How to Deal with Nit-Picky Perfectionism in Marriage

Are you a perfectionistic spouse? Or maybe you're married to one and don't know how to handle it. Then come by MM to discover 5 ways to navigate this difficulty. #marriage #perfection #perfectionism #unrealistic #critical #communication #conflict #Bible

Do you ever feel like you can never satisfy your husband because he expects perfection from you?

Are you constantly being challenged by your wife to do something her way, and in her opinion, the only right way? 

Is your marriage beginning to feel like a competition with only one winner?

Are you a perfectionistic spouse? Or maybe you're married to one and don't know how to handle it. Then come by MM to discover 5 ways to navigate this difficulty. #marriage #perfection #perfectionism #unrealistic #critical #communication #conflict #Bible

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you might be married to or, perhaps, be “the perfectionist” spouse in your marriage.

Heaven help you if you’re like me and my guy, where you’re both perfectionists!

The perfectionist spouse thinks he/she is making things better by striving for perfection in every way. But this strategy is counter-productive. The perfectionist spouse often makes a marriage messier and more flawed by his/her continual efforts to achieve perfection.

Being married to a perfectionist feels, at the very least, draining and, over time, can feel overwhelming and defeating.

But being married to someone who isn’t achieving your ideal standard also comes with its challenges. You start out feeling frustrated and, in no time, begin to feel resentful, perhaps even growing to the point of hopelessness.

What’s even more ironic here is that you probably were drawn to your spouse because of some very positive perfectionist traits, like the fact that your mate is …

  • Committed
  • Observant
  • Hard-working
  • Loyal
  • Conscientious
  • Successful
  • Detail-oriented
  • A good leader/manager

So how do you deal with your spouse’s incessant need for perfection?

Or what if you’re the one driving your spouse crazy with all of your rules and “oughts”?

5 Ways to Move Toward Acceptance Rather Than Perfection

1. Become more aware and convinced of how God views you and your spouse.

If you stick to your human logic or the world’s perspective, you’ll continue to think your only as good and worthwhile as your last achievement. But if you look to God’s word, you’ll see that the good any of us try to do in and of ourselves is worth nothing compared to Christ’s goodness.

Paradoxically, He is the PERFECT standard we need to put ourselves up against, if we want to correct our imperfect view of each other or ourselves.

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”  Isaiah 64:6

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one.”  Romans 3:10

When we truly receive this truth, we are able to view our mates as the flawed and sinful humans that we all are. Striving for perfection gets replaced with trust in the one who is perfect, Jesus Christ!

2. Extend to your mate the same grace and forgiveness Jesus has extended to you. 

“For by the grace given me I say to everyone one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”  Romans 12:3

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

This means when your husband is making you crazy with his nit-picky expectations, you can look to God to help you extend His grace to him.

And when your wife is on a fault-finding rampage, you can find the power to forgive and let her momentary criticism roll off your back. That’s because you’re ultimately letting it roll off Jesus’ back—the One whose back was scourged for both of your sakes. 

3. Prayerfully evaluate how you’re coming across in tension-filled moments of marriage. 

A lot of the time my husband and I are oblivious to how high our standards are coming across to each other. In those moments, neither one of us should try to convince the other of what we personally see. Instead, that’s the time for me (and hopefully my husband too) to stop and go to a private place to pray.

In moments like these, God has shown me time after time the truth of my own attitude. That’s when it’s always best to confess my sins to the Lord and then move bravely and graciously back toward my husband again.

4. Apologize to your mate for your perfectionistic and unrealistic attitudes and actions.

Over the years, I’ve learned that confessing to my spouse never really feels comfortable or right while I’m doing it. But it sure does make things feel right the moment the words fall from my lips! It’s like Jesus takes the heavy weight of guilt and sin off my shoulders the moment I confess and apologize to my spouse.

If you haven’t already made this your habit, you should give it a try!

