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Fun With (R)OCD : need advice on making relationship work despite OCD


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Hi everyone,  this is my first post on these boards... I guess I was looking for objective advice that isn't going to just try and be nice, politically correct, tell me how I should just keep up the fight and be good and stuff.  

 

My girlfriend and I, if I can call her that with all the wierdness OCD has introduced into our relationship both have rather severe cases of OCD.   I have contamination OCD which had led to me severely isolating myself to the point that I avoided coming within 3 feet of anyone for years.  I am 23 and have never been in a relationship due to the whole agoraphobia and not wanting to touch people thing.  For my entire life the very idea of kissing someone, hugging, or even holding hands just seems unbearable due to a fear of toxins.  For some reason, not even sure why or how, this has not led to any social anxiety or uncomfortability with my sexuality, or any trouble talking to women and flirting.  Its just always been that I don't want to go anywhere with it because I would have to face my fear of toxins.

 

My girlfriend has a veritable smorgasboard of OCD symptoms, but the worst of them is the relationship OCD symptoms.  She is 27, and like myself, has never been in a relationship despite not having any social anxiety.  We met about 5 months ago when we were both at a residential treatment program and ever since then things have been (other than OCD rearing its head great.)  I'll spare you all the details, just alot of shared interests, similiar ways of thinking, chemistry, attraction blah, blah, blah.  For the last 3 or so months we have been living about 4 hours or so away but things are still intimate and romantic at a long distance.  

 

But then there's the relationship OCD.  Her OCD makes her want be completely sure that she is happy.  Gotta make sure she's not pretending to be other than she is just to please me.  Has to be completely sure she is in love.  If she remembers being in love maybe that is just a delusional memory.  If I love her she has to be completely certain she loves me back at least as much or she is just leading me on and will break my heart.  Is she questioning the relationship?  That must mean its not the good thing she thought it was.  If she feels trapped or anxious at the prospect of one of us visiting the other sometime soon surely that must mean she doesn't actually want the relationship she thinks she does.  Is she making up excuses to get out of it?  That must mean she is fake.  Maybe she is just wanting to be happy and isn't.  

 

Although she has been able to open up to me about her fears, this is great, but I really don't think she has been able to make any progress towards living her life in spite of them.  She has had (by her own admission) these sort of fears since she was 8 years old or so and even struggles with family relationships (which actually seem to be very strong and loving.)  I read alot of stuff that seems to suggest that I am just setting myself up for a bigger and bigger heartbreak by pursuing a relationship with her.  I hear so many stories where at some point ROCD sufferers panic and just cut off all ties with the person they love.  I already am extremely attached to her and can't bear either the thought of losing her or of breaking her heart and having her end feeling even more empty and lonely knowing what could of been.  And this isn't even getting into my problems with being physically close to people since we haven't even to work on my problems.  Not sure if I can do it, we hugged once and I was in a state of extreme panic for a week.  I guess there is always being just friends but i'm not sure if I am capable of that and I have never met anyone else who I liked enough to pursue a relationship with.  

 

I guess i'm looking for suggestions of things to do that will make it easier for her to tackle her fears.  Will have to face my stuff when we get there, right now she is terrified of the implications of one of us visiting the other,  I think because of some intrusive thoughts issues.  I have been trying by writing her poems and stories and stuff to tackle the idea of love and intimacy in a less threatening context and I think that has helped but I think my displays of affection just terrify her sometimes because she worries that she worries that she cannot reciprocate exactly how I feel.  AUGGH HELP

Edited by BadgerTime
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Hi BadgerTime.

 

Unfortunately we can't answer your question as you have asked it. CrazyBoards is a first-person site, by and for mentally interesting people. That means we don't dabble in how to support someone else's mentally interesting challenges. Over the years we have found that it gets messy fast and also is not in accordance with recovery values of "nothing about me without me."

