How Do Obsessive Relationships Affect Parents & Families?

By Morgan Rush
Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images

Obsessive-compulsive disorder affects approximately 1 percent of children and adolescents, according to Massachusetts General Hospital. The disorder, also known as OCD, causes repetitive thoughts or behaviors that are difficult to control. Obsessive relationships can be harmful for a child, parents and families because it creates strain and disrupt normal family activity. Parents should intervene in unhealthy obsessive relationships because untreated obsessive-compulsive disorders can lead to depression or suicidal thoughts. Other family members might struggle with obsessive relationships that negatively affect children, too.

Parental Relationships

Obsessive relationships between parents can affect families by creating high-conflict dynamics that negatively affect others. Parents in obsessive relationships might be polarized, meaning that a parent views themselves as “all good” while their partner is “all bad,” according to the Parenting After article, “Personality Traits of Parents and Developmental Needs of Children in High-Conflict Families.” Rather than resolving conflicts, parents obsess over differences as a tie that keeps them together, regardless of whether conflict spills over to affect children in the family.

Family Dynamic

Family dynamics can be upset when a child or other family member is engaged in obsessive relationships. The relationship can become a center for drama, with the individual constantly claiming the family’s attention and resources, according to the Counseling Resource Mental Health Library article, “Personality Disorders: The Controllers, Abusers, Manipulators, and Users in Relationships.” Parents involved in obsessive relationships might ignore the rest of the family; brothers and sisters who obsessively bully can create hurtful circumstances for others to resolve. Anxiety and fear feeding the obsessive behaviors become hurdles the whole family must overcome.


Results are unpredictable when children have a parent who suffers from OCD, according to the International OCD Foundation. Children might try to accommodate the OCD-related needs and fears of their parents, but this can worsen the problem. Relationships can feel strain as well-meaning family members try to avoid certain triggers, provide reassurance or participate in the parent’s OCD rituals. Children might avoid using the restroom at a certain time, order for parents in restaurants or complete household tasks to accommodate parents whose obsessive behaviors have overtaken the family dynamic.

Moving Forward

Because obsessive behaviors and obsessive relationships can negatively affect children, parents and other family members, accommodation is not a successful long-term solution. Professional counseling or therapy can help address OCD behaviors and teach strategies for learning the value of healthy, loving relationships, according to the International OCD Foundation article, “Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD).” Medication might be necessary to supplement counseling measures. Additionally, individuals struggling with obsessive relationships can practice different relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, to help relieve a sense or urgency or stress.

About the Author

Morgan Rush is a California journalist specializing in news, business writing, fitness and travel. He's written for numerous publications at the national, state and local level, including newspapers, magazines and websites. Rush holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, San Diego.