Perfectionism in Relationships: Symptoms and Management with Relationship Counseling

You are not wrong to strive to be the best version of yourself – to be ambitious with your work goals, fitness goals, or even personal development goals. But there is certainly a point where it can be taken too far, when life becomes a neverending report card focused on accomplishments or looks. 

Enter perfectionism: The tendency to demand of others or of oneself an extremely high or even flawless level of performance, in excess of what is required by the situation.

What is perfectionism

Some people mistakenly believe that to be perfect is the ultimate goal. They view perfection as a ‘healthy motivator’ and believe that once they have reached that ideal body weight or acquired that top-tiered job position – then they will be happy. However, those who struggle with perfectionism hold themselves or others (or both) to incredibly high and impossible to meet standards.

A perfectionist is someone who has a personality that is driven by flawlessness. They are often highly critical, fearful, have high expectations, fear failure, and are defensive when they receive criticism from others. 

The problem with perfectionism that studies have come to show is that perfectionists actually tend to achieve less and stress more than typical high achievers. The reason for this is because of the following common tendencies of perfectionists:

  1. Fear of failure. Perfectionists often equate failure to achieve their goals with a lack of self worth.
  1. Fear of making mistakes. Perfectionists are so focussed on orienting themselves around avoiding making mistakes, that they often miss opportunities to learn and grow.
  1. Fear of disapproval. Perfectionists fear if they let others see their flaws and weaknesses, they will no longer be accepted.
  1. All-or-nothing thinking. Perfectionists believe that if they don’t achieve to the highest possible standard, then they are a failure.
  1. Overcompensating. Excessively performing a behavior to make sure nothing goes wrong.
  1. Excessive checking and reassurance seeking. Checking that a task has been done well enough, and requiring affirmation from others to know that they have done well.
  1. Excessive organizing and list making. Spending too much time organizing to the detriment of the final task.
  1. Procrastination. Avoiding doing things for the fear of not meeting the self-imposed standards.
  1. Avoidance. Perfectionists are so afraid of getting it wrong, that oftentimes they won’t even try – hence, they fail already.

Perfectionism within a relationship 

For many years, anecdotal reports and descriptive analyses of case studies have suggested that individuals with perfectionistic tendencies struggle with interpersonal relationships. 

It isn’t difficult to see how these tendencies can have a negative impact on a romantic relationship. With communication being the keystone to a healthy relationship, one can understand how the perfectionist tendency of avoidance, for example, can deterioate a relationship that has the potential to thrive.

To both demand perfection from your partner, and to have a persistent fear of being the target of unrealistic expectations, certainly has the potential to generate a great deal of stress and conflict within a relationship. The additional mental health problems associated with perfectionism, such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders to name a few, can also put major strain on a relationship.

In most cases, couples who struggle with any of these tendencies typically seek counseling for relationship problems that have developed as a result. 

Managing perfectionism through relationship counseling 

The extreme and unrealistic relationship beliefs that form from the perfectionist standpoint may become associated with significant conflict and dysfunctional responses when problems arise within the relationship. Our Kitchener therapists have found it helpful for those struggling with perfectionistic tendencies and subsequent relationships issues, to undergo treatment with a cognitive-behavioral focus.

Therapy, especially cognitive-behavioral therapy, can help the perfectionist to learn new ways of thinking about their goals and achievements. COCA Psychotherapy counseling in Kitchener focuses on addressing the perfectionists’ need for acceptance as well as reducing reactions to negative feedback.

If you and your partner are looking for a relationship psychotherapist in Kitchener, Waterloo to help with your relationship or would like to change your perfectionist tendencies within the relationship, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us! Contact COCA Psychotherapy couples counselling services in Kitchener, Waterloo here to book an appointment or give us a call at 226-336-5787 for a free consultation over the phone.

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