'After 20 years single I became obsessed with my new partner's every move. It almost ruined us.'

When Kara ended her first long-term relationship, she felt broken. 

She was just 28 years old when she left Lee, having met him as a single mother of one six years earlier. They had three more children together. 

"He worked away a lot in the construction industry, didn't really help with the house or the kids," says Kara. 

Lee also cheated on her.

"In hindsight, he was too busy with his girlfriend to really have any time for us.

"He chipped away at my self confidence in subtle ways. If I had an idea of something I wanted to do, he'd make a joke of it. I wanted to go to TAFE, and he made it seem like he was concerned for me — mentioning how hard it would be to juggle that with the kids and the house."

Lee made her feel like she wasn’t smart enough to pass, or manage a big project on her own. 

"At one point, I was tossing around the idea of starting my own business. Again, he laughed at me and told me 'You're unemployed. You can't even get a normal job and you think you're going to run a business?!'."

Lee was the money earner, so he controlled what Kara could spend. 

"If I showed him a dress I wanted to buy, he'd scoff at me and tell me it was a waste of money because it wouldn't 'suit me' anyway."

After discovering his double life, Kara finally had the courage to leave him. When she told him, he was "angry and hurt", lashing out in the cruellest way. 


"He told me I was useless, fat, ugly, past my prime, with four kids with disabilities. 

"Nobody would ever want me and I'd be alone forever. That me being too independent made me seem too masculine, and it was a turnoff to men. 

"That I was the reason that every relationship I'd had ended with the bloke cheating, because I wasn't good enough, I was a placeholder, someone to fill a need until someone better came along."

After ending the relationship, Kara remained single for 20 years. 

"I was struggling to even get through each day. I had four autistic kids to look after on my own. Bouncing from one shit job to the next because I was constantly being called out of work because of issues with the kids. I had no money. We lived hand to mouth for years. I lost count of the amount of times I went without food to make sure the kids could eat. All of that contributed to me believing I was the total failure he'd made me believe I was."

Kara didn’t have time to bring another person into her life, and was too ashamed of the way she lived, to want anyone else to see it. 

"I honestly felt that I didn't deserve any happiness. I channelled all my energy and time into looking after my kids and working towards giving them a better life."

Eventually, Kara saved enough money to purchase a house, which she renovated over several years. She then enrolled into university, alongside her daughter, leading to a new career in pathology. 

With her children grown, Kara began to consider the possibility of letting someone in. She tried online dating, where she quickly met Tim*.


"I was still very cautious, and I honestly thought that he wasn't even interested in me when we met. I didn't think I'd ever hear from him again. But we kept seeing each other, and it developed into a relationship."

But the wounds from the past left Kara with deep scars. Scars that threatened to damage her new relationship. 

Right from the beginning, Tim seemed amazing. He treated Kara well. It was easy, natural. But that didn’t stop Kara from obsessing over every move he made, analysing every word. 

"I obsessed over him leaving me because he'll finally figure out that I'm not nearly as good as he thinks I am," she shares. 

"If I see him so much as glance at another woman, I feel my heart just sink into my stomach. He works in a female dominated workplace, so if he mentions anything to do with any of the girls from work—something as simple as she asked for some lemons off our tree for her dad—I get totally paranoid thinking he's cheating."

"He has never criticised me. He's never laughed at me. He's never done anything other than treat me so, so well, but I still can't feel safe in the relationship. I know that seems crazy. I know it."

Kara says she avoids anywhere she thinks other women might be—beaches, nightclubs, parties, even concerts — because she knows how she'll react.  

"He seems to get it that those things trigger me, so he doesn't push it. He's even gotten to the point where he knows that TV shows or movies that have a lot of female nudity affect me, and he doesn't say a word, just changes the channel."


But Kara's obsessive behaviour pushed the couple to breaking point. 

While Tim tried to be understanding of Kara’s sensitivities, her constant analysis of him — the way he spoke, the way moved, what he watched on television — began to take a toll. 

If he chose a show with an intimate scene, Kara would assume it was deliberate. If he turned his body slightly, Kara would accuse him of giving her the cold shoulder by facing away from her. 

"Before I spoke to my partner about my issues, he was pretty confused," says Kara. 

