There Are No Perfect Marrriages, Only Imperfect Behaviors

what are couples really fighting about?By Sheila Kreifels, LMFT

A woman came into my office recently.  She was very attractive.  She had every hair in place.  Her purse matched her outfit.  She was physically fit.  As we began to discuss why she was seeking my professional services, my “gut” kept screaming, “Because she has to be perfect!”  As I invited her to peek into my ‘gut”, she said, “Well, perfectionism may be an issue.”  That means, “yes” to a therapist.  It also means that I am going to have to dig deep for the real problem because perfectionists tend to want to appear perfect even for the therapist.

So beneath the self imposed stress of super high expectations and working and raising a family, we finally landed on the pain.  It was her marriage.  In attempting to be the perfect employee, the perfect wife and the perfect mom, she was running on empty with her emotional needs.  Her husband paid little to no attention to her and was preoccupied with sports on TV.

I asked her to tell me how a typical evening went at the end of her work day.  She said, “I walk in the door and I feel like my family is hiding from me.  My husband and I do not acknowledge one another.  There are so many tasks to keep up with that we both begin our “second job” with dinner, homework, bath time and then we both retreat to our own devices to finish off our night.”

I felt exhausted and depleted just listening to her everyday life.  We are all busy, but it is what we are busy doing that either enriches our marriages or depletes them.  I asked her to walk outside of my door and come back in behaving in the way that she would like to be greeted by her husband and family.  She began to cry, “I don’t even know it has been so long since I felt loved.  I feel critical and hardened all the time.”

Yes, perfectionism  impacts those around us.  Our high standards and expectations  on tasks tend to chase people away for fear of criticism.  We become depleted as everyone runs from our incessant demands and no one is really there to support the tremendous criticisms we place on ourselves or to fully understand the amount of anxiety surging through our bodies that fuels this desire to be “perfect.”  It is like being a hamster on a treadmill with a constant need to fight or flee.  Eventually we are worn down.  It can then develop into depression.

If this journey feels like yours, STOP!  By changing a few simple behaviors, you can recharge, reclaim and refill your “love tank”.

1.  Take time for a few loving rituals during the day – kiss good morning, hug good bye,, send a kind text, and always greet your spouse at the end of a long work day and let them know how happy you are to see them.

2.  Schedule some “me” time after your work day.  Something as simple as changing your clothes without interruptions.  This teaches your family boundaries and helps you to learn to communicate your need to “decompress.”

3.  Delegate responsibilities – even little ones can participate with picking up toys or other easy chores.  Plan a 30 minute chore time where the family works together to get everything done.  Put on some music and make it family fun time.

4.  Pay attention to your emotional, mental, physical and spiritual needs – your needs have to matter.  Your children are watching you to see if it is okay to express their own needs with the hopes of having them met.  Be a good role model for NEEDS!  We all have them.

5.  Only God is perfect, humans are ALL imperfect and we love each other anyway.  Embrace imperfection and stop and smell the flowers more and teach your family to do the same!



Comments are closed.