Whether you are just starting in a relationship, ready to take your relationship to the next level or have been together for years, relationship OCD (ROCD) can take hold and make you doubt everything you thought you believed about your future.
Common obsessive thoughts of ROCD
Most people have doubts about their relationship at some time. You might have “cold feet” before making a commitment or getting married. You might have times you wonder if your partner’s feelings are as strong as yours. You might wonder if he or she is “the one.” These feelings are normal but if they begin to become obsessive. You might become preoccupied with thoughts about whether your attraction is strong enough, whether you will remain compatible for the long-term or whether you are making a wrong decision. You might have general thoughts, such as “I don’t know if I love my partner,” or more specific thoughts such as fixating on something you see as negative in your partner’s appearance. Some additional ROCD thoughts include fixating on:
- Whether the relationship will last long-term
- Finding someone else attractive means you are not with the “right” person
- A lack of desire for sex on one or two occasions means you aren’t sexually attracted to your partner
- Enjoying time by yourself or with friends means you don’t enjoy time spent with your partner
- Not enjoying sex or even a kiss on occasion means you aren’t sexually compatible
- Not thinking about your partner throughout the day means you don’t love him or her
ROCD thoughts are generally centered around, “Do I really love this person?” These thoughts can take up hours of your time each day, make you possesively cling to your partner or avoid him altogether.
Common compulsions of ROCD
As with OCD, compulsions in ROCD are used as a way to lower levels of anxiety. Some of the common compulsions include:
Testing your feelings - You might continually test your feelings to see if your love is strong “enough.” This can include having sex to measure your sexual attraction, frequently breaking up to test whether you miss your partner, flirting with others to see if you are more attracted to your partner, constantly talking about your doubts with your partner.
Avoidance - In order to avoid the intrusive thoughts, you might avoid being around or looking at other people so you don’t compare your attraction to them to your attraction to your partner, avoid saying “I love you” because you don’t want to face the question of whether it is true, avoid physical intimacy so you don’t need to question whether you are attracted to your partner.
Needing reassurance - Because you doubt your feelings, not your partner’s you seek reassurance about the relationship. You might continually ask friends and relatives whether they think you are a good couple, whether they think the relationship is strong, whether they think you should get married.
Making comparisons - You might ask others about their relationships in order to compare to see if yours measures up. You might compare your relationships to those you see on television, in books, in the movies or in love songs. You might compare your partner to other people you find attractive.
As with OCD, compulsions can temporarily relieve anxiety but it normally returns and the need for compulsions continues to grow. Eventually, your obsessive thoughts can take over your life and do exactly what you are trying to avoid - ruin your relationship.
ROCD can be difficult to diagnose, especially if you haven’t been diagnosed with OCD in the past or don’t have other signs of OCD in other parts of your life. If you do have ROCD and then break up with your partner, your might see your doubts as being validated. Because people in relationships can often have doubts, it can be difficult to know whether your thoughts are normal or a part of OCD behaviors.
If you are experiencing some of the obsessive thoughts outlined here, you might find it helpful to consult with a therapist who is familiar with OCD and ROCD.
For more information:
Relationship OCD: International OCD Foundation
ROCD: Relationship OCD and the Myth of “The One:” OCD Center of Los Angeles
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.