Living with Relationship OCD

What’s Going On?

Relationship OCD, also known as Relationship Substantiation or ROCD, is a subset of OCD in which sufferers are consumed with doubts about their relationship. They question their love for their partner, their attraction to their partner, their compatibility with their partner, and their partner’s love for them.

Having doubts or concerns about your partner is normal. Everyone experiences them. However, for ROCD sufferers, these thoughts can be irrational, unfounded and detrimental to day-to-day life.

Common Relationship OCD obsessions:

  • Fear that you’re not good enough for your partner.
  • Constantly second guessing your love for your partner.
  • Constantly wondering if you’re with the right person.

Common Relationship OCD compulsions:

Obsessive questioning.

You’re preoccupied with very small details that make you question everything about your relationship.

Research.

Constantly reading articles that define what a “successful” relationship looks like.

Comparisons.

Speaking to friends about their relationships and comparing it to yours.  

Endless reflection.

Always questioning and thinking about your partner’s qualities.

Seeking passion.

Becoming upset during moments of sexual intimacy because you’re desperate to find passion with your partner.

Always looking for love.

An endless quest for the “perfect” kind of love. This obsession keeps you from actually experiencing it.

Creating rules for your partner.

When they don’t uphold them, you think the relationship isn’t worth it.


Common misconceptions about Relationship OCD:

  • Relationships don’t evolve over time and should feel passionate 100% of the time.
  • The idea that once you find someone you’re “meant to be” with, you can’t find other people attractive.
  • Getting caught up in the idea of finding “the one.”

From the Community

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How Do I Know it’s OCD?

Everyone gets intrusive thoughts, but having them doesn’t mean you have OCD. For people who do have OCD, these thoughts can be debilitating, causing extreme anxiety and discomfort. No matter how hard you try to get rid of them, they won’t go away. For sufferers of ROCD, there’s a never-ending analysis of yourself and your partner. This ongoing quest to determine if you’re right for one another, gets in the way of having a healthy relationship. Often times, the “flaws” you obsess over are extremely minor and not indicative of larger issues in your relationship.

Having intrusive thoughts does not make you a bad person. They are a misfiring in the brain, not a reflection of your character.

Everyday Examples:

  • You’re married to someone smart, funny, attractive and loveable, yet you can’t help but think that you could have found a better partner.
  • You think your partner has bushy eyebrows. You pinpoint this “flaw” and think that you couldn’t possibly be with someone like this for the rest of your life. You start thinking that it’s time to find someone who has better-looking eyebrows.  
  • You’ve been dating someone for a year and the question of marriage comes up from time to time. Even though your partner is great and you’re happy, you can’t stop wondering if you love him/her enough.

How can my family help with my Relationship OCD?

When family members and friends become aware of your OCD, they’re often tempted to offer reassurance. For example, your sister might tell you that you’re more than good enough for your partner. Unfortunately, enabling you in this way can actually make your OCD worse. Involving your family in therapy can be a good way to help them understand the do’s and don’ts of the disorder, and create a game plan for helping you at home.

Is Recovery Possible for Me?

Yes! But it takes two to tango. Treatment for Relationship OCD almost always involves you and your partner. Remember, patience and transparency are the keys to successful treatment. This subtype of OCD is best treated with Exposure Response Prevention Therapy (ERP). ERP is when you voluntarily expose yourself to the source of your fear over and over and over again, without acting out any compulsion to neutralize or stop the fear. By repeatedly facing something you’re afraid of, you force your brain to recognize how irrational it is.

Examples of ERP treatment:

  • Having an open dialogue with your partner. In therapy, you’ll be asked to reveal your thoughts to your partner. Remember, these thoughts have no legitimacy and it’s critical that your partner understand that in order to move past them.
  • Educating your partner on OCD and ROCD so they can be a better support system for you.
  • Comedic relief, such as joking around during sexual intimacy, may be part of your treatment. Clinical psychologists suggest this to minimize the pressure to seek passion that you put on yourself.

There are other treatment options as well. Mindfulness-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, also known as CBT, teaches people to identify, understand and change negative thinking patterns and behaviors. Patients are taught problem-solving skills during therapy lessons and then instructed to practice them on their own time in order to build positive habits.

Can medication help?

Medication can help alongside ERP, but it shouldn’t replace it. Doctors should always be consulted before considering medicinal options.

The main family of medicines used to treat OCD are known as Serotonin Specific Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs. SSRIs enhance your natural serotonin activity and are used to treat major depressive disorders and anxiety conditions. Examples include Lexapro, Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft.

What is the goal of therapy?

When people recover from ROCD, they’re capable of engaging in the natural complexities of relationships. It means you can take on relationship challenges and no longer feel an immense amount of distress. Although your associations may never permanently go away, treatment will allow you to have healthy, happy relationships with others.

If you suffer from OCD, you have a severe anxiety disorder. But it can be treated. Start by getting educated and making healthy living choices. Then find a clinical psychologist in your area who specializes in OCD and Exposure Response Prevention (ERP).

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