I have thoughts that make me think I’m attracted to other guys. Now I’m obsessing whether I still love my partner. Why is this happening?

Anyone can get doubts about whether the person they are with is right for them. These are justifiable doubts. Rational thought and concrete decisions to resolve these are helpful. However, when obsessions are involved the doubts are unwarranted and contradict the person’s true desires, meaning a resolve is harder to define.

How can I tell the difference?

It’s basically a repeat of the above. For example, the doubts associated with OCD tend to be where a person ruminates on “what-ifs?” which is linked to emotional reasoning. As a result this does not reach to any reasonable or definite conclusion. Yet, real doubts lean more towards the person’s dealing with the facts about their relationship. By seeing the bigger picture they are more able to find workable solutions.

 I obsess on “what-ifs?” Why do people with ROCD do this?

Well first, people who have any OCD theme often have difficulty coping with ambiguous situations. Even in non-OCD situations they have a tendency to doubt their competence in decision-making. Being sure about something means they go through the “what-ifs” to prove or disprove whether there is anything legitimate to worry about, and then still be doubtful. Living with uncertainty is a way out of living with never-ending doubts and “what-ifs.”

How can I learn to live with uncertainty?

When high anxiety levels and compensatory rituals such as checking, reassurance and mental reviewing creeps in it’s crucial that you delay and resist giving into these rituals. This way you learn to tolerate the feeling of uncertainty whist bearing with the anxiety until it reduces naturally, which is usually after a short while.

But is there a chance that my thoughts could be true, they seem so real.

Well this comes back to having doubts. When you think about being attracted to other guys and you resort to thinking errors such as “I think I’m attracted to other guys, I guess I’m just hopeless at relationships” you are feeding those doubts and strengthening the obsession. It is the strength of the obsession that makes your thoughts feel real.

Yes, that’s how it is. I obsess all day too about whether I’m good enough for my partner and often seek reassurance or compare myself with other girls.

No matter how much you obsess about whether you are good enough, or compare your qualities with same-sex people, you will never be satisfied with the outcome. Also, no matter how much you seek reassurance or check for proof, the comfort or relief you gain from this will forever be short-lived. This is because compulsions that correspond with your obsession serve only to keep the problem going in a circle.

I’m starting to understand a bit better, and it’s strange too because you’d think the jealousy would be with my partner if I really did find someone else attractive, but it’s actually  the other way around. But why is this?

This is because OCD continues to sneak in with whatever matters most to you, which compounds the already distressing symptoms you are experiencing. From this perspective it’s not unusual to find yourself questioning your partner’s fidelity or commitment to the relationship.  These obsessions and compulsions unfortunately put that extra strain on the relationship. It’s very easy when thinking and reasoning emotionally how you might mistakenly “see proof” that your partner wants to end the relationship or is seeing someone else when factually the problem relates to your insecurities caused by your anxiety-related disorder.

Yes, the strain on my relationship is taking its tool, and I’ve been controlling the thoughts, but this is so hard to keep up with.

Controlling intrusive thoughts is another type of compulsion, and as noted, compulsions feed the obsession. The better option is to acknowledge the thoughts are there, allow them to be there and to then bear with the anxiety while the thoughts go through the process of filtering out in their own time. You can do this mentally whether you’re with your partner, alone, at work, or other place… this takes practice but it is effective.

I’m becoming very guilty about putting a strain on the relationship, what can I do?

Guilt often becomes a problem. People who suffer guilt generally go through imperatives which involve negative “shoulds” and “musts” to express how they feel – e.g., “I should not think such thoughts“ or “I must guard against questioning my partner’s fidelity”. Cognitive therapy can help to alter these thinking errors for better outcomes and exposure response prevention (ERP) helps you face your fears.

How does ERP work?

To begin with, you would write a list of triggers. Once you’ve done this you then list obsessions associated with the triggers and give each a subject unit of distress. You would then face the obsessions (exposure) in graduated steps and resist the compulsions (response prevention) for each obsession. This weakens the obsession and the urge to ritualise decreases. Remember compulsions include controlling thoughts, neutralising, reassurance seeking, checking for proof, ruminating on what-ifs, and anything else that gives you temporary anxiety relief. If you have more than one compulsions all of them would need resisting or the exposures won’t work.

What do I say to a therapist?

If you feel that your symptoms have gotten to the stage where you need to consult with a cognitive behavioural therapist  (in-person or online) do make sure they are familiar with OCD and how to apply CBT for this disorder. Invite your partner to be involved as this will help both of you to follow through with strategies that your therapist sets out for you at home. You may also need medication to passively reduce the symptoms of OCD so a visit to your doctor is generally advised.

Visit me at pureocdtherapist!

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