Is a perfectionist making your life miserable?
This is a common phenomenon and you are not alone in this dilemna.
How do I know?
I live with a perfectionist, which is surprising because I’m not a perfectionist. Or maybe it’s not because my home of origin was highly ordered. Despite the “kookiness,” of my parents, our home was spotless, meals were always served and on time, good grades were important, and sometimes there were consequences if expectations were not met. I’m sure that wired me perfectly to seek out partners who are highly ordered in their own ways. But, how we got here is not the point. The point is what to do now.
When you live with a perfectionist never take what they say personally
To me, this is number one because when you live with a perfectionist they will tell you how to do everything. They will tell you where things go, how to chop properly, they might give unsolicited financial advice, or advice on any matter. Here’s the most important thing to remember, they are sharing what they know because they want to be helpful. Now, when my perfectionist tries to be “helpful” before 8 am, things can go terribly wrong. We know this about me now and we try very hard not to do that. So, first, try to internalize that and see the behavior as caring, not critical.
Explain your feelings when you live with a perfectionist
What I wrote about above, the not being able to take constructive criticism early in the morning? That was something I had to communicate, and it took me a surprisingly long time to do it. What can I say, this stuff isn’t easy to do. But, once I made clear that mornings were not the best time for me, we made adjustments and morning became easier. If there are things someone does that drive you nuts, you need to let them know. The next step is on how to communicate better.
Communicate better by saying what you mean, not saying it mean
This goes for anything with anyone but is particularly important when you live with a perfectionist. You want to make sure that you’re communicating in clear and kind ways. Perfectionists are known for being controlling, demanding, and can even hurt feelings without meaning to so find soft ways to deal with them is crucial.
Share your feelings when things happen. For example, if something is said that makes you feel bad, say, “Hey, I’m sure you didn’t mean to hurt my feelings here, but that comment made me feel bad.” This is the point where you will clearly see the difference between a perfectionist and someone who may have more malicious intent. In my experience, the perfectionist who isn’t a controlling narcissist apologizes. If you are living with a controlling narcissist, this is where you get gaslighted and made to feel like you’re crazy. If that happens, you might be dealing with something more than perfectionism, like living with a narcissist. And it’s time to reassess your relationship.
Be positive and offer affirmation when you live with a perfectionist
What does that mean? Guess what, perfectionists are that way for a reason. How they do things matters to them. Something that surprised me was finding out that they need affirmation as much as I do. Having boundaries and sharing feelings with a perfectionist goes over much better when you are balancing that out by praising them as well. Perfectionists can make fantastic partners because they do lots of stuff. So, let them know that everything they do makes a difference and that you are grateful and care.
Have or create clear boundaries
Having clear boundaries that you maintain is also critical. I used to get lost in my personal relationships. I’m passive by nature so these big personalities could eclipse me. Sometimes so much, I only saw their needs and forgot about mine. That is not healthy. Do not recommend. If you do not want commentary on what you wear, what you eat, your weight, what you look like, who you’re friends with, or how much time you spend with other people–make that a clear boundary and do not flap. Once you break those boundaries it’s over. Everyone needs boundaries.
Help your perfectionist have fun
There’s something to be said for opposites attract. If you met me and my partner separately, you’d never think we are together. He’s serious. I’m less serious. He’s conservative. I’m less conservative. He’s pretty traditional. I’m not. I’m a gypsy, seeker, and he’s gone to the same office every day for the last 27 years. His stability and ambition inspire me. My silliness and joie de vivre give him a space to relax. I believe our three dogs and I bring a certain spirit to the home. Perfectionists can feel incredible pressure. Life isn’t easy for them. Adding some fun to their lives can be beneficial for everyone.
Love unconditionally, as you would want to be loved
Avoid your people-pleasing tendencies with the feeling that love and acceptance is what the other person needs, not you acting like a person who must make and do everything just right. That’s his problem, not yours. So, if your perfectionist wants you to be perfect, doesn’t it make sense that they want you to think they’re perfect, too? Let him/her feel loved just as you want to be loved for all your imperfection.
When you live with a perfectionist let go of your own unhealthy habits
Does living with a perfectionist make you strive to be perfect (a consummate people pleaser), or does it make you constantly angry and resentful? Here’s where learning to let go of negative feelings and old habits can help. Understanding perfectionism and how it can trigger your own issues will go a long way to help create the kind of healthy interactions that work for both of you.
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