Perfectionism Is Killing Your Dating Life
October 6, 2016
Mark lives in Cleveland, Ohio with his wife and two kids. He writes full-time at ApplyGodsWord.com. He has a master’s degree in pastoral counseling from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.
Not every Christian who is unmarried is unhappy about it. Some people are perfectly content with their singleness.
But, let's be honest, for the vast majority of Christians, singleness isn't the plan. And this is particularly painful for perfectionists.
A perfectionist is someone who is extremely hands-on, likes to get things done in a specific way and sets goals that he or she fully expects to hit right on schedule. So if you’re a perfectionist and you haven’t gotten to make that engagement announcement like all your friends on Instagram as early as you planned, your frustration level is probably growing with every month—and Facebook announcement—that ticks by.
Oddly enough, perfectionism not only enhances the pain of unwanted singleness, but it can actually prolong it too. Because perfectionism and romance just don’t mix.
Because a perfectionist knows he or she can’t erase a relational blemish or just tear that page out of their book, many choose not to even start.
Here are three ways meticulousness, precision, correctness, punctuality and other things perfectionists love can delay your marriage from becoming a reality.
1: Perfectionism Causes Paralysis.
Perfectionists are usually seen as go-getters. But ask any hardcore perfectionist and if she is being honest she will tell you she struggles with passivity and paralysis when a task seems too daunting to do without any errors. Perfectionism kills productivity because an extreme commitment to exactness causes an anxiety that hinders the job from just getting done.
Perfectionists hate making mistakes. Once you color outside the lines, it’s darn near impossible to redeem that picture. The only thing left to do is tear that sheet out of the coloring book. But when it comes to relationships, mistakes are a bit more painful. Because a perfectionist knows he or she can’t erase a relational blemish or just tear that page out of their book, many choose not to even start.
The truth is, real life is always messy, especially when it comes to romantic relationships. Will you make mistakes once you actively jump into the dating game? For sure. But if you are so afraid of messing up that you never actually start, the odds of finding a spouse are basically zero.
2: Perfectionism Hinders Realism.
Lists are amazing. They make us feel organized. They give us direction on what’s important. And a list can help us know when tasks are getting done. So when it comes to looking for a spouse, everyone should have some sort of list that defines what they want in a spouse.
The problem with a perfectionist is that he wants to check every little, tiny, microscopic, molecular-sized requirement on that massive list. Perfectionists are “pass or fail” type people. You either hit all the requirements on the list or you don’t fit the list. When a friend encourages a perfectionist to give a guy a chance, the response is, “But he doesn’t match my list." and "No, I can’t compromise my list!”
Checking every box is great when you’re filing your taxes. But relationships don’t work that way. Perfectionism prolongs unwanted singleness because it causes people to live in ideals rather than to be a realistic person. Idealism is the way everything “should be.” And nothing slows relational progression more than the “it’s not supposed to look like this” mentality.
Do you want to find a spouse, or do you want to find a spouse in a specific way, who meets all your expectations, and fits perfectly into your world? Both options are possible, but the former is a lot more likely and the latter is nearly impossible.
3: Perfectionism Brings Shame.
When you are committed to never making mistakes, your shame level is going to be unbearable. The Bible says humans were born with a flawed human nature (Psalm 51:5; Romans 5), thus through Jesus Christ we must be born again by his grace. This means that on this side of eternity, perfection is not an option. Jesus is the only guy who lived a perfect life, and he had an unfair advantage since he is the Son of God.
Perfectionism brings shame, and shame slows your unwanted singleness for a variety of reasons.
Shame makes you run from dating because you think you’re not good enough. Shame makes you compromise on your moral convictions because you think you need to compensate to make the opposite sex like you. And shame will cause you to date people with huge character flaws because you think that’s the only type of person you can get; then you waste months or even years of dating only to finally admit you can’t marry someone like that.
The perfectionist will also heap shame onto other people. When someone makes a mistake, a perfectionist just can’t let it go until he makes that person feel one inch tall. Why does a perfectionist do this? Because when it comes to negative habits, we all treat other people the way we treat ourselves. If you treat yourself harshly when you make a mistake, you will treat other people just as badly.
Perfectionism and Relationships Don’t Mix.
All in all, perfectionists have some great qualities that make them super successful in certain areas of life. But most of the time a perfectionist struggles in relationships because of the messes that always happen, especially in romantic relationships.
So if you are tired of being single, perhaps shorten your list and allow for a few more flaws in yourself and others. Nothing crazy. Never be OK with sin (well, not OK, but you know what I'm saying). Don’t change who you are. But if you can look past some minor details, you’ll realize there are many more great dating options available than you thought.
Besides, I hate to burst your bubble, but if you want to be married, you better get used to mistakes. You and your spouse will make a ton of them. A marriage will be smothered by an unrealistic need for flawlessness. You might as well get used to the mess now if you hope to have a healthy, fun and shame-free marriage in the future.
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