Navigating Intimacy with a Partner with OCD: A Conversation

Navigating intimacy with a partner who has OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) can be a challenging experience. OCD is a mental disorder that causes a person to have uncontrollable and unwanted thoughts, images, or impulses (obsessions) and repetitive behaviors or rituals (compulsions) to alleviate anxiety.

To better understand what navigating intimacy looks like for couples where one partner has OCD, we interviewed psychologist Dr. Sarah Johnson.

Q: What are some common obsessions and compulsions that people with OCD have related to intimacy?

A: “Common obsessions related to intimacy include fears of contracting a sexually transmitted infection or pregnancy, concerns about one’s own sexual performance, and worry about losing one’s partner if the relationship is not perfect,” Dr. Johnson explained. “Compulsions can include checking, reassurance-seeking behaviors, and avoiding intimacy altogether.”

Q: How can a partner support someone with OCD when navigating intimacy?

A: “The key is to be non-judgmental and supportive,” Dr. Johnson said. “Understand that their obsessions and compulsions are not something that they can control, and reassure them that you are there to support them.”

It’s important to communicate with your partner and ask them how you can support them during intimate moments. Some partners may want to create a plan together for how to manage specific triggers or obsessions that may arise during intimacy. Others may want to come up with a code word or signal for when their anxiety becomes overwhelming.

Q: How can a partner with OCD work to manage their symptoms during intimacy?

A: “It’s important for the partner with OCD to work with a mental health professional to develop coping mechanisms and strategies to manage their symptoms,” Dr. Johnson emphasized. “This may include relaxation techniques, mindfulness, or cognitive-behavioral therapy.”

It’s also essential for both partners to understand that building trust and intimacy takes time. It may take several conversations and intimate moments to establish a safe and comfortable environment for both partners.

Q: How can couples maintain a healthy and satisfying sex life when one person has OCD?

A: “The best way to maintain a healthy and satisfying sex life is to communicate openly and frequently,” Dr. Johnson advised. “Each partner should express their needs and boundaries clearly, and work together to create a plan that works for both of them.”

She also added that it’s important to be patient and understanding with your partner. OCD is a serious mental disorder that affects millions of people worldwide, and it’s not something that can be ‘cured’ overnight.

Navigating intimacy with a partner who has OCD can be challenging, but with open communication, empathy, and professional support, it’s entirely possible to maintain a healthy, fulfilling, and intimate relationship.