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Man takes 30 showers a week to ease wife's OCD, 'I think I need to leave her.' AITA? UPDATED 3X

Man takes 30 showers a week to ease wife's OCD, 'I think I need to leave her.' AITA? UPDATED 3X


When this man is overwhelmed by his wife's anxiety, he asks the internet:

"My wife (30F) suffers from extreme germophobia and anxiety. Our relationship is not sustainable and I need help. AITA?"

Hi, everyone. This will probably be lengthy as I have nobody in my life to talk to about this. This is as much an advice thread as it is a place for me vent and it feels good to air this out.

My wife suffers from intense germophobia and anxiety. We have been together for 11 years and married for 8. She has not always been like this, she was relatively normal while we dated but it started to get worse after we got married.

She previously worked at a hotel as a receptionist and was occasionally required to handle and wash guest towels. Well, she ended up contracting a staph infection and had to be hospitalized to have the infection drained.

Following this, she had to be on antibiotics for 30 days. Ever since that experience, her anxiety and fear of infection has steadily grown over the years up until this point. We also have two children - 2 year old boy and 5 year old girl - and her tendencies affect them, also.

The following list is my attempt at a comprehensive germ-prevention "Standard Operating Procedures" of our household:

If I touch a light switch I need to wash my hands; If I touch a door knob I need to wash my hands; If I go to the garage I need to take a shower before I can sit down or do anything; If I touch her pajamas or I touch towels then I need to take a shower. If I even enter the guest bathroom then I have to take a shower.

If my kids enter the guest bathroom they have to have a bath; I am not allowed to use her toilet in the master bathroom; She stops up her toilet everyday and requires me to plunge and clean it (she uses 3x as much TP as a regular person would). The cleaning process is 3 Chlorox wipes - one for the seat, one for under, and one to use to flush it with. I have to immediately shower after this.

If she spills excess water on the floor then I have to mop it and anywhere I walked to include the entire house if that is where I walked after stepping in the water.

She goes through entire loads of her pajamas daily just trying to change her clothes. Every time she uses the toilet, she has to change her clothes. She washes her hands and arms up to her elbows and then her face. If she gets water on her shirt, she will change it.

If, when putting on her shirt she touches it to her body, she will change it. If her pants touch the floor when she is putting them on, she will change them. She discards the top shirts in her drawer every time she gets dressed.

She uses 6-7 towels after a shower, discarding half of them because "they touched my chest." As you can see, this adds up and I end up folding laundry for 60-90 minutes everyday. This doesnt include the time it takes to actually change it out and take showers.

If I change out laundry and I graze the doorframe when I enter the bedroom with clothes, I have to discard ALL OF THEM. If an article of clothing touches the edge of the bed, discard it. If I even touch the dishwasher I have to wash my hands.

If she takes a shower and gets in the bed, she will NOT leave the bedroom or she considers herself dirty and would have to shower again. This means if she is hungry or thirsty I will bring it to her.

Her showers last around 40 minutes. She bathes 3-4 times and washes her hair 2 times. Our water bill is ridiculous.

If my son (2 YO) takes one step outside of his playpen then he has to have a bath before he can go in his bed. This includes naps. If I take him outside (even just for 1 minutes), he would need a bath before he can get in his bed. Not even changing his clothes would suffice.

When I clean the house (which I dont mind, btw. Cleaning your house is necessary), everything has to be done in a very specific order. No deviations from this order or it has to be re done. Change out laundry and leave washer free

Wash hands, face, and arms and change clothes. Sanitize all toys on floor and put away. Pick up all clothes and put in baskets. Sanitize all counters. Clean kids bathroom. Take out master bathroom trash, wash hands, replace bag.Take out kids trash, wash hands, replace bag.

Take out kitchen trash, wash hands, replace bag. Clean guest bathroom, wash hands, take out trash, wash hands, replace bag. Take shower. Put bathroom rugs in washer. Take shower. Sweep entire house in a very specific order. Mop house in very specific order. Take shower.

