What to Expect when Dating Someone With OCD
One of the most important things to remember if you’re involved with someone with OCD is that their habits, routines, and ways of doing things may seem very different to you. You might view some of their actions and obsessive tendencies as being excessive, unnecessary, or repetitive.
However, realizing that their obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors are typically beyond their control can help you come to terms with, and be accepting of, their condition.
“Some of the most common challenges couples face are:
- lack of trust (checking their partner’s phone or email);
- excessive habits or routines (double checking if they have their cell phone);
- repeating actions or phrases that may not make sense to you (rubbing their elbow or saying an affirmation three times)
“Patience, psychoeducation, good communication, and understanding are four main ways to address them to maintain a healthy relationship.”
Talkspace therapist Cynthia Catchings, LCSW-C, LCSW-S
You should be aware of — and even expect — any or all of the following symptoms if you’re dealing with OCD in a relationship:
Behavioral compulsions are common with OCD. This could look like excessive hand washing, repetitive tapping, or excessively cleaning.
How to help: Figure out what some of their behavioral compulsions look like. Once you’re aware of them, you can learn how to navigate times that you see your partner begin to engage. Sometimes it can help if you know what to expect. It’s important to not reinforce those compulsive behaviors.
Unlike behavioral compulsions, mental compulsions aren’t necessarily physical acts. Rather, they can be seen when somebody with OCD silently counts, overanalyzes different scenarios or situations, or repetitively says things (like a prayer) to convince themselves nothing bad will happen.
How to help:
- Remain calm.
- Try not to judge or shame your partner for what they think or feel.
- Remember that even if their thoughts seem unrealistic to you, they’re very real to your loved one.
Sometimes people with OCD fear the stress of an intimate relationship. All of us fear rejection on some level. It can stem from past failed relationships, body issues, or fear about the loss of our identity, among other things. Those with OCD often have some of the same fears, but they may be significantly amplified.
How to help:
- Be patient and understanding.
- Remember that for those who have OCD, their thoughts are sometimes uncontrollable.
- Talk to your partner.
- Getting OCD therapy may help if either of you still struggles.
Challenges with sex
Sex can always be complicated in relationships. When one partner has OCD, it can be even more so because of the relationship between mental health and sex. Try to remain aware of the fact that OCD may interfere with sexual intimacy and functioning.
This can be due to certain medications, a low sex drive, difficulty becoming aroused, fear of sex, or in extreme cases, varying levels of disgust about sex. The latter can be particularly common when someone with OCD has contamination obsessions (fear of germs or bodily secretions).
How to help: Again, patience is going to be key here. Sex-related issues can be tough in any relationship. When someone has OCD, it can become more complicated. Keep the lines of communication open and be sure to work on building trust. Treatment, including therapy, psychotherapeutics, or pharmaceuticals may be very helpful in establishing a healthy sexual component to your relationship.
OCD and anxiety go hand-in-hand. If you’re dating someone with OCD, just knowing that their emotions can swing and their anxiety can go up and down might mean you won’t be as caught off guard if they begin to feel anxious. By understanding this you might even be able to help them during intrusive experiences and stressful situations.
How to help: Never assume or suggest that your partner isn’t trying hard enough. Do not blame them for their anxiety.
If you’re experiencing any of these or other challenges in a relationship with somebody who has OCD, be sure to get the help you need too. In-person or online therapy can be very beneficial and drastically increase the chance of your relationship surviving.