9 Ways to Keep Paranoia from Destroying Your Relationships
When trust issues in a relationship are fueled by paranoia or self-sabotaging thoughts, these doubts may be even more of a deal-breaker. Here, experts share advice about how to keep your doubts in perspective and help you realize that self-love is the top priority in any successful relationship.
Resist calling and texting your partner when she’s with her friends
Instead of the urge to constantly text or call (which insinuates mistrust), try to turn your attention away from the fixation. “Take a deep breath, put the phone down, and focus your attention on fun activities that you could be doing,” suggests Kathryn Esquer, PsyD, MBA, a psychologist in private practice in Jacksonville, Florida. Go out with your own friends, exercise, watch that basketball game—whatever it takes. Avoid these habits that destroy trust in a relationship.
Counter the decision to stay home and pine
Rather than sit in the house waiting for him to come home, venture out with your friends to have fun, advises Dr. Esquer. “Couples that pursue their individual interests have more to talk about when spending time together,” she says. “Plus, you’ll have less mental energy to spend on worries and paranoia if you’re too busy having fun yourself.” Here are signs you can totally trust your partner.
Be open if recovery is the goal
If your partner did have an affair and both of you want to save the relationship, an open heart and open mind is needed for success. “Do not be afraid to seek help from a psychologist. These professionals have years of education and training in helping people change their behaviors and attitudes, especially thoughts and feelings in relationships,” Dr. Esquer adds. “Choosing to overcome an affair can be difficult and painful, but it can also be rewarding and worthwhile if you find the right professional to help you and your partner move to a new beginning.”
Redirect worry to a journal
It may be therapeutic to write down your concerns in a journal to re-channel negative thinking. Kim Chronister, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist in Los Angeles, suggests allowing yourself a mere 20 minutes each day to worry about the infidelity. Then, Dr. Chronister suggests writing it all down in a journal, which can facilitate “reframing” your anxiety. “Next, spend the same amount of time ‘reframing’ your worry with alternative possibilities and positive affirmations like ‘I can trust my partner,’ or ‘I can find peace despite whatever is going on with my partner.'”
Let your guard down
Paranoid people are always on guard, believing that others are constantly trying to demean, harm, or threaten them, says an article on webmd.com. “These generally unfounded beliefs, as well as their habits of blame and distrust, might interfere with their ability to form close relationships,” the article cites. Instead, try to look for the best in others.
Take a breath before reacting
The key to managing paranoia is to learn ways of coping that help an individual not react to the emotional state of mind and be able to respond from their wise mind or intuitive sense, says Lisa Bahar, MA, CCJP, a marriage and family therapist in Dana Point, California. “This can be challenging, however, if the individual is not able to discern what feels like an intuitive gut instinct, versus paranoia. It’s a process the mind goes through to interpret and give meaning to events inside their head or that are occurring outside of themselves, and are stories that are not been fully based on fact.” She says fear can be reduced by reviewing facts and calmly evaluating the situation. “Check in with your intuitive sense of self with mindfulness. Learn how to slow down reactivity and respond from a reasonable state of mind if you feel it will be helpful to the relationship and you.”
Resist obsessing about social media postings
Marni Amsellem, PhD, a licensed psychologist in Mamaroneck, New York, says the Internet and social media enables paranoia because they are ways to secretly keep an eye out for potential suspicious activity. Sometimes, an ambiguous post can easily fuel insecurity. “Suddenly a story is construed in your imagination, which then affects how you feel about yourself, your significant other, and the state of your relationship,” Dr. Amsellem says. Rather than stalking your partner’s social media platforms and inventing scenarios, ask him who the person is that is commenting of his posts directly.
Be in the moment and notice what is happening, both emotionally and physically; this may help reduce self-sabotaging behavior, says Allison Abrams, LCSW-R, a licensed psychotherapist based in New York City. “What are the thoughts that are triggering these emotions? These sensations can also serve as signals for whenever something like this happens, giving you the opportunity to reconsider acting on instinct. Without mindfulness (awareness of what is happening in the present moment) this opportunity will be lost,” she says. A prerequisite for changing any behavior is awareness of that behavior, Abrams says. “Behavior such as paranoia in relationships can be best understood through attachment theory. Knowing your attachment style and working with it, rather than allowing it to work on you, is a way to counter acting on self-destructive behaviors.”
Learn to open your heart and trust
Barb Schmidt, a Boca Raton Florida-based, mindfulness teacher and author of The Practice: Simple Tools for Managing Stress, Finding Inner Peace, and Uncovering Happiness, says a strong sense of love for one’s self is key in being able to trust others who love us. “If someone is insecure in their own self-love, then this insecurity will carry over into their other relationships,” she says. “This self-love isn’t about being narcissistic or self-centered, but about having a healthy love for yourself. One tip for learning to love yourself more is to silently repeat a positive word or phrase (such as a mantra) when you are having negative, self-sabotaging thoughts.”