HELP! My perfectionism is ruining my PERFECTLY GOOD relationship.

Job candidates often use “perfectionism” as their covert strength cleverly disguised as a weakness. When, in all matters of speaking, perfectionism itself can most certainly be a handicap to overcome.

It is not uncommon to find the desire for exceptional outcomes and high expectations in work or performance to bleed over into our relationships. 

So, how can my perfectionism ruin my perfectly good relationship? 
Scan through this quick Relationship Perfectionism Screen and mentally check the items you find yourself, your partner or your relationship commonly viewing as truth

  1. I compare the couple who is living in their sweet spot of life to my relationship with my partner and our daily struggles. 
  2. I use fictional relationships in movies, books, tv, songs, etc, which are cleverly engineered by artists, musicians, or the bulk of Hollywood itself, as my ideal relationship goal.
  3. I expect myself to measure up to these unrealistic ideals, or I expect my partner to fulfill the expectations laid out through media.
  4. I come home from work, school, or other task and quickly identify the other items on the checklist that I or my partner have left “undone”.
  5. I want date night to be absolutely perfect - and that paralyzes me from even starting to plan it.
  6. I find that instead of truly going for it and completing a large task (like spring cleaning the garage, going for a job change, or planning a much-needed vacation) I get stuck in the details? 
  7. I feel our vows are meant to be fulfilled in completion during every moment of every day from the moment we walk out of the ceremony to the grave.
  8. The challenges of our marriage seem trivial and we should to overcome them more easily.
  9. I feel that we shouldn’t have to work so hard to love each other - it should be natural!
  10. I find myself thinking one or more of these statements:
    • I shouldn’t have to TELL him what I’m thinking - he SHOULD know by now. 
    • She won’t go anyway, so I won’t even ask.
    • I want the relationship so-and-so have; they make it seem so easy.
    • We can’t even get along on the good days. How can we expect our relationship to survive when it gets even harder?

If you checked more than one, read on, my friend. You're in good company.

In our human condition, we are built to observe and compare/contrast.
Even infants are said to be drawn to books in black and white because the contrast is so clearly defined. 

However, when perfectionistic thinking begins to creep into our relationships, even the most ordinary conditions are unwelcome. 

  • Struggles about where to park the car at the mall seem unavoidable,
  • conversations about finances (and heaven forbid, “budgeting”) are on the “do even not go there” list,
  • parenting style differences are like taming a wild boar,
  • and all hopes of something “good” coming from all of this hardship go unnoticed and eventually all hope is completely abandoned. 

So how can you now marshal the forces of perfectionism to help retain hope and begin to thrive in your relationship again? 

Imagine a child beginning to ride a bike. 
In many cases, the child will fall, perhaps cry, and maybe even say how hard it is. 
This is where many perfectionists stop and pick up a scooter or something that is more likely to lead toward success.

What if, rather than identifying the difficulty as something to be avoided, we stopped and identified the challenge, and then used this as something to propel us forward? 

Relationships are hard. Loving well and loving often isn’t always smooth. It isn’t always perfect. 

What would it look like if your relationship took the child’s perspective on embracing the challenge, making mistakes, and overcoming the obstacles together? 

P  R  A  C  T  I  C  E

  1. Identify the expectation.
    Go through the list of unrealistic relationship ideals in the Relationship Perfectionism Screen again. Truly consider what your ideals are saying about your current relationship. 
  2. Put your own words to that ideal.
    Such as, “perfectionism is telling me that we need to be ____.” 
  3. Now counter that ideal with TRUTH.
    “BUT, the experience we’re facing now is telling me that we need to ____.”
    “BUT, there is a road to get there; it is challenging, and sometimes I don’t like it. But the mistakes we make while we’re getting there is what makes this relationship ours.”
  4. Finally, give yourself, your partner and your relationship some time to try this, make mistakes, and make it your own. 
relationship perfectionism