Alexa, 23 has a set of rules her boyfriend has to follow should he decide to enter her rented room. No stepping on the bathroom mat or the bed until after he’s had a shower first and no wearing outdoor clothes while on her bed. Does this get hard for him?
“It makes me feel annoyed sometimes but I can see where it’s coming from so I try to understand. But occasionally when we’re both stressed, tempers flare because of the inconvenience of her routines.”
Alexa is one of many who suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and in her case, is lucky her partner is one of the more understanding ones. She has had a relationship break down before over the condition and her ex’s refusal to accept her routines and even blaming her routines for his tantrums despite her reducing them to the confines of her own room.
“I’ve tried forcing myself to not do them, the routines and cleanliness issue when he’s around but it’s like a nagging itch at the back of my head and the moment he leaves, I automatically go into a cleaning frenzy and end up feeling frazzled that he came over although it was a sweet gesture. Often enough I wash my hands till they crack and bleed.”
Seemingly harmless things become triggers for sufferers of OCD and people often misunderstand the condition and say ‘You should just get over it’. Just as one cannot simply get over cancer or a common cold without treatment, the same applies for OCD. However in the process, their partners could simply give up and walk away, adding to the existing stress of having the condition. So what can you do if you want to hang on to the relationship but also don’t want to get driven away by the ‘inconveniences’ as Alexa’s partner put it?
Try to see things from your partner’s view
– People with OCD don’t do the compulsions because they actually want to, but out of fear of the resulting consequences if they don’t. Try to understand and empathize with them but don’t give in to helping them in their routines, instead try to wean them off.
Help break the pattern of OCD
– If you’re often roped into your partner’s routines, gently remind them that the OCD is causing them to do something that is unnecessary and that it is not their fault they feel anxious about it.
Objectify the OCD, not your partner
– OCD may turn your partner into someone else but remember that underneath the anxieties and routines, it’s still the person you fell in love with. You’ve just got to see past it. Don’t link your partner to their OCD habits and blame them for everything that goes wrong. By doing so, you’re not only pushing away your partner when they need you most, you’re objectifying them by linking their personality to their disorder.
– Being there for your partner just like for every other illness is important. Stress is a main reason for increased OCD symptoms and can aggravate it. Being supportive takes away some of the stress and lets your partner know you’re not shunning them for something they have no control over.
Don’t criticize, use praise
– Remember that everyone gets better at different rates and instead of criticizing your partner for the crawling pace at which they’re reducing their symptoms, try praising them and recognizing their small improvements. Positive reinforcement works wonders by encouraging them to keep fighting the OCD’s pattern.
For more information on how to deal with a partner with OCD, please visit: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/culturally-speaking/201303/help-i-m-married-ocd
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