Meticulous, neat, and overly fussy–while these traits may seem beneficial in a partner, they may also point to obsessive-compulsive tendencies.
When you and your partner decided that you’d be moving in together, you noticed that they keep the house neat and organized like an army barracks ready for inspection. It’s a good thing, right? You’ve managed to find yourself a keeper.
However, your bright dreams of a happy future home get shadowed with doubt when your partner yelled at you for moving his chair a couple of inches from where it stands. Uh oh… your partner could be exhibiting obsessive-compulsive tendencies.
Being neat and organized is a generally desirable trait in a person. I mean, who wouldn’t want someone who exerts the effort to keep things in order around the clock? Lots of people complain about their messy and untidy partner who keeps a living space that looks like the aftermath of a Michael Bay movie. So why not enjoy the fact that you have someone who does all the cleaning up for you?
However, there is a big difference between a well-trained barracks Marine and a rigid Sheldon Cooper. While it is true that a neat, well-organized person is a plus in a shared living space, a strict, uncompromising, anal partner could be a domestic nightmare for the both of you.
What is obsessive-compulsive disorder?
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a type of a mental disorder where the affected person experiences recurring thoughts that need to be acted out. These thoughts are called obsessions. Obsessions are incessant and uncontrollable for the person involved, to the point that it induces anxiety and discomfort until it is released by doing something to alleviate it. The subsequent action is called a compulsion.
For example, a person who is obsessed with cleanliness thinks that the floor is so riddled with germs that they’re sure to get sick from those germs. In order to lose the fear of getting sick, the person feels compelled to scrub and clean the floor many times over until they are satisfied.
OCD is a serious mental disorder that oftentimes requires professional help. It is important, however, to determine whether your partner clearly exhibits the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder or is just really organized at home.
Signs of a partner with OCD
Don’t jump to conclusions and assume that cleanliness is a sign of OCD! Here are the real signs that your partner may have obsessive-compulsive tendencies.
#1 Painstakingly elaborate organizing. The most recognizable of all the signs is their near-superhuman tendency to organize things. People with obsessive-compulsive tendencies will spend time and effort organizing things to the most miniscule detail. They may go even further by organizing household objects that would not normally require such painstaking organization, like toothpicks, straws, dry lawn leaves, etc.
Opening their closet might reveal a perfect universe: clothes sorted according to type, color, and season, shoes pristinely shined to the sole, and accessories polished and kept in separate compartments. In the same way, the garage will be so organized that it’ll be worthy of being displayed as a real estate show room. Everything is labeled and color-coded. And don’t be surprised if your trash is also sorted into categories and subcategories.
#2 Strict adherence to a schedule. Just like their belongings, their daily activities are all sorted out and scheduled. Take Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, where every day, he has a scheduled activity that cannot be broken or moved to another day.
In the same way, expect that you won’t be able to invite your partner for a spontaneous and interesting activity because Thursday night is laundry night. People with obsessive-compulsive tendencies follow their schedules religiously, and it will cause them great discomfort if they fail to do so.
#3 Ritualistic behavior. People with obsessive-compulsive tendencies tend to display an amount of ritualism in their daily activities. They treat certain activities like a strict recipe, where onions should definitely go in the pan before garlic does.
For them, activities need to follow a step-by-step process where you can’t mix up the steps, even though it is absolutely unnecessary. Shopping is always shoes before clothes, then underwear. Underwear first, then the rest? Unacceptable. If you attempt to do their ritual the “wrong way,” watch them tear out their hair in frustration before you get shooed away, so that they can do it themselves.
#4 Everything should be in order to the micrometer. This means that objects that they organized are in their exact place and should be left alone in their perfect state. They will notice if you placed the green toothbrush in the left glass instead of the right or if the television is 15 degrees off from its normal angle. They spend a lot of time doing routine checks to see if the things around the house are in perfect order. If not, they will do it again from the start.
#5 Rigidity. As a result of the things mentioned above, obsessive-compulsive people will appear rigid and constricted by their dedication to sorting and organizing things. They will have little or no time for other activities that get in the way of their schedule.
Simple tasks often take longer to accomplish because they are inflexible and will not opt for more convenient ways, as another way will not align with their obsessive behaviors. To a person with obsessive-compulsive tendencies, there’s no such thing as, “This should be fine.” Instead, everything must be absolutely perfect, and there’s no room for compromise.
#6 Irritability and obsessive worrying. Your partner is always worried about simple things that “normal” people don’t fuss about. Imagine that you’re on vacation at a beach resort, and instead of enjoying the scenery, your partner is restless, constantly pacing about and asking you about things at home or work. They can’t seem to be at ease unless they are on top of things. This oftentimes serves as a flashpoint for arguments.
#7 Repetition. As a part of their rituals, they tend to repeat certain activities just for their satisfaction. Car doors are opened and closed several times, light switches are turned on and off many times over, they lock and unlock doors, and other, similar actions. In addition, they always count and recount household items and their belongings to make sure that everything is balanced and symmetrical.
#8 Excessive self-consciousness. If you think that their obsessive-compulsive behavior only covers material objects and personal activities, it also affects how they deal with their looks and bearing. They often take a lot of time grooming and making sure that their appearance is acceptable to their standards, even if it becomes inconvenient and painstaking for them.
How to deal with your partner’s obsessive-compulsive behavior
Once you’ve noticed that your partner shows the signs of obsessive-compulsive behavior, here are some tips to help you and your partner cope.
#1 Talk about the issue. The first thing to do is to discuss how your partner’s behavior is affecting your relationship. Be clear yet careful with your words, so as not to offend or cause immediate distress. Point out the exact things that you find problematic, and explain how you feel about what your partner does. Also, listen to your partner when they explain their side of things.
#2 Be supportive and understanding. As their significant other, you must be the first one to extend empathy and understanding about your partner’s behavior. You must instill the idea that you are there to support them, not to criticize or judge. [Read: 15 rules of being a great partner in a relationship]
#3 Encourage improvements. In your discussion, you pointed out the things you find problematic. Assist your partner by reminding them that some of the obsessive-compulsive behavior they engage in is unnecessary and that other options are available, so as to allow them to abandon their rigid routine. Praise improvements, and reassure your partner to encourage them to adapt to their condition.
#4 Seek professional help. Even though you’ve read and researched ways to assist your partner in dealing with OCD, there are instances in which the assistance of a professional would be the best choice. It is important to note that when engaging in therapy or counseling, you should do it as a couple in order to share their understanding of the condition, as well as to show support.
Obsessive-compulsive behavior, even though superficially good, could cause problems for you as a couple if ignored. Dealing with it requires knowledge on the condition, as well as emotional support and understanding for your partner.