I want to make this clear - I have no problem with cleaning but I often do something in the wrong order or forget to wash my hands and I get berated.

My wife has little patience for mistakes that involve germs. Often, I have to clean the house late at night after the kids go to bed so I will be doing it after midnight. Of course I will make mistakes when I am mentally exhausted.

If I bring her water, I have to wash my hands and then hold the cup over my head as it clears the kitchen counter. She thinks that if I hold her cup around my chest that it will touch the counter and be dirty. I do the same thing with plates and utensils.

If I have to discard a piece of clothing on the floor in her vicinity, she will change her clothes and get pissed. She thinks that the air created when the clothing hits the floor will blow bacteria all over her. This is perhaps the one that triggers me the most.

If my dog gets out, he has to have a bath before he can come back. He gets out often because she wont close the door.

My wife will not touch doorknobs. She uses her foot to close the door and she will just fg leave it open over actually closing it - even when she leaves the house.

If I leave the house with my phone, I cannot bring it back into the house until I sanitize it. That includes washing the phone case with soap and water and then using alcohol on the phone.

No shoes on the in house, ever. I had contractors over a month ago and they wore shoes. I had to sanitize every object they touched, and mop TWICE where they walked.

Her depth perception is abysmal. We get in so many fights because she thinks that I touched her with a dirty object when I was halfway across the room. When she gets dressed, I half to watch her and verify that she doesnt touch her body with the outside of the shirt. Same with pants.

We never have people over because of her fear of infection. Plus, I am the one who has to clean and sanitize so I am reluctant to even mention hosting an event or having a party at the house.

There is more things I have to deal with but I cannot remember every situation right now. The worst of it for me is the constant laundry (3-4 loads a day - sometimes more) and showers (4-5 showers a day). I have taken as many as 9 showers in one day and as many as 35 showers in one week.

I wash my hands over 50 times a day. I have gotten to the point where I just pretend to take a shower or wash my hands if she isnt in the room. I fantasize about just being able to get through my day not feeling like a puppet on a string. I get no sleep (maybe 4-5 hours on average) and have almost no free time. And this is not because of my kids.

You may be thinking, "dude, go to marriage counseling." We did that about two months ago. My dad may be the only person who really knows what I am going through he told me to be completely honest - hold nothing back.

That is exactly what I did. I told the counselor everything that I just revealed to all of you. I have had this talk with my wife already but she says, "you can leave at anytime, if you cant handle it you dont have to be here."

The counselor was speechless for a second but then began to address my wife and asking her if it was all true. My wife just shutdown and barely refused to acknowledge it. After the session, my wife got upset at me for "throwing her under the bus" and canceled all future sessions.

I want to say one last thing. Before she went deep into this fear of infection, we had a great relationship. We loved each other and felt we were meant to be. I still love her and want it to work. I have been dealing with the worst of this for nearly 3 years now. I am physically and mentally exhausted.

I have thought of leaving multiple times but I am afraid of how it will affect my kids. We also bought a huge house and invested sums of money into it that we would lose. My wife refuses to take medication for her anxiety (I dont blame her, most of it hasnt worked in the past).

Has anyone ever been in situation similar to this? Thank you for taking the time to read and I appreciate any and all advice. TL;DR - My wife suffers from extreme germophobia and it severely complicates my life and my childrens' lives.

Before we give you OP's updates, let's take a look at some of the top responses:

socal writes:

Note: I am a mental health therapist. Disorders that center around control are really difficult. She will unfortunately suck anyone around her into her disorder if she can. She needs firm boundaries and psychiatric help.

You might try Al-Anon or CoDependent Anonymous. It may not be right for your situation but you need help learning how not to enable her. You can still be loving and set a boundary.

You say that if you refuse to do these things she says "you can leave" but what if you don't leave and you don't do the things? Would she leave? You say you're afraid to be a single parent but it would probably be easier than right now when you are presumably doing the majority of the parenting and entire 2nd job of constant sterilization.

