Having doubts about your relationship is normal at least once in a while. You are not going to be on cloud nine 100% of the time. Being consumed with the doubts at all time is the problem and this is what is called Relationship OCD (ROCD). As time progresses relationships evolve and people change. You get to see the real person instead of the ‘ideal’ person portrayed in the dating period. This makes the relationship less superficial as you learn to accept each other with flaws and imperfections.
However, with Relationship Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, it becomes difficult to enjoy the not so perfect relationship as you are obsessed with how not perfect the relationship is. Being in a relationship calls one to become intimate hence you show your vulnerabilities at some point. So it perfectly makes sense when a relationship becomes a source of anxiety as it involves exposing so much of yourself. With ROCD, one constantly has intrusive, unwanted, and upsetting doubts with regards to their partners.
Types of Relationship OCD
- Type 1 ROCD- Relationship-Centered Obsessive Compulsive Symptom
Whenever you get consumed with worry on how right is the relationship. Your concern is based on the main relationship dimensions. You have an obsession with whether your feelings are true, if your partner is looking for something better, or are you really happy in this relationship?
- Type 2 ROCD- Partner-Focused Obsessive Compulsive Symptom
One is preoccupied on the partners perceived or real flaws. These comprise of; the physical appearance, sociability, morality and faithfulness, emotional stability, intelligence, and competence.
It is quite common for one to have both as they can feed off each other.
Symptoms of ROCD
- Obsessive questioning: One gets so bothered with the little stuff that you end up questioning if the relationship is right in the first place.
- Being on a constant search for the ideal/perfect love, therefore, failing to enjoy and appreciate the love you are currently experiencing.
- Constant research: Always looking for articles and books to read on what a perfect relationship should look like.
- Compulsively seeking for passion: One is so desperate to find passion with their partner that is so upsetting when it doesn’t happen especially during sexual intimacy.
- Making comparisons: Comparing your relationship with everyone else’s around you.
- Formulating rules that your partner should always follow to the T, and when that isn’t the case you think the relationship is a waste of time.
- Avoidance: This can be avoiding some forms of intimacy or avoiding to go places you think your partner might get to meet someone perfect. If one is not careful, this can create a rollercoaster of events that lead to bad breakups.
Managing Relationship OCD
There are ways to ease some anxiety that come from ROCD. You should always remember:
- Everyone has flaws and no relationship is perfect. Accepting each other for who we are imperfections and all is what makes a relationship.
- Love is a choice you make so you can either build it or destroy it.
- Attraction and arousal are not always going to be present at all times in your relationship. Be realistic enough to accept that and avoid being so depressed when it happens.
- Making comparisons is never accurate. In this social media age, it is so easy to compare ourselves with the posted picture perfect couple without actually seeing the whole picture.
- You don’t get 100% certainty that your partner is the right person for you. Enjoy and appreciate what you have. If the person makes you happy, you have similar goals and values, you are attracted to them, let that give you a reason to be grateful.
Treatment of ROCD
It is a mental disorder and like many of them, you can lessen the effects of ROCD by making several lifestyle changes. Once diagnosed, therapists or doctors educate you on what it is and how it affects your relationships. Then together you start working on a cognitive restructuring of your thoughts to develop better coping mechanisms.
Your support system is important so that you can walk with someone you trust so they can hold you accountable every step of the way.
Relationship OCD Therapy
Specially trained ROCD therapists have been a great help when it comes to the treatment. There are several therapies that have been used to treat relationship OCD.
- Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
It is a treatment focused on an individual’s thoughts and reaction to those thoughts. It teaches you how to react to your thoughts in a rational and healthy way. You get to learn to be less reactive to negative thoughts and to restructure your way of thinking.
- Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy
This treatment exposes a person to a distressing situation in line with their ROCD. You expose yourself to your source of fear over and over again without stopping it. Eventually, your brain gets to learn that the fear is not as threatening as it looks. Yes, it’s real but you get to be more rational about it.
- Relationship counselling
It is difficult to overcome ROCD and counselling will help you rebuild strong relationships, work together to fight ROCD with your partner, facilitate understanding and come up with positive strategies to fight ROCD.
- Mindfulness Training
It is more of meditation and thoughts labelling. One gets to be aware of their thoughts and the constant change in them. You learn the cycles and what perpetuates the obsessions and compulsions. Ultimately, you accept your positive and negative thoughts and learn how to be in control of your reactions to them.