Relationship Obsession (R-OCD)

Relationships are an important and essential part of our human experience. Forming and sustaining intimate relationships is valuable in our society and can cause major stress for OCD sufferers and non-sufferers alike. When OCD is present and demanding certainty within your relationship, it creates additional stressors that can increase relationship discord and decrease your relationship satisfaction. Relationship Obsessions (R-OCD) can present themselves in several forms:

  • R-OCD is when you obsess over whether or not you love your partner and whether this is the “right” relationship. R-OCD can also include frequent comparative analysis in which you obsess over the physical, social, and/or personality attributes of your partner as a means of determining if they are “the right one.”
  • Obsessive jealousy is another form of distressing OCD in relationships. This is when you obsess over the idea that your partner may leave you, cheat, or be attracted to others.

Below, we’ll look at a brief synopsis of how these relationship obsessions may present themselves. After that, we’ll look at what treatment could look like for managing these obsessions.

R-OCD

If suffering from R-OCD, you may be consumed by thoughts like “How can I be sure I love my partner?” or “What if this is not the right relationship for me?” You may also have obsessions that focus on your partner’s attributes, such as “Is he attractive enough?” or “Is he smart enough?” In an attempt to manage the distress associated with these thoughts, you may find yourself engaging in very specific rituals. For instance, constantly comparing your relationship to that of others, frequently seeking others’ input on your relationship, or trying to recall positive memories in order to feel “certain” you are with the right person.

Goal of Treatment

While you might think the goal of treatment is helping you determine whether you love your partner, this isn’t true. The goal of treatment is to help you live with the uncertainty that your OCD is saying you cannot handle.

Treatment will involve the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), one therapeutic modality. Furthermore, this will primarily include using Exposure/Response Prevention and Imaginal Exposure. Once you have achieved symptom reduction through this process, you will be better able to make relationship decisions based on in-the-moment experiences rather than fear-based decision making guided by your R-OCD.

Obsessive Jealousy

If you suffer from obsessive jealousy, you may be consumed with trying to gain certainty that your partner is faithful. You may find yourself engaging in multiple rituals to “check” your partner’s faithfulness. These rituals may include constant questioning of his/her whereabouts, going through his/her personal property, or even following him/her. You may also find yourself trying to limit/restrict your partner’s behavior, doing things like telling him/her where they can or cannot go, and dictating how often they need to be in contact with you.

Goal of Treatment

The goal of treatment is to help you accept and live with the uncertainty that is inherent in romantic relationships. No one can know for sure what behaviors our partners may or may not engage in. The only thing any of us can do is look at the information in front of us. Also, we can assume that our partners are with us because they want to be. If we find evidence indicating that we cannot trust our partner, we deal with this as it arises. We do not go looking for such evidence.

Treatment Options for R-OCD

The specifics of your treatment will be tailored to you. Like treatment for all forms of OCD, it will be centered upon CBT, primarily using exposure and response prevention.

If you suspect that you or someone you care about has R-OCD, please start by getting an evaluation from a qualified OCD specialist. I say a specialist because OCD does not respond well to standard supportive talk therapy.

Start your search for a professional at Iocdf.org or ADAA.org. You can, of course, reach us at www.anxietyocdbala.com or call 610-517-3127 to set up an appointment.

Regards,

Harold Kirby, LCSW, BCD

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