OCD isn't rational, and "reassurance" and rituals make the symptoms worse, not better. Let her know you won't be enabling her anymore, that you love her and miss being able to live a life with her, that you expect her to engage in treatment for her disorder.

There are treatments for OCD. Therapy as well as certain antidepressants can be very helpful. EMDR might also be helpful as she seems to have a specific trauma around acquiring the staph infection. EMDR helps people reprocess traumatic memories and instill a healthier self- and world-view. It has a good track record.

Best of luck to you. You may not feel like it's a priority but I'd strongly recommend individual therapy for yourself because you need a lot of support and guidance through this.

tbs230 writes:

I'm wondering if it will push her to a breakdown if OP no longer participates in all her rituals? Would this be a good or bad thing? I don't wish ill on anyone but wonder if he can then get her under care of some kind if others can see her coming unraveled.

There was someone who used to write on here long ago and their mom had all the kids participate in bizarre daily rituals that took hours. It sounded a miserable way to live and I'm sure once they were adults they were so happy to get out of there that they no longer had a relationship with their mom as it was just too exhausting.

I am wondering if OP's kids will resent the fact that he allowed this behavior to affect them.

OP may well lose his house. He may have to get in-home help for the kids or send them to daycare. He may have to find distant relatives on either side to care for the kids. He may have to eventually move. And he will have to spend money on lawyers and doctors to get custody.

This will be hard and not pleasant. But spending the rest of your life in such a situation will be twice as hard. I had to make a decision like this once after many many years of staying in the relationship. After a few months, I couldn't figure out why I'd ever let myself stay there.

pickleyoukquat writes:

Marriage counseling isn't really what was needed in my opinion. She has an extreme case of OCD. She needs a therapist. And I'm not starting that in a mean way so please don't think so because it's not my intent.

She's letting this take control of her life and it's as if she's her OCD's hostage. I understand the fear of getting sick again but she takes it above and beyond. She just needs to gain control back.

It'll take time because it'll be a hard transition for her. She doesn't see that what she's doing is affecting everyone around her; I understand she's doing it out of love but it's too much.

The right therapist may be able to help without medications. It's exercises you and the family could probably do together to get her back to not worrying so much abouts germs so she can devout her time to other things. I'm sorry this isn't what you were probably hoping for. I do wish you and your family the best of luck.

septa23 writes:

I would start keeping records/gathering evidence. This is absolutely an abusive relationship, for you and the kids. I get that you’re worried about fg them up with a divorce, but you’re not helping them by keeping them in this environment.

From their perspective, they have the full attention of neither of their parents. Your wife’s time is overtaken by anxiety and her phobia of germs and she can’t possibly allow them to be normal children and experience the things they should.

As the kids get older, her outbursts will be targeted at them too, as I assume she will expect them to adhere to certain procedures as well. It seems outright dangerous that she will not close a door, as that means the kids could access somewhere they shouldn’t or an intruder could enter the house that way.

It doesn’t seem like you have time for your kids either, because you are too wrapped up in dealing with your wife’s issues. I don’t know who’s raising the kids with both of y’all so occupied with this issue.

Your wife is prioritizing her fd up world that’s she’s created over you and her kids. She doesn’t care if you leave, that’s been established- and she is unwilling to even try and change or even discuss it.

She walked out on counseling and basically told you to go f your self if you want her to change. And why should she? You’ve bent over backwards and indulged her every ridiculous request.

I understand that you wanted to accommodate her mental illness, but you enabled this behavior as well. You let this insane routine happen and you let it become your new normal. You enabled all of this.

My advice would be to show her you are fg serious about leaving, and taking the kids. She’s calling your bluff because she’s been able to walk all over you in the past, so she doesn’t think she needs to change.

She needs reality to hit her in the face and show her that if she’s not willing to change, she’s going to lose her family. Medication isn’t the only way to help anxiety. She is just making excuses because she doesn’t want to get better.

