How to Live with a Perfectionist
Is your perfectionist partner or family member driving you crazy? Perfectionists can be hard to live with.
Perfectionists can be: rigid and controlling, demanding, critical, and workaholics.
Read more about the classic traits of perfectionists here.
Perfectionism frequently contributes to arguments, conflict, and hurt feelings. However, with improved communication, compromise, and realistic expectations, it is possible to live happily with a perfectionist.
Like many couples, Sam and Sara repeatedly have a the same argument about housework. Sara insists that the kitchen be cleaned religiously immediately following every meal. Sam and their kids offer to help, but Sara criticizes their cleaning calling them “lazy” and “sloppy”. She ends up rewashing the dishes, loudly complaining the whole time.
Sam feels criticized and angry and won’t help anymore. He thinks Sara’s being “too anal about the whole thing” and wishes she’d relax with him after dinner on the couch. Without realizing it, Sara is expecting perfection not only from herself, but from her husband and kids too. Every night there’s either an argument or complete silence between Sam and Sara.
Perfectionism doesn’t doesn’t have to ruin your relationship.
Advice for partners on how to live with a perfectionist:
- Get curious and really understand what makes your partner tick. Understanding why s/he behaves in certain ways will increase compassion and loving feelings.
- Communicate. We all know communication is essential to any successful relationship. Take the time to listen to each other’s point of view.
- Don’t take it personally. Her/his criticism and rigidity isn’t about you. They reflect her/his struggle with self-worth and anxiety.
- Stand up for yourself and set clear boundaries.
- Share your feelings. Tell her/him when she’s hurt you.
- Give her/him lots of notice regarding change. Perfectionists like structure and routine. Spontaneous plans can be upsetting.
- Give feedback gently. Perfectionists are very sensitive to criticism and tend to take things personally.
- Don’t focus on the negative. Give her/him praise and encourage an attitude of gratitude.
- Be patient.
- Allow her/him some of her/his quirks. If it doesn’t hurt anyone, allow her/him to fold the laundry the “right way”.
- Invite her/him to have fun, but allow time to work first. Help her/him get the chores done first so s/he can relax with you.
- Help her/him compromise on some things and see there is more than one “right way” to do things.
- Negotiate things like housework standards and parenting styles. Maybe agree to cleaning the kitchen after meals, but that the bathroom can’t be done once a week.
- Love her/him unconditionally.
- Look for progress as s/he tries to overcome her perfectionism.
This post focuses on what you can do as a partner of a perfectionist. It isn’t meant to imply that you are the only one who can or should make changes. Collaboration is essential to happiness in a relationship with a perfectionist. If you are both willing to listen, compromise, and strive for understanding, there is hope.
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Martin, S. (2015). How to Live with a Perfectionist. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 19, 2017, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/imperfect/2015/11/how-to-live-with-a-perfectionist/