Relationship OCD and the Fantasy of Finding “The One”

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Although I’ve lived with mental illness my whole life, I am not a medical professional. If you need help finding a mental health care provider, call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit BetterHelp to talk to a certified therapist online at an affordable price. This post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclaimer.

Imagine your wedding day. Think about the thoughts you have right before you walk down the aisle. Think about your cold feet. Soak up all the doubts, reservations, and skepticisms circling in your brain, encompassing your entire being.

Now imagine having that feeling all day long, every single day. That’s Relationship OCD.

It’s the kind of doubt that seeps in unexpectedly and begins to chip away at the very core of love. Every concept of life. Every part of you. It’s one of the cruelest things life could ever throw at you.

Here are the common obsessions, compulsions, and treatment plans for Relationship OCD (ROCD):

Relationship OCD and the Fantasy of Finding “The One”


Obsessions in OCD are defined as repetitive unwanted, intrusive, and inappropriate thoughts, ideas, mental images, or impulses that someone experiences. As with other forms of OCD, the obsessions in ROCD focus on issues of doubt and cause intense discomfort.

Common obsessions with ROCD are:

1. Fixation on flaws of your partner’s appearance

2. Fixation on compatibility with your partner

3. Obsession with negative aspects of your partner’s character

4. Reoccurring thoughts of your partner’s past mistakes

5. Fixation of long-term sustainability of the relationship

6. Constant visualizing of your partner with their exes

7. “What if I don’t really love my partner?”

8. “What if they’re not the one?”

9. “What if I would be a better match with someone else?”

10. “What if my partner would be a better match with someone else, like their ex?”

11. “What if I’m not as attracted to my partner as I should be?”

12. “What if I find someone more attractive than my partner?

13. “If I don’t think about my partner all day long, do I really love them?”

14. “I enjoyed time away from my partner. This must mean I’m not truly in love with my partner.”

15. “If I didn’t enjoy that kiss with them, that must mean I shouldn’t be with my partner.”

16. “I can imagine cheating on my partner. I must secretly want to be with someone else.”

17. “My partner doesn’t love me and wants to cheat on me.”

18. “I know the relationship is going to fail, and I need to get out now.”


Compulsions in OCD are defined as repetitive behaviors that someone feels compelled to perform in an effort to avoid or decrease anxiety related to obsessions. The downside of performing compulsions is that it further increases the pathway of OCD in your brain.

Overt Compulsions

  • Constantly talking about earlier memories when you were “more sure” in the relationship
  • Repeatedly confessing to your partner that you are experiencing doubts about your feelings
  • Repeatedly confessing to your partner that you are attracted to other people
  • Compulsively online researching about love or relationship issues
  • Compulsively checking your partner’s social media accounts to see if your partner was happy with their exes
  • Checking to see if your partner is aroused or attracted to you in intimate moments
  • Testing your feelings by flirting with others
  • Frequently breaking up with your partner

Mental Compulsions

  • Checking for your attraction to your partner
  • Checking for doubts in your relationship
  • Coming up with scenarios of how your relationship “should be”
  • Comparing your relationship to other people’s relationships in friends, family, strangers
  • Comparing your relationship to thoughts expressed in love songs, romantic novels, movies, TV
  • Reviewing your past relationships and how it compares to your current one
  • Comparing your partner’s past relationship to your current one

Reassurance Seeking Compulsions

  • Constantly asking your partner how they feel about you
  • Constantly asking your partner if they’re attracted to you
  • Compulsively asking others about their relationships and comparing feedback
  • Asking friends and family members to rate the compatibility of your relationship
  • Asking friends and family members if they think your relationship will last

Avoidant Compulsions

  • Avoiding situations that trigger relationship obsessions
  • Avoiding places, activities, objects from your partner’s past relationships
  • Trying not to notice attractive people
  • Avoiding conversations about relationships
  • Avoiding discussions about intimacy


If you suffer from ROCD, you feel as if you are caring a double-edged sword. Your partner is your primary source of comfort and security in the world, but they also become your primary source of anxiety.