 

If you would like,  I can move this thread over to the relationships forum (Crazy for Loving You) where you might get some ideas about how to help yourself in the relationship.

 

Kind regards,
Wooster

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Yeah, I can understand how that could become a problem.  I did see that rule when I was reading the guidelines thread thingy and was not sure if I was bending that rule or not; I am of the opinion that all OCD is essentially the same problem but just with different content and I guess I felt that since we are working through OCD obstacles that both of us have together that its not just about someone elses problem.  I guess I chose to put it here because I thought that it would be better to have an audience that is familiar and concerned with OCD type issues.  But as I said in my post I am new here so i'm sure your idea about which forum is most appropriate is better than mine .  If you could move it over for me that would be great.  Thanks for reading and for the information!

 

Sincerely,

BadgerBadgerBadger

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Hi Badger, I think the key is to be honest with each other, the danger in a situation like this is probably miscommunication because like you said she could just run and try and hide. Communicate and try your hardest to understand that it's nothing personal, you know deep down it's nothing personal don't you, and I know some days it all gets too much and you can start to doubt her. That's natural and I think everyone in your shoes would, carrying a thought like that around is draining and takes its toll. Talking is key, and regularly.

 

Have you spoken to her about how you feel? It could just be that she is worried that if she loves you more than you love her then you'll leave her. OR if you love her more than she loves you she may feel bad and guilty like she is leading you on or that you deserve someone who will love you as much as you love them. 

 

You both have OCD which (on a positive note) means that you kind of get why she needs to question the things she is questioning, just like you and you're contact issue, it's just the way she is right now. Give her time and space because pushing is not a brilliant idea with something that has the potential to be so fragile but at the same time I think it would be great if you two could branch out and try to start something. 

 

You mentioned that she is the same way with family relationships. Is there a possibility you could ask her how her family copes with it. Do they have routines that make her feel safe and happy in their relationship? Remember if she has had this since she was 8 years old, that's nearly 20 years, over half her life. It's not something she is going to use as an excuse to run away from a relationship, it is just the way she is.

 

I really hope this helped a little, let us know how things develop! 

 

**Also I keep thinking of the badger song now you signed your post 'badgerbadgerbadger** It's an awesome song :-)

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Thanks Paper!  The one thing we do have going for us is that we at least try to be very open about our fears and concerns.  The problem is OCD can make it hard to discern between real concerns and things that come from a desire for things to be not just good but perfect.  

 

I am trying not to push things.  Whenever I suggest something that we could do together I make sure she knows that its ok if she doesn't want to or isn't able to for any reason.  But that being said I don't think I would be doing anyone a favor by hiding how much I love her by not expressing it so I do mention this regularily in what I hope is a non-pressing way as possible.  Usually when I say I love her she is able to manage saying that I'm really kind/thoughftul, or that she is really glad we met and stuff like that.  She says she doesn't want to believe a good thing that isn't real or be fake :/  

 

We do both have issues but its sort of impossible to work on my issues at a distance. When together we have been able to do stuff like playing basketball on dirty driveways (terrifying but fun) together to try and package exposures in fun and rewarding activities.

 

Regarding the family issue I think that introducing me to her family or me introducing mine to hers is very triggering to her because it represents a certain level of commitment.  Its only hard for me if its an in-person encounter but that sort of thing can be hard because theres a desire to perform regarding acting normal and not being afraid of touching things, handshakes, hugs etc. etc.  We have gotten to the point where its comfortable talking about family interests and hobbies.  Turns out both of both of our parents are in bluegrass bands.  lol, what a coincidence!  And a couple weeks ago we had a skype conference call with her and my brother and I which I think was very difficult for her but also enjoyable I hope.  My brother is an identical twin (who doesn't have a single OCD symptom WTF)  which worries her because we look VERY similiar since she worries she might become equally attracted to him and stuff.  

