Just Say ‘No’ to Perfection in Marriage

I read lots of marriage books and blogs, and I get rather annoyed with all the talk of how to achieve the perfect relationship, the extraordinary marriage, which shall be the zenith of your human existence, at which point everyday annoyances will dissolve into the mist, and the “happily ever after” credits will scroll by.

Instead, I rather relate to the following quote:

Forget about having perfect relationships. Let’s help couples have “good enough” relationships. ~John & Julie Gottman

My thought is that each year—each hour really—we will have moments of connection and moments of disconnect. If we’re still working on learning to love and be loved, that’s great. That’s progress. But it doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes clash (after all, we are very different people) or disagree (naturally we have separate thoughts and opinions). It just means we choose to stay married and to keep trying to improve. We need to work to stay connected, and to reconnect when we’re drifting apart.

While I sometimes bring lessons learned from my marriage to the table, I don’t think it’s appropriate (or really that interesting, frankly) to share the details of my marital failings. But we have them, just like everyone else. Sometimes I get angry or impatient or think unloving thoughts about the love of my life. As I write this, my very handy hubby is hammering at 10 p.m. while the kids try to sleep, but I’ve learned to live with his eagerness to complete projects over the years (and the kids have learned to sleep through noise). I’m sure I give him plenty to get frustrated about, although I can’t imagine what could be difficult about little ol’ sensitive me!

Despite our failings, we take a long-term view. And after 15 years, I think we’ve gotten to know one another better and learned some about forgiveness and about retaining a sense of humor. Sometimes I think it goes without saying that we are imperfect people who believe in the great tradition of marriage. But in the interest of disclosure, I’ll just come right out and say so. I want to be a positive voice for marriage, to learn more about how to love and be loved within a marriage union, and to share what I learn.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t have high standards for ourselves and for others. I am saying we shouldn’t expect perfection. Whether you are having a great day in your relationship or a “good enough” day, don’t compare yourself to what you think is going on in someone else’s marriage. Let good enough be good enough for today. (But work for something better.) Maybe tomorrow will be the day to have curl-your-toes sex.

Do you sometimes struggle for perfection in your relationship, only to be disappointed? Or do you think having the highest standards elevates your expectations and ultimately delivers better outcomes?

Photo Credit: ©Mat Hayward/PhotoXpress.com

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7 responses to “Just Say ‘No’ to Perfection in Marriage

  1. I do not think we should settle on trying for a “good enough” marriage. We should try to be perfect, that’s what will motivate us to make the necessary changes. Being “Good enough” can too easily be made into an excuse for not being better.

    • Hi Eric. I agree with you that being good enough in marriage is not enough long-term, but I think there are days when we are in conflict or for some reason not connecting. On those days, we should not give up but rather realize that we have enough and we should not expect perfection. While we can TRY to be perfect, I think we should realize we cannot achieve that. If we expect our spouse to be perfect, our expectations will be too high for them. (And visa versa) We should intentionally strive to be all that we can in marriage with the knowledge that we are all imperfect people who make mistakes. Thanks for your opinion.

  2. Hey, wow, John and Julie Gottman and I share the same philosophy! I’ll have to check them out.

    I personally think we need to re-learn to the old-fashioned skill of “settling” every once in a while. We’re told that we need to demand perfection, that “settling” is for the weak and unmotivated. I disagree. Striving for perfection is, in my mind, unrealistic and unhealthy.

    I am starting to think, though, that it varies somewhat from person to person. Some people tend not to try hard enough, and they need to be encouraged to try harder. Many people, however, are killing themselves with trying. They need to relax and settle. “Pretty good” is probably good enough.

    I like hearing a bit of your own voice, Lori. While I always love your posts and learn a lot from them, they’re not generally about you, and this time I enjoy hearing a little about your personal experiences. Despite what you think, I bet your personal marriage experiences are very interesting!

    • Thanks for the feedback, Kathleen. I tend to think (maybe wrongly) that folks would rather hear from third party research experts than me, but I will do my best to share some personal experiences. I know I enjoy hearing your stories–the whole ball of wax (literally). 😉

    • Also, I completely agree with you that the need to work harder or learn to settle is very individual and based on our propensity. I think I have very high standards for myself and others, so perhaps relaxing every so often is a welcome relief. Others may need a fire under their butts to get moving!

  3. Just for the record: the third-party research is also incredibly interesting, valuable, and helpful. You write about such interesting and important issues!

  4. For me personally I hold myself at an incredibly high standard, which involves my career, my life, and my relationship as well. I would like to be perfect and I’m pretty hard on myself when I’m not perfection. And I know it’s not going to be attainable, but I keep on pushing myself toward it, if that makes any sense. The strange thing is I never used to be a perfectionist, I didn’t care, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve expected so much more of myself and demanded it from every aspect of my life. I’m my own biggest critic.

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