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April 16, 2012

Perfection Causes Pain Especially In Relationships

by Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D 

If you are looking for the perfect partner or trying to be one – think twice. Perfection is painfully unrealistic for individuals and emotionally costly for couples.. While there is no doubt that striving to be your personal best and feeling good about your efforts is healthy as well as relationship enhancing – perfectionism is something else.

Perfectionism is the belief that a state of completeness and flawlessness can and should be attained. The literature on perfectionism underscores that there is an important difference between adaptive and maladaptive perfectionism. It is a difference worth considering.

Adaptive Perfectionism involves striving for high standards as motivational and encouraging but there is choice in the pursuit.

Maladaptive perfectionism is different. Those with maladaptive perfectionism don’t really have a choice to strive or excel. They have a pervasive need to achieve an unrealistic standard of perfection as a proof of self-worth. This is the woman who can’t invite friends for dinner because she demands that she cook complicated gourmet recipes and fears failure. This is the partner who avoids sexuality because she is not yet the perfect weight. This is the man who can never enjoy a family vacation because nothing is ever perfect. Frequently those with maladaptive perfectionism have unrealistic expectations of the significant others in their lives. If their partner is not the most successful, the center of the party, the most desirable, the most intelligent etc., their fragile self-worth is compromised.

Just reading the definitions  may be an important first step in identification of a pattern. 

Couple relationships can replay or replace early attachment patterns and they can exacerbate the maladaptive need to be perfect with critique, competitive demands and unrealistic expectations. Recognizing the things that are interfering with your happiness – and agreeing to work together – may reduce blame and double your chances of success.

You can build a secure attachment as you work together using some techniques for reducing perfectionism. Lower anxiety by recognizing that addressing perfectionism does not equate to accepting mediocrity – it equates to striving without suffering. Agree to risk trying just a few new things. Agree to risk making mistakes together. 

The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.

The Real Cougar Woman is a 5-carat diamond who knows the importance of taking care of her health, beauty, relationships, finances and spirituality. Linda Franklin says,”there is no stopping a woman who has a strong belief system, passion and a dream. All things are possible”. Linda’s book, Don’t Ever Call Me Ma’am helps women of all ages tap into their power and live life to the fullest.



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