How to Keep Perfectionism From Harming Your Marriage

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Co-Author: Sharon Martin, LCSW

If you’re a perfectionist, you already know that perfectionism puts excessive demands on both you and your spouse. The criticism and arguments are obvious. But the problems go beyond your ranting and raving about the messy bathroom or his frustration that you insist on cleaning the entire kitchen before sitting down to watch T.V. together. Perfectionism makes it hard to share who you really are – especially your vulnerabilities and inadequacies.

When you are unable to share your whole self, it makes it difficult to connect deeply with your spouse.

There are four aspects of perfectionism that you can focus on in order to improve your marriage:

   1) Criticism and unrealistic expectations of your spouse

   2) Criticism and unrealistic expectations of yourself

   3) Sharing yourself more vulnerably with your spouse

   4) Increasing positive interactions and fun

Here are eight strategies that can be helpful for perfectionists looking to strengthen their marriage:

  • Look for what your partner does right

It’s so easy to spot mistakes and problems. It’s not so easy to recognize all the things your spouse does right. Set an intention to specifically identify at least three pleasing things your partner does daily and communicate them to him/her. This helps train your mind to see the positives and it builds good feelings between the two of you.

  • Don’t sweat the small stuff

    Step back and put things in perspective. Consider your values and what really matters to you. Put your time and effort into the things that are most important to you. loads the dishwasher the “wrong” way?

    • Your way isn’t the only right way to do things

    Allow your spouse to do things his/her way sometimes, even if you are sure it is wrong.

    It feels disrespectful and condescending to insist that your way is the only right way. Unless it’s a safety issue, you are probably sweating the small stuff.

    • Accept that the division of labor isn’t fair

    If you need a super clean bathroom and your partner does not, don’t expect that he or she will clean it to your standards. You must decide what is worth the battle and what isn’t. Furthermore, at times you must accept that it’s your particular need and not your spouses.

    • Practice self-compassion and self-care

    Emotionally healthy people treat themselves with grace and kindness. Take good care of your body, mind, and . and begin to replace them with compassionate, forgiving messages. Negativity isn’t motivating. It tends to make us feel worse, which it turn leads to more negative thoughts and behaviors.

    • Relax and have fun

    Perfectionists often choose work over fun. Making time for relaxation, novelty and fun alone and with your partner are also important ways to build connection and strengthen your marriage.

    • Over communicate

    Help your husband or wife why certain things are so important to you. We all fall into the trap of assuming our partners what we are thinking and feeling. Get curious. keep talking until you really understand each other’s point of view.

    • Share a little bit more of yourself

    Deep connections are formed when we share our struggles, fears, and vulnerabilities. Gently push yourself to share just a little bit more with your spouse every week. Maybe even something about your family of origin that has influenced your view of yourself and your perfectionism.

    Trying some of these suggestions will probably feel uncomfortable at first. Change is a process, not a destination. Simply reading this article and bringing your awareness to these struggles is an excellent first step. Sharing it with your partner, along with your intention to begin changing, is a wonderful next step.  It won’t be long before you can kiss your perfectionism goodbye!

    FOR FURTHER SELF-HELP, PURCHASE FROM AMAZON: The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown or How to Be an Imperfectionist: The New Way to Self-Acceptance, Fearless Living, and Freedom from Perfectionism by Stephen Guise