Let’s talk about how OCD affects relationships.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) impacts millions of Americans through its debilitating blend of intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors (compulsions). These patterns interrupt their daily lives and limit their ability to function. But the disorder affects far more than the persons who have been diagnosed with it.
If you are struggling with OCD, your condition has an effect on the people in your life. This can be anyone (friends, family members, co-workers, etc.). But the most significant impact is usually on romantic partners. So much so, that many people with OCD avoid dating and intimacy in the name of lessening anxiety for everyone involved. Let’s take a closer look.
3 Common Ways OCD Affects Relationships
1. Seeking Reassurance
There will always be a certain amount of reassurance going on in any relationship. If you have OCD, things can escalate greatly. You may find yourself asking over and over:
- Do you love me?
- Did I do a good job?
- Are you happy in this relationship?
- Am I frustrating you?
The list goes on and can put the non-OCD partner in a challenging spot. They are often driven to take on extra emotional responsibility. It becomes their role to protect their partner from feeling bad but this is not something they can “fix.”
2. Division of Responsibilities
Everyday tasks, chores, and situations can feel daunting for anyone with OCD. What most people take for granted appears like imposing obstacles when struggling with obsessions and compulsions. Thus, they avoid many “normal” activities but feel guilty.
Meanwhile, their partner has to pick up the slack. The lion’s share of domestic chores, for example, may have to be taken on. Once again, resentment and frustration build. For the partner with OCD, this is matched by ever-increasing shame and guilt.
3. Relationship OCD (R-OCD)
This is a subset of OCD. It can be the primary disorder or it can be an offshoot of the original OCD. In R-OCD, the obsessions and compulsions revolve specifically around anything to do with your relationship. You can become fixated on unanswerable questions that involve some measure of doubt.
R-OCD can cause relationship strife in many ways but a common scenario has to do with an avoidance of intimacy because the affected partner struggles with:
- Low libido
- Sexual dysfunction
- Fear of sex
- Doubt about whether they are desirable or if they find their partner attractive
All of the above may leave the non-OCD partner experiencing feelings of rejection and loneliness.
Can You Manage a Relationship When OCD Is Present?
The short answer is yes. But this is a team effort and it helps immensely if you have a therapist on your team with you. Some elements that can help the situation include:
- Acceptance: The existence of OCD and the role it plays must be identified, accepted, and addressed without judgment or shame.
- Discernment: If your partner has OCD, you must never forget that they do not want to alienate, frustrate, or upset you. There is a difference between the symptoms and the person.
- Do Not Enable: It’s tempting to participate in obsessions and compulsions but what is needed is to have these realities treated.
- The Basics: You both will need heaping doses of patience, support, and healthy communication. This is best developed in the presence of an experienced mental health guide.
Therapy is not just for the person with OCD. Both partners will need plenty of support and a safe space to heal. There are no quick fixes but there are proven approaches that can dramatically improve the quality of life of both partners. If OCD is impacting your life and relationship, it is essential that you reach out and ask for the help you need and deserve through anxiety therapy.