OCD, Relationship OCD

Lessons learned from Relationship Focused OCD

I encourage you to find a therapist who you connect with, and fight to get to the other side! You are worthy!

My first day of my first experience in intensive therapy I was asked to write down my thoughts one day from wake to sleep. I kid you not, by 9am I wrote “exhausted and yawning” (I had gotten up at 6:30). I looked at the journal and realized it was literally one page of thoughts already (probably more but I didn’t want to write it all) and it had only been 2.5 hours. These thoughts consumed about 95% of my day, and were draining me. I felt like I needed to find answers, but at the same time I didn’t know where to go, knew there weren’t actual answers, and part of me didn’t even feel like I needed any. I was trapped.

“Who do I want to be with? What if she isn’t the right person? What if I should be with a guy? But, wait, I have been with guys… How did I feel? Is that who I see myself with? Was it different from this? Should I try again? It’s expected of me. How should I feel? What if I doubt this and can’t commit? Does this feel right? Am I sexually attracted? But emotional means more to me…but you just doubted sexually so what about that?…  What is life? Do I want to be here? What if that car hits me as I get out of my car to get the mail?  Would I care? This is too much to deal with. What if my family never accepts me being with a girl? If they doubt it, maybe I am wrong. How do I know? What makes me happy? Should I move or try to go out more? No but that’s not who I am, but who am I? But wait, I want to be with her but do I need to explore myself more before committing? How do I know? I want to be with her. I had never acted this way with anyone else: losing track of time or had 7 hours feel like 1, sharing as much as I did with someone, yet my brain kept fighting me! I wasn’t used to this feeling. Comfort, calm, connection, and oh wait love–no, never! With a girl…was this right? Did I really feel this way? What if I am wrong?”

This is maybe two minutes of a day’s worth of thinking. Believe me it went on and on, uncontrolled, exhausting, circuitous, torturous circles of mental rumination. It tore me to pieces. I could go on and on, but you get the point. The answers weren’t there; the internal dialogue and questioning never ceased, and I couldn’t escape.

Our brain loves uncertainty and just following human nature, if you feed it, it gets hungry for more. OCD hits ya where it matters most (for me: relationships). I was tortured, stuck in my head, silently screaming so loudly that some days you could hear it through my smiles. I would ask friends, talk incessantly about the topic, but that was only temporary reassurance and fuel for the OCD cycle. The thoughts would only return a few minutes later, leaving me right back to where I started (fun, right?).

I had reached a point of internal breakdown and shattering. I had ruined a relationship that truly mattered to me more than any others, moved away thinking it would help only to find I wanted to be back here with her, and doubted my feelings so many times that this relationship was no longer an option. This cycle had taken too many years away, and now love away, this was the tipping point.

I definitely fell into the self-destructive “why me?” and “why can’t I just be normal and embrace love and be happy?” dance. It got me no where fast. I went into intensive therapy, shifted my whole focus to mental health, and when I tell you, used more mental will power and strength that I never knew I had. I became very focused, diligent with journaling, and cognizant of my mental status, thought patterns, triggers, and reactions. I worked tirelessly, moved out on my own to be in my own head and space, and asked friends I trusted to keep me accountable.

I listened to podcasts on relationship OCD (notes below) that told me “if it hurts you this much, it matters. You think it’s painful now, breaking it off will make it so much worse since it is that anxiety speaking so loudly not you.  Explain, have support, make the person understand as you understand and make it work because it is worth it to you.” I remember hating, I mean loathing, hearing that since it was a little too late in the game for me. Getting someone to understand how intense, painful, and torturous this mental trap can be was extremely difficult. I was angry. I thought “I wish she could hear this. I have to explain.” Tears of pain, sadness, and frustration streaming down my face as I understood this disorder much more intimately. I tried to reach out, knowing who I was dealing with, and understanding if the desire was there it would come at her time not mine.

Painful is not even the right word to describe it. Fighting as hard as I could to stay strong, knowing I needed to get myself to a better place before I would be able to be better for someone else. I am happy to say with a lot of therapy, mental inhibition, strength, and hard work I have gotten those obsessions down to about 10-15% on a typical day. I am much more confident in my ability to handle OCD, comfortable with a fluid sexuality, and excited about the idea of commitment. I am also excited to say, since becoming the champ at Patience and Willpower.

