How OCD Impacts Your Relationships and What You Can Do About It

By Rachael Pace | Published 2/13/2019 11

OCD lining up pencils and clips 1500 1000

Photo source: Adobe Stock Photos

If you have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) then you know how difficult it can be to maintain a happy relationship.

OCD is a mental health disorder that manifests as obsessive tendencies, recurring thoughts and the inclination to perform various rituals for no clear reason. Inability to perform those rituals can make you feel anxious and upset. There can be an overwhelming urge to make things neat and orderly.

Research suggests that OCD starts during childhood or in the teenage years.

During your adult years, OCD will start to invade every aspect of your life. It affects everything from where you live, what you do for work, and who you marry.

Some people with OCD wonder if it is possible to curb OCD habits forever so that you can remain happy and healthy in your relationships.

Types of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders

There are many different types of OCD out there. Here are a few:

-Washing and cleaning compulsions

Those who have an intense fear of germs may obsessively wash their hands and clean their house.

-Hoarding compulsion

People with hoarding disorder keep items that are of no sentimental value for fear that something bad will happen if they throw anything away. Hoarding has been the subject of books and plays, but it is no laughing matter.

-Checking things obsessively

This compulsion is characterized by activities such as seeing whether the door is locked or the stove is turned off over and over again.

-Arranging or counting disorders

These disorders include obsession with symmetry and numbers, carrying superstitions about colors, certain arrangements and other behaviors related to keeping things in order.

Other signs of OCD include but are not limited to:

  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Needing constant reassurance
  • Polarizing thoughts
  • Obeying rituals, such as going through a doorway in a particular way, touching objects a certain amount of times
  • Saving useless items
  • Intense fear of germs
  • Unfounded health fears, such as fearing death or sudden violent behavior
  • Urges relating to symmetry
  • Rearranging items to be in a particular order
  • Excessive doubts

How OCD ruins relationships 

Being in a relationship when you or your partner suffers from OCD can lead to frustration, resentment, and hurt feelings for both partners. Here are just some ways OCD affects your relationship and your mental health.

-Physical Contact Becomes Difficult

Those who suffer from a germ-related OCD may have trouble being physically intimate with a partner for fear of contracting an illness.

Studies show that physical contact, even simple things like holding hands, has been strongly linked to an increase in trust, monogamy, and marriage satisfaction.

OCD can make having sex or showing affection, both aspects of a relationship that contribute to happiness and emotional bonding, nearly impossible.

-It’s Hard to Watch

Those with OCD often suffer from a constant state of uncertainty or anxious thoughts. This may require repeated reassurance from your spouse that can be overwhelming.

Being in a relationship with someone with mental health issues can also make the unaffected spouse feel helpless and can lower their self-esteem.

-Lowers Happiness

Having a compulsive disorder means that your mind may fixate on anything to obsess over, including your spouse. This can cause you to pay more than the usual attention to your partner’s flaws.

You may make pro/con lists about your spouse or have recurring thoughts about whether you love them or vice versa.

All of these behaviors can have a negative effect on both you and your spouse’s happiness.

OCD can also contribute to clinical depression which can make you feel restless, fatigued, indifferent, pessimistic, hopeless, and worthless. These take a toll on your mental health and your relationship.

Related Article:  How Virtual Reality is Improving Care for Mental Health Disorders

What to Do About OCD?

Nobody who has OCD enjoys the compulsions they feel. Not only do they interfere with daily life, but they can also present many challenges in maintaining romantic relationships.

The good news is, there are many ways to cope.

The World Journal of Psychiatry says

“Over the past three decades, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) has moved from an almost untreatable, life-long psychiatric disorder to a highly manageable one.” This is great news for those being affected by OCD!

Such coping mechanisms include:

-Communicate with your spouse

Communication is the key to successful relationships, especially when issues of mental health are involved. In order to keep relationship frustrations at a minimum for both of you, it’s important to speak openly and honestly about your condition. Talk about changes in your symptoms, how you feel emotionally, and allow them to express their feelings as well.

 –Seek Therapy

Going to psychotherapy can be a useful tool in controlling your compulsions. Your therapist can help you work on issues of self-control, past trauma, and self-confidence that may be affecting your OCD.

-Keep a Journal

Many find it beneficial to keep a journal of worries and obsessive thoughts. Studies show that journaling your thoughts and feelings can reduce stress and boost immune functions.

Having a physical record of your OCD will help you take control of your thoughts and understand triggers that are affecting your mental health.

Related Journaling Information:  Can Journaling Improve Your Mental Health?

-Record Yourself

A method of dealing with OCD has to do with taking back control of your mental health.

One way you can do this is by recording yourself when you are having an episode, perhaps repeating certain words or phrases that are causing you anxiety. Then, listen to the recording every day for twenty minutes or more until the word or phrase no longer has an effect on you.


It can also be extremely helpful for sufferers to “reschedule” their compulsions. Instead of telling yourself “I have to do this right now”, take control and say, “I will do this in ten minutes/one hour/tomorrow”.

By the time the ten minutes (or whatever time period you have imposed on yourself) has elapsed, it is likely that your episode will have subsided.

The bottom line

OCD can have serious effects on your romantic relationships and your mental health. Don’t let OCD control your life.

Talk about your disorder with your spouse and keep the lines of communication open. Join a support group and seek therapy so that you can start to live a more fulfilling life.

Rachael Pace


Rachael Pace is a noted writer currently associated with She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of her motivational articles and essays.


Rachael enjoys studying about today's evolving forms of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on all types of romantic connections. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.


