Perfectionism – a mixed blessing to the one who has it, and a curse to their spouse and children! I can say this both as a (more-or-less) recovered perfectionist, and the husband of woman on the same journey. For me, perfectionism has been extreme in some areas, and non-existent in others, which probably makes it even more annoying to others.
The thing that made me aware of the problems with perfectionism was the failure of our first entrepreneurial business. My bride and I had a fine woodworking business a couple of decades ago. We did high quality work, and everyone was thrilled with the work we did. The problem was a local economic downturn started about the time we started the business – meaning very few people wanted, or were willing to pay for, the quality we were doing. We would bid a competitive price, get a job, and then do far better work than the customer was expecting. This resulted in happy customers, but also meant we were not making enough money for our time. We had plenty of work, but could not make much money!
I took this lesson with me to our landscape and irrigation business. I learned to give folks as much quality as they were willing to pay for (actually slightly more than they expected for the money). I always enjoyed doing jobs for folks willing to pay for the best, but I did other jobs well enough to make good money for my time. I also learned to explain why something I bid was more than what others had bid – why, for example, my irrigation design would save them money in the long run.
What does this have to do with marriage?
- Are you putting too much time and effort into some areas of your marriage, going way beyond what she wants or cares about? That is not bad, unless it takes time and energy that should be applied to other areas of the marriage.
- Some tasks are utilitarian, and extra effort won’t be noticed, much less appreciated. If you do it for you, and don’t expect praise from her, fine. If you get upset that she does not appreciate your above and beyond the call of duty work, that is a problem, and it’s your fault, not hers.
- Perfectionism brings stress. Are you allowing such stress to hurt your family?
- And, the big one: do you expect your wife and kids to live up to your perfectionist standards? This is a sure way to hurt people and strain relationships.
If you worry you have ever done any of these things, forward this to your bride and ask her if you are guilty of any of what I’ve said.