There are definitely still days OCD and anxiety are following me around and I get triggered, but I know that this is, unfortunately, the nature of the beast. It had been about 10 years until I was officially, and oddly gratefully, diagnosed. I fought through much depression, panic attacks, withdrawal, lost friendships, and family hurt before I was able to call this something, treat it, and learn to be myself despite it. I am now better equipped with coping strategies and knowledge about the disorder that help me try to keep perspective and have hope that things will turn out the way they are meant to be. Please reach out if you struggle at all with any form of anxiety or OCD as the feelings, themes, and cycle is the same. I encourage you to find a therapist who you connect with, and fight to get to the other side! You are worthy!

These are some of my notes from the podcast on “The OCD stories” from iTunes :

– Anxiety remained stronger because it mattered with you, it hits ya where it hurts
– Goes against what your ego wants and that’s why it’s so painful
– I’m a romantic so that’s why it attached to relationships
– Main difference in OCD is constant rumination and reassurance seeking
– ***not the relationship it’s the OCD, the fear
– Our brain says relationships are dangerous but they are not
– ***so hard when you get scary thoughts about someone you care about and harder to admit to anxiety and agree with it (OCD treatment and what you have to do to get better)

Another article relevant to the topic : http://ocdla.com/rocd-relationship-ocd-myth-of-the-one-3665

My blog: NeutralizeBlog.wordpress.com

 

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17 Comments

  • Reply Crystal July 14, 2017 at 11:58 am

    This is amazing. I really thought this was something not alot of people suffered from but hearing your story has helped me get out of my head today. I have been fighting this for the past 3-4 years which is worth it because of my amazing soon to-be husband. To everyone who suffers from this, stay strong. We owe it to ourselves to love and be loved and fight for what we care about.

  • Reply Mike August 11, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Do you guys ever feel like it is winning and are ready to give up even though you know deep down you don’t want to and can’t imagine your life with anyone else?

    • Stuart Ralph
      Reply Stuart Ralph August 17, 2017 at 7:26 pm

      Yeah the ups and downs are part of it. A good therapist who uses CBT (ERP) can help you beat this. Recovery is possible, keep your head 🙂

  • Reply ADE September 7, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    God! you can’t imagine how good it is to hear someone else going trough this ( sounds horrible, but the feeling that I am not alone and that someone got trough it gives me hope ).

    My story,
    First of all I am a gay ( doubted it as I wrote it ) 25yo woman. Now I haven’t been out for long, almost a year since I fell in love with another girl. Now that relationship / fling did not last, but the point is it was something that for me finally made sense. It was finally something that I wanted, her! Not a relationship in vague terms, but a relationship with HER. It didn’t work out, but I’m ok with that. She had issues, she strung me along, I didn’t want to let go when it was healthy, but I was inexperienced. Anyways, when things went south with her and I was feeling very down about it, I started doubting my sexuality. But not in a overtly intrusive way, just wanting to make sure, just thinking, how do I know for sure? But that was small, and not so distressing. In the meantime I had another failed attempted relationship that I stuck around for more than it was healthy.

    2 months ago I met this amazing girl. We hit it off instantly, we had such an amazing connexion, we talked about stuff, we wanted each other, things felt nice, felt simple, easy, natural and most importantly good. But I didn’t feel crazy, intoxicated, I just felt good. So I started to question that, but not much. Just a little in the back of my mind. Then we met again, had sex again and I didn’t orgasm. I was close, I was right there, but mentally could not let go of control I guess. Started overanalysing that to death and that’s when I started thinking about my sexuality again. I felt I want to move in with this girl eventually ( since we have a LDR and I am very flexible with my work ). Things felt good again, but oh my mind kicked in. Saw her again, and for some reason I caught her in an angle that didn’t look her best … my mind went into overdrive. How can you think that? Looked at photos and photos to prove that I find her attractive. When I got tiered of that, my sexuality came into play again. I started thinking, why did I find this random guy attractive, did I find him attractive. Look at photos of men, look at porn, look at women. Oh god, why don’t I find every woman on the street attractive? that must mean I’m straight all along. What would my friends say? How would I even go about dating a guy? I bet my family would be happy ( they don’t know I’m gay ). I even convinced myself for a moment that I am straight. Then I sort of came to terms with the idea that I may be straight, and bam, I started checking again for that. Why did I think that, why did I look at him like that, uu, my eyes caught a glimpse of this chick, yeah, good, means I like her. Does it? What if it’s just me trying to prove? Then reliving every single interaction I had with a guy and a girl and comparing. Even went on to masturbate thinking of a dude, nothing. But then let’s check if it’s still nothing if I think about my girlfriend. Nothing. What does this mean? Doesn’t matter what conclusion I come to, I’ll find a way to challenge that one as well. But really, say I am straight, what would I even do? Date men? how? I don’t know how. Would I like it? What if I wouldn’t like it?

