The Perfectionist's Flawed Marriage

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

By PT Staff, published May 1, 2003 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

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.