The Perfectionist Spouse

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Do you ever feel like you can never satisfy your spouse? 

Do you get into arguments over who’s right or how something should be done? 

Do you sometimes feel like you’re in competition with your spouse?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then you might be married to or be “the perfectionist” spouse in your marriage.

Heaven help you if you’re like me and both you and your spouse are perfectionists! Yikes!

Ironically, the perfectionist spouse often makes a marriage messier by his/her continual efforts to achieve perfection. It can be discouraging to be married to a perfectionist and, conversely, frustrating to be married to a mate who isn’t achieving your ideal standard!

What’s even more paradoxical, you probably were drawn to your spouse because of some very positive perfectionist traits, like the fact that s/he is:

  • Committed
  • Observant
  • Hard-working
  • Loyal
  • Conscientious
  • An achiever
  • Detail-oriented
  • A good leader/manager

So how do you deal with your spouse’s incessant need for perfection? Or what if you’re the one driving your spouse crazy with all of your rules and “oughts”?

First of all, I have to say that I’m a perfectionist who hasn’t figured out “perfectly” how to do this yet. But there’s one thing I do know, learning to accept the imperfect in both myself and my spouse is the pathway there.

This means daily learning how to grasp for God’s ever-available grace.

So when I’m dealing with my spouse’s crazy-making criticalness, I need to look to God to help me extend grace to my husband. I need to see that my spouse is flawed and human, and won’t always see how his high standards are coming across. I need to forgive him, even if he doesn’t see or admit his fault. I need to be kind and loving—seeking to focus on the good in him, rather than becoming bitter because of the bad I’m momentarily experiencing.

And when I’m the one doling out the A+ attitude, I need to turn to God again for perspective. I need to take a sober view of my expectations and see that what feels like a “need” is probably more of a “want” instead. Surrendering that sense of entitlement to God is a beginning point. Recognizing just how flawed and human I am is another step in the right direction. Apologizing for being demanding or critical is yet another.

What about you? Are you a perfectionist or married to one?

How do you positively or negatively deal with the struggles that come with perfectionism?

“For by the grace given me I say to everyone one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” –Romans 12:3 (NIV)

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Linking up with – NOBH, Monday’s Musings, Marriage Moments Monday, Making Your Home Sing Monday, Matrimonial Monday, Playdates with God and Marriage Monday’s

  • I like to refer to myself as a “recovering perfectionist.” That is to say I still look at it as an addiction and I just to my best to keep it under control :). The interesting thing is although I can’t seem to keep from expecting perfection from myself (working on that), I learned early on in marriage that expecting perfection (e.g. unrealistic expectations) of my husband would spell disaster. My expectation of him is simple, that we will be together til’ death do us part. Everything else is insubstantial.

    • It sounds as if you’ve figured out how to deal with that pesky perfectionistic side, Fawn. And yes, it is a matter of “recovering”–always recovering–because it’s always with me. I’m just trying desperately to let God have the control of things instead of taking the reins myself. 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by and encouraging me!

  • I like to refer to myself as a “recovering perfectionist.” That is to say I still look at it as an addiction and I just to my best to keep it under control :). The interesting thing is although I can’t seem to keep from expecting perfection from myself (working on that), I learned early on in marriage that expecting perfection (e.g. unrealistic expectations) of my husband would spell disaster. My expectation of him is simple, that we will be together til’ death do us part. Everything else is insubstantial.

  • SistersRaiseSisters

    I think I was a perfectionist — until children came! Thank you for sharing your heart here. I found you on Making Your Home Sing Monday. – Penny Lane

    • From the post you had at your blog, Penny, I can see why you’d be a perfectionist. You probably could put the rest of us perfectionist’s to shame! 🙂 And yes, kids do have a miraculous quality in our lives. Thank God for how He uses them in all sorts of messy and imperfect ways. Thanks so much for coming by and encouraging me, new-found friend!

  • I think I was a perfectionist — until children came! Thank you for sharing your heart here. I found you on Making Your Home Sing Monday. – Penny Lane

  • Rhiannon

    I love this: “I need to look to God to help me extend grace to my husband”. It’s so helpful to ask for assistance and have the faith to receive it the way that God sees fit to give it.

