What’s Driving Me To Clean?


Have you ever noticed that you or your partner use cleaning as a mechanism to resolve stress or anxiety?  Have you been accused of being OCD in your relationship? Have you accused your spouse of being OCD in your relationship? Or, how long has OCD been a condition that has been tied into your name?
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, there has probably been a significant increase in the numbers of those who might border the clinical definition of obsessive-compulsive disorder.  According to WebMD obsessive-compulsive disorder involves having thoughts that take up at least an hour a day, are beyond your control, or an enjoyable, interfere with work, your social life, or another part of life. The symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder may involve one of the four general categories: checking such as locks, alarm systems ovens or light switches. Contamination, fear of things that might be dirty, or a compulsion to clean. Mental contamination involves feeling like you’ve been treated like dirt. Symmetry and order is another component of obsessive-compulsive anxiety disorder.  This involves a person needing to have things lined up in a certain way. Symptoms also involve rumination and intrusive thoughts, and obsession with a line of thought. Some of these thoughts might be violent or disturbing
Does this sound like you or someone you are married to or in a relationship with? About 95 percent of Americans have been ordered to stay at home due to Covid-19.  Being at home and seeing your entire family all day, most of the day is a bit too much to handle for some.  The panic of seeing a spouse all day has been the cause of anxiety for many couples.  Some are driven to drink while others are driven to clean.  After all, what else is there to do with your time when you are stuck between four walls all day and all night some may think.  If one has managed to use cleaning as a way to cope with anger management, stress, or anxiety in their relationship, the coronavirus crisis has definitely presented a whole lot more reasons to clean.
The purpose of this blog is not to specifically focus on the anxiety that might be experienced with someone who has an obsessive-compulsive anxiety disorder, or someone who is actively cleaning their home due to the coronavirus pandemic.  What I would like to touch on is how something as simple as cleaning in obsessive ways could be a symptom of stress in one’s life, marriage, or relationship.

Do I Like To Clean or Am I Driven To Clean?

So the question to the super cleaner or the person married to the super cleaner might be “is the cleaning being driven by the love to clean, or is there a situation driving the cleaning.” We are creatures of habit, and many times we can be so caught up in our routines that we don’t question what we do. Many times our routines and habits adversely affect those who we are married to or in relationships with. For instance, let’s take Don who is married to Tina.   Don’s ambition to keep his car clean may negatively impact his marriage.  Don wants a clean car.  Because of his desire to keep his car clean, he doesn’t want his kids to ride in it or eat in it because he feels it will create filth.  Keeping food out of his car is not Don’s only obsession. Don also has rules about car seats.  He doesn’t feel that car seats make his car look sexy.  He has refused to allow his wife to leave the car seat in his sports car.  Any conversation about placing his little girl’s pink car seat in his candy red convertible corvette causes anger, anxiety, and is an invitation for war.
Now let’s take Lisa for example.  Lisa likes to keep her house looking spotless especially the kitchen and the bathrooms.  But many times John doesn’t seem to understand Lisa’s objectives for cleaning.  John constantly comes in from home, places his keys on the counter.  Along with his keys, he places what Lisa calls his “lunch box” on the table, and lays his jacket on the chair.  Has anything like this ever occurred in your marriage?  These types of issues can become a concern for couples who have obsessive-compulsive anxiety traits. The obsessive anxiety-driven behaviors of one spouse or lover in a relationship may be tolerable at times, but so often a partner will report exacerbations of these behaviors from time to time in the marriage or relationship. One partner may believe that their partner’s demands for cleanliness are unreasonable.

Identify Your Stressors

Could it be that the obsessive-compulsive anxiety behaviors of your partner in a marriage or relationship could be most intolerable when the spouse is stressed? Is there a possibility that even though the partner in the relationship or marriage has a high demand for cleanliness the standards for cleanliness are easier to meet when there is less stress experienced by the non-offending partner?
It has been my experience that much of the anxiety experienced by individuals who have obsessive-compulsive anxiety traits, is significantly reduced when both partners in the relationship come to an awareness that stress is a prime contributor to the obsessions. Stress is driving the compulsions.  As a matter-of-fact in a marriage or relationship where a partner observes a significant increase in their partner’s obsessive-compulsive anxiety behaviors, this should be a sign that there is a need for immediate intervention. Not so much intervention from a counselor, but intervention from the relationship partner who is observing the increased obsessive-compulsive anxiety behaviors of their partner.  The couple must work as a team to identify the symptoms and work together to bring about resolutions.

Is My Partner Safe To Talk To?

It is important to have a relationship or marriage where the couple feels safe about discussing the things that matter to them most.  If the marriage or relationship feels safe, the couple may feel safe to talk to each other about the fears and stressors that they experience in their relationship.  When dealing with anxiety, it is a relief to be able to speak with your partner about your contentions.  A simple conversation about bent up frustrations in itself could be a remedy that might reduce the drive to clean.

