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Relationship OCD

Different Ways Relationship OCD Presents

Relationship OCD involves repetitive intrusive thoughts and doubts about an interpersonal relationship in one’s life.


Relationship OCD can focus on any interpersonal relationship, but it often targets the relationships that are most important to someone (e.g., spouses, partners, parents, close friends). People with Relationship OCD may also hold rigid or unrealistic beliefs about relationships, which feed into their relationship doubts.


People struggling with Relationship OCD often experience chronic doubts about the quality of their relationships. They may constantly grapple with questions such as, “Am I really in love with my partner?”, “How do I know if my spouse is the one for me?”, “Do I love my parents enough?”, or “Am I really compatible with my best friend?” 


Scenario: Amara has been experiencing intrusive thoughts about the “rightness” of her relationship. She believes the “right” relationship will always make her happy and that she should always feel attracted to her girlfriend. Therefore, Amara feels highly anxious and starts questioning whether she is with the “right” person whenever she feels bored around her girlfriend or does not feel particularly attracted to her.

The intrusive thoughts in Relationship OCD can focus on the quality of a relationship itself. For example, obsessively questioning things such as, “Are we happy enough as a couple?” or “Our family backgrounds are so different, what if this is a bad sign?”


It is also possible for the intrusive thoughts to be partner-focused, in which case the intrusive thoughts fixate on a partner’s real or perceived “flaws.” The intrusive thoughts can focus on any area, such as physical features (“I can’t stop thinking about the mole on my boyfriend’s face.”), personality traits (“It’s really bothering me that my best friend is not assertive.”), social traits (“Is my dad friendly enough?”), or intelligence (“What if my partner is not intelligent enough for me?”).

The partner’s “flaws” that people with this type of OCD focus on may have been things that slightly bothered them before but feel like a huge, glaring problem after the OCD latches onto them. The “flaws” can also be things that people have never noticed about their partner and do not even care about, but suddenly the OCD makes it difficult for them to think about anything else.


Scenario: Manny is a Christian and has been happily married to his Hindu wife. He came across an article discussing the importance of shared values in a relationship and started questioning whether he was married to the right person because he and his wife do not share exactly the same religious values. Their religious differences never bothered Manny before but now he cannot stop worrying about whether he married the wrong person. He used to enjoy listening to his wife’s thoughts about Hinduism, but now any mention of her faith makes him extremely anxious.

All relationships go through difficult times, and everyone has flaws and limitations. However, people with Relationship OCD become hyper-focused and stuck on their relationship doubts and partner’s flaws, leaving them feeling confused about their relationship and desperate for certainty.

Relationship OCD Compulsions

Compulsions are anything that people with OCD do to relieve the anxiety and distress brought on by their intrusive thoughts (i.e., obsessions, worries). The variations of compulsions are endless and vary from person to person, which makes it impossible to include examples of all possible compulsions in this guide. Below is a selection of examples illustrating a range of ways Relationship OCD compulsions present.

Examples of Relationship OCD Compulsions:

Avoiding spending time with your partner because it triggers intrusive thoughts.


Avoiding romance movies or novels because it triggers intrusive thoughts.


Comparing your friendship/relationship to others’ relationships to check if yours is “good”, “toxic”, etc.


Repeatedly checking how you feel around your partner to ensure you are attracted to them or feel “in love”.

(e.g., “Do I feel attracted to my partner right now?”, “Do I feel love when I kiss my partner?”)


Needing to do certain rituals to ensure that nothing bad happens to your relationship.

(e.g., needing to blink four times if you have a negative thought about your relationship)


Ruminating on the question, “Do I love my mom or dad more?” and spending hours gathering evidence for yourself that you love them both the same amount.


Avoiding spending time with certain people who are not your partner for fear you might have a sexual or romantic thought about the other person.


Constantly asking others for feedback about whether they think your partner is right for you.


Seeking reassurance that you are in the “right” relationship.


Doing things to try to “perfect” your relationship.


Over-analyzing your relationship or your partner.


Trying to force feelings of attraction or love to decrease doubts about not being in the “right” relationship.


Engaging in your best friend’s hobbies, even though you have no interest in them because you need to make sure you and your best friend have everything in common.

Help for Relationship OCD

Our relationships play a central role in our lives and well-being. Therefore, it is incredibly confusing and painful when OCD attacks relationships that are important to us. However, there is effective therapy; Relationship OCD, like all types of OCD, is treatable. The gold-standard treatment for OCD is a type of behavioral intervention called exposure therapy. In addition to exposures, there are also other highly effective acceptance-based interventions that complement exposure therapy for OCD. 

We hope that this guide has helped you to better understand Relationship OCD.

You do not need to live a life overwhelmed and controlled by OCD. Equipping yourself with practical information for treating OCD and learning how to respond to OCD in an effective way can be life changing. Oftentimes, people unknowingly engage in actions that feed the OCD cycle

If you would like to learn more in-depth information about OCD treatment and recovery, you are welcome to read our Educational Guides on exposure therapy and other acceptance-based interventions for OCD:

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