Perfectionism can be considered a good or bad quality, depending on the situation. However, perfectionism in a relationship opens up a can of worms that may be otherwise best kept closed. In a regular aspect of life, perfectionism, in tandem with consideration, is a positive attribute. This can lead to innovation, high levels of achievement and an asset when great attention to detail is needed.
Perfectionism, in the extreme, as with anything, becomes a negative personality trait that causes problems in life and relationships. I write this with personal experience as someone with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), dyslexia, and dyscalculia. Although I have never officially been diagnosed with OCD, everyone who knows me well will attest that I conform to many symptoms of OCD.
Dyslexia and dyscalculia do not imply perfectionism, but with me, perfectionism and OCD have allowed my brain to resolve to develop coping strategies. For example, strategies which have helped me overcome my deficiencies with skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. Or a specific and persistent difficulty in understanding numbers.
I was informed early in my diagnosis of dyslexia and dyscalculia that I could develop coping strategies with a willing mind and lots of hard work, which could be an asset. The lovely lady (specialist) I spent a lot of time with told me that I should view dyslexia and dyscalculia as question marks. It was up to me to dive deep into my universe, the mind of a black hole and discover my hidden gift. Discover my pot of gold at the end of my rainbow.
I am unsure which came first from my perfectionism, OCD, dyslexia, or dyscalculia. But the combination of these so-called deficiencies has resolved around me to allow me to achieve a PhD in Engineering and become an innovator. I can see complex problems in miniature bite sizes. When I sink my teeth into anything, I do not let go till it is devoured. Imagine a dog with a bone; this is me.
Perfectionism has given me success against these so-called negative traits. However, perfectionism in a relationship is a whole new ball game. Relationships are complex, be it with friends and colleagues or with a lover. Perfectionism in a relationship can leave a trail of disaster behind.
Suppose you or your partner are struggling with perfectionism. In that case, there are steps you can take to overcome the problem and maintain a healthy relationship. I am not an expert, but this post will shine some light on perfectionism in a relationship.
Perfectionism in a relationship:
Relationships are built on trust and communication. When one person constantly puts the other through unnecessary stress, it can be challenging to build a healthy relationship. This perfectionism often manifests as excessive worry or anxiety about performance, appearance, or relationships.
Perfectionism can negatively affect both partners because it creates tension and conflict. It also makes it hard to let go of old grudges or forgive mistakes, leading to resentment and, eventually, breakup or divorce. Therefore, to maintain a healthy relationship, one must understand how perfectionism works and learn how to deal with it effectively.
Can perfectionism ruin a relationship?
Perfectionism in a relationship can ruin that relationship. It can cause us to stop trusting our partners, to never forgive them for their mistakes. Building in fear of making mistakes that partners hold back entirely on expressing themselves freely. Perfectionists can easily be tagged as control freaks, even if their intentions are pure.
Enduring the raft of a perfectionist may lead to the partner becoming afraid, overreactive, jealous and hateful, all trying to ensure the happiness of the partner or other people. When you’re in a relationship with someone with high standards of perfectionism, these issues will likely crop up sooner or later (and are bound to worsen over time). But unless you’re ready for them, there’s no way around it.
What Is the Difference Between Being a Perfectionist and Having High Standards?
There’s a big difference between being a perfectionism in a relationship and having high standards. Granted that the lines can be blurred, perfectionists constantly strive to be the best they can be. While someone with high standards simply wants things done well.
Here are ways that these two attitudes can impact relationships:
A Perfectionist can be Uncomfortable with Change
Suppose you’re always looking for everything to be just right. In that case, it can be difficult when something changes, especially if you have to fix it. This type of person may become frustrated or angry when things don’t go according to plan, likely leading to tension in a relationship.
High standards can cause conflict
When one person has high standards and expects everyone around them to live up to those expectations, there’s bound to be conflict. For example, suppose one partner demands total honesty from all family members but don’t want anything said about their personal life that isn’t positive. In that case, this could create tension and disagreements.
On the other hand, setting realistic expectations without putting undue pressure on others might result in fewer arguments. But, also less satisfaction overall because only some situations meet those lofty ideals.
How to Deal With Perfectionism in a Relationship?
When you’re in a relationship, getting caught up in the idea of being perfect is easy. But being with someone who loves you and accepts your flaws makes life easy for all.
Being with someone who does not jump over you when you make mistakes is an essential step toward being you. Both partners need to understand perfectionism or imperfections, just as my man John Legend said in his song All of Me, ‘All your perfect imperfections.’
