We've all been there: you meet someone you like and start dating regularly...which is when the doubts creep in. Is this the right person for you, really? And just how strong is this relationship?
Questions and doubts are natural, especially at the beginning of a relationship. But if you find yourself in a constant cycle of doubt, then your worrying may have crossed into the realm of relationship OCD.
What is relationship OCD?
ROCD is a subset of OCD, in which a person is caught in obsessive doubt and negative thoughts that center around their relationship. Everyone experiences anxiety, but the ROCD sufferer's ruminations catch them up in a constant state of worry. It's almost all they think about and for sure what they want to talk about...all. the. time. This can take a toll on their mental health and even their ability to focus on the rest of their lives. Obsessive questioning and even critique of their partner can eventually sabotage a relationship as well.
What it looks like and how to tell if you have it.
ROCD involves a lot of worry, stress and anxiety about the same few points of pain. Most of us are familiar with traditional OCD, in which individuals have a need to complete repetitive tasks, sometimes to the point of distraction. ROCD is more internal and involves sufferers getting caught up in their heads.
What it comes down to is obsessive overthinking and analyzing. This isn't doodling your crush's name in your notebook. It's a constant picking apart and questioning the state of a relationship, and the suitable qualities of your partner. It's being unable to put these thoughts aside and focus on your day or to even recognize other, more positive elements of your life. It might be just about all you can think or talk about. The worry consumes you.
If your doubts and other negative thoughts around your relationship become increasingly intrusive to the point that they eclipse your ability to focus, consider talking to a professional. Maybe this particular relationship really isn't right for you, or maybe what you're struggling with is really your ruminative anxiety.
Types of ROCD.
ROCD-Type I involves worry focused around the quality of the relationship itself. This takes the form of questioning how secure your bond is, as well as comparing it to the perceived quality of other people's relationships. Are we both equally committed? Are we as strong as I think? Are we as happy as that other couple? You may even question yourself and your own level of investment, wondering if you're really in love at all. As a result, your insecurity will cause you to seek constant reassurance from your partner and everyone else around you.
ROCD-Type II fixates more on the critique of your partner, obsessing over the qualities they have or lack and what this means for you in the relationship. Nobody's perfect, but you'll zoom in on every facet of their personality and wonder, Are we a good fit? Are they right for me? Is this the right kind of person to have as a partner? These questions will run on a loop in your mind. Rest assured, your partner will catch onto it. That kind of doubt can be hurtful and even put your relationship in jeopardy.
Common ROCD compulsions.
• Unresolved cyclical thinking.
Your doubts are a tape that plays on repeat in your mind. Nothing you try can put your concerns to bed completely, and you're probably also in the habit of always finding something new to worry about.
Everyone else's relationships will seem better, happier and more secure than your own. Social media can increase this belief and anxiety exponentially, yet you won't be able to stop scrolling and comparing.
• Nit-picking your partner.
The way they talk, the books they read, the gestures they make when speaking: everything about your partner will fall under your microscope of critique. You'll always be worried about the cons outweigh the pros.
• Always talking about it.
Your friends will begin to roll their eyes every time you bring up your significant other. Your relationship is always on the top of your mind, and it's the first (and last) thing you want to talk about.
Seeing a professional can help you learn about your anxiety and its causes, and load up your toolbox with ways to deal with it. You might also consider couple's therapy, so you and your partner can work through your (and maybe their) issues together.
While not a permanent fix, anxiety medication can help you get to a space where you're calm enough to begin to address your fixation and anxiety and start to find your way through it. Medication is often used in conjunction with therapy, meditation or other treatments and practices.
Practicing mindfulness, be it through therapy, meditation or simply cultivating an awareness of how you think about things, can help you catch yourself before your thoughts start to spiral.
Journal with intent.
Writing out your fears is a great way to get perspective on them. Resolve to write down what you're thinking any time you start to feel overtaken by anxiety, with the intent of writing through them to some kind of resolution. Question the conclusions your worried mind latches onto, asking: Is this really true? What evidence do I have to support that?
Anxiety thrives on keeping you in tunnel vision mode. Being able to take in and evaluate the rest of your life, such as friends, work you enjoy and hobbies you love is a skill to cultivate, one that can help you gain perspective and quiet concerns. Eating well and getting good sleep are also classic ways to combat anxiety.
Can ROCD ruin a relationship?
Absolutely. Constantly needing reassurance, always having those deep relationship or emotional talks, nitpicking, being doubtful...even the most loving individual will hit a wall. Your doubt in the relationship will communicate a lack of trust in your partner. And no trust will, sooner or later, mean no partnership.
How can my family help treat my ROCD?
If you suffer from ROCD, let the people you love and trust most know about it. Your loved ones can help distract you when you're in your head, listen to you vent or help you work through fears in a constructive fashion. Helping you put things in perspective will go a long way toward getting you back on an even keel.