As discussed earlier in my post titled “Fear of Mistakes,” perfectionists avoid taking action, making decisions, and making commitments in hopes of keeping all of their options open before deciding on one best “perfect” option. This behaviour often shows up in the romantic relationships of perfectionists. But unlike most of their other inanimate options that can be easily kept within their reach with a minimal amount of control, human beings require much more control because they have a mind of their own.
Relationship perfectionists sabotage and re-establish their romantic relationships (also known as “push-pull”) to keep all of their romantic options open and control their fear of making a mistake in the selection of a romantic partner.
For extreme relationship perfectionists, their search for “the one” ends when they have finally met and evaluated every single potential romantic partner on the face of this planet. But before they can complete their impossible mission, most of them come across some “good” options that do a good enough job of giving them some pleasure until they find someone better.
But these “good” options, to the frustration of relationship perfectionists, do not stay put. Sometimes they express their desire to take the relationship to a deeper level of intimacy. This terrifies relationship perfectionists because their all-or-nothing thinking causes them to feel as though they are being pressured into something as exclusive as marriage. Other times, these “good” options express their desire to remove themselves romantically. This also terrifies relationship perfectionists because it threatens their plans to keep all of their options open. In attempt to avoid making choosing or losing mistakes, relationship perfectionists control the intimacy level of their relationships through pushing and pulling.
All that a relationship perfectionist achieves through successfully exercising push-pull techniques is just the peace of mind of having someone to go to if all else fails. Unfortunately, it is at the severe expense of another person’s emotional welfare.
STRENGTHS OF THOSE WITH OCPD WHO LEARN TO OVERCOME THEIR FEAR OF MISTAKES IN THE SELECTION OF A ROMANTIC PARTNER
- Your standards actually go higher – You probably think your standards are already high enough. If you have a fear of making mistakes in the selection of a romantic partner, then actually your standards are not so high. Beneath all your “high standards,” you are actually afraid of getting hurt. You have trained your eye to look out for someone who will hurt you the least. After overcoming your fear, you will be able to appreciate much better qualities in a romantic partner than just someone “nice” who would never even hurt a fly.
- You have so much peace in your romantic relationships.
- You can be so forgiving and understanding when your romantic partner does something that hurts you.
SO WHAT NOW?
HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OCPD):
Understand that your all-or-nothing thinking is inaccurate. Challenge yourself to see the more accurate “middle-ground” meaning of your romantic partner’s affection. Openly communicate with your partner that you have a fear that holds you back from wholly enjoying a relationship. Be honest and let your partner know that your fear intensifies when you feel out of control, which usually happens when the intimacy level of a relationship fluctuates too much.
HOW TO CO-EXIST WITH THE OTHER (OTHERS):
Your relationship perfectionist partner is probably unaware that his or her push-pull tendencies are driven by his or her fear of making mistakes. Address this issue immediately. After he or she recognizes the fear, ask him or her if he or she would like to (A) face the fear by taking a chance and attempting to do away with his or her control patterns or (B) continue to hold onto the fear and all the control patterns that come with it. If he or she chooses the latter, I suggest you leave the doomed relationship. If he or she chooses the former, be patient and give assurance to your partner that “everything is going to be just fine.” Even if your heart wants to express so much affection to your partner, understand that he or she may not respond to it so well because of his or her fear. While your relationship perfectionist partner makes gradual progress towards eliminating his or her fear, resist the urge to express your intense love for him or her. You can unload it all once his or her fear has been conquered.
HOW TO LET GO OF YOUR FEAR OF MISTAKES IN THE SELECTION OF A ROMANTIC PARTNER (OCPD):
You must understand that your relationship control techniques, though they make you feel safe, are actually terrible for you. Because of them, you are not able to face your relationship fears. As long as you hold onto your control techniques, you will never get rid of that fear. Stop exercising your control in relationships. When the intimacy level of a relationship fluctuates, hold yourself back from doing anything about it. It will feel very scary at first, but those feelings will pass. Just continue to tell yourself “everything is going to be ok.”