How can I be a good wife to my husband who struggles with OCD?

My husband probably has struggled with OCD most of his life. He is still undiagnosed and doesn't wish to talk to anyone. His symptoms include hand washing and seeking assurances (from me usually). He gives things moral value because of his thoughts. When his anxiety really mounts, he has trouble with anger. Can I help him diffuse the anxiety?
Asked by Suzanne
Answered
12/06/2021

Dear Suzanne,

I am sorry to hear of your family's struggles. OCD can be a very challenging disorder to navigate without ongoing counseling and medical support. I think there are a lot of ways you can help your husband get help but trying to diffuse his anxiety will only create more codependency in the relationship dynamic. I would suggest working with a couple's therapist and getting your own therapeutic support so you can begin to work on NOT giving him the assurances he is asking for. This creates an unhealthy dynamic in the relationship where you are managing his anxiety for him instead of him taking responsibility for his own healing and rehabilitation process. If your husband is struggling with anger management issues this is also not surprising given that is one way that individuals work through anxiety and depression as this can manifest in their relationships in the form of anger. It is important that you are not a target of his anger and that you do not engage when and if he has explosions. A lot of ways you can help your husband manage his OCD is by not engaging with him in ways in which you are feeling responsibility towards making him feel better. When the pain of change becomes less than the pain of staying the same, we change. It typically has to get worse, before it gets better. I would encourage you to get your own therapeutic support and work specifically on setting healthy boundaries and self-care during this time. However, helping your husband diffuse his anxiety is not your job, to begin with: It is his job and the more you try to help him, the more it can backfire AND the less likely he will be to get outside medical and therapeutic help which is what a person with OCD needs. I realize this might be very difficult to read but reaching out for help is the first step towards living your best life. The best thing you can do for your husband is put your mask on first and get help for yourself. I wish you the very best in working towards these goals! Take good care. 

(MA, LCMFT, #855)