Perfectionism is the tendency to hold unrealistic expectations of people. Such expectations can be directed at the self or others, are often coupled with harsh personal evaluations and scrutiny, and they have proved capable of damaging mental health and undermining relationships.

This year, an important study of how perfectionism can affect a couple was released titled “Caught in a Bad Romance: Perfectionism, Conflict, and Depression in Romantic Relationships” (Mackinnon et al, 2012).
The aim was to penetrate the curtain concealing relationship dynamics in order to reveal the impact of perfectionism.
The study’s findings indicate that relationship conflict mediates a connection between perfectionism and depressive symptoms. It was also discovered that depressive symptoms both precede conflict in a relationship, and result from it. Additionally, individual perfectionism distinctly contributed to conflict and depressive symptoms over and above negative thinking habits and unreasonable expectations of ones partner.
The researchers suggest application of the findings will improve counselling strategies for couples experiencing difficulties when one partner, or both, exhibit depressive symptoms.
This article makes a major contribution to the current research. It proposes that it is not a person’s individual traits that cause problems. Rather the study suggests that the combination of traits belonging to both partners is the main source of problems.
Whether you’re single or in a relationship, understanding the risks posed by perfectionism will be useful. Noticing, and then challenging, perfectionism in ones self will buttress healthier relationships: identifying perfectionism in a partner provides an opportunity to offer better support and strengthen the relationship simultaneously.
Having re-written the previous paragraph 11 times, the author takes heed of it’s lesson. As Thomas Middleton put it:
“By his neeedle he understands ironia,
That with one eye looks two ways at once.”
Online Advocate/Australian Higher Education/Community Health/Youth Mental Health. Follow me on Twitter @writerinsight


  1. Lily

    11/11/2012 at 1:16 am

    It will be surprising if somebody have never wanted a perfect relationship. But towards the question the author argued “Is Perfectionism Hurting Your Relationship?” , In my opinion, to answer this question is how do you define “perfection” , probably different people have different their own answers, which might just about what they expect from their gf or bf or partner, or they have already designed sort of relationship style based on their personal experience, even just from idol dramas they watched.

  2. Thomas Mort

    15/11/2012 at 3:44 am

    Yeah, perfection is certainly in the eye of the beholder. I suppose the researchers are considering the general effects of perfectionism on relationships, and the effects on people with such tendencies. The point you make about the influence of media on people’s “benchmark” expectations, and resulting perfectionist tendencies is an very interesting one. This is certainly something that should be considered in future research Lily.

    Thanks for your comments Lily, they’ve made me re-think what the findings indicate-

  3. Thomas Mort

    17/11/2012 at 12:46 am

    For anyone interested in dealing with perfectionistic behaviours, please have a look at the following resource provided by the Centre for Clinical Interventions (CCI). Sincere thanks to the Western Australia Department of Health for developing this project.

    This is a self-treatment program in PDF form.

    Best wishes!

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