  • Dear Rachel, I live with my partner she has ocd. It feels like a living nightmare, I feel I have no life of my own everyday is controlled by ocd through my partner I have to make the meals in a certain way I have to clean her cutlery for her and then I am told I am enabling her but I did the dinners thinking I was helping (she took ages) if I have a snack I have to wash my hands immediately. I can’t leave the house without her. I can’t clean the house on my own, the curtains can only be opened by her. I sit in the dark waiting for her to wake up and open them. There are many things which are normal to others which I can’t do because of her ocd. I can’t end the relationship she has me trapped in a guilt trap ( she would not be able to cope ) I love her but I feel like a prisoner, living my life for someone else.

    • Hi Simon, I totally understand your living situation. My wife experienced the same OCD and kept cleaning the house and not allowing me to assist. That stresses her out and making her anxiety higher. I am totally ran out of ideas to help her as she won’t listen to me.

  • Hi, husband is on ocd tablets from last 1 years and after that have not been interested in sex.
    From last 1 month he is not even realizing that how i hav been living with him and how much it is difficult for me overall.
    I am not sure when solution will come

  • Sofia, I think you wold prefer to have happiness, joy and long life. You can have that. Currently based upon what you have written, when you die you will encounter God’s “White Throne Judgement” whereupon the judgments outlined in the Bible Revelation 20:11-15. To escape this judgement I encourage you to Read and pray Revelation 3:20. Jesus invites you to a life journey of joy and eternal life in Heaven. I write this “escape clause” with the compassion of Christ Jesus for the conflict that you are experiencing. In Jesus Christ. I am experiencing a similar conflict with my wife who suffers from OCD but I am secure knowing that by seeking God in prayer that God will not withhold His wisdom from me, His child. You too can become God’s child today. With many blessings –

  • Hi, thanks for writing this article. I have been doing lots of research and have a reason to believe I have OCD. I have a doctors appointment next week to confirm. My girlfriend and I have been dating almost a year, but recently I have felt an overwhelming amount of anxiety. I love my girlfriend more than anything and the thought of losing her breaks my heart. But sometimes I have these thoughts questioning my love for her. I know in my soul that I love her more than anything but sometimes these thoughts are just overwhelming and I want them to stop. If anyone could reply to this and tell me that these feelings are normal related to OCD I would really appreciate it.

    • Sofia these are entirely normal for OCD. I would urge you t speak to a medical professional who should be able to help. Perhaps read more about OCD as well. I have relationship OCD and it really can break up your relationships if left unchecked. You are fine, your brain chemistry is just making you feel that things are uncertain. It can be helped, Good luck. Also please ignore the bigoted comment left to you. x

    • Hi! I’ve been suffering from Relationship OCD (yes, it’s a real thing) and it was debilitating. I’ve had OCD since I was a child and when I started to approach real relationship obstacles and challenges in my marriage, it attached itself to my relationship- so yes, it is normal, as much as it sucks. I went through months of compulsions, reassurance and constantly checking my feelings. None of that made it any better. The best advice I can give you is to just sit with the feelings and let them pass- its very hard and VERY challenging. This doesn’t mean you’re accepting the thoughts, it doesn’t mean you don’t love you’re partner, it just means you’re letting the bad thoughts work their course. I promise you will make it out of it!

  • Hi Rachael Pace, thanks for writing such informative article.

    I just want to know something and will appreciate if you can give me feedback

    I have been married for 1 and half year. My wife has OCD and she is reluctant to get it treated. Also, in this span of time i have experienced multiple episodes in which she doubt me to have an affair with someone. In past 18 months she has associated me with 8 girls with whom I never had a single conversation or meet up in that way. I have been reassuring her that I am loyal with her. In every case when I forced her to sit with me and discuss every single detail which led her to this conclusions. I found the same pattern she did not witness anything and it was all her imagination supported by assumptions. I want to know is OCD make patient paranoid about other things as well beside cleanliness? secondly my wife is introvert as well due to which I find it hard to get her talking about issues. In article you said that patient should keep communication open. Can you please give me some tips to at least keep communication open with me and instead of holding things and make things worst.

    • Hey Azam. It’s totally normal for an OCD sufferer to act like that; to be in doubt of your love for her. I have this too and it comes alot… I think you and your wife should go for therapy; like, see a psychologist together; as a team. And talk about your feelings with her; tell her how you feel about it; though gently and sweet and understandably. Oh good luck man.

  • Dear Rachel:
    I live with a person (and now co-parent his grandchild) who each has OCD. I am frustrated by the continual description of OCD as organizers and hoarders. When you live in their world and converse on their terms you find that there is OH so much more than organized drawers or food that shouldn’t touch.
    In our world, WE cannot be interrupted. We will have to start the loooooooog and descriptive conversation FROM THE BEGINNING. It’s not a wrench; it’s a “galvanized 3/8 Craftsman wrench”. He didn’t “walk her into school”; He “walked 500 feet from Skinner, turned north to the east entrance to the school”.
    When you keep a clean home and he is layed up in the recliner with EVERYTHING HE OWNS encircled around him, his car, every end table, and the garage… you bite your tongue until it bleeds. And sometimes…you blow up. And that feels bad. I’m really trying to understand his mind. He doesn’t realize this problem and I certainly don’t want to put it in his face or humiliate him but his grandchild is 7 and it’s becoming obvious — when she is interrupted and has to start her explanation over, that I’m facing two of them, now.
    So, please know that there are more aspects of OCD than organizing and rituals that affect spouses and family. Thanks for the article.

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