Perfectionism doesn’t just affect people on an individual level, it can impact our relationships too. The unhelpful thinking styles, habits and behaviours associated with perfectionism can create stress and tension, sabotaging relationships from within.
Is perfectionism sabotaging your relationships? If you answer yes to some or all the questions below, perfectionism could be causing issues for you and your partner. It’s not all doom and gloom! At the end of this article, you’ll find advice and resources designed to help you work through any challenges. I may not be a couple’s therapist, but there’s not much I don’t know about perfectionism!
In everything they do, perfectionists tend to place high expectations on themselves. Within a relationship, this often means constantly striving to meet their partner’s needs. Their ability to be perfect is closely tied to being worthy of love, so when things don’t go to plan, they worry their partner won’t want to be with them anymore.
Many perfectionists like to be in control of their emotions. They find it hard to open up to people and often avoid sharing their vulnerabilities. This can limit emotional intimacy and hamper their chances of building a healthy relationship.
Perfectionists don’t like mistakes, and this includes mistakes within their relationship. They might struggle to forgive their partner if they fail to meet their expectations, and often have one foot out the door.
Perfectionists can be so busy striving to achieve their next goal, they leave little room for quality time with their partner. With love taking a back seat to achieving, they might find it difficult to be present and prioritise their relationship.
Perfectionists don’t like negative vibes in a relationship and can view disagreements or arguments as failure. They will either try really hard to keep things positive and make the relationship work, or something as small as a simple difference of opinion might leave them wondering whether their partner is right for them at all.
As well as putting pressure on themselves, perfectionists often have high standards for others too. Coupled with a desire for things to be perfect, this can translate into unintentional judgements. Wanting the best for their partner, a perfectionist might think they’re helping, but the partner can end up feeling constantly criticised.
If you believe your perfectionism is having a negative impact on your relationship, don’t lose hope. You can recover from perfectionism, banish unhelpful thinking styles and start creating new habits and behaviours. If you’re able to do this, you’ll benefit on an individual level as well as helping your relationship.
Aside from working on your perfectionism, here are a few things you can try:
Noticing negative thought patterns when they arise is the first step towards changing them.
Perfectionism in a relationship can show up as controlling behaviour. Instead of criticising your partner or trying to change how they do something, focus on practicing acceptance.
While your needs should be met and you should never allow yourself to be treated poorly, it’s important to check whether you’re setting standards for your partner that are so high they’re unreasonable. This is often the case with the standards perfectionists set for themselves, so the habit can easily spill over into relationships too.
Perfectionists often struggle to relax. Chasing goals and achievements can also be all-consuming, so it’s important to carve out time together that’s ‘just for fun’.
If you’re looking for help and advice, 5 Ways to Beat Perfectionism is a good place to start. I also share support, information and ideas for recovering perfectionists on my Instagram page, the.perfectionism.therapist, and via my fortnightly newsletter, Perfectly Imperfect. And if you’re looking for a therapist you can book a free consultation with me here.