    • Yes, God is always there to provide what we “perfectionists” need. I don’t know why we think we can do it without Him. 😉 Thanks so much for stopping by and brightening my day, Rhiannon!

  • I love this: “I need to look to God to help me extend grace to my husband”. It’s so helpful to ask for assistance and have the faith to receive it the way that God sees fit to give it.

  • Nancy Sturm

    Oh, I can relate to this. My husband is the perfectionist and I’m the laid back take life as it comes person. I’m not sure how he copes with me, but I do look at all his good qualities and rejoice in those. Thanks for such an insightful post.

    • That’s the way to do it, Nancy–always having a grateful attitude about every hiccup and struggle we face in life. I bet your hubby appreciates the good qualities of your laid back personality too. I have many friends like you and they are a pleasure to be around and, usually, belly laugh with. 🙂

  • Nancy Sturm

    Oh, I can relate to this. My husband is the perfectionist and I’m the laid back take life as it comes person. I’m not sure how he copes with me, but I do look at all his good qualities and rejoice in those. Thanks for such an insightful post.

  • Hey Beth … I love that you listed all those positive traits us perfectionist-leaning people own … especially since the negative stuff is so glaringly obvious!
    ;-{
    And a good way to see how we really stand is to ask OURSELVES that dreaded question, ‘what’s it like to be married to you?’
    ;-}

    • I guess it’s easy for me to see the positive side, since I am a perfectionist as well. I know that part of my husband’s perfectionism is great and I wouldn’t want him any other way! Yes, that is a heavy and probing question that I like to ask myself and my clients from time to time. It always brings it back down to reality, doesn’t it? Thank so much for coming by, Linda. It’s always lovely to hear from you, sweet friend. 🙂

  • Hey Beth … I love that you listed all those positive traits us perfectionist-leaning people own … especially since the negative stuff is so glaringly obvious!
    ;-{
    And a good way to see how we really stand is to ask OURSELVES that dreaded question, ‘what’s it like to be married to you?’
    ;-}

  • we are right there with you, beth — the perfectionist married to the perfectionist. two classic first borns. whew, what “opportunities” that creates, eh?? 😉 the battlefield in my mind gets awfully intense at times, but no doubt about it, His grace abounds, & is sufficient even for the mess of our perfectionist tendencies.

    “Surrendering that sense of entitlement to God” — love the way you put that. that’s exactly it. every moment of every day. that’s where the Freedom & Joy come in.

    thx so much for this, friend!

    • Well, my husband is a first born and only and even though I am the youngest, I’m the youngest by 14 and 9 years! So that makes me more like an only too. Ugh! If I’d known how difficult marriage would be with two onlys–I might have hesitated. Nah! I was just grandiose enough that I would’ve thought “We’ll beat the odds!” haha!

      Thanks for your sweet words of encouragement, Tanya. I always look forward to you stopping in and saying “hi.”

      • that’s pretty close to our story, too. my husband’s an “official” first born. and like you, i’m the youngest, but w/ older siblings older enough for me to be all kinds of first born. 😉

        but i’m oh, so grateful that the Lord has graciously offered both my husband & i insights re: the bondage of perfectionism, & a mutual desire to lose the chains!!

        your posts are always so relevant to my journey, beth. so grateful for your insights.

  • we are right there with you, beth — the perfectionist married to the perfectionist. two classic first borns. whew, what “opportunities” that creates, eh?? 😉 the battlefield in my mind gets awfully intense at times, but no doubt about it, His grace abounds, & is sufficient even for the mess of our perfectionist tendencies.

    “Surrendering that sense of entitlement to God” — love the way you put that. that’s exactly it. every moment of every day. that’s where the Freedom & Joy come in.

    thx so much for this, friend!

  • Oh….no question….I am the perfectionist about the stuff of life (like… “The bag goes in the garbage this way.”) and he is when it comes to how we live our lives. I guess I would say that deciding that peace and harmony are more important than my own way is the key. But…I have to recognize that I’m going down that road first…and oh that is where things get sticky. This yielding self thing…it’s more challenging for some of us. Um…like me? I am grateful for a good marriage, in spite of ourselves. 😉

    • Yes, yielding the self is an ongoing battle for me and slowly, but surely, God is teaching me how to die to myself. I ask myself, “Do I care more about being ‘right’ or more about my ‘relationship’?” That always brings some perspective to my perfectionistic thoughts. Thanks so much for your kind words, Diane. Great to have you weigh in.

