If you're a perfectionist, probably you already know that your perfectionism impacts a number of aspects of your life — and not just the solo ones: Perfectionism can affect your relationships, too. Tough perfectionism might manifest differently for everyone, there are definitely some similarities between people who identify as perfectionists; as such, there are also a few common threads for how perfectionism can impact your dating and romantic life.
For a lot of us, perfectionism is understood as a positive thing: Perfectionists are reliable, have high standards, and frequently achieve their goals. As psychologist Adrian Furnham explains at Psychology Today, however, perfectionism can have a dark side as well: "There is nothing wrong with setting high standards," writes Furnham, "but they need to be reachable with effort. It’s all about being OK; human, not super-human; among the best, if not the best."
So, where does this leave us in terms of relationships? Sometimes people follow the old adage of "opposites attract" and find pleasure in a partner who balances out their personality. Other people flock to those who are just like them, and enjoy feeling entirely understood by their significant other. If you're a perfectionist, you may find yourself in either boat, and that's OK! Perfectionism can make you a great partner in many ways, but it's also important to note that your perfectionism can put unhealthy expectations or standards on your relationship and your significant other. If the following points strike a nerve for you, it may be a good idea to sit down with your partner and talk through some things and see how they're feeling.
1. You Fall In Love With Your Vision, Not Reality
Do you ever feel like real life fails to live up to your expectations? It's possible that you're setting standards too high for yourself, as well as for others. It's totally normal to fantasize and daydream about how things will go, but if you find yourself consistently feeling let down by the reality of your dreams, you may be setting yourself up for failure. This can be especially damaging if you find yourself disappointed by your significant other: Do you really love them, or did you fall in love with the idea of them? Are they actually letting you down, or is it possible your expectations are at a place they'll never meet, no matter how hard they try? If you're feeling unsatisfied with your relationship, that's OK! But it's important to step back and reflect on whether the failings are on the part of your partner, or whether there's a disconnect between your expectations and the reality in front of you.
2. You Can't Cope When Things Don't Go According To Plan
In life, things don't always go according to plan. For a perfectionist, this can feel like a nightmare, but sometimes our best laid plans simply don't work out, either due to human error or to outside circumstances. If you find yourself blaming your partner for mishaps, or feeling frustrated that they don't "fix" things the way you would, it's important to step back and consider whether or not your perfectionism is affecting your perspective. If your partner encourages you to take a breather and reminds you that not every bump in the road is the end of the world, it might be worth looking at the ways you approach little disruptions in your day-to-day life. There might a healthier or less intense way to cope with unexpected changes or obstacles.
3. You Hold Your Partner To Standards They May Not Hold For Themselves
As Furnham explains, perfections tend to have "self-imposed high standards, and in the role of parent, teacher, or mentor, they tend to impose those standards on others." What does this mean in practice? Basically, it's possible that your self-imposed standards and expectations are negatively affecting the way you interact with your partner. Now, it's always good to encourage others to strive for their best if they express a need for support from you, but it's not OK to impose standards you hold for yourself on others. Everyone is different and that's a good thing! Not everyone sees success in the same light, so it's OK to accept that others don't strive for the same things you do. It's also important to remember that, overall, loving and respecting someone is about embracing who they are, not who you want to change them into.
4. You Don't Let Your Partner Take The Lead
Some people are natural born leaders, and that's awesome! If you feel more comfortable taking the lead or planning and organizing things in your life, that's totally OK. However, it's also important to embrace the fact that your partner is probably going to want take the lead sometimes, too. Whether it's because they want to plan a weekend trip, throw you a surprise party, or simply, you know, write the grocery list, there will be points in your relationship where you have to respect that your partner is capable of leading the way. If you don't let your partner take initiative in your relationship, it's possible they'll begin to feel like they're going on a school field trip, not a date.
5. You Can't Forgive The Little Things
If you find yourself constantly hung up on the little details, it can be a big downer, both for yourself and for your partner. it's important to let the little failures go and not dwell on them forever, both when it comes to your own failures and those of others. If your partner does things that upset you, tell them! It's valid to express your feelings to the person in your life you're dating. However, if you find yourself essentially running down a checklist of their mistakes, it's possible they'll begin to feel like you're critical of them for the sake of being critical. As a perfectionist, it can be easy to find issues in everything in the name of improving for the future; however, it's imperative to let others handle their own self-improvement.