where you have to prove to yourself you can be spontaneous and just ignore the five million red flags that are popping up about whatever person/situation. You always end up slapping your head.

      It’s almost nice being a voice of reason kind of person, but I hate the idea that my pessimism is often correct. I think my friends do too. I’m like a stormy rain cloud on all of their dating fun.

  18. I’ve been thinking about this exact same thing. Where I’m at right now in life I’m starting to get to know myself more and become the person I want to be. I’ve discovered I live for experience. I don’t plan much but if things go wrong at least I have the experience :P I need to be alone from time to time and I’m cool with that. I have a strange sense of humor. I don’t take many things seriously. I’m a nerd, dork, and a geek. I like to rant obviously. Put that together plus all kinds of things too numerous to add with my many interests and I find it hard to believe I can find that perfect person and/or persons to be in a relationship with I mean I’m pretty unique here.

    Perfect person as in someone who doesn’t hinder you. In my past relationships I’ve noticed I kept so much of me to myself either because I thought they would judge me or because they had already said something that made me decide to hide whatever it may have been. How am I going to know more about myself if I keep most of myself hidden? Finding someone that allows you to be unabashedly yourself while they be themselves seems a little far fetched to me, so much so that I feel as though relationships aren’t for me. I say that but then again I find myself imagining what it would be like to be with people that I’ve just met. So in conclusion, I have no fucking idea but I’m sure I’ll figure something out.

  19. Oh my god. I’ve literally been freaking out over this exact thing for the last 2 days. Thank you so so much, I thought I was the only person who did this. :)

  20. <3 <3 <3
    Thank you for so eloquently stating all of this. Getting out of my headspace is a chore that I've been working on daily.

  21. Nailed it. Pretty much sums up every situation I’ve ever been in (and many I haven’t…tis the nature of the beast).

  22. I’m not sure what you’re doing in my brain right now, but like…get out.

    For realz though, this piece is amazing and comes and JUST the perfect time. That’s the law of attraction right? You get what you need when you need it. Perfect.

    Thanks for sharing your over-thinking. It is much appreciated.

  23. Yeah, pretty much. Also when you DO realise someone ISN’T exactly like you, you get this sudden sense of incredible loneliness, like the first time as a kid that you realised other people’s lives were just as real as your own, but that you could never really get inside their heads, or them yours, and you were going to be alone forever, even if you were with other people.

  24. I’m emailing this to my girfriend, right now. I didn’t know there were so many other people like me out there.

  25. This is 100p my life. Its nice to see it in words and know I’m not the only neurotic one out there. Thanks brittani!

    Right now I’m with the lady of my dreams and still I went through a pHase where I almost ran. Thank goodness I had a friend talk some sense into me!!

  26. haha oh god this is so painfully accurate and the reason all of my relationships have ended. THANKS!! this was sorely needed <3

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