How do you know that it’s ROCD or simply just not the relationship for you?

I recently got asked a great question from one of my readers on Relationship OCD. The question “How do you know that it's OCD or simply just not the relationship for you?”.

That is the golden question. Is it OCD or is it the relationship that is the problem? If only we could know the answer, then all our troubles would cease to exist. The problem is actually asking that question only makes OCD worse. It keeps you questioning the relationship which only creates more doubts. OCD is called the doubting disease for a reason.

When you can become happy with the uncertainty of that question you will soon find it stops coming up as much. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) teaches everyone but in our case the OCD sufferer to accept the thoughts in our heads. The mind (and OCD) wants to protect us so it asks us questions. How we answer them allows the brain to see if they are important to us. If we answer the question, or try to prove it wrong we are telling our brains to ask us again, and again. With OCD the key is to learn that we don't have to answer the questions or thoughts in ours heads, if we don't want too. This is the best way I have found to rewire the brain.

Meditation also aligns with ACT. The headspace app is a good tool for getting good at meditation.

Couple With Cat Illustration

Illustration by NamiChikhlia.com 

With ROCD and OCD generally, I find it helpful to see OCD as the 'matrix'. An illusion. When we go through ROCD periods it can seem so real that we are 'in the wrong relationship', 'that our partner isn't the one', or 'that we just don't click with them'. These periods can be agony, filled with anxiety. But also we go through days where our relationship is bliss. When you notice this pattern I see it as 'seeing through the matrix'. On those clear days it's obvious it's OCD that causes the bad days. So I make a firm mental note of these epiphanies. So next time I have an OCD episode I can remind myself that it is OCD. It doesn’t remove OCD instantly, but it stops me from having a big episode.

There is a great book on relationship OCD called Love you, love you not. It has lots of useful information and advice. Below are three bits from it that may help you with this question.

1. If you are ruminating on this question or similar questions for more than 20 minutes a day, it's OCD. This has helped me in my recovery. That if I'm over thinking for long periods of time, I know it's OCD. I then trust that knowledge and accept my doubts. They will then slowly fade.

2. Despite what Hollywood has told us, there isn't 'the one'. Or at least in the way they portray the one. They show love as constant bliss, and falling head over heels at first sight. Real love takes time, it is the merging of two people. Love is something you work at. Love is not something you feel, it is something you do.

3. Act as if. When sufferers get these doubting questions they will often retract from physical or verbal displays of affection. For example when OCD is strong you may hold back from hugging or saying 'I love you'. This is often from fear of leading the other person on. When you get intrusive thoughts telling you not to say 'I love you' that's when you need to say it most. This will show your brain not to worry.

The final bit of advice I have at the minute is to live according to your values. For example if you are an animal lover, and your partner kicks every cat he sees then this is a big value clash for you and probably will end the relationship in time. Don't obsess on little value clashes though. Like if he leaves the toilet seat up and your value is tidiness. This is minor, don't fixate on it. Only be concerned with major value clashes. But I'm sure they would have become apparent by now.

I still have ups and downs with ROCD but it is much more manageable. Every day I am learning and getting better. ROCD can actually make us better partners and create stronger relationships, so there is a silver lining to going through this.

Don't get down if you take a step back, just keep taking positive actions.

I hope that helps, and I'm here when needed.


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7 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “How do you know that it’s ROCD or simply just not the relationship for you?”

  1. hayley April 29, 2016 at 7:47 am

    I’ve messaged you before, but I’m still at a stump. When what I believe is rocd started, i was riddled with anxiety. I’d vomit, cry for entire days, have panic attacks every 5 minutes, every symptom you can think of. But now almost all the anxiety is gone. I still hate the thought of not being with him, and get rushes of uncomfortable anxious, unhappy feeling when I think of breaking up. I figure this may be me revovering but I cant tell as im not familiar with this :/. I broke down last night, and after had a breif moment where I saw all the worrying was silly but i dont know whats true. I have not stopped googling or looking in forums for 3 months, I asked my dad about this, as ive done many times but im just so unsure if this is what i want. Theres only one thing about our relationship i dont love, but i could get over it if i knew this was for the long run. I just have this sense of almost discomfort and uncertainty. I dont want to learn what im worrying about is true. Is it possible I’ve burnt myself out with anxiety, i still want to disagree with the thoughts and feelings, I just dont know what to do anymore. Please help if you can, thank you

    • Stuart May 6, 2016 at 12:38 pm

      Hi Hayley,

      I just saw your comment. Sorry. I emailed you about this a few days ago. Let me know if you didn’t get it!

      All the best,

  2. moshe July 27, 2016 at 2:26 am

    Hey Stuart,

    I just started a relationship 4 months ago after 3 years of being single since my last relationship. Everything was amazing until one night when my girlfriend asked me to pick her up at her best friends birthday. When I did she started saying some things which she couldnt remember the day after and regreted. Since that day i started becoming anxious doubting my relationship. Its been a month since the event and all i do is think 24/7 about my feelings for her. She has been away for the past month and i thought i would get a better idea of how i feel but it did not help. Ive had moments where i loved her and moments where talking to her would make anxious. I dont know if this rocd or the relationship is just over. the thought of breaking up destroys me but i tell myself at the same time maybe i wont be stress anymore.Shes been very supportive at beginning telling me we would take it day by day but now shes having a hard time accepting the variations in feelings. Id appreciate your help if you can. thank you

    • Stuart August 1, 2016 at 8:51 pm

      Hi Moshe, sorry to hear that. I will email you some stuff.

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