It seems I have made the error that all of the books ask us to avoid and I apologise - your boyfriend sounds to be suffering more with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, rather than obsessive compulsive disorder. The symptoms are very similar, but you can read a definition of the personality disorder and other information here: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000942.htm This clearly demonstrates the need to be perfectionist about matters that to others seem trivial, such as the lawn or the lightbulbs.
Importantly, it also explains why you may be finding that the fights continue - that when people who suffer from these tendencies fear a loss of control, they become aggressive. We all know that we take out our frustrations on our nearest and dearest, so in some ways, his demonstrations of anger are a display that he feels comfortable enough with you to be 'himself'. Sadly, this self is not always easy to deal with. I wonder whether he has any insight into when these episodes may occur - you have said that they occur every 3 or 4 weeks, and are predictable - would you be able to put your finger on exactly what triggers them? such as the light bulb incident - what was it that actually irritated him? If you were to get back together, could you use this information to help you to 'see it coming' and therefore learn to manage it together? Perhaps he could learn to recognise the feelings and thoughts he experiences when an episode is coming on, and therefore let you know 'I can feel it coming' - maybe then he could be left alone to do his own thing, or either of you could go out of the house so you are apart, in order to manage it. These management techniques would need to be based upon what brings his anxiety back down, what helps him to feel better (having a bath, reading the paper, doing some exercise, whatever it is for him). Would he consider a course of hypnotherapy, which would teach him how to really deeply relax and he could use this when the episodes arise? Again, for this to be successful, he would need to be part of the 'management team'.
As I said, we can only be in control of our own behaviour, so maybe you could have a close look at how you respond to his perfectionism, in a new light. If you imagine that when he is feeling like this, he is wearing a pair of glasses that distort his world (as in schema therapy) then maybe it would help you to put up with it and manage it with him - he cannot help putting them on every so often, but you could accept that he has to wear them for a while and find the best way to respond so that he remains calm. If he continues to be angry, simply tell him you will listen to him when he has calmed down and walk away. There is a theory (Transactional Analysis) that we all have within us a child, an adult and a parent mode - when a couple are both in 'adult' mode, the times can be good. When one flips into 'child' mode for whatever reason, (for example throws a paddy over a light bulb),the other becomes the 'parent' and tells the 'child' off - which exacerbates the situation and causes the 'child' to persist. The answer to calm the situation down is to take the 'adult' role again, and simply stating that you will talk when he has calmed down is one way of doing that. You can discuss this when you are both in 'adult' mode so he knows that you will do this and he can expect it.
I think it is still important to remember that he doesn't do this intentionally and that he probably loves you as much as he says he does, even though he may not say it very often, or might need you to appreciate him all of the time. Maybe he needs this reassurance when he is feeling out of control and maybe your reaction ignites him, unintentionally, rather than reassuring him, understandably so because his behaviour seems so irrational.
I hope this gives you much more insight and direction? Best Wishes, Sarah
Edited by Sarah on 7/28/2010 at 7:38 PM EST