Doubt thou the stars are fire, Doubt that the sun doth move. Doubt that truth be a liar, But never I doubt love. – William Shakespeare
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a frustrating and fatiguing disorder that affects individuals and family members. The hallmark of OCD is intrusive thoughts (obsessions) and safety behaviors (compulsions/rituals) performed to alleviate the distress caused by obsessions. Typical obsessions are about fears of contamination, disturbing thoughts/images, immoral or blasphemous thoughts, and fear that harm will come to a loved one. Some individuals obsess about whether they love someone or if their loved one loves them. Relationship OCD (R-OCD) is a relatively unknown form of OCD that causes distress for individuals, couples, and families.
People often define their self-worth through relationships. Intimate relationships provide a sense of security. Given the importance of relationships, it is no wonder that the focus of the obsession is about significant relationships. There are two types of R-OCD. The first, when a person doubts his/her love for a partner. The other, when an individual questions the partner’s level of commitment to the relationship.
Almost everyone has strange or bizarre thoughts, but those thoughts don’t last long and are infrequent. Similarly, people question their relationships, but these doubts don’t last long. In some situations, the doubts are real and may signal the end of an unhappy relationship. The person with R-OCD has persistent, intrusive doubts about their relationship; worrying whether his/her partner or if his/her commitment to the relationship. These intrusive thoughts persist even when there is evidence that the relationship is healthy.
People with R-OCD have an expectation they should always feel content in their relationships. They will seek proof their relationships are secure. Individuals will make lists of pros & cons about their relationships, compare their partner to others to measure their love, confess their doubts to their partner, seek evidence their partner is unfaithful in addition to other safety behaviors. These practices can cause distress for the person experiencing the doubt and destructive to the relationship.
A partner’s or family member’s involvement in a loved one’s OCD treatment is critical to the success of therapy (especially pediatric OCD treatment.) As a trained couple’s therapist, I have worked with couples struggling with OCD and anxiety. When treating R-OCD, it is vital both partners be involved in treatment. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and couples therapy are effective in treating anxiety and OCD, especially R-OCD. R-OCD can adversely affect relationship’s, but treatment can help you reclaim your relationship. If you believe you have relationship OCD, please contact me if you have questions or need more info.
Michael Manchester is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor practicing in Central Florida. His practice is located in downtown Orlando. Mike specializes in the treatment of OCD and Anxiety Disorders. He is a member of the International Obsessive Compulsive Disorder Foundation, Diplomate of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy and Certified Cognitive Therapist. He works with adults and adolescents in addition to friends families of people struggling with OCD and anxiety disorders.