Who Are You?
My husband and I have been married for about two years now. I love him very much. But sometimes, I don't know him as well as I thought. My husband has OCD. I have done a little research on his condition and try to be very patient with him.
But, he sometimes gets to me by asking me questions over and over again. I get angry and respond in a very negative manner. I know he can't help it, but it drives me crazy. He has anger issues with people while I'm driving, which usually results with him giving people the finger. He yells out the window at them, curses them.
His behavior is quite embarrassing, he tells me he's sorry but always does it again. He reaches across the car and blows the horn at them when I'm driving. He distracts me when I'm driving. His behavior is not limited to the car, he loudly voices his opinions about people so they can clearly hear him.
I tell him to mind his own business and don't worry about what other people look like or dress like. He has an opinion on whatever he sees as not conforming to how he was raised.
My husband has a very stressful job, working with the public. People are rude to him ,yell at him over things that he has no control over,he takes their abusive attitudes every day. Then when we go somewhere he lashes out about anything he feels like.
It's very frustrating for me to see this kind and gentle man become so hardened towards others. What's happening to the man I fell in love with? His anger is consuming him, making him into a person I don't know. How can I help him?
Response from Dr. DeFoore
Hello, and thank you for writing for this site. I can certainly understand your concerns about your husband's behavior. The embarrassment it causes you, plus--and especially--the safety risk of him distracting you while you're driving are major.
While OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is a serious problem, it does not excuse his behavior. You say, "He can't help it." That is simply not true. His anger is not a symptom of OCD. They are two separate problems.
It sounds like his job is really getting to him. A job like that would be hard on anyone, but again, it does not excuse his bad behavior in public, with you, and especially while you're driving the car.
I want to focus on the driving for a moment, since that is actually a life-threatening situation. Here are some things to consider:
1) Tell him that if he continues to act that way when you're driving, you will no longer drive him places. If he acts that way when he's driving, you need to refuse to ride with him. I know that is a tall order, but being on the road in a car is a very dangerous situation, and it's your job to ensure your own safety.
2) If you find it difficult to stand up to him in this way, you may need to do some work on yourself. Take a look at these communication and conflict resolution exercises, and see if you and your husband might be willing to do those together. That will really help you to get your feelings and desires out in a respectful way, so that he will be able to hear you.
If you don't stand up for yourself, no one else will. You have to make your feelings and desires known to him, but always in a calm and respectful manner.
Do not excuse your husband's behavior because of his job or his OCD. When you do that, you are becoming part of the problem. He is responsible for managing his anger and his behavior, regardless of his job or condition.
Meanwhile, picture him in your mind as the kind and gentle man that you love. Choose to focus on that part of him, and say to yourself, "My husband is a kind and gentle man. He is respectful to me and to other people." While this might seem like a denial of reality, what you're actually doing is stating your intentions to yourself in a positive way.
And in response to your last question, "How can I help him?" my answer is, "you can't. But you can help yourself, and that is as close as you can come to helping him. The rest is up to him. He has to decide to help himself or not, and that is entirely his responsibility.
I wish you all the best of success with your relationship,