HEY BESTIE: I’m a perfectionist and it’s destroying my relationship

Lifestyle, Hey Bestie, Relationships

I have high expectations for my relationship. My partner told me that I am a perfectionist and that it’s destroying our relationship. I don’t want it to but I’m not sure what to do about it. My “perfectionism” has been around since I was a teen and it’s gotten worse more recently.

Perfectionism is a complex psychological trait characterized by the pursuit of unattainably high standards and overly critical self-evaluations.

Psychologists Paul Hewitt and Gorden Flett categorise three forms of perfectionism: self-oriented, other-oriented, and socially prescribed.

Self-oriented perfectionism involves imposing unrealistically high standards upon oneself, while other-oriented perfectionism entails expecting perfection from others and socially prescribed perfectionism arises when individuals feel external pressures to be perfect.

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Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar expands on this concept in his book, “The Pursuit of Perfect,” distinguishing between adaptive and maladaptive perfectionism.

Adaptive perfectionists strive continuously to improve their skills, enjoying the process and embracing growth. This type of perfectionism can be beneficial, fostering personal development and satisfaction. However, it can still lead to challenges if not managed well.

In contrast, maladaptive perfectionists are perpetually dissatisfied, regardless of their achievements.

Driven by a fear of failure and an intolerance of imperfections, they may experience significant distress and emotional turmoil.

Common behaviors of maladaptive perfectionists include setting unrealistic goals, abandoning tasks if perfection isn’t immediately attainable, concealing errors, and spending excessive time on minor details to achieve “perfection.”

While perfectionism can sometimes be seen as a valuable trait that drives quality and excellence, especially in high-stakes environments where precision is crucial, it often becomes problematic.

For example, in situations requiring impeccable standards to ensure safety or compliance, perfectionism plays a critical role. However, when it spirals out of control, it can lead to significant personal and professional consequences.

The downsides of maladaptive perfectionism are extensive. It can trigger health issues such as eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and even lead to burnout.

The relentless pursuit of perfection can also severely impact self-esteem, linking personal worth too closely with achievement.

This can result in a harmful cycle of self-criticism and self-doubt, often exacerbating feelings of impostor syndrome.

Moreover, maladaptive perfectionism can hinder productivity. The preoccupation with detail can cause procrastination and unnecessary repetition of tasks, undermining efficiency and effectiveness.

Additionally, it can strain relationships, both personally and professionally, as the perfectionist’s expectations and critical nature may alienate others.

Understanding and managing the type of perfectionism one exhibits is crucial.

While striving for excellence is advantageous, it is equally important to recognize when perfectionist tendencies are causing more harm than good.

Focusing on progress rather than perfection, as advocated by leaders like Simon Sinek, can lead to healthier outcomes and more sustainable success.

Because after all, emphasizing growth, learning from mistakes, and valuing constructive feedback over flawless execution can help mitigate the negative effects of maladaptive perfectionism, fostering a more balanced, fulfilling life.

If you feel that you are struggling to manage your perfectionism or high standards, it might be worthwhile talking to a professional who can provide you with some skills and strategies to learn to manage it better so that it doesn’t hinder your relationship, or even your own mental health!

Your Bestie,

Amanda x

Amanda Lambros is a sexologist and relationship coach with almost two decades of experience who takes pride in her “no b-s” approach to solving your problems. She is also a certified speaking professional and has written several books on relationships, health and business which have sold more than 150,000 copies.

Do you have a question for Amanda? Email [email protected] (don’t worry, we won’t publish your name!)

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