Here are some tips for dealing with perfectionism in a relationship:
Allow yourself to be a person who makes mistakes:
The best way to fight against perfectionism in a relationship is by letting go of any fear or guilt of making mistakes. You should be able to trust your partner not only with your thoughts but also with your actions and words. If you can let go of these fears, then nothing will be holding you back from being yourself around them.
Don’t try to coerce them into changing themselves because then they will feel like they have no choice but to be perfect all the time instead of occasionally being imperfect (which is what most people really want).
Accept yourself as you are; perfectionism in a relationship should not define you
It’s hard to accept ourselves as we are (I believe my parents could have added to my looks), especially when we constantly compare ourselves with others. Keeping up with the Jones. It’s natural for us all to do this, but it can generate stress for you and your relationship.
In a relationship, you often have to make sacrifices for your partner. But when there’s a lot of pressure on both sides, it can be challenging to keep things going smoothly without finding fault with one another.
It’s essential not to take criticism personally. You might feel like your partner is constantly criticising you — even when they are not. Sometimes it’s because they care about the relationship and want you to feel better about yourself!
If this becomes frequent, it is best to try talking with your partner. Speak directly to them about what they mean by their words. Such conversation will often reveal they are not being uncaring.
Don’t worry about what other people think of you!
You think you’re perfect, but the truth is that we all have faults, and so do our partners. It’s not a bad thing to be imperfect, and it doesn’t make you any less lovable.
A key to dealing with perfectionism in a relationship is learning to accept your partner’s faults just as they are. For example, if someone has a bad habit of leaving dirty dishes in the sink or forgetting their keys at home, don’t try to change them! Instead, accept them as they are and love them anyway.
It can be difficult for people with perfectionism (I learned the best way to bite my tongue) to do this because they feel like if they let go of these negative thoughts and behaviours, they will lose their value. This can lead to low self-esteem and feelings of guilt about their flaws.
But by accepting yourself and your partner for who they are without judgment or criticism — even about flaws — you can begin to build better relationships with others around you.
Let go of past mistakes, regrets, and hurts:
Perfectionists are more likely to hold on to past mistakes (my memory is razor sharp on others’ mistakes, shame I forget my own) and hurts than non-perfectionists. This can make a recovery difficult when someone has hurt their partner because they’re still carrying around the guilt and shame of what happened in the past.
If you want to move forward as a couple and avoid hurting each other again, try not to dwell on the past too much!
Let go of past mistakes, regrets and hurts to move forward with your life. If you believe that you can never make a mistake or that you’re always right, you’ll never learn from them. You’ll also be more likely to repeat them because you feel there’s no way for things to go wrong.
Set realistic standards and expectations for yourself:
Everyone has the right to expect their partner to be perfect, but nobody is perfect. If you expect your partner to always meet your expectations, you may feel disappointed or frustrated if they don’t. Essential to set realistic expectations.
You may not realise it, but by constantly comparing your relationship with others’ relationships, you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s important to remember that every relationship is unique. So, try not to compare your relationship with others — instead, focus on making your own relationship what it should be and can be.
Empathise with others who struggle too:
When you feel like your partner is moving too fast, it can be hard to know how to respond. You might feel like saying nothing at all would be an act of kindness. But this could signify that your partner needs more support and encouragement. To deal with this kind of situation gracefully, try these tips:
Connect with your actual needs
Perfectionism in relationships is a tough habit because it’s ingrained in our culture — but you can kick it! Start by talking about what makes getting things right crucial to you.
If one of you is constantly worried about making mistakes or being judged by others, try talking about how important this is to both of you as individuals. On the other hand, if one of you has strong perfectionist tendencies but doesn’t really care about making mistakes, try focusing on how much each of you wants the other person to be happy and prosperous.
Remind yourself of healthy relationship qualities to avoid perfectionism in a relationships
Try to understand that there is no need for perfectionism in a relationship. You can be imperfect all the time. However, you must work together as partners and friends to achieve your goals and dreams.
Take care of your physical health and well-being
If you’re feeling insecure because you feel like your partner is too critical, take time for yourself outside of your relationship. For example, go on a walk or nap when possible, spend time alone with friends or family, eat well and drink plenty of water, exercise regularly; get enough rest; and so on.
I have been experiencing a recent (I say recent but over a year) lowness. However, I have found these all helpful and helped reduce my stress. In return, I get an endorphin rush through my body to help improve my mood.
In truth, no one is perfect. So why do we put so much pressure on ourselves and our partners to be perfect?
It’s time to let go of perfectionism in a relationship and embrace the beauty of imperfection (my mate, well, not really my mate John Legend tells us to love all our perfect imperfections). Doing that can create more robust, more fulfilling relationships with the people we love.
Thanks for reading; self-reflection prompted me to write on this topic!