Overcoming Perfectionism in Relationships
Three Ways It’s Ruining Your Love Life
Are you a difficult person to live with?
I recently heard an interview with a man who was discussing newlyweds. He said that when an engaged person answers “No” alarm bells start ringing and he wonders how prepared they are for marriage.
We are all – to some degree – difficult to live with. Some of us however can be excruciatingly difficult to live with. We are the perfectionists of this world.
Now, if you live with a perfectionist you’re probably nodding in agreement. If you are a perfectionist yourself, you are likely outraged. I bet you’re thinking, Living with a perfectionist is difficult? Really? Try being a perfectionist! Our lives are never easy.
Yes, ok…maybe we do nag all the time but in fairness to us, if you would just put the milk back on the right shelf in the fridge and load the dishwasher the right way then we wouldn’t have to nag you – ever!
If you are cheering right now then read on – this article is for you. Just prepare for some hard truths before you do.
Are you ready to hear all about how overcoming perfectionism can change your life?
Ok my perfectionist friends, I’m going to let you in on a little secret…you are a total pain to live with.
There’s good news though! If you live with your partner then she must really, really love you. If you don’t have a partner right now, consider that your perfectionism may be part of the reason why.
There are three ways in which your perfectionism might be ruining your relationships.
1. The (not-so-constructive) Criticism
Have you ever seen The Ugly Truth? There is a scene toward the end where Katherine Heigl’s boyfriend surprises her with champagne and she promptly explains that she is actually a control freak. In her speech she starts to criticize the way he ordered for her in a restaurant and champagne not being chilled. I think you can immediately see that she is off to a bad start.
Now I know this is a fiction but we are all guilty of it in real life.
Perfectionism can make us so self-involved that we forget completely about our partners. Take the time my boyfriend cooked me dinner and instead of starting with a thank you the first thing I did was take some food of my plate and say, “I don’t like that.”
Yep – I’m a terrible person! Have you ever done something similar?
Constructive criticism is perfectly fine but often times we skip the constructive and just pile on lots of criticism. Overcoming perfectionism doesn’t mean you have to let go completely. More or less, you learn to choose your battles (more on how to do that here) and ditch the all-or-nothing mindset.
2. The Hovering
I’ve heard a story about a woman whose husband helped change the baby’s diaper from day one. All her friends were shocked and wanted to know how she got him to do it. They all said, “My husband tried once and never did it again.”
“Well how did it go the first time?” asked the woman.
“Terrible” responded her friend, “I had to take over and do it myself.”
“That’s why” replied the woman.
It turns out that this woman had left her husband alone the first time he tried to change a diaper. It took him a while but he eventually got the hang of it and proceeded to share diaper duty with his wife.
It’s not surprising that the guy whose wife hovered over him and took over never wanted to try again.
Now let me ask, how often do you complain about your partner not helping out? Whether it’s with the kids, the chores, the bills, whatever it is.
And how often, when they do try to help with those things, do you just complain that they’re not doing it right or take over from them?
So can you really blame them for not trying? They know it will never be good enough for you so why would they waste their time? It’s easier and less painful just to listen to the nagging.
You may think I’m a traitor to perfectionists everywhere for saying this but, there is no right way to load the dishwasher or fold the laundry. You have your way and everybody else has theirs. No method is any more right than another.
If you want help, then you have to be willing to receive it. If you don’t want help, then just bite your tongue and learn to accept it anyway.
Your partner loves you and wants to help, to make a contribution. Isn’t it time you let them? You wouldn’t give back a gift so why push back when they try to help you?
The Double Standard
A key element of perfectionism is holding yourself to a higher standard than those around you. I know this seems like a good thing but it really isn’t.
How would you feel if you offered to help a friend and you knew that the reason they turned you down was because they thought they could do it better?
Well that’s exactly how your partner feels because you’re effectively telling them that they are less than you – less organized, less committed, less able.
Have faith in your partner and set realistic expectations for yourself, it will make everybody happier in the long run.
Don’t let your relationship become the collateral damage of your perfectionism. Let go of the idea that your way is the right way. Stop hovering and criticising – it will make your partner more likely to participate. Accept help from your partner. Say thank you (even when you think they did it wrong). First and foremost, love your partner and appreciate them for living with your perfectionism – it’s not easy for them either!
Overcoming perfectionism, while not easy, will help you get more out of your personal relationships. You’ll see you’re fulfilled when you realize your partner (or potential partner) is just as capable of of mastering your world as you are.
Are you a perfectionist? Have you worked to overcome perfectionism in your relationships? What tips worked for you?