  • Shauna Fisher

    Oh my goodness. Exactly what’s going on in my marriage right now! Thank you for your insight!
    http://Www.whatshaunaknows.com

    • You know, Shauna, that’s the best kind of comment I get! You’ve made my day, sweet friend. I’ll have to hop on over to your place next and check your blog out! Thanks so much for encouraging me!

  • Shauna Fisher

    Oh my goodness. Exactly what’s going on in my marriage right now! Thank you for your insight!
    http://Www.whatshaunaknows.com

  • Uggh.. you’ve hit me right in the heart (okay, it’s not YOU, just the Holy Spirit!). I’m the perfectionist in our marriage and my husband has thrown up his hands a few times over our two decades of marriage and admitted he may NEVER be able to live up to my expectations. Then, as soon as he NAMES it, I can see it- the way I look to him to be perfect. I’m on a journey toward grace and growth and wish I could change myself overnight! Thanks for the practical ideas here.

    • You’re doing better than I am then, Alicia! Because as soon as my husband “names it,” I want to deny it! haha! I can’t be a perfectionist and be “wrong,” now can I? Thanks so much for being your sweet vulnerable self, my friend. I love your authenticity and passion for Christ–an unbeatable combination!

  • Uggh.. you’ve hit me right in the heart (okay, it’s not YOU, just the Holy Spirit!). I’m the perfectionist in our marriage and my husband has thrown up his hands a few times over our two decades of marriage and admitted he may NEVER be able to live up to my expectations. Then, as soon as he NAMES it, I can see it- the way I look to him to be perfect. I’m on a journey toward grace and growth and wish I could change myself overnight! Thanks for the practical ideas here.

  • It sounds as if you’ve figured out how to deal with that pesky perfectionistic side, Fawn. And yes, it is a matter of “recovering”–always recovering–because it’s always with me. I’m just trying desperately to let God have the control of things instead of taking the reins myself. 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by and encouraging me!

  • From the post you had at your blog, Penny, I can see why you’d be a perfectionist. You probably could put the rest of us perfectionist’s to shame! 🙂 And yes, kids do have a miraculous quality in our lives. Thank God for how He uses them in all sorts of messy and imperfect ways. Thanks so much for coming by and encouraging me, new-found friend!

  • Yes, God is always there to provide what we “perfectionists” need. I don’t know why we think we can do it without Him. 😉 Thanks so much for stopping by and brightening my day, Rhiannon!

  • That’s the way to do it, Nancy–always having a grateful attitude about every hiccup and struggle we face in life. I bet your hubby appreciates the good qualities of your laid back personality too. I have many friends like you and they are a pleasure to be around and, usually, belly laugh with. 🙂

  • I guess it’s easy for me to see the positive side, since I am a perfectionist as well. I know that part of my husband’s perfectionism is great and I wouldn’t want him any other way! Yes, that is a heavy and probing question that I like to ask myself and my clients from time to time. It always brings it back down to reality, doesn’t it? Thank so much for coming by, Linda. It’s always lovely to hear from you, sweet friend. 🙂

  • Well, my husband is a first born and only and even though I am the youngest, I’m the youngest by 14 and 9 years! So that makes me more like an only too. Ugh! If I’d known how difficult marriage would be with two onlys–I might have hesitated. Nah! I was just grandiose enough that I would’ve thought “We’ll beat the odds!” haha!

    Thanks for your sweet words of encouragement, Tanya. I always look forward to you stopping in and saying “hi.”

  • Yes, yielding the self is an ongoing battle for me and slowly, but surely, God is teaching me how to die to myself. I ask myself, “Do I care more about being ‘right’ or more about my ‘relationship’?” That always brings some perspective to my perfectionistic thoughts. Thanks so much for your kind words, Diane. Great to have you weigh in.

  • You know, Shauna, that’s the best kind of comment I get! You’ve made my day, sweet friend. I’ll have to hop on over to your place next and check your blog out! Thanks so much for encouraging me!

