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Over-Analyzing Versus Fully Inhabiting Your Intimate Relationship
by Rachel G. Baldino, MSW, LCSW for

"The unexamined life is not worth living," Socrates famously said. But when it comes to your love life, there are times when even a good thing like examining and analyzing the overall health of your relationship can actually be taken to an unhealthy extreme.

For a good example of relationship over-analysis, watch an old Woody Allen movie from the 1970s, such as Annie Hall. Take note of how the characters are constantly analyzing every facet of their intimate relationships, dissecting all the minutiae of their love lives until they have nearly drained all the romance, joy, spontaneity, and mystery out of their relationships.

A wise person I know once said, "If two partners are spending every minute of the day discussing and analyzing the quality of their relationship, then they're probably not spending enough time actually living in their relationships and enjoying one another, and not even the best of relationships can survive such relentless scrutiny."

Spend less time analyzing and arguing, and more time enjoying your relationship.

People Don't Like To Feel Scrutinized

One danger of relationship over-analysis is that if one person feels as if every move he makes is being excessively scrutinized by his partner, he may start feeling defensive, paranoid, and possibly even angry and resentful.

No one wants to feel like a specimen under a microscope. It's unfair to place too much importance on a single throwaway statement or action by your partner.

After all, we are all only human, which means that we sometimes say things that we later regret, so we must not judge each other -- or ourselves -- too harshly for every small infraction. In fact, a generous dose of forgiveness and understanding must be incorporated into any healthy, lasting intimate relationship.

If your partner is a generally kind and caring person, who only occasionally says something thoughtless, try not to focus too much of your time and energy on these rare insensitive remarks.

Are You An Analyst of-or An Active Participant in-Your Relationship?

If you over-think your relationship, you run the risk of becoming more of an observer of than a participant in your own love life.

And when people shift from the role of participant to observer in their own intimate relationships, what they are actually doing is putting up their guard, or falling back on a common psychological defense mechanism known as intellectualization, for the purpose of shielding themselves from feeling emotionally exposed and vulnerable in the context of their relationships.

A moderate amount of relationship analysis is fine, and even healthy, but it is also important to be fully engaged in your love life, that is, to be a deeply involved, active participant, instead of a clinical observer watching from a distance.

Two Major Exceptions To This Rule

On the other hand, there are exceptions to every rule, and if your partner exhibits an overall pattern of negative behavior-as opposed to rare little flashes of negative behavior here and there-then you actually do need to take a closer look at the relationship.

On a related note, if your relationship was once tender, affectionate, and highly communicative, but has recently become cold and distant, then this would be another case in which you would need to seriously analyze exactly what is going on. Under such circumstances, sometimes a professional therapist who specializes in couples counseling can be helpful.

Take Action Now!

When I suggest that you consider fully inhabiting your relationship, I'm urging you to consider a more living-in-the-moment approach to your love life. For instance, if you want to be more "in the moment" with your significant other by giving him a soothing foot rub or back massage, then allow yourself to focus exclusively on that activity, nothing more and nothing less. Shut out your worries and light some candles to set a romantic mood.

Giving a massage is a great way to 'be in the moment' with your partner.

Take some full, deep breaths, first inhaling through your nose for a count of eight, and then exhaling through your mouth for a count of eight. Deep breathing can relax you, enabling you to concentrate better on the task at hand. Then, focus all of your attention and energy on your partner. If you have lit candles, enjoy the sight of the small, flickering flames, and if the candles are scented, breathe in their sweet fragrance.

Soak in every aspect of the romantic atmosphere you have so lovingly created, and allow all of your senses to fully absorb the entire scene: the candlelight, the fragrant scent in the air, the soft, warm feel of your partner's skin beneath your fingertips.

Allow yourself to bask in the warmth and beauty of exactly what is happening in this particular moment. Say a few tender words of love and appreciation, and then listen attentively to your partner's reply.

If your mind wanders, gently redirect your full attention to your senses: the feel of your partner's skin, the beauty of the candlelight, the delicate scent wafting from the candles. Staying acutely aware of your senses is a highly effective way to stay in the moment. Concentrate on exactly how good it feels to be in love with this particular person at this particular moment in time.

When you celebrate your love like this, you are actively and mindfully cherishing your partner, and this is at the heart of living in the moment with the person you love.

This contribution by Rachel D. Baldino reprinted with permission from New Living magazine.

About the Author contributing editor Rachel G. Baldino, MSW, LCSW, is the author of the e-book, Loving Simply: Eliminating Drama from Your Intimate Relationships, published in 2006 by, and the print book, Welcome to Methadonia: A Social Worker's Candid Account of Life in a Methadone Clinic, published in 2000 by White Hat Communications.

Her articles have appeared in Social Work Today, The New Social Worker, New Living Magazine, and other publications. After earning her MSW from the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work in1997, she provided counseling services, first at a methadone clinic, and later at an outpatient mental health treatment facility.

Ms. Baldino has been quoted about managing anger in relationships in Kathy Svitil's 2006 book, Calming The Anger Storm, which is part of the Psychology Today Here To Help series. She has also been quoted in such magazines, newspapers and online publications as For Me Magazine, Conceive Magazine, The San Francisco Bay Guardian, The Albany Times Union, The Tallahassee Democrat, Bay State Parent Magazine,,,, The Newhouse News Service, and Indianapolis Woman. She lives with her husband and children in Massachusetts.

Recommended Reading

How to Make All Your Relationships Work

The Top Five Things Couples Argue About


New Living Magazine

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