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When Love is Not Good Enough

When Love is Not Good Enough

Perfectionism is a shield that people often use to protect themselves from the rejection they anticipate for not being good enough in their own perspective or that of others. This can often be seen by partners of a perfectionist as non-stop, exhaustive efforts with no sense of satisfaction at any time. Something like a hamster wheel. 


Perfectionism can be understood as the need to gather proof that you are not bad. This need is so critical for a perfectionist, that it can not be compromised at any point. It can be an attempt run away from a feared outcome. Such as, “if I’m bad, people will reject me” or “if I’m not perfect, I won’t be loved” and it is often followed by the fear of being alone. This develops based on the experiences growing up. For example, if the feeling of acceptance, safety, love or kindness is dependent on being good or perfect.


In a relationship with a perfectionist


If you are in a relationship with a perfectionist it might feel like intense pressure - to keep up with their expectations, their need for validation, their rigidity for plans or standards. The partners might mention feeling burnout or never feeling enough. 


The responses of a perfectionist are often out of their need to protect their partner from the excruciating pain of rejection that their partner is certainly not able to see or understand, or it is a learned reaction - one that they probably received from their environment growing up.


Inside a perfectionist


It is important to understand that the perfectionist him/herself faces the heat firsthand. They are usually desperately running away from any possibility of being told that they are not good enough and that’s why someone important is rejecting or abandoning them. This pursuit can become extremely intense depending on the individual’s experiences. A client of mine very beautifully defined their experience on the inside as - I feel like the accusations and the attackers are right out the door and the perfectionist needs to keep the door shut, airtight, with all their effort and more. Slightest of mistakes or less than perfect results and it will all start creeping in and drag me into loneliness and powerlessness.


Supporting a perfectionist without losing yourself


Showing support to the perfectionist after the most damaging interactions is important. It helps them challenge their own belief that people reject them for not being perfect. This needs to be done in a manner that comforts the perfectionist and their partner feels safe enough in supporting them. Here are some ideas:


Identifying the problem - Once the problem is identified, it is easier to dissociate from it. Dissociation from a problem helps in stopping self-blame and looking for solutions.


Communication - Both partners need to talk about the situation in a neutral manner, at a calm moment. Tell your partner how you feel and what could they do to make things better for you. The more you understand each other’s perspective, the easier it will be to co-exist, heal, nurture.


Pauses and breaks - Giving the perfectionist time to calm down is extremely important. An intervention in the middle of a storm is not going to work. These pauses and breaks need to be planned beforehand so that the perfectionist doesn’t feel that the problem is not going to be addressed at all.


Boundaries - Remember that your partner needs healing and that you can not take the full responsibility for that. When the interactions become intimidating or draining you need to step back without being hurtful to the perfectionist. This can be done by talking about it and informing the perfectionist about your plan. This information will help the perfectionist understand that you are just stepping back to de-escalate the situation and not abandoning them.


Self-care - well-being and positivity is your responsibility, take care of that religiously. Fill your routine with things that give you pleasure or a sense of achievement. Some of my clients set a structured routine for different activities and some like to keep a list of activities to pick from every day.



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