Trying to be so perfect all the time is not only draining on you, but it can be equally as exhausting for your partner. To avoid a big blowup (or ultimate heartbreak), take a peek at the various ways perfectionism might be ruining your relationship and a few tips on how to help it.
According to licensed marriage and family therapist Jennifer Chappell Marsh, when someone is a perfectionist they typically have the following two characteristics that impact the relationship: the tendency to procrastinate and adhere to an all-or-nothing approach. “This negatively affects their partner’s sense of reliability on them,” she says. “Perfectionism that comes out this way in a relationship translates into inconsistency, which is not stable. Partners will often stop relying on their significant others and take more on themselves. This is where resentment builds and criticism ensues,” she warns.
As many perfectionists will attest to, they tend to be extremely hard on themselves and have incredibly high, unrealistic standards. Consequently, their self-esteem takes a beating, explains Marsh. “This hurts a relationship because perfectionists will generally close off emotionally when they are feeling bad. The other common scenario is that the perfectionist holds their partner to the same bar that they hold themselves to, setting them both up for failure.”
Black and white thinking
Perfectionism can ruin a relationship in so many ways. “For example, perfectionists have a tendency to think in black and white — he either loves me and does what he should, or he doesn’t do what he should and doesn’t love me. What’s more, perfectionists personalize other people’s behavior as an indication of their own worth — if he loves me, I am OK; if he doesn’t, I am worthless.” Obviously, this can lead to serious self-esteem issues and rifts in the relationship.
Intolerance for mistakes
The words perfectionism and relationship definitely don’t belong in the same sentence! Why? Because “it’s very likely that your partner will make mistakes (at least one per day),” says licensed clinical psychologist and professor of psychology, Dr. Ramani Durvasula. “Chronically calling him or her out on them (or doing so in an unkind way) is bound to result in hurt feelings.” Moreover, your partner may feel like they’re walking around on pins and needles all the time, scared to set you off.
Relationship tips for perfectionists
1. Check your expectations
Perfectionism, if carried too far, can harm a person’s self-esteem and lead to a relationship’s eventual downfall. To prevent this, it’s important to set realistic expectations of your partner, instead of constantly bringing them down by complaining.
2. Focus on the positives
One way to readjust your expectations is by appreciating your significant other more and focusing on their positive qualities. Be thankful for the person you’re with instead of tearing them down with petty issues.
3. Communicate, communicate, communicate
Perfectionism can suck the joy out of any relationship. Keep the spark alive by being grateful, loving and communicating about your needs on a daily basis.