Are You Trying to Be the Perfect Partner?

Helpful Strategies for Letting Go of Perfectionism

From your RAFT Counseling Team

Perfectionism seems like a strength in theory, but that’s because in theory, it’s setting and achieving high goals. In practice, perfectionism leads to chronic stress (whether or not you realize it) and tension in relationships.

While it may seem like people in your life just don’t care when they don’t meet your expectations, take a step back and ask yourself: Do you even want to meet your expectations? Or do you feel like you have to, and why? 

Recognize Harmful Perfectionism 

There’s something to be said about people who set high goals for themselves. Lofty goals sound great in theory, but in practice they don’t actually lead to high achievement. Realistic goals paired with grace, patience, and self-love, however, do. 

The same goes for other people. Some people like being pushed by their loved ones. However, holding them to unrealistic expectations and withholding compassion whenever they inevitably fall short can erode a relationship’s foundation.

Notice Black-and-White Thinking 

Black-and-white thinking (or all-or-nothing thinking) is a classic sign of perfectionism. If you catch yourself thinking things like, “If they don’t clean the dishes tonight, then they must not love me. Someone who loves me would do the dishes.”

There are many reasons why people bypass dishes. For one, they’re unappetizing. Two, you could be out of dish soap. Three, they could just be stressed and the dishes hang over their head as much as they do yours. Instead…

Withhold Judgment 

Say, “Hey, I noticed you didn’t do the dishes when you promised to and I’m feeling unheard. I’m sure you want the dishes done as much as I do, so what should we do about this?” 

You may find that you have different preferences for how full a “full sink” is. It could be time to re-align or remind each other of your cleanliness preferences to be on the same page again. Maybe you decide to invest in a countertop dishwasher or make a commitment to clean dishes immediately after meals instead of waiting.

No matter how simple the problem may seem, if it’s adding stress to your life, it deserves patience, conversations, and a variety of ideas to overcome. (Not one “perfect” hard-and-fast solution.)

Adjust Expectations and Reactions

Learning to adjust lofty goals and expectations with realistic ones can be difficult, especially if you hold onto the few times in life where you did meet those unrealistic goals. (But ask yourself honestly: When you did, were you well-rested? Appropriately fed? Keeping a sense of humor? Treating others with respect? Communicating well? Staying on top of your other priorities? Etc.) 

Give your first reaction time to breathe. If you ask your partner to plan the next date night, you may immediately imagine them buying you a new outfit, scheduling a reservation, showing up on time, bringing you flowers, and connecting romantically all night long.

That does sound like a great night. However, what’s a “good enough” option that would still make you feel happy and loved as a partner? Fully let yourself paint the pictures.

Maybe they get home late from work, but you spent the extra time relaxing and getting ready listening to your favorite playlist. Maybe the restaurant you wanted is too busy, so you pivot toward a night of discovering new neighborhoods. If you’re overstimulated when the day comes, maybe you find peace at home cuddling up to a movie you’ve been meaning to watch together.

Get excited about all possibilities, especially the more likely “good enough” ones.

Work with a Counselor

The root causes of perfectionism are often anxiety and sometimes trauma. You may feel that if you’re not perfect, someone will get mad, leave, not love you anymore, and life itself will fall apart.

Escape the spiral with a licensed mental health counselor. Together, you can own your insecurities, unlearn destructive and cyclical behaviors, and find safety and belonging within your (perfectly imperfect) self and community. RAFT Counseling has in office and online sessions available for individual or couples therapy. Our team would love to connect with you in offering guidance and hope as you navigate to living your best life. Reach out today to connect with a member of our team!

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