marriage · perfectionism

Confessions of a Perfectionist

The greatest reason that I am a terrible fiance is my deep belief that I am the best one.

I am often seemingly incapable of being content. My constant dissatisfaction has been praised and encouraged throughout childhood as it often resulted in the highest test scores, level of involvement, and general “go-getter” attitude. America has an even bigger “do more and do better” complex than I do, and it is my natural tendency to seek to nurture that. While this works in my favor in many ways, I’m not so sure we should encourage this to the point that we do as a culture.

Honestly, perfectionism is not a virtue. In work- yes. In school- absolutely. In relationships- it’s awful. It’s absolutely the worst. It’s taking the reigns and saying “I can fix this” when nothing is broken. It’s forcing people you love to be more like you, even when you don’t even like yourself half of the time. Nothing is ever good enough when dating a perfectionist, and in the pursuit of “better” the perfectionist often tears down the people they love to result in “much worse.”

Being a female “go-getting” perfectionist is confusing. From a Southern Baptist perspective, it becomes even more so. I keep being told to allow my men to lead, to be patient and nurturing, and to take things as they come. I agree on many of these, but frankly, you can’t just MAKE yourself relax and change personalities. And I need to reign the lens of perfectionism on other people while still not rejecting the person that I am. Gender roles do nothing good for anyone. Try as I might, my family life will never be the conventional pattern. I would be miserable staying at home with kids while my husband works 60 hour workweeks, and it’s a blessing to be balanced by a good man who values taking life a little slower and appreciating the small things instead of always reaching to the next great accomplishment. I will never be happy in the traditional Southern gender roles, and trying to pick and chose the ones I like is not healthy. Honestly, my career is more important to me than a family at this point, and I don’t see that shifting any time soon. It’s a blessing to be with a man who is confident enough to not feel threatened by that.

It’s really easy to get frustrated at the person you love the most. As a female INTJ, I often find myself exasperated that others don’t want to “keep up” or achieve as much as I want to. But frankly, that’s just one way of measuring a person. Someone not having as passionate career ambitions does not make them less ambitious as a person. And even if it does, is that really a bad thing? Having a partner who focuses on being a good person, striving to learn and grow, and loves my mess is an immensely respectable place to be. A doctor’s salary won’t hold my hand at 75. Money DOES matter. Ambition does matter. But that can’t be judged alone. It’s easy to buy into this view of partnership where there are these clear-cut roles for men and women, but it simply does not function like that for everyone. And that is a beautiful thing! So often, it is not the other person “not being enough”… it is me putting people into checklists and measuring them the same way I so unhealthily measure myself.

The madness has to stop. Taking the reigns is the more surefire way to making your partner feel they are incompetent. If I can’t trust them, how can they trust themselves? What sort of relationship dynamic am I breeding when I force my expectations on other people? And how can I be happy measuring a living, breathing, loving human being again a cold hard list? Having non-negotiables is one thing. Having a constant laundry list of things your life partner needs to improve on is a whole other. So often, that kind of thinking fails to see the positives that come along with the negatives. Grace is a constant battle, and there is no other choice than to win. Letting go is an art form for the up-tight among us.

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One thought on “Confessions of a Perfectionist

  1. Perfection is a lie. Grit, perseverance, tenaciousness, yes, these exist, but perfectionism…Why does this world insist it is attainable? As you know, I struggle with this on a daily basis. If I don’t watch myself I can puff out my chest when someone comments on my perfectionism. I mean, let’s bring it down to reality. It is a hindrance rather than an asset.

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