5. Forgive your spouse for being critical and expecting perfection from you. 

This is where we circle back to #1. After all, how can you withhold forgiveness from your spouse when Christ has so generously and undeservedly extended forgiveness to you?

This means forgiving our spouses even when they don’t see how perfectionistic they are being with us. It also means forgiving them when they are completely unwilling to admit to us their faults. We must leave our mates them in Christ’s capable hands to convict. Our response should be to show kindness and love. And …

[bctt tweet=”We should focus on the good that is present in the lives of our spouses, rather than becoming bitter because of the bad we’re momentarily experiencing. Head to MM to find out more about this choice!” username=”BethSteffaniak”]


What about you? Are you a perfectionist or married to one?

 

How do you positively or negatively deal with the struggles that come with perfectionism?

 


Linking up with – NOBH, Monday’s Musings, Marriage Moments Monday, Making Your Home Sing Monday, Matrimonial Monday, Playdates with God and Marriage Monday’s

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49 responses to “How to Deal with Nit-Picky Perfectionism in Marriage”

  1. I like to refer to myself as a “recovering perfectionist.” That is to say I still look at it as an addiction and I just to my best to keep it under control :). The interesting thing is although I can’t seem to keep from expecting perfection from myself (working on that), I learned early on in marriage that expecting perfection (e.g. unrealistic expectations) of my husband would spell disaster. My expectation of him is simple, that we will be together til’ death do us part. Everything else is insubstantial.

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    1. It sounds as if you’ve figured out how to deal with that pesky perfectionistic side, Fawn. And yes, it is a matter of “recovering”–always recovering–because it’s always with me. I’m just trying desperately to let God have the control of things instead of taking the reins myself. 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by and encouraging me!

      Like

  2. I like to refer to myself as a “recovering perfectionist.” That is to say I still look at it as an addiction and I just to my best to keep it under control :). The interesting thing is although I can’t seem to keep from expecting perfection from myself (working on that), I learned early on in marriage that expecting perfection (e.g. unrealistic expectations) of my husband would spell disaster. My expectation of him is simple, that we will be together til’ death do us part. Everything else is insubstantial.

    Like

  3. I think I was a perfectionist — until children came! Thank you for sharing your heart here. I found you on Making Your Home Sing Monday. – Penny Lane

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    1. From the post you had at your blog, Penny, I can see why you’d be a perfectionist. You probably could put the rest of us perfectionist’s to shame! 🙂 And yes, kids do have a miraculous quality in our lives. Thank God for how He uses them in all sorts of messy and imperfect ways. Thanks so much for coming by and encouraging me, new-found friend!

      Like

  4. I think I was a perfectionist — until children came! Thank you for sharing your heart here. I found you on Making Your Home Sing Monday. – Penny Lane

    Like

  5. I love this: “I need to look to God to help me extend grace to my husband”. It’s so helpful to ask for assistance and have the faith to receive it the way that God sees fit to give it.

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    1. Yes, God is always there to provide what we “perfectionists” need. I don’t know why we think we can do it without Him. 😉 Thanks so much for stopping by and brightening my day, Rhiannon!

      Like

  6. I love this: “I need to look to God to help me extend grace to my husband”. It’s so helpful to ask for assistance and have the faith to receive it the way that God sees fit to give it.

    Like

  7. Oh, I can relate to this. My husband is the perfectionist and I’m the laid back take life as it comes person. I’m not sure how he copes with me, but I do look at all his good qualities and rejoice in those. Thanks for such an insightful post.

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    1. That’s the way to do it, Nancy–always having a grateful attitude about every hiccup and struggle we face in life. I bet your hubby appreciates the good qualities of your laid back personality too. I have many friends like you and they are a pleasure to be around and, usually, belly laugh with. 🙂

      Like

  8. Oh, I can relate to this. My husband is the perfectionist and I’m the laid back take life as it comes person. I’m not sure how he copes with me, but I do look at all his good qualities and rejoice in those. Thanks for such an insightful post.