And now, OP's first update:

I want to make something clear. My children take 1 bath a day (sometimes two). They dont do what I do - that is the one thing I absolutely fucking put my foot down on.

But yeah, they need out of this situation asap. I talked to my wife a few minutes ago and let her know exactly how I feel - again. She broke down, as expected, and ended our conversation. When I get home we will continue to address this.

i'm scared to leave. This is what I am primarily afraid of. I fear if I completely admonish her behavior that she will have a complete mental breakdown.

She has rarely mentioned suicide because of how depressed she can get and I dont know what she is capable of. Just typing this out has made me realize that I have to stop this behavior and have someone intervene as soon as possible - for her sake.

I have said no, multiple times. I have even packed my bags and left. But I always come back. I still long for the love we had before this began, but I fear it is gone and I am killing myself trying to find it again.

I am also scared to be a single parent. My job is demanding and my family lives out of state. But I love my kids and I will do what I have to do for them.

What is bizarre is that she doesnt. At least, not to the extent of myself and my wife. But it definitely isnt healthy and I have to talk to my daughter and help her realize that what I am doing isnt normal. I know that I need to get my kids out of this situation as it will damage them. I just need to get the courage to leave and stop enabling her.

The kids generally take one bath a day. They dont do what I have to do. They are not completely immune, but they are definitely impressionable. I refuse to force them to do what I normally do and my wife and I generally agree on it.

But that doesnt make sense, she will let them roll around on the living room but as soon as I lay on the floor? Im dirty. Her mind is complete insanity. In fact, I just called her to talk about this on the phone and she broke down and cried, then ended the conversation. I am going to stand firm and let her know that this will not continue.

OP's second update:

She does clean - and intensely, at that. She will spend over an hour bleaching the garage every week. Sanitizing her car constantly. If she goes to the Dr? She cleans everything like Ebola is on it. She does clean, but she makes me do everything else. It really is impossible to convey properly. But yes, I am enabling her and it will end.

OP's 3rd update (months later):

Its been awhile since my original post, but I didnt want to post until there was substantial progress.

Since then, not much has improved. I decided to convince her to attend out patient behavioral therapy. To my surprise, she agreed and I was so happy.

Unfortunately, she refused to attend the session last night and became violent and suicidal. I had no choice but to get the police involved and have her committed to in patient therapy.

This was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I feel so broken right now. I'm going to see a counselor in hopes that I can figure out what to do.

I dont know how long they are going to keep her in patient yet but I pray that she takes advantage of it because I still love her and I did this because I still do.

I told myself I would stop enabling her, mainly because I just cannot sustain this life. I am physically and mentally exhausted. My kids are my top priority but I cant take care of them if I dont first take care of myself.

I thank all of you who reached out to me on the original post and and recommended things to try. She was set to attend group cognitive behavioral therapy today and I hope that it will help her. Thanks for reading.

Take a look at some of the top responses to OP's updates:

I’m so sorry she reacted this way but so glad she’s getting help. At least a couple of years ago or longer, a person wrote about their childhood with a mother with a similar issue.

Laundry day was a nightmare, if an item touched something, everything started all over. It was onerous and back breaking. And the kids had to strip, wash and redress after putting the clothes in the wash.

Every chore had elaborate steps and they were filled with fear they’d have to start over. This was their childhood. I sincerely hope your wife can get the help she needs to conquer this.

OP replies:

Yeah, I cannot let the kids live like that. All of this ends today. No matter what, I will do what I need to do to ensure they grow up safely.

OP's final update:

Thanks, she has tried to convince me that I am selfish and just did it so I could get rid of her but I did it for her. I know in my heart I did.

I visited her tonight, and it went well. She seems like she wants to get well but I will have to hold her to it. I could tell she was happy I visited her. I feel like that let her know that I really did do this for her. I drove 1.5 hours just to see her. Going to try to take this one day at a time.

What do YOU make of OP's story? Any advice for him?

Sources: Reddit
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