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Relationship OCD

relationship OCDOne thing is definite about obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is creative, with no shortage of themes to latch onto. Typically, OCD will attack the very things the person with the disorder holds most dear. Training to reach your dream as an Olympic swimmer? OCD will make you fear the water. Just get that job promotion you’ve been working toward for years? OCD will try to convince you that you’ll never be successful in your work. Met the love of your life? The one you’ve been waiting for? OCD will make you question the relationship over and over. This last example of OCD is actually quite common, and widespread enough that it has a name: Relationship OCD or R-OCD.

Those with R-OCD struggle with the belief that perhaps they should no longer be with their spouses (or significant others) either because they think they might not really love them, aren’t compatible, or whatever. The reasons the relationship has come into question are not important. What matters is that the person with R-OCD is looking for certainty; a guarantee that their choice of partner is the right one. They just want to be sure. To be clear, I’m not talking about those fleeting thoughts that we all have once in a while. I’m talking about unrelenting, strong obsessive thoughts that tell the person with OCD to get out of the relationship. These feelings are so overpowering that some people even become physically ill because of them.

One of the reasons why these thoughts might be so distressing is because those with obsessive-compulsive disorder know their thoughts are not rational. They know how much they love and care for their partner. But these thoughts torment nonetheless. They incite doubt. It’s not surprising that it can be upsetting and confusing to not only the person with OCD, but to his or her significant other as well.

R-OCD is most common in those who exhibit other symptoms of OCD, and for these people, R-OCD might not be too difficult to diagnose. But there are some people whose OCD only revolves around relationships and these cases of R-OCD might go undiagnosed.

So how to you know if you are dealing with R-OCD? Couples have issues and end relationships all of the time for all kinds of reasons. Certainly it’s not always due to R-OCD. How can we sort out what’s really going on?

I highly recommend reading this article which can help you figure out if R-OCD might be an issue. If you are dealing with obsessive thinking and intolerance of uncertainty, for example, then seeking professional help is probably a good idea.

The treatment for R-OCD is the same as for all types of OCD. Exposure and Response prevention (ERP) therapy is the frontline psychological approach for treating the disorder. Finding a therapist who specializes in treating OCD is imperative. Left untreated, those with R-OCD commonly will either be in an on-again off-again relationship with the same person, or be in a series of failed relationships. 

OCD can be a devastating disorder that wreaks havoc on a person’s life. In my opinion, Relationship OCD is one of the most heart-breaking types of OCD. It attacks one of the most basic of human needs and desires — to love and be loved.

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If you think you might be suffering from R-OCD, please seek appropriate help. The good news is that it, like all forms of OCD, is highly treatable, and you can go on to live a life filled with love. 


Relationship OCD

Janet Singer

Janet Singer’s son Dan suffered from OCD so severe that he could not even eat. After navigating through a disorienting maze of treatments and programs, Dan made a triumphant recovery. Janet has become an advocate for OCD awareness and wants everyone to know that OCD, no matter how severe, is treatable. There is so much hope for those with this disorder. Janet, who uses a pseudonym to protect her son’s privacy, is the author of Overcoming OCD: A Journey to Recovery, published in January 2015 by Rowman & Littlefield. Her own blog,, has reached readers in 167 countries. She is married with three children and resides in New England.

APA Reference
Singer, J. (2018). Relationship OCD. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 12, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018 (Originally: 30 Sep 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.