I’m lucky. From past experiences and relationships, my husband understands what it’s like to deal with someone who has a mental illness. He appreciates my struggle and didn’t say “good luck with that, I’m going to let you deal with that on your own.” It was my husband who encouraged me to seek help and continues to push me to do my exposures, figure out solutions, and work with my doctor. He helps with the kids, wipes dirty bottoms, gives baths, and limits the times he gives me reassurance (which I don’t always like but is necessary).
But it’s still not a picnic for him, me, and the OCD to live together.
On Wednesday, we will have a special guest post from my husband in which he will explain what it’s like to live with and support a spouse with obsessive compulsive disorder. Today, you get my side of the story.
Mostly I feel guilty and ashamed.
I feel badly if I make him wait in the car with the kids while I take an exorbitant amount of time in the bathroom. I feel like I make him take responsibility for so much: the aforementioned toilet and bath duties, plunging toilets, and anything I simply can’t do at whatever moment because I’m having a panic attack. I’ve ducked out of social gatherings and left him to do the explaining. On weekends, I let him do as much as he agrees to with the children. And I feel guilty about it, at least a good portion of the time.
Since my husband works from home, I’m blessed to have and rely on his support. When he goes out of town, I feel badly for complaining or struggling. I especially felt guilty when I freaked out so badly that he felt the need to fly home early from a work trip that was definitely not complete. Once again, he was left to do the explaining to his coworkers and boss. I couldn’t handle life, let alone make excuses.
And then there are the “arguments” and the conflict.
Granted, we don’t have very bad arguments and are lucky enough to have a really great marriage. But the fact remains that the OCD likes to twist or ignore logic, making my brain think something makes complete sense while to him, it is totally insane. He might try to tell me that no, he shouldn’t have to wash his hands after doing such and such but I relent. He might touch me with his shower towel on accident after I’m already dressed and then not understand why I now must change the entire outfit I just spent twenty minutes picking out. I might demand he wash my son’s hair since he just put his underwear on as a hat, and my husband will put his foot down and say absolutely not, that’s crazy. It’s these times, when the OCD demands that my husband do something (or avoid doing something), that cause marital stress.
The psychologist-patient relationship can sometimes bring tension as well.
It’s not the fact that a psychologist is being seen, necessarily, but the fact that I don’t always tell my psychologist “everything” or explain the full extent of my problems. In addition, sometimes your spouse might try to take on the role of psychologist because he or she wants to help you make changes and improve. Advice might be dispensed, exposures “administered” against your will, or other instruction given. Then, when you push back and say “you don’t know what you’re talking about! You’re not my psychologist!” is when you have the problem. Because really, their advice might be right on. They might say something that your psychologist already has said or will soon say. But your relationships are different. Your psychologist is in a position of trust and authority that is different from that of a spouse, and this can sometimes cause hard feelings, especially since your spouse may not have even met your psychologist.
All in all, living with someone who has OCD can’t be easy. It’s not easy living with the OCD, so I can only imagine what it’s like to live with someone who feels obligated to obey an irrational voice in their mind. I’m looking forward to reading my husband’s post on Wednesday to get his opinion. Don’t forget to check back and read it yourself—subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss it!
How is the relationship with you, your spouse, and the OCD? Any major breakthroughs? What do you think is the most important thing to remember to make your relationship work?