If you’re dating someone with OCPD and want to understand them better or work through challenges, these therapist-backed insights for couples can help.
Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD) is a mental health condition defined by orderliness, control, and perfection. It’s one of the most common personality disorders and can affect all aspects of life, including your career, relationships, and mental health.
Living with OCPD brings many personal challenges, and it also brings challenges for friends and loved ones. While OCPD is often viewed as a relationship obstacle, there are both positives and negatives to this type of relationship.
Psych Central asked mental health experts for their insights into the benefits and challenges of dating with OCPD, along with some tips and tricks to give your relationship the best chance for success — plus signs that suggest it’s time to walk away.
Difficulties showing empathy
Empathy is a core component of connection. If a relationship lacks empathy on one or both sides, it can cause problems.
“People with OCPD tend to be critical, and they may have difficulty showing empathy or keeping a flexible perspective,” says Valentina Dragomir, a psychotherapist and founder of PsihoSensus Therapy and PsihoSensus Academy.
“This can lead to conflict in the relationship, and it can be tough for their partners to feel like they’re being heard or understood,” she says.
Rigid and stubborn traits
People with OCPD might have rigid thinking patterns, such as all-or-nothing thinking.
“This type of thinking can make it hard to compromise,” says Dr. Raffaello Antonino, counseling psychologist, clinical director and founder of Therapy Central.
“In an argument, you might feel frustrated that, despite your efforts, the only way to close the discussion is either to give in to their demands or walk away,” he says.
An excessive focus on work
An excessive conscientiousness or focus on work can lead to neglecting interpersonal relationships.
This common aspect of OCPD may lead to a partner feeling neglected and set aside in favor of work commitment, Antonino says. A major focus on work means, on average, having less time for leisure and other activities that are essential for the relationship.
Preoccupation with organization, lists, schedules, and plans
Being organized is generally a good trait, helping us reach goals and make meaningful changes. But too much organization can eliminate spontaneity, a fundamental ingredient in romantic relationships, says Antonino.
A lack of surprise and spontaneity in the relationship
Aside from specific days and times, the element of surprise may be missing in relationships where one person has OCPD. This can be frustrating for couples.
“It can be challenging to plan for an impromptu weekend away, dinner or night out with someone with OCPD, making it hard for their partner and even their friends and family to maintain and cultivate a relationship,” Antonino explains. “A relationship, however, can be had, but it may feel as though it is often only on their terms.”
Ambitious and financially stable
People with OCPD are often very productive, financially stable, and career-oriented.
“This can make them excellent and trustworthy providers and people you can genuinely count upon. These are crucial aspects of long lasting relationships, giving the partner a sense of security,” Antonino says.
Careful planning and organization are also vital in relationships.
This is especially true when the family gets bigger. Having a partner who never runs out of groceries and always knows where you left the passports can be an essential resource, Antonino explains.
Suppose you’re going on a holiday together. In that case, you can likely count on them to do stunningly thorough research and select the best places to visit while maximizing your time away, says Antonino. Sure, you might renounce some spontaneity, but you’ll likely feel less stressed and enjoy a satisfying vacation.
Consistent in following personal values and beliefs
Trust is the cornerstone of any healthy partnership and for people with OCPD, what you see is often what you get.
“They truly practice what they preach,” Antonino states. “They’re usually honest, transparent, and no-nonsense. Furthermore, they tend to be responsible and trustworthy.”
They might be a little rigid, but there are other excellent characteristics that can give you and your relationship safety and stability and provide a secure and predictable framework to raise children, Antonino adds.
Be specific in your communication
The more direct you are, the more likely you will communicate effectively.
“Avoid using vague or ambiguous language, as this can be confusing or frustrating for someone with OCPD,” Dragomir suggests.
It’s always better to express outwardly what you are feeling.
“They may be rigid, but they’re able to reason,” Antonino states. “Talk about the problem you’re having. Whether with someone with OCPD or otherwise, relationship issues often don’t get solved because we don’t talk about them.”
Practice relaxation techniques
Relaxation techniques can help you manage stress, stay calm and avoid starting a fight. Try to make sure your expectations are realistic and avoid pressuring your loved one to change overnight, Dragomir says.
Relaxation techniques might include:
- breathing exercises
- progressive muscle relaxation
People with OCPD are hard enough on themselves, and it can help to do your best not to add to it.
“Much of OCPD is ruled by the need to have control. There was a time in your partner’s life when they lost control, and it changed their life. Be compassionate toward that while promoting emotional safety for letting go,” says Sharonda Brown, MA, NCC, LPC.
Try to reassure your partner that while things may not go as planned or be structured, moments can still be enjoyable. Evidence of this is crucial for your relationship to thrive, Brown adds.
Work with their quirks, not against them
If you feel like the relationship has plateaued, or you’d like a little more intimate time, try to create a schedule that reflects that.
For example, Antonino says you might agree to plan some couples’ activities, such as going on a date, a weekend away, visiting a museum, or even making love. You can almost surely count on them following through, and you’ll more likely satisfy your needs in a way that works for both of you.
Treatments can help reduce the impact of OCPD symptoms on the person and their loved ones.
Therapies for OCPD can include:
- cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- mindfulness-based therapies
- integrative psychotherapy
- seeing a therapist as a couple
In couples therapy, the work won’t be entirely on the partner with OCPD to change. Instead, you focus on working together.
The aim is to get your habits, routines, quirks, and characteristics to unify, which allows you to satisfy each other’s needs. This is the essence of keeping a relationship flourishing, Antonino explains.
If you’ve tried to enhance your connection and work through the challenges, but the relationship doesn’t improve, it may be time to end it.
Here are some signs that it’s time to consider walking away:
The relationship damages your self-esteem
“When the relationship has made you feel like you aren’t good enough or decreases your self-esteem, it may mean that the relationship is no longer healthy for you,” says Brown.
You feel neglected, misunderstood, and isolated by your partner
If you communicate feeling neglected, misunderstood, or isolated but face only more dismissal, misunderstanding, and a lack of empathy, it may be a sign that the relationship simply isn’t meant to be, Antonino explains.
Brown provides additional signs that your relationship may be at an impasse, including:
- frequently arguing or disagreeing
- no longer dating or enjoying one another
- feeling alone when your partner is in the room
- believing that valuable time has passed that you can not get back
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, and you need more information or immediate help, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline online, or call or text “START” to 800-799-SAFE (7233). This resource is confidential.
Although OCPD has a negative connotation in the context of relationships, there are pros and cons to this type of partnership.
If you’re dating someone with this mental health condition, learning the best ways to communicate can give your relationship the best chance for success.
Every person with OCPD is unique. To cultivate a meaningful bond or repair a damaged connection, there are helpful tips you can follow.
In some cases, the relationship is beyond repair, and it’s important to know these signs as well.