The Paradox of the Perfect Relationship – Long Term Relationship Conflicts and Appreciating Your Partner’s Differences

Summary: The things you admire most about your partner may very well be the things that will ultimately bug you the most. That’s the paradox part.

My partner is a freak of nature. Her morals and values are unshakable. She always does the right thing without hesitation. Most people do the right thing as well but only after thinking about it first and weighing the options. For her, there are no options and nothing to consider. Right is right and wrong is wrong. End of story.

And I love her for it.

She’s also extremely organized. Organized on a level that is hard for most people to comprehend. That means the bills are always paid on time. It means that if something needs to be returned or we need to suddenly present some important papers she knows exactly where they are. Not generally as “in the file cabinet” I mean exactly as in “top drawer, third folder, between our life insurance policy and our homeowners insurance”.

It also means that things just seem to appear and everyone always get what they need.

When my oatmeal and eggs get low they will replaced as if by magic. My energy bars will also be replenished right as I’m polishing off the last one as if someone is teleporting them directly into the cupboard.

On Christmas our daughter will have the perfect assortment of gifts. Just the right balance of clothes, practical toys, novelty items and showpieces. Same with her birthday. This is by design of course. She does shopping for special occasions year around and keeps a mental inventory of every purchase made and how it fits into the grand scheme of gifts and presents. She also has a back up supply of gifts for both boys and girls. If we get invited to a last-minute party, she pulls out an appropriate present, wraps it nicely and send us on our way.

And I love her for it.

Our social calendar is without question the most precise in existence. There are no “maybes”, “we’ll try” or “let’s see what happens”. If it’s scheduled, we’re going. If she said we’re coming, we’re coming. Most likely early. If you gave us a gift or did us a favor you’re getting a thank you card.

Of course, doctors and dentist appointments are never missed nor failed to be booked. Same with school events, registrations, and summer camp activities.

And I love her for it.

Our house is always clean. Like eat of the floors clean. She will insist that’s not true and quickly point out all the filth that must be addressed on her next cleaning. Anyone watching would think she’s hallucinating and chasing bits of imaginary crumbs. Mere mortals simply cannot detect the tiny flecks and bits of dust, dirt, and food that are painfully obvious to her.

We’ve only had two housekeepers in seven years that could meet her standards well enough to not warrant a follow up cleaning to catch all the things they missed. Yes, my partner would actually clean up after our housekeeper if it wasn’t perfect. Unfortunately, one moved away and the other quite the profession to go to nursing school. They did not have a mental breakdown or commit suicide. Really, I swear. Cross my heart.

But even though I don’t see the mess she does, nor require the same level of precise organization to be happy, I most definitely prefer a clean, neat house over a messy, dirty one.

And I love her for it.

But it also drives me nuts. Not the good stuff, I’m talking about the conflicts that result from living with a super organized, high standards performance oriented person.

I’m reminded daily that I just don’t measure up. Sometimes it covert –  a sigh, a scowl, a shake of the head or some discontented mumbling under the breath. Sometimes it’s overt – direct verbalization that what ever I’m doing or just did is just plain wrong.

For a perfectionist 90% doesn’t count. It’s either 100% right or 100% wrong. So I don’t get much credit for trying my best or getting close. It’s a huge disincentive.

I take it for a while, give plenty of “yes dears”, “I’ll try betters” and “I didn’t know we’re supposed to do it that ways” until I just snap. Then we have a nice big blowout, get it out of our system and then start over again.

We’ve both gotten better over the years. I’m slowly adopting her preferences and doing my best to stay aware of what I’m doing and trying really hard not to get defensive and snippy. She’s learned to pick and choose her battles better, is more clear and non-judgemental in articulating what she wants, and uses less blame and shame.

Still, this is more or less how it will be for the rest of our lives. It’s ultimately unsolvable.

However, before we had our daughter we could sidestep a lot of this conflict. There was far less chaos and we could stay out of each others face when we needed to. Now it’s constant interfacing with very few breaks in the action.

Do I wish my partner was more laid back, less judgemental, and more forgiving like myself? You bet. That is until I think about all the other stuff I’d miss by trading her for a clone of myself. Sure, it would be pretty mellow, but things would be kind of fucked up too. Not a total disaster, but thank you notes would definitely not be part of our lifestyle. Bills would get paid late and I’m sure I’d run out of soy milk halfway through pouring it on my cereal on more than one occasion. The house, while not completely filthy, would definitely be messy.

The bottom line is I can’t have it both ways. I can’t enjoy all the benefits of living with an ever vigilant, thoughtful perfectionist and also live consequence free. You can’t break people apart and only keep the parts you like. It’s a package deal. And I’m pretty happy with the package I got.

File under: Compromise in a Long Term Relationship – Handling Conflict in a Long Term Relationship or Marriage – Balancing Different Lifestyle Preferences for Long Term Couples

2 Responses to “The Paradox of the Perfect Relationship – Long Term Relationship Conflicts and Appreciating Your Partner’s Differences”

  • Ami Says:

    Your woman sounds a lot like the character “Bree Van De Kamp-Hodge” from the show “Desperate Housewives” or “Donna Reed” whichever one you like better. And my grandmother! Yes, a lot like my grandmother.


  • Gary Says:

    Like what you said here. We get the whole package, the positive with the “negative.” Enjoy your blogging and the way you think and see things. The article you wrote on introvert/extrovert has been very helpful to us. Keep the thoughts coming, I know you will


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