The Hidden Third Wheel That’s Messing Up Your Relationship

The toxic issue you might not realize is getting in the way.

Posted Feb 12, 2018

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As a therapist who’s worked with many people experiencing relationship problems, it doesn’t take long to identify the third wheel causing trouble.

Perfectionism almost always tags along in our relationships—for at least one partner, but most often for both. It’s a relationship that most of us aren’t sure how to let go of, so we carry it in and out of our romances, friendships, work roles and beyond. Even though it constantly shames, belittles and disappoints us, we can’t find a way to say sayonara once and for all.

Relationships are difficult enough without the constant nagging of perfectionism. Here are some break up zingers to help you cut it off once and for all:

1. It’s you, not me. You’ve tried to bait me into thinking that I’m not enough; to constantly gawk in the mirror and pick apart every last so-called imperfection, even though the metrics you use are flawed, unattainable and dangerous.

2. I’m looking for a long-term relationship, and just can’t pursue that with you. Sure, you’ve met a lot of my needs, but you’ve also introduced me to bad habits. You’ve helped me reach goals, but weren’t there to catch me when I fell off the ladder you told me I should climb. I just can’t handle a toxic relationship right now. Being around you literally hurts me and makes me sick. I’m better off without you.

3. We want different things. Our values are totally mismatched. I want to focus on living a purpose-driven life, where I can bring impact. You want me to live a performance-based life, focused on hustling for modern-day versions of success: money, letters after my name, likes on my pictures. These things haven’t made me happy so far, so I’m on a new path towards mindfulness and community. I’ve changed, and can’t give you want you need.

4. I like someone else. By the name of self-compassion. I realize that the more generous, forgiving and compassionate I am with myself, the more so I can be present, loving and generous in my relationships. Self-compassion helps me practice unconditional regard at every turn. There’s no room for a third wheel in my life. I need all the space I can get to make way for healthy relationships with myself and those I love.

What messages do you need to send to get rid of that toxic third wheel in your life and break up with your perfectionism?