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How to help your partner who has OCD
If you've landed here because you want to know how to help your partner who has OCD then I really hope the information on this page will be able to start you off in the right direction.
Just before we get started, do make sure you read Part 1 of this article first - there you'll find lots of information about OCD and what it really means to have the condition. Gaining a better understanding of the effects of OCD on your partner's life - and your life - will really help you to be able to start tackling the problems head on.
How do you truly feel?
At this stage you may not even be fully aware of how much you're part of the OCD. However, your partner is now not the only one suffering - you are suffering too...
- It seems you can’t have a ‘normal’ life, and it's likely that you'll increasingly come to resent this
- You can’t go out together or your partner 'makes it difficult' for you to go out by yourself
- You feel shown-up and ashamed when other people notice your partner's odd behaviour
- At the same time you may feel guilty, like somehow you're not getting it 'right' and therefore you're adding to the problem
- You may feel increasingly miffed about being controlled by your partner
- You’ve found yourself telling lies about what you have and have not done, just to keep them happy
- You’re losing touch with your friends, your hobbies, your interests and maybe even your sense of self - who you really are
- You often just give in, despite yourself, just to avoid being shouted at - life is easier when you just allow your partner to do whatever it takes to to keep her or him calm and in control
In love with someone with OCD?
You may well be committed to your partner. You love her or him, perhaps you have children, a house and a mortgage. One way or another the two of your are 'in it' together, regardless of whatever problems you encounter. But now you're beginning to feel trapped, because...
... the OCD has become worse over time
... you're done with all the arguing and there's no let up. In fact, arguing causes stress which in return worsens the symptoms
... you feel desperate and alone and the very person you should be able to talk too isn’t available to you
It may even seem like your partner is so absorbed by their own problems that they barely have time for anything that affects and bothers you personally.
On top of that, their suffering may make it all the more difficult to 'complain' about anything yourself. But maybe the OCD is making you toy with thoughts about ending your relationship and leaving your partner.
There's more to your relationship than the OCD
4 Steps to taking control - together you can beat OCD
Step 1 - Replace judgment with empathy
To beat OCD it's first of all really important to get a real insight into what it's like to suffer from OCD. So, suspend your irritation and judgement and walk that imaginary mile in your partner's shoes.
10 Reasons why suffering from OCD can be a living hell
Your partner lives and - even if it doesn't look like it - tries to deal with...
- ever-increasing anxiety about their own and their loved-ones' well-being
- knowing they’re having a negative impact on other people’s lives
- feeling powerless and completely unable to prevent the pain of their loved ones, even when they realise that the impact on their loved ones is nothing short of catastrophic
- feeling at the same time let down by 'insensitive' friends and family, who have no idea what it's like to have these obsessions
- feeling guilty and ashamed, living to a large extent a secret life
- feeling a like freak, mad, stupid, frightened and alone, living in fear of losing their sanity, but powerless to do anything about it
- feeling totally out of control, scared about their future and even suicidal once the problem has really taken hold
- feeling hopeless at the though of having another treatment 'fail' - if they have had any at all
- longing for a chance to feel 'normal' and 'themselves' again, although they may have no idea who they really are
- not seeing a future for themselves, as new situations and new routines only cause an enormous amount of anxiety. The very thought of a change causes anticipatory anxiety which in turn notches up the ritualistic behaviour
It's pretty horrendous, isn't it? But, it's not your fault, you cannot control it and you cannot cure it!
You can make it worse though by losing control of your anger and being abusive (See links below).
Step 2 - Hold on to hope!
OCD can be treated (notice I'm deliberately separating the problem from the person!), though expecting a complete cure may be unrealistic. However, with treatment it can become a very 'manageable' condition.
Here is what is available:
- Suggested treatments often focus on transforming behaviour, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). I don't like that personally - it can mean focus too much on the problem and not enough on the person. However, it may be all that is available where you are.
- It is also very important to consider your diet. What you eat, and don't eat, affects your physical well-being, which I'm sure you're well-aware off. But, did you know that it also affects your mental well-being? Did you know how important the health of your gut is to your mind/body? You might, for example, want to research the role of gluten. Could your partner be sensitive/allergic to gluten?
- No doubt your partner has been offered medication. I want you to be quite clear that long-term medication (See Dr Kelly Brogan's website) only leads to further problems!
- Yoga and meditation have been shown to be very effective
With the right kind of help your partner/spouse and you can live normal lives again. Be aware though that you'll both have different ideas of what 'normal' is - just like every single one of us!
Step 3 - Do what really helps you both
10 Pieces of advice to beat the OCD together
- You, more than anyone else perhaps, know your partner's best qualities, the reasons you fell in love with her/him. You (hopefully) know what they would most like to accomplish, what they're capable of and what their strengths are. Herein lies your most important task: Focus and comment on those - every day. Love them and celebrate them. They are what makes your partner unique.
- Separate the OCD from the person: your partner isn’t the problem - the the problem is.
- Challenge - very gently but firmly - any lies without emphasising them. Just state what you've noticed about a particular event/behaviour and move on.
- Have OCD-free zones, like meals or times, etc. Set times when there's to be no talking about the condition at all. Be sure to focus on happy, positive events, plans and memories instead.
- Do all you can to encourage them to access help, or re-acces therapy or counselling from an expert in the condition.
- Ensure you are meeting your own emotional needs in balance (See links below)
- Be sure that you do spend time on things you love doing - within reason of course. Pick up that forgotten interest again, meet with your friends, or even just go for a walk
- Take my relationship test to find out what does work really well in your relationship and what aspects need some work - just like ‘normal’ couples would. You'll also find out if there really isn’t much hope of rebuilding your relationship and if it would be fairer to step out, rather than it becoming abusive because of your irritation and anger with your partner due to their mental health problem.
- Remind yourself frequently that your partner goes into obsessive ‘trance’ states (see links below), which in itself is a very natural occurrence. You, me and everyone else go in out and out of a trance all throughout the day.
- Start making changes today with the support of a mental health counsellor. Talk to an online expert right now.
Step 4 - What not to do
It is really important that you don't become an 'enabler' - meaning you co-create conditions in which the disorder can take hold and become worse:
6 Ways to avoid becoming an 'enabler'
- Don’t allow the 'secrets' to go unnoticed.
- Don't accept diversions and lies.
- Do not allow yourself to get drawn into any of the rituals. Don't make a big deal out of it - just very gently put your foot down without any further explanations or accusations.
- Don't lose your rag. Stay calm under any circumstance! I know that may be really hard at times though.
- Don’t talk in terms of "good days" or "bad days". Every day is a good day, it's just that the OCD rears its head more on some days than others. That doesn't mean that it can't be a happy day for a whole host of other reasons.
- Don't allow lengthy explanations and conversations about OCD. Instead, gently change the subject (remember my comments in the previous section!). There's no need to keep repeating yourself - it only gives your partner yet another opportunity to 'indulge' themselves in their 'favourite' subject: their experience of the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
I so hope all of the tips and advice in this article will help both you and your partner get your life together back on track, without the OCD derailing you at every opportunity - I promise you, it can be done!
Your Essential Emotional Needs
Human Givens Therapy
Dealing with a Nervous Breakdown
Tips to Relieve Stress
Signs of Clinical Depression
Depression in Men
Anger Management Problems
Signs of an Abusive Relationship
Other helpful links
The OCD cure you haven't heard
International OCD Foundation
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