5 Ways Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) Hurts Your Marriage

How to manage OCD in a marriage.

Man obsessively playing video games ignoring partners needs Curtis Adams, Wavebreakmedia | Canva 

Has someone said you had OCD or OCPD and labeled you as a perfectionist? Or are you in a marriage with one and their obsession with perfectionism is making you crazy? A little perfectionism is a good thing. People who keep their ducks in a row generally do better in life than disorganized people. 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.


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Most of us want to be in a healthy relationship with someone 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. But, when do perfectionism and obsessive thoughts become a serious problem?

They can destroy loving relationships, especially when it's a symptom of Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). If you are in a relationship with someone whose 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 (OCPD), 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 he 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 for people with Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. OCPD is a personality disorder defined by a concern with perfectionism, orderliness, and excessive attention to detail. People with OCPD often need mental and interpersonal control and they 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.

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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 who 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 by unrealistic perfectionistic standards. OCPD is defined by having at least three of the following symptoms,


Here are 5 ways Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) hurts your marriage:

1. Feelings of excessive doubt and caution

This includes a 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

This is the type of perfectionism that interferes with task completion; excessive conscientiousness, scrupulousness, and undue preoccupation with productivity to the exclusion of pleasure and interpersonal relationships. Since the person with OCPD is excessively focused on lists, being on time, and organization, they 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 are involved as well. 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.


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4. A "My way or the highway" attitude

They have an 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. An intrusion of insistent and unwelcome thoughts or impulses

Being preoccupied with germs, fitness, beauty, or intimacy can rob a couple of the freedom to be who they are. When fear dominates one person in the relationship, the other suffers as well from a lack of 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 crazy.


If this is the case, you have some of your work to do in shoring up your 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.

You need 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 with 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 available?

Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT) can be helpful to help both partners 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 healing OCPD and your relationship. That’s a lot to think about. But understanding how Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD) destroys romantic relationships is your first step in 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.


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Dr. Michael Regier is a clinical psychologist, marriage counselor, and executive coach with over 30 years of experience working to help couples repair unhappy marriages and create forever love. He and his wife Paula are authors of the book Emotional Connection: The Story & Science of Preventing Conflict & Creating Lifetime Love.