 

But yeah I agree on us having to have a thick skin.  I have to be strong with her if she needs emotional space just as she has to be very patient and forgiving if I cringe when coming physically close to her.  Obviously the latter would be something that would normally be very offensive.  The best part of us both having OCD is we really understand how fears that we know aren't reasonable can still be really hard to cope with.

 

I guess what I would take from your post is that for me doing things in person together is what is stressful, and for her talking about relationship stuff and expressing ourselves to each other is what is going to be stressful;  gotta keep the two in balance so it isn't just one of us prodding the other along.

 

Thanks, and good work for getting the reference too.  I'm not sure why that song is so funny but it really is.

 

P.S. Not sure why I can play basketball when I normally can't come close to people.  I guess its because its a context where your supposed to bump into and push against people so it doesn't seem like a problem when I do.  

Edited by BadgerTime
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  • 2 weeks later...

Are you in your own individual therapy at the moment?

 

I suppose it depends a lot on how much you each want to challenge your OCD to pursue the relationship that you want. I say that because when I read your post, you both seem to be hung up on what a relationship should involve. And to be honest, there is no one template. Yes, society gives us an ideal to match. But very few people meet, fall in love, are compatible, maintain a healthy and monogamous bond that is trouble free. Most people bring their own selves and negotiate something that they both are nourished by. If you don't want to have a relationship that features a lot of physical intimacy, you don't have to. Maybe this idea of being a normal couple that does normal things creates a lot of pressure that is unhelpful. If you enjoy spending time together or online, enjoy it. You have an entire future to decide if being sexually intimate or spending time with family as a couple is something you want. And you are no less in love if you don't want those things. Loving someone is not about having to prove it with actions nor is it about feeling sure and having no doubts. It's about showing up and acting in whatever loving ways you can show and listening to your partner, you two are doing a lot of that in what are really tough circumstances.

 

All I can offer is that the times I try to match what I have in real life to how I think a relationship should be, I make myself and my partner miserable. I do have standards for my relationship, we are honest and kind. I do have certain needs I want met and needs of his that I want to meet. But as far as declaring love/commitment/how we spend our time, I try to let that unfold naturally.

 

My advice is, try to see it as something you are experiencing as it is, not trying to make something. My partner says it is like building with lego. He is not sure exactly what we are building, nor does our lego look like anyone elses. But we both like what we are building so far and want to keep building. 

Edited by Titania
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Thanks Titania I will definately think about what you have to say here.  Yes, we are both meeting with a therapist 1-2 times a week and trying to do a structured ERP program (hard as hell to actually stick to it.)  I haven't really talked to my therapist much about the relationship just because we have been so focused on my contamination OCD which doesn't affect a long distance relationship at all.  

 

What your post does remind me of is the fact that our relationship makes me very happy just where it is at.  But I think I should say that we have abstained from alot of things that we would like to do just because one of us (always seems if not one the other) is scared shitless of it.  Like I do want physical/sexual intimacy but i'm also scared of contact with people and stuff.  But of course as you said that doesn't mean I can't have a loving relationship.  It's still depressing though to be limited by the OCD.

 

An update on how things are going here is that sometime later this month she is going to visit with one of her friends just so we can do some fun stuff in situation without any romantic implications or scary commitment stuff.  Thinking that I

ll invite one of my local friends along to whatever we end up doing.  If nothing else it will be just a fun adventure with people I like and I think for now that would be good enough.  

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I would like to mention one more thing...  you're probably going to think I'm making light of this, but quite honestly, the time that you're pushing back and forth and trying hard to get to know each other is a beautiful time.  Don't rush it.  It's a beautiful jewel that you'll refer to often when you think about your relationship in later years.  If you do end up living together, having kids (I hope that's not triggering), your courtship will be a go-to for memories of when you didn't feel like you knew each other so well you could predict the other person's half of the conversation, and will serve to remind you of the truth: we can never know another person completely, we can only come closer and closer in asymptotic approximations.

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