Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Perfect Relationship

The Comment:
Sometimes it's easy for me to think that my significant other cares more about having a perfect relationship more than they do about me...
It's a trap, it is...the quest for perfection. The desire to do everything 'right'. The need to make things be the way we think they ought to be in our head. I hope that he/she will be and do everything 'right'. Perfection soon becomes an idol that we turn to and, before we know it, our desires that (usually) come from a good place have begun to harm our relationships.

At this point, it's often hard to see where we went wrong. It's hard to see how wanting things to be so good are making things so bad.

And so, I think you've nailed it.
The partner who is on the receiving end of another's need for perfection can soon begin to feel like that's what matters most to their significant other. They can soon feel lost, forgotten, or like they're just another means to someone else's end.

Unfortunately, I've been the one who is often seeking perfection. The one who is often comparing my relationships to other people, stacking what I have up against what everyone else has. The one who is overly concerned with how things appear and whether or not we will achieve that gold star at the end of the day. The one who got so wrapped up in my own agenda that I forgot that another real person was part of the equation... a real person with feelings, desires, and opinions.

It's only recently that I've had to ask myself: What is perfection, anyway? Whose standard am I trying to uphold? 

It's really interesting to track...for this idea of perfection isn't the same for everyone. What my thoughts are will vary vastly from the person next to me. While I might be striving for excellent communication and for my fiance to always feel respected and loved, someone else might be thinking that perfection exists by following a certain set of guidelines that help determine appropriate boundaries with the opposite gender. Someone else might think that perfection is never giving an appearance that there is conflict in their relationship. Someone else might think that perfection is never giving anyone any reason to doubt the purity of the relationship.

I think it's important for us who struggle with seeking perfection (let's also make sure that we're differentiating between a desire to be better and perfection...) to be willing to dig deeper. To be willing to examine where the need for perfection comes from and what does it mean to you to be perfect in your relationship. What does that look like? Do you even know? If your relationship was suddenly 'perfect' what would have changed?

I think when we are willing to do that, we're then establishing the things that matter to us within a relationship. We're able to have a better idea of where we are trying to head and why we are trying to head that direction. Sometimes, when we pause, we're able to see how ridiculous it might be (or maybe it allows us to recognize that our standard of perfection isn't actually perfection at all... i.e. Just because another couple does it this way, it doesn't mean it's the best or right way to do it). We're able to see how the thing we desire is far less important than making our significant other feel insignificant in the process. Sometimes it helps us with a bit of a perspective shift.

I also think, when we do that, it opens us up to have better communication about our priorities within our relationship. It allows us to say to our partner, "Hey... I realize that I care a lot about this and making it right/better...and so I want to move forward in this direction." It doesn't allow you to say that, "This is how it's supposed to be," but it opens up the conversation. It allows your partner to have some say in the end result, versus you just declaring that your ideals of perfection are the way it should be. Remember how everyone's ideas of perfection are different? I imagine that this takes place within your own relationship, too.

Mostly I just think we need to be careful in establishing ideas of how things should be. If I were going to listen to most people's thoughts and base my own story off of their stories.... I'd be incredibly insecure that I got engaged to man when we hadn't been dating even three months. Because, in other people's opinions, that wasn't long enough. We needed more time. It wasn't.... right. It wasn't... perfect. At least not to them. But I truly can't imagine anything more perfect....for us.

While we can learn from other people and grow by watching how other relationships flourish...it doesn't mean that it has to be our own reality. What works for someone else won't always work for you.

Don't establish your ideals of perfection based solely on someone else's example. If you're looking for standards, you always have to go back to truth. You always have to go back to Scripture. Find your base there. Not in magazines, books, other couples. Take good advice, sure... but don't make them your absolutes (especially if they aren't rooted in truth.... and even if they are rooted in truth, sometimes how it plays out is going be different from couple to couple).

I'll always tell you to strive for better in all things... but make sure that as you do that, you're not letting the quest for perfection ever interfere with the way you treat people. Seek perfection in the way that you love people, not in the way that you appear...not through establishing rules/boundaries for the way you think things should be.

If you find yourself, in seeking perfection, ruining your relationship and not understanding why...? Pause. Take a step back. Ask yourself some hard questions... and be willing to have open conversations where you lay down your own set of shoulds and can listen to someone else's hopes, expectations, standards for your relationship.

Because, friends...there are two of you in this.
Be fully invested in the other person, placing their needs above your own....being willing to change your perspective, your standards, your idea of perfection.

It might not be so "perfect" after all.

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