Many little girls grow up dreaming of being in a fairy tale relationship, being swept off their feet by the perfect gentleman and living happily ever after. As boys get older, they, too, can develop idealistic thoughts about becoming someone’s knight in shining armor. Although Cinderella and Prince Charming’s enduring love story may be the stuff of fantasy, trying to create perfection in a real-life relationship can backfire.
When we fall in love, we want to be on our best behavior, look our best, and show our partner how much they mean to us. This is perfectly normal. As love develops and grows, it is also normal to expect love to change and evolve into a maturity and grace that allows for some imperfections to begin to show through.
Over time, all relationships weather ups and downs and highs and lows. Nobody’s perfect, and no partners are perfect together all the time. But in the quest for the “perfect” relationship, sometimes we expect more from our partner than is reasonable. This can mean nobody’s happy.
Perspective is important in relationships. In that spirit, you might want to check your expectations if you expect your partner to:
- Read your mind—because if they love you, they should “just know,” right? Wrong.
- Hang out and get along with all of your friends.
- Meet your every emotional need, desire, and want.
- Never slip up, say the wrong thing, or make the wrong move.
- Never get angry or upset.
- Love you as intensely as you love them.
- Look a certain way 100% of the time.
When we allow for the idea that relationships are perfectly imperfect, we leave room for ourselves and our partners to be authentic and real.
When we are obsessed with the idea of a perfect relationship, we tend to work very hard to maintain what we think is “right” and “correct” without objective balance. We want to present to the world how solid and strong our love is by metaphorically riding off into the sunset. However, the idea of never having challenges and struggles is unrealistic and disingenuous. If the pattern of portraying perfection in your relationship becomes obsessive and intrusive, it may be time to seek help from a therapist.
Obsessive thoughts may be grounded in our own fear. We all fear abandonment and hurt, but some of us have a stronger inclination to create a sense of security. To begin loosening the grip on the compulsion to be “perfect” in relationships, try the following strategies:
- Acknowledge that the quest to be perfect is exhausting.
- Be mindful about when the obsession for perfection comes up in your relationship.
- Ask yourself: What’s the worst that can happen if it isn’t perfect?
- Ask yourself: What kind of love do I want?
- Examine why perfection in a relationship appeals to you. Learn from your findings.
- Allow your partner space to make mistakes. Acknowledge that they are normal.
- Understand that the things you want most are almost always rendered less achievable by your perfectionistic tendencies.
The obsessional quality of perfection is that it is relentless! There is not much room in a fairy tale-like relationship for arguments, hurt feelings, forgotten promises, and repair—the trials all meaningful relationships go through (and typically emerge stronger for) at one point or another. When we allow for the idea that relationships are perfectly imperfect, we leave room for ourselves and our partners to be authentic and real. There may not be a perfect relationship, but a healthy one, in which two people can love, learn, and grow together, might be as good as it gets.
© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Angela Avery, MA, LLPC, NCC, Obsessions and Compulsions / OCD Topic Expert Contributor
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