Have you ever met someone who finds a problem with almost everything you do? From the moment you walk in the door, she’s telling you how she wants you to act, where to sit, what to talk about, and completely dissects everything you say, so you end up feeling as if you are walking on eggshells? You may often feel as if you don’t have the energy to be around that person, when you deal with a hard time in your own life. Have you considered that this friend or partner may be dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)?
Sometimes, letting go of the smallest of issues is hard for people who have a diagnosis of OCD. This problem affects rationale and causes anxiety, involving both obsessions and compulsions that take a lot of time and get in the way of important relationships and activities. You may have seen the television show Monk. Monk was the extreme OCD patient, unable to touch anything without gloves. Things had to be in perfect order, or he would have to stop everything he was doing and fix the painting slightly tilted at a 2-degree angle.
OCD doesn’t often take such a strong hold of someone’s life, such as the character Monk. This disease often affects people in smaller degrees. It may present as a way to take control of minor issues to keep from looking at past pain or fear. For someone such as this, you will notice lots of order around the house. Specific articles have to be just properly placed, or conversations are radically dissected, with the OCD person usually trying to discern what each word in your sentence means. In any of these instances, the OCD person is trying to control behavior to keep from being activated by his/her own issues.
Often, we may have thought that a friend or relative is simply controlling, when the truth is, he or she may simply have OCD. If this is the case, then you do have to do some managing to be safe in this relationship. But, the managing you have to do is in your own perception and in deciding just how far you’ll walk with that person into that diagnosis.
I have had two partners with severe OCD. One was more compulsive than the other. Partner One would check to see if his car was locked three or four times a night. If some article were on sale at a store, he would buy 10 of the product to make sure he had enough. Then, once he got home, wonder if he had bought enough. Often, he would go back out and buy more. Yet, his room was in such disarray, I had to keep the door shut.
Partner Two had both compulsive and obsessive problems. He was the picture perfect OCD patient. The bedspread and bed pillows had to be placed exactly in order every morning. The toilet paper had to be facing in a particular direction. If he bought something to hang on the wall, he would eventually go out and buy something for the other side of the room, so that it balanced in his mind. His closet looked like an army sergeant had ordered him to color code it. Underneath every bed in the house were paintings he simply had to have because of the sale price, yet space on the wall did not exist. His house had more knickknacks than a home goods store. Yet, at the beginning of both of these relationships, I didn’t see these signs. In fact, the newness of the relationship kept Partners One and Two so preoccupied that neither showed signs until they were comfortable enough. Unfortunately for me, I had fallen in love by that time.
We wonder why anyone gets to the place in life where he or she has to control small aspects of life in such extreme ways. But we don’t have to look too far to see that these people have had hard lives and, by taking control of the small things, sometimes peace returns to their minds. So, when a friend or relative or intimate partner wants to control the tiny things in your life, you can have a modicum of compassion. However, for me, I had to draw a line in the sand with both of my OCD partners and with friends who try to control my smallest behaviors.
For someone who has OCD and is trying to attract more close friends or, maybe, even begin a relationship with an intimate partner, you must realize that your controlling behavior impacts everyone around you. Friends will feel as if they are walking on eggshells around you. You have to realize that treading lightly takes more energy than most friends want to give. Even the most compassionate of friends has to draw the line somewhere.
What you often find in friendships with an OCD person is that, if you acquiesce to the small things, that same friend will begin to dissect even smaller things. As the friend, you have to find a space where you can feel safe in the relationship. This can be hard to maneuver. Eventually, in both relationships, the OCD got too much for me and I moved on.
I know this sounds harsh, especially for the person with OCD, who has probably pushed away countless good friendships and feels horrible about it. People with this problem understand that it’s difficult to be around them. If they don’t, they are likely to spend the rest of their lives lonely and going from one friendship to the next looking for a safe place to land.
My advice, after spending four years dealing with this situation on a day-to-day basis is to be honest about what bugs you. Try to find a common ground of understanding. Ask the person with whom you love to cut you some slack in certain situations, especially when you need special care or are frightened. I noticed that these partners are quite compassionate when they are not activated by their own issues. So, if you are more transparent about what you need, often, your problem takes their mind off of the small issues that upset them.
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