Wednesday, September 16, 2009

OCD through My Husband's Eyes

A blog post written by bloggerwithocd's husband

So, my wife asked me to write a blog post for her about what it’s like to be married to someone with OCD. She jokingly said I could write about “how I put up with her.” In reality, it is a joy and a privilege to be married to such a glowing, caring, loving woman. For the vast majority of our time together, OCD has no negative effects and, as my wife alluded to in an earlier post, I believe that it benefits our relationship. We love to be goofy together, and I know that her non-linear thinking leads to a lot of laughter for us. Moreover, living with someone with OCD has taught me many things, both about the condition and about myself.

My wife revealed that she had OCD relatively early in our relationship, but it was hard to know what that meant, exactly. People say “Oh, I’m so OCD” so much that it’s easy to forget that OCD is an actual medical condition. That is unfortunate to me, and it seems to be in keeping with our culture’s inability to really address mental or emotional disorders. No one would ever say “Oh, that broken leg is just in your head. Get over it.” But people will cavalierly dismiss things like OCD without any thought.

One thing that I realized about eight months into our married life is how real and how potentially debilitating OCD can be. As my wife discussed in an earlier post, she had a difficult period in 2008 where she couldn’t sleep, could barely eat, and simply wasn’t functioning like she normally does. It was the first time that I experienced the power that OCD can have over someone, and I was simply overwhelmed. I had no idea how to help her, and when we were ultimately sitting in the emergency room at 1:00 AM, I realized that OCD needs to be treated, and treated aggressively, the same way you would address any chronic medical condition. Since that time, I think that I’ve gotten better at helping her address OCD problems. I try to help her confront issues, and to provide reassurance while at the same time trying not to enable any irrational needs or affirmations. At least, I hope I help sometimes. But the reality of OCD has made me more attuned and more sympathetic to others who struggle with the same or similar conditions.

Another striking aspect of OCD is its ability to surprise. There are certain things that I’ve come to expect from OCD and situations that I know are going to trigger OCD anxiety (leaving appliances on, dangerous driving, etc.). But then, I go to a session with my wife and her therapist, and I find out that there were days over the past week where my wife would gag when eating meals because of an OCD-related worry. It’s an issue that I hadn’t noticed, and a trigger that I didn’t even know existed. I’m someone who generally prefers to be on an even keel, and having such surprises can be jarring. But they have taught me to pay closer attention to my wife. It can be easy to respond to a question like “Did we shut off the stove?” with a “Yes,” and not even realize that this is an OCD-related worry. OCD encourages me to observe my wife more closely. And, I hope, it also encourages me to pay closer attention (and have greater appreciation) for the details of my daily life.

Finally, OCD has the capacity to frustrate. It obviously frustrates my wife, but it frustrates me sometimes as well. In particular, she has a bad habit of picking her nails and the skin around them. We all have nervous tics – I, like my grandfather and other male relatives, will rapidly bounce my knee up and down if I’m nervous and sitting. But my wife will pick her fingernails even when we’re in relaxed settings, like just watching TV together or having dinner with family. The message that sends to me is: “I can’t shut this off. There’s always something that I’m worrying about, even subconsciously.” That’s sad to me. She asks me to stay on her to catch her when she’s doing it, but no luck. The picking itself doesn’t bother me as much as the fact that it seems to represent a constant uneasiness. I feel like scolding her to stop picking isn’t really addressing the underlying worries.

In reaction to these frustrations, however, I think I’m slowly learning to be more loving. My wife is very naturally compassionate, and while I am to a degree, I can also be dismissive. Living with OCD in my spouse can help to push past superficial irritations or anger, and into more caring, connected relationships.

My wife and her OCD have taught me a lot in our first few years of marriage. I look forward to learning more in the years to come.

If you are the spouse or friend of someone with OCD, and you have questions for Husband, please post below. All replies to this post from Bloggerwithocd (with the exception of the first two) will be from him.


  1. What an interesting post. Thanks for sharing this.
    bloggerwithocd, looks like you found a good one!

  2. I think this post shows compassion, insight, and understanding that is rare.

  3. I am so happy for you that your husband is so loving, understanding and enlightened.
    And on a quirkier note, i too pick my nails and the skin around them and your husband has made me realise why.

  4. Toh,

    I am going to post about my nailpicking soon! It will be complete with the most repulsive photos you've ever seen...enough to make you (and me both) stop doing it, hopefully!

    StatMama and BeatOCDBlogger, Yes, my husband is very loving!! I am so blessed to have him.

  5. ...and more for Toh: Welcome to my blog! Glad to have you.

  6. BWOCD- your blog inspired me to start writing my own of shorts, we developed our disorder at similar stages of adolesence! my nails and the skin got so bad at one point i had to go to the doctors for treatment, here's to hoping we both stop!

  7. Thank you for sharing your insights.

  8. Hi BwOCD's husband.

    My marriage to a slightly OCD and majorly agoraphobic woman has also given me insights to the otherwise little-known world of anxiety sufferers.

    You appear to be a little bit more understanding of your spouse's condition than I am of mine. However, her generous, thoughtful & loving nature makes my problems with her anxiety issues less important.

    I wish you & your wife all the best for the future!

  9. An Outstanding Post to actual see how OCD works inside a marriage. Moreover how to help control it and keep functioning in the daily life of marriage.

  10. I rarely see such a compassion and understanding. Thanks for sharing your insights. Wish you all the best!

  11. Hi, I think it's great that you're so supportive of your wife. And that you've both been involved in counselling for it. I was involved with my ex boyfriend for 2 and half years and I wish my experience was as positive. There were just so many moments though where I could never live up to his expectations. Everything had to be even steven with him. Right down to me using our car. If I used the car, to go have some me time, I would have take part of that me time and spend like an hour washing the car inside and out. I tried so very hard to be the independent woman, but at the end of the day, splitting everything financially down the middle doesn't always work when one person makes $60, 000.00 a year and the other makes a quarter of that. I only wish we'd had counselling during our relationship, it would have made a huge difference on how I understood where he was coming from--left brain logical to my right brain emotional self.
    Anyway it's great you're supportive!:).

  12. It's good to hear that you are so supportive. I try to be supportive of my partner, who has OCD, but it is making me suicidal.

    I can't live at home (have crashed wherever I can for 9 months now) because of being screamed at constantly for doing things wrong that I didn't know were wrong until I did them, and every spare penny I earn is spent on cleaning materials even at the expense of paying the mortgage although we are already facing repossession.

    This may sound very selfish I am so tempted to leave my partner... to finally cope alone financially, so that I can have some quality of life.

    It is so difficult to believe she will ever get better.

  13. My husband has OCD and I am very angry with him. I can't believe that you feel the way you do. OCD is a curse...not a blessing (unless you like being a caretaker).

  14. thank you so much for letting me ( an OCD sufferer) have hope that my husband might also one day understand what I everyday go through! your wife is such a special person! she deserves to be loved appriciated and helped! She is also very lucky to have someone like you!!

  15. HI !:) Thank you for bloggin about this topic, as I also was searching on the internet about an article of someone who I could relate to... having frustrations in living with a partner while being Ocd. I feel that I cannot live with a nother partner for the rest of my life as I would be too irrational, or just plain irritating to them..I don't wannt to put them through that.But if you see me, I am sweet pretty which has nothing to do with any of it..and intelligent I have a huge heart..and am funny too..but its a challenge some days and some days are good. :)