On one date, in the middle of summer, Kara became obsessed with the number of women in bikinis in the area, and was convinced Tim was more interested in them, than her. 

"I had a massive anxiety attack, picked a huge fight with him, and said I wanted to go home. The poor guy had no idea what was going on," she says. 

"When I eventually calmed down, I tried to explain my issues, which caused another fight. He felt that I was punishing him for the actions of my ex, and that I was being completely unreasonable.

“He also felt that I was accusing him of being a desperate pervert that goes around leering at every woman that walks past, and he was pretty offended by that. He said that I must have a very low opinion of him. 

"I could see the hurt in his eyes, and I'll never forget the look on his face. That was when we nearly broke up. We've literally never fought about anything else but my own insecurities."


Tim has gone to great lengths to appease Kara, but that hasn’t stopped her obsessing over every aspect of the relationship, or worrying that her over-analysing will one day tear them apart. 

"He doesn't do the things he used to love. He's a former bodybuilder, and he used to enjoy going to watch the tournaments, but no longer goes (because there are women in bikinis).

"He always leaves his phone and tablet face up and unlocked. He declines invitations to weddings and parties, and I think it's because he doesn't want to deal with my bullshit. 

"He's an avid photographer. He's stopped photographing women. He's stopped photographing the beach unless it's winter and deserted. He's stopped photographing weddings or any other events that have women as the main focus.

"I realise how incredibly lucky I am to have found such a good man. I also realise that my issues could drive him away from me. I have nightmares about him leaving me."

It's called Relationship OCD.

While it’s natural when we start a new relationship to reflect on a potential partner, and consider their characteristics and long-term potential, when this focus becomes a lasting fixation, it’s time to step back, and take a look and what’s really going on.

"Insecurities or worries about the relationship may become consuming and can actually distract us from our normal daily routine," explains relationship counsellor Susan De Campo. 


It’s known as Relationship Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (ROCD), and like regular OCD, it is characterised by obsessive and intrusive thoughts that underpin compulsive behaviours, only in the context of relationships. 

For example, you might be consumed by questions or thoughts such as 'are we happy enough?', 'do we have enough sex?', 'my partner didn't hug me as tightly', 'why did my partner say goodbye so quickly' or ‘my partner didn't call so he must be losing interest?’.

In other words, over-analysing everyday actions, that more than likely mean absolutely nothing. 

"I saw a couple where the man had been unfaithful to his first wife and that marriage ended. In this new relationship, he was absolutely obsessed about the prospect of her cheating on him," shares De Campo. 

"He insisted—and this is the compulsion of OCD—on regularly checking her phone, having the Find My Phone app on, and having her regularly checking in with him. He became so controlling she ended up saying, 'get this sorted or I’m done'."

De Campo says when this type of relationship obsession develops, it can actually damage the relationship you’re trying to protect. 

"Constantly seeking reassurance from a kind, respectful and thoughtful partner can get really old," she says.

"While you are obsessing, and then engaging in compulsive behaviour (such as arguing), you are not investing time and energy into nurturing yourself or your relationship. It detracts from relationship development and maturation."


De Campo says a diagnosis of ROCD might be made if the obsessions and compulsions cause significant distress, take up more than an hour of time each day and compromise your ability to function in day-to-day life. 

"Those who have experienced trauma in a previous relationship, sudden life-development events such as a new high-pressure job, moving in together, insecure attachment in childhood, people with poor insight, are more prone to ROCD," says De Campo. 

If you do find yourself showing signs of ROCD, De Campo suggests finding a friend you trust to help you gain some perspective. If that doesn’t help get professional advice. 

To this day Kara still experiences relationship OCD, but tries her best to keep it under control. 

"These days I do everything I can to avoid causing a drama over it. I keep my head down whenever I am outside the house. I avoid looking at people. When I hear his messages constantly pinging, I repeat over and over in my head that it's just his best mate or his dad, and it's nothing to be upset about. 

"I read self help and psychology books like they're going out of style, in order to better understand myself, and in the hope I'll find something that works to slay my demons. 

"I'm slowly trying to build my own self esteem, because there is a direct link between how I feel about myself and how I view the world around me."

Feature image: Getty. 

*names have been changed. 

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