What Partners Should Know

So let’s use an example that many couples may be experiencing as a result of the coronavirus.  We have a situation with Lisa and John.  John comes home and observes his wife cleaning. The cleaning continues for two hours.  Lisa seems irritable, detached, and in a zone. CNN or Fox News is blazing through the television reporting how the coronavirus is infecting droves of the population.  Lisa becomes angry because John’s jacket has been laying on the couch for more than an hour. John becomes agitated because Lisa has not hugged him, spoken to him, and seemed as though she did not want to be touched.
If John has a good understanding of how to understand the emotional needs of his wife, he could quickly turn this situation into an intimacy building moment.  John has observed his wife having a significant increase in her cleaning. The question he should ask himself is there a known stressor that might be contributing to Lisa’s “obsessive” behaviors. Instead of calling his wife out, John would do well to observe the ambient sounds of CNN or Fox News in the living room.  He might also observe that his wife has been very nervous about the fears of her children acquiring coronavirus. After all, Lisa has on numerous occasions mentioned her fears about bringing the coronavirus home. John may also take note that throughout their relationship Lisa has had fears concerning their finances.  As a couple, John and Lisa have often talked about how one of Lisa’s emotional needs is security
What might seem like a potential Rumble in the Jungle in this marriage could quickly turn into an intimate moment between John and Lisa, where John saves the day by picking up his jacket and placing it in the closet.  John would then come to his lovely wife and thank her for her efforts at cleaning their home. It doesn’t stop there.  John would also apologize for leaving his jacket on the furniture (even though it was only there for 10 minutes). He might then ask his wife what he can do to help with the kids or help her to clean the home.
The situation that the couple was exposed to could have very easily started an argument about the obsessive-compulsive anxiety behaviors of Lisa in the marriage. But through a simple kind gesture from John, and his recognition of the stressful vibes that was receiving from his wife, John’s evening will end with him and his wife making a fine connection in their bedroom that night.  When couples take simple selfless actions in their relationship it reduces anxiety, improves romance, and creates a safe environment that supports the relationship.  It may also reduce impulses that may be driving the partner to clean.

How Often Am I Using Cleaning To Handle Stress

The example used what is an example of a couple in a marriage relationship who were working their problems out. It was an example of a wife having obsessive-compulsive anxiety behaviors and the husband needs to support her. The reality is that in many relationships when it comes down to obsessive compulsiveness it could be either the husband or the wife, the man or the woman.
Anxiety from a crisis such as what we have been experiencing in the United States due to the coronavirus can spark attention for a couple to discuss stressors in their relationship, and how it has impacted their behaviors. One question that could be raised by a couple is, “has stress contributed to anxiety-driven behaviors in our relationship?” What can “we do” as a couple to make sure that our marriage or relationship continues to grow as we experience a major and minor crisis.

Is It Time To Seek Help?

In many marriages and relationships, it is simply not safe to talk. Unfortunately in some relationships, there may be a spouse that is just unwilling to be sensitive to what your needs are. You may find that it is not safe to talk about ways of building the relationship that involves your partner hearing you out concerning your feelings or making changes concerning their actions.
When it is not safe to talk about matters of the heart in your marriage or relationship, it is also very unsafe to keep these feelings to yourself. The hoarding of feelings of emotions and experiences that impact you and your marriage or relationship can unconsciously lead to anxiety and obsessive-compulsive anxiety behaviors. Holding these emotions and not speaking to a counselor or therapist can also lead to a great deal of anger and stress.
You must have someone to talk to about these experiences. If you are having trouble in your marriage or relationship, you don’t have to deal with this on your own.  At Aspire Counseling & Consulting Services we are available to speak with you about the matters that concern you most.  Our counseling services are based in Huntsville Alabama, but we are able to provide counseling and coaching services throughout Alabama by use of online counseling platforms. With Online Teletherapy you can receive counseling services over the internet from your home or wherever you are with just a few clicks. These online counseling services can be received through your phone computer or mobile device. Please don’t hesitate to give us a call!

About Choya

LICSW Social Work Licensure Supervisor and Mental Health Counselor in Huntsville, AL 35806

Choya Wise, LICSW, PIP is the owner of Aspire Counseling and Consulting Services a mental health clinic in the Huntsville, Al area.  As a licensed mental health professional Choya specializes in individual counselingmarriage counseling, and anger management counseling.  He also offers Social Work Supervision in Alabama.

If you have been having issues with building intimacy in your marriage or relationship, it may be time to seek a professional relationship counselor.  If you are a couple looking for a counselor in Huntsville, Alabama, allow us to support you with steps to build your relationship. Now providing online counseling.

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