    My girlfriend … god, I can’t think of her anymore in any reality sounding terms. I am constantly in the back of my mind checking. Do I like her? Do I want to spend my time with her? Do I really want to do the things I do? I thought she would like this fun gift … well why did you think of that? You’re trying to prove you like her by making her a gift? She sent me a letter, I didn’t have a burst of emotion like in the movies, must mean I don’t like her. Looked at a picture again, is she pretty? Do I find her pretty? What kind of monster are you if you don’t find her pretty? Should I move on? Should I stay with her? But I can’t stay with her, what if it turns out I’m straight all along. What if I really don’t like her, wouldn’t it be bad for her if that happens? etc … on and on and on. My fiends told me that I super like this girl cause I kept smiling when I talked about her. Now every smile comes with checking. Did I smile? I must like her. I am smiling? Why? To prove I like her?

    My case is relatively light, I would call it a general anxiety since I am really doing my best to resist the checking compulsions ( i.e looking at pictures ) , but the checking in my mind is really bad. When I finally understand and start to get a sense of what is happening, when I read about ocd and stories and feel good cause I finally understand what’s happening, it comes again, I keep checking on that one. What if I’m deluding myself? What if I’m really straight and I don’t like her and this is just a good explanation I have in my mind.

    I was happy, I felt happy, now I’m just lost. Lost in my mind and constant doubts. Why me? Why can’t I be happy? Why do I think I love her and then doubt it?

    For note, I’ve always been an overthinker. The last time it happened at this intensity, I had it about my dad, and the fear he would die from smoking. I don’t know what I did to make it go away. But now it’s back, and latched on to the thing I wanted so much for myself, a healthy relationship with a beautiful and amazing girl.

    • Stuart Ralph
      Reply Stuart Ralph September 12, 2017 at 1:12 pm

      Thanks for sharing your story Ade 🙂

      • Reply Holly October 25, 2017 at 6:29 pm

        I exactly like you except in reverse. I have always been a confidently straight girl and then all of the sudden BAM! someone called me a spinster and a lesbian and I thought OMG! I have had some of the exact same thoughts as you. It is nice to see that I am not alone and that even someone who is gay can have this as well,. Even though it sucks:( I am sorry your going through this and hope that all of us with OCD can get better:)

  • Reply Lizzy December 7, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    Laura,

    Your story echoes mine in nearly every way. Also being with a woman, and fears of truly being heterosexual helped fuel the OCD fire in the worst of times. I went through, and still go through, treatment on a regular basis. I’ve tried nearly every approach – but I needed to finally accept that having less of this is better than having all of it. So I am also now at that 15-20 per cent stage. Although, I would do anything to make myself rid of it all.

    Thank you so much for sharing and making me feel less alone.

  • Reply Cheyenne April 12, 2018 at 2:45 am

    I’ve been battling these thoughts everyday for the past year and a half. In October of 2016 I began dating my lovely boyfriend. At first, everything felt great. After the first month or so we have this conversation about how things aren’t written in stone. One of the things mentioned was our relationship. Before this happened I was dealing with obsessions for two years about how my brother’s friend took advantage of me and how my parents would never love me the same. That is absolute crap because my parents love me unconditionally as any other parent would. I almost officially broke up with my boyfriend after only three months because I thought that the thoughts were true. After thinking about it, I noticed a pattern. I was having obsessions over things I feared the most, they weren’t exactly my feelings. A year or so later I realize that my relationship isn’t as perfect as it was in the beginning, but the love and butterflies never ended. Even through these dark depressing periods I go through almost everyday, i know that I really do love him. The obsessions that are so depressing are about any situation that can happen that splits us apart. He is my high school sweetheart and today that is almost non existent. I love my man more and more everyday despite the voices that say i don’t.

