Living with OCD is undoubtedly challenging, but it can also be tough for the patient’s loved ones. People may downplay this disorder as an endearing quirk, but those closest to an individual with OCD understand that it isn’t just about liking things clean and tidy.
In reality, this mental health condition can become severe, plaguing the patient’s life with persistent unwanted thoughts and repetitive behaviors. If your romantic partner has OCD, you may often question whether you’re supporting them enough and if there are ways you can be a better partner to them.
While there are no perfect solutions, you can take certain steps to create a healthy support system for your partner and ease their path toward recovery.
First and foremost, educating yourself about OCD is the best way you can help your partner. Doing your research will help you understand their experience and behaviors that you might find distressing or confusing.
Initially, most of their compulsions may seem like normal behaviors, such as keeping their space clean or remembering to lock doors. However, while people may feel a sense of joy from these tasks, people with OCD feel completely powerless against their obsessions and compulsions.
They feel they must perform their ritualistic behaviors, or something disastrous may happen.
A wide range of online resources can help you understand your partner’s experience with OCD. You can also encourage them to talk more about their OCD by creating a safe and welcoming environment.
It’s crucial that you act compassionate toward your partner and remember not to blame them for their compulsions. However, the line between compassion and enabling is easily blurred, and enabling can negatively affect your partner’s OCD symptoms.
For example, if your partner has Contamination OCD, you may go out of your way to keep the house perfectly clean. You may also think about hiding knives and sharp objects if your partner has Harm OCD. While these actions are good-hearted, they can accommodate your partner’s fear and intensify their symptoms.
Not only do these actions prevent your partner from adapting to uncertainty and managing their symptoms, but they will also negatively encourage them to pursue their idea of perfection. In reality, achieving an environment that doesn’t trigger OCD symptoms is virtually impossible.
When you find your partner seeking reassurance for their compulsions, you may answer by shifting the conversation away from reassurance, which inevitably enables their obsessions.
Most importantly, you must become part of your partner’s support system. While you may help your partner in whatever way possible, it’s also important to remember that your partner must take the necessary steps to manage their OCD symptoms.
The pressure of needing to “fix” their OCD can become unhealthy and take a toll on you, your partner, and your relationship. Instead, you can accept them as they are, actively listen to their discussions of OCD, and support them while they seek professional help.
You can replace unsolicited advice, ultimatums, or demands with sentiments of comfort, compassion, and support. In addition, you must remember not to be your partner’s only source of help.
You can help them find licensed therapists that may be better at providing insights into managing OCD symptoms and building a support system involving their other friends and family. If your partner is comfortable, you can also be involved in their OCD therapy.
You may feel selfish when you occasionally struggle with dealing with their condition, but it’s entirely normal. However, to ensure that you stay efficient at helping them manage their symptoms and your own peace of mind, practicing healthy boundaries is important.
If you find yourself reaching your limit, you can respectfully change your body language and let your partner know that the situation is too demanding of your energy. Additionally, you can consult a professional to find ways to enforce boundaries respectfully in such a relationship.
If you find that your partner isn’t willing to respect your boundaries, a relationship like that may not be sustainable. You can communicate your discomfort with your partner or walk away, but it doesn’t mean you’re unsupportive. Your mental health is just as important as theirs.
It’s natural to have trouble understanding your partner’s inability to control irrational behavior. However, you may also find yourself projecting onto them your capacity of self-control, which may not be the same as theirs.
This may make them feel as if they’re making poor decisions or not trying hard enough to control their compulsions. Instead of losing patience, it’s important to understand that their symptoms aren’t a choice and approach them with compassion.
Even if their situation feels impossible to understand, you can still play your part by actively listening and supporting them. For example, when you find your partner with OCD is stuck in a loop, you can try to avoid irritation and understand that it will pass.
Don’t Take It Personally
Lastly, you must remember not to take it personally. Certain symptoms manifest in a way that points to you directly, such as your partner’s contamination OCD symptoms, making you feel like your household contributions are undervalued.
Other than that, your partner may have retroactive jealousy OCD triggers associated with sex, so they may avoid physical intimacy. Although this may feel hurtful, it’s important to remember their OCD symptoms have nothing to do with you.
Remembering not to take it personally can help you stay grounded and offer better, unbiased help when it comes to dealing with their symptoms.
There’s no one-size-fits-all formula to predict what your relationship with someone who has OCD will look like. However, paying attention to their symptoms, triggers, and compulsions can help create a healthy environment for your partner and build a much-needed support system.
If your partner isn’t already seeking help, you can guide them toward a therapist specializing in mental health disorders like OCD. Aside from educating yourself about OCD symptoms, CBT, ERP, and other treatments, you can also become involved in their therapy if they are comfortable.