  • You’re doing better than I am then, Alicia! Because as soon as my husband “names it,” I want to deny it! haha! I can’t be a perfectionist and be “wrong,” now can I? Thanks so much for being your sweet vulnerable self, my friend. I love your authenticity and passion for Christ–an unbeatable combination!

  • that’s pretty close to our story, too. my husband’s an “official” first born. and like you, i’m the youngest, but w/ older siblings older enough for me to be all kinds of first born. 😉

    but i’m oh, so grateful that the Lord has graciously offered both my husband & i insights re: the bondage of perfectionism, & a mutual desire to lose the chains!!

    your posts are always so relevant to my journey, beth. so grateful for your insights.

  • OutnumberedMom

    Two sentences in and I was thinking, “What if you’re BOTH perfectionists?” Yikes, that’s us. My sweet hubby holds himself to a higher standard than anyone else, though — not other people so much. Personally, the only way for me to yank myself back to reality is to remind myself there’s only ONE who’s perfect…and it’s not me!

  • OutnumberedMom

    Two sentences in and I was thinking, “What if you’re BOTH perfectionists?” Yikes, that’s us. My sweet hubby holds himself to a higher standard than anyone else, though — not other people so much. Personally, the only way for me to yank myself back to reality is to remind myself there’s only ONE who’s perfect…and it’s not me!

  • rboerner

    I guess that would be me! I struggle with saying that just because my view of perfectionists are well…they are perfect and I am far from perfect. BUUUTTTTT…I am quickly learning that my desire to have things done a certain way are good ole’ perfectionist traits and boy does that have an effect on my relationships (married & other relationships). I am praying daily that I can relax more in this area of my life so that my husband doesn’t see me as that “clanging cymbal” or “constant drip”. Our PERFECT God definitely provides perspective for us when we ask!!

  • rboerner

    I guess that would be me! I struggle with saying that just because my view of perfectionists are well…they are perfect and I am far from perfect. BUUUTTTTT…I am quickly learning that my desire to have things done a certain way are good ole’ perfectionist traits and boy does that have an effect on my relationships (married & other relationships). I am praying daily that I can relax more in this area of my life so that my husband doesn’t see me as that “clanging cymbal” or “constant drip”. Our PERFECT God definitely provides perspective for us when we ask!!

  • Beverly

    Excellent blog post! May God richly bless your ministry!

  • Beverly

    Excellent blog post! May God richly bless your ministry!

  • I have been that perfectionist in this marriage. God dealt with me on that. I’m not ashamed to say that it was one of the hardest seasons I’ve ever been through personally. But coming out on the other side? so amazingly wonderful.

  • I have been that perfectionist in this marriage. God dealt with me on that. I’m not ashamed to say that it was one of the hardest seasons I’ve ever been through personally. But coming out on the other side? so amazingly wonderful.

  • Such an important point for conflict in a marriage, Beth. I’m glad you’ve drawn attention to this area.

    I never thought of myself as a perfectionist, but I did have quite a few expectations about how things should be done. Surprising, it didn’t work out very well, especially while parenting. God smooths our rough edges and teaches us through these challenges, thankfully, but it certainly can be painful at times.

  • Such an important point for conflict in a marriage, Beth. I’m glad you’ve drawn attention to this area.

    I never thought of myself as a perfectionist, but I did have quite a few expectations about how things should be done. Surprising, it didn’t work out very well, especially while parenting. God smooths our rough edges and teaches us through these challenges, thankfully, but it certainly can be painful at times.

  • Stephanie Boyd

    Help! I am married to a perfectionist husband and have 3 small children with another on the way. I work 20 hours a week at home, and make 95% of our meals homemade due to diet restrictions. How can I cope? I feel like I can never please him, and 6 days out of 7 he comes home and complains about something; the kids haven’t picked up the yard, the laundry on the floor in the laundry room, etc. All his personal areas are a wreck; but he says those aren’t living areas. I feel like I am organized, and hard working and do my best to keep our nest a neat, clean place to live. His mom keeps her house absolutely positively spotless (she even counts her toys to make sure they’re all there), and I feel like I’m being compared to that standard. How can I be a Godly wife, but let him know he’s not being reasonable?