5 Ways that Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) Destroys Love Relationships
Have you been labeled as a perfectionist? Or are you living with one and they’re making you crazy? Has someone said you had OCD or OCPD?
A little perfectionism is a good thing. People who keep their ducks in a row generally do better in life than people who are disorganized. Some jobs and tasks require a great deal of attention to detail.
Would you want to go to a physician who didn’t look at your lab results very carefully? Would you want an engineer designing a bridge who wasn’t careful in calculating its stress load? Not likely.
Being married to a detail oriented, orderly person can be a wonderful thing when it comes to getting your tax return done right. Or when gathering all of the documents required to finance a house. Paying attention to the small things can make a big difference in having a great quality of life.
Most of us want to be with someone who is present and paying attention to the small things that make us happy and sad. Being aware of special days, favorite foods, music, and activities can make a partner feel loved.
When is perfectionism a problem?
However, perfectionism becomes a serious problem that can destroy love relationships when it is a symptom of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, or OCPD. If you are in a relationship with someone who’s perfectionism creates conflict and distance in your relationship, it may be OCPD that is at the root of the problem.
You may have heard of, or been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or OCD. Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder, also called Anankastic Personality Disorder, is a very different kind of problem than OCD. While the names are similar, the symptoms are very different.
People with OCD understand that their perfectionism is dysfunctional. They understand that the rituals they do to reduce anxiety, like compulsive hand washing, are not healthy. But they can’t stop themselves from doing things like not stepping on cracks in the sidewalk, or checking the oven 10 times before they leave the house to make sure it is off.
They have a hard time getting certain kinds of irrational thoughts out of their head even though they know they’re bizarre. They may be so obsessed with not getting germs that they have to wear gloves. Remember the detective in the TV series Monk. He had OCD.
If you have watched Monk you probably felt his character is loveable, even though it is highly dysfunctional. That is because people with OCD do not make others feel like they need to be like they are. They often know they struggle and need help.
How is OCPD different than OCD?
This is different with people with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. OCPD is a personality disorder defined by a concern with perfectionism, orderliness, excessive attention to details. People with OCPD often need mental and interpersonal control, and a need to control their environment. All of the above are dysfunctional because they compromise flexibility, openness, and efficiency.
While the things that they are compulsive about are not as bizarre as people with OCD, they still are dysfunctional. The problem is they think that their unhealthy perfectionism is normal. They believe that others need to have the same black and white perfectionistic standards that they have.
People with OCPD can be dictators and moral supremacists. They often believe that their rigid perfectionistic way of doing things is the right and only way. This puts a great deal of pressure on people who are close to them. They can become angry and belittling when loved ones do not do as they say.
Often they are driven workaholics and are emotionally inaccessible. They can be defensive and demeaning when their partner tries to point out that they are working too hard or have unrealistic standards of behavior. This often causes big problems with growing an intimate relationship.
When one person has OCPD it can make co-parenting a nightmare. The kids will act out more when they are ruled with unrealistic perfectionistic standards.
What are the symptoms of OCPD?
OCPD is defined by having at least three of the following symptoms:
1.Feelings of excessive doubt and caution; preoccupation with details, rules, lists, order, organization or schedule.
This can cause relationship problems when the OCPD person gets angry for not always being on time. Or when there are rigid rules about when and what needs to be done. The OCPD partner may feel micromanaged and treated like a child. This can cause big arguments about the day-to-day activities of living. And both people in the relationship can feel uncared for. But the OCPD person will be sure that he is in the right.
2. Perfectionism that interferes with task completion; excessive conscientiousness, scrupulousness, and undue preoccupation with productivity to the exclusion of pleasure and interpersonal relationships.
Because the person with OCPD is excessively focused on lists, being on time and organization they actually waste time and effort. Hours can be wasted organizing and not getting things done. This can be extremely frustrating for the non-OCPD partner who gets nowhere by trying to point this out.
3. Excessive rigidity and adherence to social conventions; rigidity and stubbornness.
Being rigid about morals, religion, or social conventions can cause the OCPD partner to feel under a weight of unnecessary pressure. There can be arguments about being more relaxed in spiritual practice or in the way the couple keeps up appearances.
My way or the highway.
4. Unreasonable insistence that others submit to exactly his or her way of doing things, or unreasonable reluctance to allow others to do things.
This can interfere with intimacy. For love to flow there needs to be a flexible exchange of emotional needs and wants. The couple will evolve in what they need from each other to feel fulfilled. When the relationship behavior is defined by the rigid rules of the OCPD person it will eventually create distance which can threaten the viability of the relationship.
5. Intrusion of insistent and unwelcome thoughts or impulses.
Being preoccupied with germs, fitness, beauty, or sex can rob a couple of the freedom to be who they really are. When fear dominates one person in the relationship, the other suffers as well from a lack or playful freedom.
Why is understanding OCPD important?
If you live with someone with OCPD you can begin to believe that you cannot measure up to your partner’s expectations. While this may be true, it’s not likely that it has anything to do with you. Unless of course you are a very absent-minded disorganized person that makes the OCPD person feel really crazy. If this is the case, you have some of your own work to do in shoring up your own behavior. You might want to explore whether you struggle with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
But given that you are normal, flexible and a generally organized person, it is important for you not to let shame set in when your partner demeans you for not living up to his or her standards.
It is important for you to recognize that your OCPD partner lives with a lot of anxiety that he or she tries to control with rigid perfectionism. This doesn’t work. They only set up more and more rules that make them more anxious about keeping them.
You will not be able to argue your OCPD partner out of his or her perfectionism. What you can do is have compassion for how important it is for them to live the way they do. And also to recognize how anxious he or she gets when they feel like they are failing.
Is there help?
Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) can be helpful to help both partners to escape the argument trap. And to be able to express fears, needs and wants to each other in a way that allows each to be heard. Learning how to support each other, rather than trying to talk each other out of the way you’re doing things, will go a long way to heal OCPD and your relationship.
That’s a lot to think about. But understanding how Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) destroys love relationships is your first step of doing relationships well.
If you have questions about how OCPD may be affecting your relationship, reach out for professional help. There’s no shame in anyone’s imperfections.
I’m a highly trained and experienced clinical psychologist and Certified Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist in Visalia and San Luis Obispo, California. I help couples understand and grow in their relationships. Learn more about my services and how I can help you thrive in your relationship.