    Like

  9. Hey Beth … I love that you listed all those positive traits us perfectionist-leaning people own … especially since the negative stuff is so glaringly obvious!
    ;-{
    And a good way to see how we really stand is to ask OURSELVES that dreaded question, ‘what’s it like to be married to you?’
    ;-}

    Like

    1. I guess it’s easy for me to see the positive side, since I am a perfectionist as well. I know that part of my husband’s perfectionism is great and I wouldn’t want him any other way! Yes, that is a heavy and probing question that I like to ask myself and my clients from time to time. It always brings it back down to reality, doesn’t it? Thank so much for coming by, Linda. It’s always lovely to hear from you, sweet friend. 🙂

      Like

  10. Hey Beth … I love that you listed all those positive traits us perfectionist-leaning people own … especially since the negative stuff is so glaringly obvious!;-{And a good way to see how we really stand is to ask OURSELVES that dreaded question, ‘what’s it like to be married to you?’;-}

    Like

  11. we are right there with you, beth — the perfectionist married to the perfectionist. two classic first borns. whew, what “opportunities” that creates, eh?? 😉 the battlefield in my mind gets awfully intense at times, but no doubt about it, His grace abounds, & is sufficient even for the mess of our perfectionist tendencies.

    “Surrendering that sense of entitlement to God” — love the way you put that. that’s exactly it. every moment of every day. that’s where the Freedom & Joy come in.

    thx so much for this, friend!

    Like

    1. Well, my husband is a first born and only and even though I am the youngest, I’m the youngest by 14 and 9 years! So that makes me more like an only too. Ugh! If I’d known how difficult marriage would be with two onlys–I might have hesitated. Nah! I was just grandiose enough that I would’ve thought “We’ll beat the odds!” haha!

      Thanks for your sweet words of encouragement, Tanya. I always look forward to you stopping in and saying “hi.”

      Like

      1. that’s pretty close to our story, too. my husband’s an “official” first born. and like you, i’m the youngest, but w/ older siblings older enough for me to be all kinds of first born. 😉

        but i’m oh, so grateful that the Lord has graciously offered both my husband & i insights re: the bondage of perfectionism, & a mutual desire to lose the chains!!

        your posts are always so relevant to my journey, beth. so grateful for your insights.

        Like

  12. we are right there with you, beth — the perfectionist married to the perfectionist. two classic first borns. whew, what “opportunities” that creates, eh?? 😉 the battlefield in my mind gets awfully intense at times, but no doubt about it, His grace abounds, & is sufficient even for the mess of our perfectionist tendencies. “Surrendering that sense of entitlement to God” — love the way you put that. that’s exactly it. every moment of every day. that’s where the Freedom & Joy come in. thx so much for this, friend!

    Like

  13. Oh….no question….I am the perfectionist about the stuff of life (like… “The bag goes in the garbage this way.”) and he is when it comes to how we live our lives. I guess I would say that deciding that peace and harmony are more important than my own way is the key. But…I have to recognize that I’m going down that road first…and oh that is where things get sticky. This yielding self thing…it’s more challenging for some of us. Um…like me? I am grateful for a good marriage, in spite of ourselves. 😉

    Like

    1. Yes, yielding the self is an ongoing battle for me and slowly, but surely, God is teaching me how to die to myself. I ask myself, “Do I care more about being ‘right’ or more about my ‘relationship’?” That always brings some perspective to my perfectionistic thoughts. Thanks so much for your kind words, Diane. Great to have you weigh in.

      Like

  14. Oh my goodness. Exactly what’s going on in my marriage right now! Thank you for your insight!
    http://Www.whatshaunaknows.com

    Like

    1. You know, Shauna, that’s the best kind of comment I get! You’ve made my day, sweet friend. I’ll have to hop on over to your place next and check your blog out! Thanks so much for encouraging me!