    • Stuart Ralph
      Reply Stuart Ralph April 12, 2018 at 9:37 am

      Thanks for the comment Cheyenne. Sorry to hear you are having a tough time at the moment. It does get better. Go see a CBT therapist and they will be able to help you. Thanks

  • Reply Hannah April 18, 2018 at 5:49 pm

    Stuart,

    I was just curious if when you were experiencing your rOCD if you went through a period of numbness; like you didn’t really care about anything. I’ve been withdrawn from my partner, school, and life in general. I experienced a really bad period of rOCD (weight loss, extreme anxiety, every single thought in the book) about 3 weeks ago and was put on medication and am in therapy.

    The numbness is alarming to me because I don’t know if this is a sign I truly don’t feel anything towards my partner or this is normal.

    I’d appreciate any response or experience you have with this sort of thing.

    • Stuart Ralph
      Reply Stuart Ralph April 19, 2018 at 8:16 am

      Hi Hannah,

      Sorry to hear you are having a tough time. It does get better in time and with therapy.

      I am a lot better, it bothers me occasionally but when it does I can deal with it. I recommend seeing a CBT therapist as they will be able to help you recover. Read lOTS too on OCD recovery, not just rOCD. Focus on the OCD, and recovery.

      All the best,
      Stu

  • Reply Daryl April 22, 2018 at 5:44 pm

    Really interesting site. My thoughts are a bit different to others on here……..I have been in a relationship for over 15 years and where my story differs is that I was accutely aware that my relationship wasn’t perfect before I became anxious. I knew there were pros and cons and I was pragmatic enough to realise that this relationship was bigger than a slushy love story. When talking with friends though I was always comfortable in the relationship…….I loved my wife and even though there were annoyances and at times I couldn’t stand her (things she did winding me up) I was comfortable in our relationship.
    Then suddenly I started to feel a bit down about things in life (not my relationship) I started to get anxious and then I became obsessed that I was going to be discovered as a bad person for something I did years ago. I confessed to my wife about my mistake (it was an over exagerated error)…..I felt relief but my anxiety didn’t abate.
    That is when I started searching for reasons…….reasons why I was still ill, still anxious, not my normal self. I racked my brains and then BOOM!
    A wave of sheer panic hit me! My brain had found the answer……….it’s YOUR RELATIONSHIP!! I tried to reason with my brain just like I had with the stupid error……I denied it to myself……3 months of hell thinking about this before we went away together and I had another panic attack…….I wanted to confess…….get the relief…….but I couldn’t ………I confessed another mistake I had made because I knew if I confessed something, anything i would get some relief from my brain. I also knew confessing that my thoughts were attacking our relationship would make the relationship be over.
    Fast forward 11 months on and I am still in this hell…………now my brain has convinced me that the only escape is to leave……..it’s the only way out of this hell.
    My relationship was never perfect, never gooey, never roses and chocolates but really, I was happy………..but now everything is pointing to this relationship as the issue. It seems everyone who has actual Rocd has been in the most perfect relationship prior to it hitting………now my brain is saying “see, you are different, you never had that lovey dovey thing and so it really IS the relationship not Rocd………..end it, leave, then you will escape this hell”
    So……that’s my story…….what happens next who knows? What I do know is that I have never been in such turmoil and I really hope one day I will be able to tell a story of recovery……….that’s my dream.
    Good Luck all!

