The Perfectionist's Flawed Marriage

High expectations can lead to a less-than-perfect union.

By PT Staff, published on May 1, 2003 - last reviewed on June 17, 2008

Self-described perfectionists may be adept at getting things done
at work, but when it comes to marriage the story is not so
picture-perfect. Perfectionists struggle in
marriage and other intimate relationships. Their expectations can push
both partners into being unhappy with the relationship.

In one study, 76 couples were asked if their partner was a
perfectionist. Those who said yes were more likely to use nagging and
sarcasm to deal with their relationship troubles. These strategies, the
researchers found, led both sides to have less satisfaction within the
relationship. Also, when women—but not men—expected perfection from
their mate, they became unhappy because their partner did not live up to
their expectations.

"Perfectionism is very difficult to live with because you are
always striving for some kind of magical fantasy ideal that no one can
ever live up to," says Alan Entin, Ph.D.
"My best advice to them is to lower their level of expectations."

The research suggests that a personality characteristic may not
only influence that individual's view of a marriage, but the partner's
experience in the relationship as well. To achieve a more perfect
marriage, Entin advises that couples work to establish attainable goals
in their relationship.