By Gigi Engle
I’ve always had obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). It’s just a part of my life I have to deal with. I have certain characteristics that make my disorder pretty obvious to those around me, as well as a host of others that I mask for my own self-preservation.
Having relationships while simultaneously dealing with OCD can be a challenge. I’ve had to learn to try and mould to my surroundings as much as I can in order to fit another person into my world. It’s exceptionally difficult to try and break patterns I’ve grown so accustomed to and, honestly, have come to rely on heavily. But—and this is something I have had to come to terms with—this isn’t difficult for me alone. It’s also very demanding of the people I date.
I can’t always explain why I do the things I do, and that can make communication hard. My significant other isn’t inside my head. He can’t fully comprehend the way I’m feeling, and so a lot of my behaviours are alien to him. He has to cope with my disorder as much as I do because he loves me and is in a committed relationship with me. Wanting to date me means taking on my OCD. Here are some serious struggles you’ll face when dating someone with OCD.
Your partner’s endless lists make you feel inefficient
My boyfriend doesn’t have the kind of comprehensive “to-do” lists I follow on a daily basis in order to get me from point A to point B in one fluid motion. It’s how I keep order. I can understand how this makes him feel that everything he does is inadequate, as if I have it all figured out. Really, this is just my method and everyone should find a method that suits him or her. It just so happens that mine is to be very, very organized.
Your partner comes to your apartment and cleans everything
When you date someone who needs things to be a certain way, it can get complicated. It drives me so crazy the way I go over to my boyfriend’s place and compulsively clean. He’s a guy in his late 20s who lives alone and, his place is a disaster.
It gives me feelings of anxiety when I see that yesterday’s bacon grease is caked onto his counter, the dishes in his sink are stacked in rickety piles and his floor has become a makeshift closet for his endless supply of button-ups. When I come in the door, I find myself pulling out the Clorox wipes and cleaning before I do anything else.
I know it can make you uncomfortable to have your world tidied up for you, but mess makes your girlfriend or boyfriend uncomfortable, too. It’s nothing against you. Be grateful: You’ll never need a maid.
Don’t break your partner’s routine
Dating someone with OCD means being highly aware of his or her routine. You might have your own, but it will become very clear upon your first sleepover that your partner’s routine will reign supreme.
If you want to have a successful relationship with a person who deals with this disorder, don’t try to change his or her habits. Those habits will end up winning out, because we find comfort in orderliness. If our methods are thrown off or disregarded, we’ll lose it.
You can’t call your partner out on the weird stuff he or she does
You have to embrace it, accept it and even learn to find it endearing. For example, I can’t step on cracks. I can only step on sections of sidewalk an even number of times per given square. This makes me feel like I have some small modicum of control. It might sound crazy, but it’s my reality and it’s not going to change.
Guys I date need to accept it and not be dicks about it. People with OCD are already self-conscious of their “tics” to some degree. We don’t need to be called out on them. Your partner tends to nag and nitpick about everything you do.
You’ll have to deal with our nagging, because we’re used to having things done in a certain way. It blows my mind that a person wouldn’t want to have a clean apartment or clothes folded, or just show up to the movies without checking the times first.
Your partner is always cleaner
You will feel like a slob. Your girlfriend or boyfriend will have cleaner nails, cleaner clothes and a cleaner apartment. It can be difficult dealing with someone this clean and so orderly. The fact is, I’m always going to be cleaner than my partner is, no matter how much bleach and disinfectant he invests in. Sorry.
Your partner has better clothes
One of my obsessive-compulsive behaviours is a need to buy clothes for every single season. As a result, I have lots of different outfits. They are very organized, and everything has its place. For anyone else, this might be an overflowing disaster of chaos, but not for me.
My boyfriend, by contrast, has about five shirts and three pairs of pants. I don’t judge, but I notice…and he notices me noticing.
Your partner needs to finish
Don’t expect your girlfriend or boyfriend to simply throw down the list and say, “Forget it, I’ll do it later. Let’s cuddle.” This will never happen. Before any form of (forced) relaxation can occur, everything on their partner’s list must be completed to his or her satisfaction. If you’d like to get things finished quickly, be quiet and wait patiently.
You start to rely on your partner for everything
When you’re dating someone who is obsessive-compulsive, you’ll start to realize that he or she will plan everything for you, leaving you to just relax. This goes for basically everything: making Friday-night dates, planning vacations, picking the movie. Everything.
The problem is that once your partner has made the schedule, those plans cannot be changed. Everything has been figured out and timed to the second. If you try to change the plans, there is the possibility of a meltdown. It’s not worth it. Trust me.
Your partner makes you hyper-aware of everything you do
Being around someone who has every move calculated, and spending time with a person who takes great pride in planning and execution, means that everything you do, every mistake you make, will become painfully obvious.
When you see someone cleaning all the time, for example, it’s easy to think, “Why am I sitting here when I could be cleaning?” or “What am I doing with my time? She always seems so busy.”
You will need patience. So much patience.
Gigi Engle is a staff writer for Elite Daily covering dating, fashion and lifestyle. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English from Fordham University.
This article is reprinted with permission from Elite Daily.
Not always easy to understand, people may experience obsessions, compulsions, or both, and they cause a lot of distress. Obsessions are unwanted and repetitive thoughts, urges, or images that don’t go away and are actions to reduce the anxiety caused by obsessions. Compulsions may be behaviours like washing, cleaning, or ordering things in a certain way. OCD can affect anyone and can be challenging, embarrassing and hard to explain to others. Many people describe OCD as something that takes over their life, and is not easy to deal with. The good news is that OCD is treatable with anti-depressant medications, and counseling. A type of therapy called cognitive-behavioural therapy (or ‘CBT’) has been effective for some as well.
For more information, see www.cmha.ca