      Like

  15. Oh my goodness. Exactly what’s going on in my marriage right now! Thank you for your insight! http://Www.whatshaunaknows.com

    Like

  16. Uggh.. you’ve hit me right in the heart (okay, it’s not YOU, just the Holy Spirit!). I’m the perfectionist in our marriage and my husband has thrown up his hands a few times over our two decades of marriage and admitted he may NEVER be able to live up to my expectations. Then, as soon as he NAMES it, I can see it- the way I look to him to be perfect. I’m on a journey toward grace and growth and wish I could change myself overnight! Thanks for the practical ideas here.

    Like

    1. You’re doing better than I am then, Alicia! Because as soon as my husband “names it,” I want to deny it! haha! I can’t be a perfectionist and be “wrong,” now can I? Thanks so much for being your sweet vulnerable self, my friend. I love your authenticity and passion for Christ–an unbeatable combination!

      Like

  17. Uggh.. you’ve hit me right in the heart (okay, it’s not YOU, just the Holy Spirit!). I’m the perfectionist in our marriage and my husband has thrown up his hands a few times over our two decades of marriage and admitted he may NEVER be able to live up to my expectations. Then, as soon as he NAMES it, I can see it- the way I look to him to be perfect. I’m on a journey toward grace and growth and wish I could change myself overnight! Thanks for the practical ideas here.

    Like

  18. It sounds as if you’ve figured out how to deal with that pesky perfectionistic side, Fawn. And yes, it is a matter of “recovering”–always recovering–because it’s always with me. I’m just trying desperately to let God have the control of things instead of taking the reins myself. 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by and encouraging me!

    Like

  19. From the post you had at your blog, Penny, I can see why you’d be a perfectionist. You probably could put the rest of us perfectionist’s to shame! 🙂 And yes, kids do have a miraculous quality in our lives. Thank God for how He uses them in all sorts of messy and imperfect ways. Thanks so much for coming by and encouraging me, new-found friend!

    Like

  20. Yes, God is always there to provide what we “perfectionists” need. I don’t know why we think we can do it without Him. 😉 Thanks so much for stopping by and brightening my day, Rhiannon!

    Like

  21. That’s the way to do it, Nancy–always having a grateful attitude about every hiccup and struggle we face in life. I bet your hubby appreciates the good qualities of your laid back personality too. I have many friends like you and they are a pleasure to be around and, usually, belly laugh with. 🙂

    Like

  22. I guess it’s easy for me to see the positive side, since I am a perfectionist as well. I know that part of my husband’s perfectionism is great and I wouldn’t want him any other way! Yes, that is a heavy and probing question that I like to ask myself and my clients from time to time. It always brings it back down to reality, doesn’t it? Thank so much for coming by, Linda. It’s always lovely to hear from you, sweet friend. 🙂

    Like

  23. Well, my husband is a first born and only and even though I am the youngest, I’m the youngest by 14 and 9 years! So that makes me more like an only too. Ugh! If I’d known how difficult marriage would be with two onlys–I might have hesitated. Nah! I was just grandiose enough that I would’ve thought “We’ll beat the odds!” haha!Thanks for your sweet words of encouragement, Tanya. I always look forward to you stopping in and saying “hi.”

    Like

  24. Yes, yielding the self is an ongoing battle for me and slowly, but surely, God is teaching me how to die to myself. I ask myself, “Do I care more about being ‘right’ or more about my ‘relationship’?” That always brings some perspective to my perfectionistic thoughts. Thanks so much for your kind words, Diane. Great to have you weigh in.

    Like

  25. You know, Shauna, that’s the best kind of comment I get! You’ve made my day, sweet friend. I’ll have to hop on over to your place next and check your blog out! Thanks so much for encouraging me!

    Like

  26. You’re doing better than I am then, Alicia! Because as soon as my husband “names it,” I want to deny it! haha! I can’t be a perfectionist and be “wrong,” now can I? Thanks so much for being your sweet vulnerable self, my friend. I love your authenticity and passion for Christ–an unbeatable combination!

