most perfectionists see that trait as one of their strengths; it drives them to excel and be exceptional. the constant striving for excellence is seen as a critical part of their identity. it is distinct from doing one’s personal best, or setting the bar high enough to create a healthy challenge. perfectionism is maladaptive when it includes the need to be seen as flawless, to make no mistakes, and to live up to extremely high standards. they are more likely to be aware of the consequences, such as anxiety, frustration, or disappointment. jill is an intelligent and beautiful young woman with a need to be perfect in her own appearance, the cleanliness of her home, and the quality of her work.
she has had a series of disappointing relationships in which she could not allow the other person to know her, out of fear that they would see her imperfections. jon is a successful engineer whose major complaint was the “laziness and sloppiness” of his wife. these individuals represent 2 of the 3 forms of perfectionism—self-oriented perfectionism and other-oriented perfectionism. both jill and jon were unhappy and frustrated with the status of their relationships and anxious about their futures. is the fear of failure keeping you from ever starting a project? in summary, many people take perfectionism to the level of being harmful and maladaptive. as stated by anna quindlen, “the thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” there are many temptations to organize our life around the experience of earlier trauma.
i would argue that the will to become a better person and a better partner may be the most desirable asset anyone can bring to a marriage. in fact, perfectionists spend most of their time dreading the next potential failure, and successes are met with a feeling of temporary relief, rather than with a feeling of satisfaction in having done a thing well. further, perfectionist individuals are often hypersensitive to perceived rejection or possible evidence of failure, and there is a fundamental rigidity in the relentless stance of bracing for failure. perfectionists often feel that they must always be strong and in control of their emotions. celebrating the victories of a spouse may be especially hard if such success threatens a perfectionist partner’s sense of being “the more competent partner” in the relationship.
the exhaustion that comes from striving to be perfect can also lead a perfectionistic individual to give up in the face of obstacles. as i have argued in my book, marriage for equals, the way to partner with a soul mate is not to arrive as the perfect match for each other, but to become this over time. the self-esteem we derive from living a life consistent with our deepest values gives us the emotional freedom to learn and grow without fearing the shame of rejection. some of the same treatments that work for individuals with obsessive-compulsive personality features have equal potency in the treatment of perfectionism. there are many temptations to organize our life around the experience of earlier trauma.
(a third form is the least likely to cause relationship problems but is difficult for the individual: socially prescribed perfectionism. a perfectionist may avoid talking about personal fears, inadequacies, insecurities, and disappointments with others, even to those with whom a perfectionist is more easily disappointed in a relationship than others. if you are one, you probably don’t allow mistakes in the relationship, and if they, perfectionism and intimate relationships, perfectionism and intimate relationships, my husband is a perfectionist and nothing i do is good enough, perfectionism and anxiety in relationships, perfectionism and cheating.
furthermore, perfectionists may eventually isolate themselves from others as to not inflict their standards on them. or, relationships don’t work out because of the impossible standards. it can become incredibly lonely and draining. being in a relationship with a perfectionist can feel challenging. not because your perfectionist partner is unlovable, but because the rigidity being a perfectionist in relationships means trying to control other people, demanding certain behaviors and actions. but no one likes being in these are the 5 ways perfectionism damages romantic relationships: 1. projecting expectations 2. framing conflict as failure 3., living with a perfectionist husband, projecting perfectionism onto others, how to deal with a perfectionist partner, living with a perfectionist wife, signs of a perfectionist, why is perfectionism bad, other-oriented perfectionism, socially prescribed perfectionism, is perfectionism good, perfection complex.
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