Dear Dr Sivri,
I’m a middle-aged man, divorced and now in a happy new relationship. However my partner recently told me she thinks I suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). To be honest, I’d not heard of OCD before and had no idea what she was going on about, but she says my obsession with cleanliness and tidiness is driving her insane.
For me, cleanliness is next to Godliness – at least that’s how my siblings (male and female) and I were brought up in Turkey. We weren’t rich, but we never compromised on our personal hygiene and our home was always immaculately maintained.
Working as a hairdresser, I’m mindful of health and hygiene, and so keep my salon spotless. At home too I cannot abide mess or dirt, and will get out the mop, hoover and duster as soon as it’s needed. I would have thought these are good qualities. But apparently not!
My partner says I am fixated on the little things and get irritated irrationally. She gets upset because I don’t like it if she is too tired to wash up before she goes to bed, or hasn’t folded away the washing the instant they are dried. Why wait?
Please advise: I feel like this is really driving a wedge between us. Surely my behaviour is not that unreasonable?
Name & address supplied
When you continually think about something (obsessive) and you have a constant urge to do something about it (compulsive), then you could be described as having OCD.
Remember ALL relationships require an element of compromise and some sacrifice even, so if you expect your partner to wash up before bedtime or fold away clothes at YOUR behest, then do you not think that this is irrational in some way?
Where is the compromise in your wishes/demands? Was this an issue in your previous relationships?
Many of our behaviours are deep-rooted, so your thinking patterns are symptomatic of your childhood, and if maladaptive thoughts aren’t remedied then they will continually affect all your interactions.
Try to be more mindful of what you say and how you say it. And learn to challenge your thoughts when they pop up in your head. Talk to your wife and tell her you will make a concerted effort to control your feelings and urges.
Of course it’s good to be clean, but be careful you don’t “over-egg the pudding”. There’s a difference between scratching an itch and ripping it to shreds! Everything in moderation is best.
Dr Sivri takes over from Yonja Ali as our new agony uncle. If you have a problem? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and he will try to answer.