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Obsessive Partners Can be Annoying in Relationships

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After almost 40 years of working to help couples, I offer a podcast of substance on what relationships require to last for the long haul. I use books & movies to illustrate the points I’m trying to make. I offer challenges of things you can actually do in your own relationship at the end of every podcast which is under 10 minutes.

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Obsessiveness can crowd and suffocate the other partner. Obsessive employees, obsessive surgeons and obsessive wallpaper hangers are all great to have working for you because they pay exquisite attention to detail. There are always strengths and weaknesses to every character trait. Obsessiveness begins because of anxiety. Anxiety is about fear. Obsessiveness is a demand from the soul to get things right because that way they feel in control.

The downside to a relationship with an obsessive partner can be living with an annoying level of self righteousness. The self righteousness is part of an obsessive persons defense system because they work VERY hard at getting things right. The tough part is asking a partner to be as fascinated with correctness & all the “shoulds” as they are. It wasn’t until my mother in law died that I finally figured out the source of the problems between us.

Obsessive partners spend a lot of time trying to get everything right. My mother in law was jewish & we were sitting shiva for my ftherinlaw who passed. We were all hungry & wanted to grab a pizza, & she insisted that we eat it in the car in the parking lot so there would be no mess to clean up. I saw doing that for her as a gift to her anxiety, if everything looks right she will manage her grief better when guests arrive.

They often don’t know how to enjoy things enough which is why they may seek a more fun-loving partner, because they’re looking for what’s missing within themselves. As a partner you must not let them squelch the flame of your own laughter with their burden of seriousness.

Obsessive people can be judgmental of people around them but they are usually far harsher in judging themselves. The judgements keep them feeling more confident & together. They fervently wish people would be more like them.

Often obsessiveness can be a quest for perfection which does not exist on planet earth. Obsessive people can find it hard to be vulnerable because they struggle so much with accepting their own dark side. Being vulnerable is a requirement for real intimacy. Obsessives need to practice sharing what’s hard to struggle with – openness is the antidote to bring down their walls of self-protection in order to connect with someone else.

The quest for perfection & the lack of vulnerability that goes along with it has been researched & described by Brenee Brown. There are 2 TED talks of her discussing this on the perfectionism page of my website therapy ideas.net.

Obsessiveness is a tool people use to fight and contain their fears. “If I’m totally on top of every detail then everything will be ok.” This is a very exhausting way to be in the world because it takes enormous energy to stay on top of everything.

Obsessive partners need to value their partner’s fun, lack of attention to detail, and spontaneity. Problems evolve because the obsessive partner becomes easily annoyed with their partner and begins to lose respect for the opposite strengths (which is why they fell in love in the first place).

Relationships help us grow to balance ourselves out. In the movie “As Good as it Gets,” Jack Nicholson plays an annoying man who is OCD in the extreme, not merely obsessive. He won’t eat with restaurant utensils and insists on bring his own, but you can witness his attraction to Helen Hunt who is fun-loving and takes pleasure in life.

He’s attracted to her opposite energy which is what happens to most of us when we fall in love. However, it is often in years 6-10 that we tire of the differences and find them irritating. Look at all the celebrity marriages that disintegrate in that time frame. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner were at year 10.

So years 6-10 become a time where you learn to do the work to return to the ability to respect the differences, because differences matter if you want to make it for the long haul. The obsessive personality can learn to grow to enjoy things more and learn to pare down their number of priorities – everything can’t matter – and relax to find out more about pleasure.

The take it too easy person has the opportunity to learn to tighten things up and pay more attention to details. This creates a more whole personality for both which gives you more range in who you are. This makes life far more interesting.

What makes you mentally healthy is being choiceful. There are times to because careful and on top of things and there are times to choose to have pleasure and fun. When you have both possibilities available emotionally and thoughtfully you will make better choices than the old, knee-jerk habits of obsessiveness 24/7.

Relationships help us grow up and become better people. Relationships can help us be more whole as human beings.

If we do the work of restoring respect for the differences in our partners, which is why we chose them in the first place, obsessive people and their partners can learn from each other. I believe that’s what committed relationships are all about – partners help us grow to be better people.

My challenge for you today is to stop and ask yourself how obsessive you are. Do you crowd others with your standards? Have you lost respect for your partner’s more casual (yes, sometimes too casual) fun-loving traits?

If you live with someone who is obsessive, how authentic have you been about feeling stifled by their standards? How much do you give up too easily fun and good times or whatever your personal strengths are?

Stop & Evaluate how much you’ve learned from each other.

You can follow me on twitter @rhodaoncouples.

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