If you’ve ever spent any time on the dating scene, you likely know one thing to be true: Dating and overthinking go hand-in-hand. An unanswered text can lead to obsessively refreshing Instagram in an effort to figure out if your partner is ignoring you or just busy, and an offhand comment about an ex can spark an investigative mission to figure out just how “over” their ex your date really is.
The problem with this annoying (if not extremely normal) pattern? Overthinking doesn’t get you anywhere, and the anxiety that accompanies dating often puts us out of touch with our intuition, making us less cognizant of what’s actually going on in a fledgling relationship. Even worse, it takes a lot of the fun out of dating.
In an effort to bring you back down from your spiral, we consulted relationship expert Monica Parikh, founder of School of Love NYC, to find out which dating scenarios you’re most likely to be overthinking. Here’s what she had to say.
1. If you don’t hear from someone after a first date…
Picture this: You go on a great first date with someone. The conversation is flowing, you’re both laughing all night long, and by the end of the night, you’ve already started picturing where things with this person could go. Then… radio silence.
Of course, if you’re waiting for your date to make the first move contact-wise, that’s a little silly — if you’re interested, let them know you want to see them again. But if they’re not receptive when you express this, Parikh says it probably does indicate a real problem.
“Typically, your date should show an interest in seeing you again during the date or very soon after,” she says. “No need to investigate! The world is abundant, so when one door closes another will open. Onwards and upwards!”
2. If someone doesn’t text you back right away…
First and foremost, people do get busy. And if you’re, you know, employed, you probably shouldn’t be on your phone all day. “No one should have the time to stare at their phone waiting for an incoming text,” says Parikh. “My advice? Turn off the phone for portions of the day, or leave it at home.”
In other words, if your date has a healthy relationship with their technology, it may not be a red flag at all if you don’t get a text within a few minutes, or even a few hours. But if your date is waiting days to answer you or neglecting to answer your texts but posting to their Stories, you may have a real problem on your hands.
“You always want to be in relationships with people who value your time and energy,” says Parikh. “Responsiveness indicates respect. Having worked as a lawyer for 20 years and now as a small business owner, I can attest that I am a busy professional — but I make the people in my inner circle a priority,” she says. “You should receive a reply to your texts within several hours (barring extenuating circumstances) or, at the most, 12 hours.”
3. If someone keeps talking about their ex…
This is a tough one. It could be harmless small talk, but it could also indicate a larger problem. According to Parikh, the very best thing you can do is ask. “In matters of the heart, confidence is extremely attractive,” she says. “You’re putting your time, energy, and emotions on the line, so make the best choice for yourself.”
Parikh suggests saying something like, “I feel confused. You keep mentioning your ex. Do you still have feelings for them? Because I wouldn’t want to risk developing feelings for you if you’re emotionally unavailable.”
If that language doesn’t work for you, you could always soften it. But whatever the case, asking is crucial to stopping any overthinking patterns related to your new partner’s ex.
4. If someone says they’re sick when you’re supposed to go on a date…
No, you probably shouldn’t drive by their house and peek in their window to see if they’re actually in bed with a box of tissues. Thinking your date is faking sick is definitely overthinking at its worst. “You should always give someone 100% trust, unless (or until) they give you reason to doubt their ability to be truthful.”
5. If someone says they want to “slow things down…”
This can be hard to hear, and a tendency to overthink can make it easy to believe that “slow things down” is code for “it’s over.” But according to Parikh, that’s an unfair assumption. “You should be able to have an honest conversation and not jump to conclusions,” she says. “Ask what that means. What are your partner’s reasons? The healthiest relationships are built quite slowly and over time. Friendships actually make the strongest foundation for a loving romance. Love should never be rushed!”
Overthinking is common in dating, but rest assured: Just because you’re obsessively focused on the worst case scenario doesn’t mean that’s actually what’s happening. So get clear on each of these what-ifs, and work on enjoying yourself.