OCD and Spouses

by lekkyjustdoit freedigitalphotos.net

by lekkyjustdoit freedigitalphotos.net

For better or for worse………in sickness and in health.

If you or your spouse has OCD, the disorder affects both of you.

For the person with OCD, issues might include feeling as if your spouse doesn’t care enough and/or support you enough. Perhaps he or she gets easily frustrated with you, and doesn’t even begin to understand how tormented you are and why your lives (and possibly the lives of your children) have been turned upside down because of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

For the spouse of someone with OCD, maybe you feel as if your husband or wife is being selfish, following OCD’s demands with no regard for you or your children. Perhaps you feel your spouse isn’t trying hard enough to get well, and you resent him or her not only for all the slack you’ve had to pick up around the house, but also for allowing OCD to steal whatever joy you still have in your lives.

You are both emotionally and physically exhausted.

To make matters worse, couples who deal with OCD might feel isolated, as  it’s not the easiest subject in the world to talk about with others. If you do reach out for help, either individually or as a couple, well-meaning friends and relatives might take sides or offer bad advice. OCD is tough to understand – you feel alone.

But you’re not alone. You have each other. Remember? For better or for worse.

From what I’ve seen, couples who have thrived despite OCD see themselves as a team. They work together against OCD, not against each other. What this means is that if you’re the one with OCD, you need to commit to getting proper treatment, which includes exposure and response prevention (ERP) therapy. Part of that treatment is accepting the fact that your spouse (and your children) will no longer accommodate or enable your OCD.

If you are the spouse of someone with OCD, you need to learn everything you can about obsessive-compulsive disorder, and even occasionally accompany your partner to his or her therapy appointments, if appropriate. Also, it’s very important to learn the correct ways to respond to your spouse when he or she is dealing with OCD. We want to naturally reassure and comfort our loved ones, but that’s the opposite of what we should be doing!

I know I’m making it sound easy, yet the truth is OCD is messy. Progress is rarely linear, and there will be many ups and downs. Still, it is possible to overcome OCD. Open communication and honesty are important for couples in general, but even more so when dealing with OCD, as it’s not uncommon for misunderstandings to arise. Cognitive distortions often come into play, and OCD will twist and turn things around every chance it gets.

Maybe the best thing you can do is remember why you married each other in the first place. Those people might be buried, but they still exist. While OCD has likely caused some damage, relationships can be repaired as you move toward recovery. In fact, once OCD is defeated, couples might find their marriage has become stronger than ever.






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10 Responses to OCD and Spouses

  1. This same article could be written for parents and children. I’m especially thinking of the relationship that develops when adult children who live at home have OCD. Like you say, Janet, it’s not easy and it’s messy, but it certainly is possible! Thank you for a great post!

  2. Melanie says:

    The part about OCD being messy and progress being non-linear are such good reminders, for everyone involved in the journey of recovery.

    • I agree Melanie. When my son was dealing with severe OCD, I first expected him to progress daily until he was “all better.” That was a learning experience for me to say the least! I think just realizing that progress is often “three steps forward, two steps backward” can be helpful as our expectations become more realistic. Thanks for commenting!

  3. tracy296 says:

    My husband has been amazing throughout our 20 years of marriage. I’m the one with OCD. I thank God daily for the amazing man I married. We’ve had our ups and downs with the OCD – times where I was unreasonable and he reassured because it seemed easier at the time, lather, rise, repeat. When this man said “in sickness and in health” he meant it – and that means the world to me. I cannot praise him enough for his support.

  4. 71 & Sunny says:

    Oh there is so much truth here, Janet! My husband has been a huge support to me and I’m so grateful. But wow, OCD has been brutal to both of us over the years. I can honestly say, though, that our marriage is stronger than ever, I think, in large part to the fact that we have approached my illness as a team effort. Just like we did when I almost lost him to a severe flare of Crohn’s Disease. Thanks for sharing this really important advice.

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