  • Reply Caner May 4, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    I have been suffering from ROCD, pretty much ever since I met my now girlfriend, nearly one year ago. It’s been tearing me apart. More than once I tried to break up, and again I voiced my doubts last night, after months of fighting it but feeling I was winning.
    I am constantly obsessed about whether or not I’m really attracted to her, whether or not this is worth it, whether my true love is out there waiting for me, and anything else. Our chemistry and compatibility in virtually every sense is off the charts, so most frequently her looks are the thing my OCD clings to as a “do I really?” point.
    What makes this extra hard is that this is my first relationship. I’d like it to be my last. She’s special. But I have a history of anxiety, self-doubt, OCD, and even depression. I also grew up with (and still love with) an abusive parent. It’s been extra hard too because I still have very little idea how to operate as an independent adult, or as a boyfriend.
    I’d diagnosed myself with anxiety not too many months ago, with her by side, and it changed my life. I was having panic attacks, lightheadeness, trouble breathing, nerve pain, and ROCD. I only just recently began therapy though. I was already doing better, thanks to my own efforts – the last few weeks have been the most amazing with my girlfriend than I’d ever seen, and she was over the moon. So was I. But just 3 days ago I had my second therapy session and ROCD was on my mind. In bringing it up in detail, my therapist questioned the validity of my beliefs. I don’t think she meant it the way I took it, but I’m proving my feelings and not offering any clarity or relief, things took a turn for the worse. Right after therapy I began to question, more earnestly than ever, whether or not I was attracted to my girlfriend. I repeatedly convinced myself that I indeed wasn’t. Funny thing is, whenever I did that, I felt relieved. As if some huge weight was gone. So then, feeling relief for a quick second, I no longer felt the strong urge to leave her. But then of course, then I felt I was being deceitful. If I’m not attracted to her but still want to be with her, then it must be because I’m weak and simply don’t want to be alone.
    I AM attracted to my girlfriend. She makes me feel wonderful being near her, she arouses me sexually, makes me orgasm with ease. But repeating these facts to myself only strengthens my ROCD – and the more I question it, of course the more uncertain I feel. I start to have trouble orgasming, and of course that becomes proof.

    Just last night I was miserable, and she could tell. I eventually told her, not to the first time, that I wasn’t sure if this was right. If she was the one. I should’ve recognized ROCD for what it was, but by that point I’d spent too much time feeding it that the lines between truth and lies were blurred beyond recognition. She broke down. I broke down. I blathered for a while, unsure. Only her endless compassion and understanding saved us from splitting. We had a beautiful make up, but I know just how deeply I hurt her. I know she trusts me, and loves me, she makes it so obvious so I can never doubt, but I worry I’ve broken something. It’s not the first time, again, but still. I feel guilty and ashamed like never before, because now I know what’s going on and even that doesn’t help. Therapy, treatment and self help, those are what will help me, but they can’t happen quickly enough. I’m in a lot of pain. All I know is that I don’t want to keep doing this to her, and I don’t want to let her go. I won’t, not now. Not after all this, and I know how deeply I care about us. It’s just so hard. I hope I can fix things. I know she loves and cares for me, but I don’t want her to feel like I’m constantly in the verge of leaving her. I don’t want her to feel that she’s loving me only to one day set me free. She’s had too much of that before she met me, and too much from me. I wish I knew something to tell her right now, besides just keeping my promise to get help.

    • Stuart Ralph
      Reply Stuart Ralph May 5, 2018 at 5:29 pm

      Hi Caner,

      Thanks for your comment. Sorry you are having a tough time at the moment, it does get better.

      My best advice is speak to an OCD charity to point you in the direction of the best treatment. A CBT therapist will be able to help you overcome this – it’s very treatable. Also read books on OCD recovery as they will give you some tools to deal with it. There are many good anxiety and OCD support groups on Facebook.

      All the best.

  • Reply Payal arora July 3, 2018 at 11:25 am

    Hi,
    I am so thankful to have come across this page. I am exactly going through the same right now.I have repeated feeling of doubt , shame and guilt about my relationship. I have always had the best kind of relationship with my boyfriend but since 11months i woke up one day and lost all the feelings and cant remember anything positive about it.my partner supports me in everything and it feels terrible to live with him and feel the opposite from the inside.i was so confident that i want him in my life but now i feel so disconnected with my partner. Every minute 1000s of negative thoughts come across my mind asking me to break up and that hurts me more.i never want to hurt my partner.but i am really confused if i love him or not, how do i know if hes the one, if hes the one then why would i have such confusion. I recently stopped my medication cold turkey and now i feel the worst ever and suicidal. I want to get better and enjoy my life. I am missing out so much from my life.

    • Stuart Ralph
      Reply Stuart Ralph July 5, 2018 at 8:31 pm

      Sorry to hear you are having a tough time Payal. It does get better.

      OCD is very treatable with Cognitive behavioural therapy. Look for a CBT therapist. Contact the OCD charities such as the IOCDF.org for more info. Also speak to your doctor about medication if you think taking it again will help.

      There are many great books on OCD that can help. Check out the book “Getting over OCD” by Dr Jonathan Abramowitz it’s great.

      There are many good support groups on Facebook that can help, just search “OCD” on Facebook to find some. Please speak to someone, you don’t have to suffer alone, there is help out there.

      All the best.

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