The obsessions and compulsions experienced by those with ROCD can take a devastating toll on both the sufferer and their partner. Even the most loving and understanding partner may struggle with constantly hearing all the ways the person they love doubts their feelings for them.

Relationships, where one partner has ROCD, are often chaotic and unstable due to endless conflicts, misunderstandings, and break-ups.


Exposure and Response Prevention

First, you’ll need to learn how ROCD is affecting your life and relationship. Then you’ll be on a quest to learn mindfulness. After that, you should be able to perform Exposure and Response Prevention, a cognitive behavior therapy.

During ERP, you are exposed to thoughts, images, objects, and situations that make you anxious and initiate your obsessions. The response prevention teaches you how to not engage in a compulsive behavior or ritual when you’re exposed to what makes you feel anxious.

Examples include:

  • Looking at pictures that form a triggering obsession
  • Watching triggering movies about love
  • Resisting the urge to abandon/manipulate certain conversations
  • Resisting the urge to avoid being alone with a triggering person
  • Visiting triggering places
  • Resisting the urge to seek reassurance
  • Resisting the urge to confess triggering thoughts to your partner
  • Imaginal script writing

Self-Help Books

Self-help books can be used as an introduction to recovery. They can also be used as part of a relapse prevention plan.

The only OCD self-help book I’ve read so far has been The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD, but it has been a tremendous help.

The book covers several different types of OCD ranging from checking to relationship OCD. Its approach is cognitive behavioral therapy based, but it’s written in a very compassionate and warm way that makes you feel more at ease.

You can go at your own pace, which I think is sometimes better than your traditional therapy. I also love that you can write right in the book, so you can go back and check your progress.

I’m definitely going to try more OCD self-help books in the future, but I’m taking my recovery one step at a time. Recovery is definitely not a race.

Listen to Audios

Excel at Life has made the biggest impact on my life the past couple of months. They have the best audios I’ve ever heard. Seriously, I can’t say enough good things about them.

All of their audios are cognitive therapy based with a focus on mindfulness. They’re incredibly eye-opening and life-changing. I listen to them multiple times a week, and I’ve noticed a huge change in my way of thinking and thought processes.

They have several OCD audios, as well as articles you can read alongside them. Excel at Life also has audios about other anxiety disorders and mental illnesses, like depression.

You can listen to them from a couple of different Android apps (only available on Android), or you can listen to them from the internet here.

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When I was first diagnosed with OCD, The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD was the book I turned to. It covers several different types of OCD ranging from checking to relationship OCD (which is what I have). Its approach is cognitive behavioral therapy based, but it’s written in a very compassionate and warm way that makes you feel more at ease.


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2 thoughts on “Relationship OCD and the Fantasy of Finding “The One”

  1. B

    I’ve just discovered your blog – which is very pretty by the way! I just chuckled as I also have ROCD! And it’s such an under-discussed form (which I think it true of a lot of the ‘Pure-O’ variations of this disorder). Mine started with obsessing that I’d cheated on my partner, and now that’s under control it’s morphed over to more of the ‘doubting the relationship’ side of things! I was always so bemused by the theme of my OCD, but now I’m working with my therapist on connecting this whole “theme” to earlier childhood experiences and other general patterns, especially around attachment, and particularly with men… Does this stuff resonate with you too? Do you feel there’s a connection with your ROCD themes to other stuff in your past?

    Also, I guess you wrote this 3 years ago, so how is your recovery going? I hope you’ve made some progress with it in that time? The workbook you mention is great and something I drop in and out of every now and again… You know how OCD is 🙂

    Anyway, what a long comment! It’s just so nice to see a “face” of someone who’s going through the same things.

    Take care, B.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment! Yeah, I definitely feel like my OCD stems from my struggles with abandonment and sexual abuse growing up. As far as recovery goes, I’ve definitely made progress since I’ve moved from the place that was amplifying my obsessions and compulsions. While I still struggle greatly a few times a year, I’m in a much better place. I wrote an updated post on how I manage my ROCD here:

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