    Like

  27. that’s pretty close to our story, too. my husband’s an “official” first born. and like you, i’m the youngest, but w/ older siblings older enough for me to be all kinds of first born. 😉 but i’m oh, so grateful that the Lord has graciously offered both my husband & i insights re: the bondage of perfectionism, & a mutual desire to lose the chains!!your posts are always so relevant to my journey, beth. so grateful for your insights.

    Like

  28. Two sentences in and I was thinking, “What if you’re BOTH perfectionists?” Yikes, that’s us. My sweet hubby holds himself to a higher standard than anyone else, though — not other people so much. Personally, the only way for me to yank myself back to reality is to remind myself there’s only ONE who’s perfect…and it’s not me!

    Like

  29. Two sentences in and I was thinking, “What if you’re BOTH perfectionists?” Yikes, that’s us. My sweet hubby holds himself to a higher standard than anyone else, though — not other people so much. Personally, the only way for me to yank myself back to reality is to remind myself there’s only ONE who’s perfect…and it’s not me!

    Like

  30. I guess that would be me! I struggle with saying that just because my view of perfectionists are well…they are perfect and I am far from perfect. BUUUTTTTT…I am quickly learning that my desire to have things done a certain way are good ole’ perfectionist traits and boy does that have an effect on my relationships (married & other relationships). I am praying daily that I can relax more in this area of my life so that my husband doesn’t see me as that “clanging cymbal” or “constant drip”. Our PERFECT God definitely provides perspective for us when we ask!!

    Like

  31. I guess that would be me! I struggle with saying that just because my view of perfectionists are well…they are perfect and I am far from perfect. BUUUTTTTT…I am quickly learning that my desire to have things done a certain way are good ole’ perfectionist traits and boy does that have an effect on my relationships (married & other relationships). I am praying daily that I can relax more in this area of my life so that my husband doesn’t see me as that “clanging cymbal” or “constant drip”. Our PERFECT God definitely provides perspective for us when we ask!!

    Like

  32. Excellent blog post! May God richly bless your ministry!

    Like

  33. Excellent blog post! May God richly bless your ministry!

    Like

  34. I have been that perfectionist in this marriage. God dealt with me on that. I’m not ashamed to say that it was one of the hardest seasons I’ve ever been through personally. But coming out on the other side? so amazingly wonderful.

    Like

  35. I have been that perfectionist in this marriage. God dealt with me on that. I’m not ashamed to say that it was one of the hardest seasons I’ve ever been through personally. But coming out on the other side? so amazingly wonderful.

    Like

  36. Such an important point for conflict in a marriage, Beth. I’m glad you’ve drawn attention to this area.

    I never thought of myself as a perfectionist, but I did have quite a few expectations about how things should be done. Surprising, it didn’t work out very well, especially while parenting. God smooths our rough edges and teaches us through these challenges, thankfully, but it certainly can be painful at times.

    Like

  37. Such an important point for conflict in a marriage, Beth. I’m glad you’ve drawn attention to this area.I never thought of myself as a perfectionist, but I did have quite a few expectations about how things should be done. Surprising, it didn’t work out very well, especially while parenting. God smooths our rough edges and teaches us through these challenges, thankfully, but it certainly can be painful at times.

    Like

  38. Help! I am married to a perfectionist husband and have 3 small children with another on the way. I work 20 hours a week at home, and make 95% of our meals homemade due to diet restrictions. How can I cope? I feel like I can never please him, and 6 days out of 7 he comes home and complains about something; the kids haven’t picked up the yard, the laundry on the floor in the laundry room, etc. All his personal areas are a wreck; but he says those aren’t living areas. I feel like I am organized, and hard working and do my best to keep our nest a neat, clean place to live. His mom keeps her house absolutely positively spotless (she even counts her toys to make sure they’re all there), and I feel like I’m being compared to that standard. How can I be a Godly wife, but let him know he’s not being reasonable?

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  39. Loved this, Beth! Such good focus for all us perfectionists! Thank you!

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