“No one’s expecting everything to be perfect,” he says. Leaning on the counter, he shrugs his shoulders, a familiar symbol of his personality. He eats a handful of candy, unperturbed.
I’m ready to scream. “Look around,” I reply. “Everything’s a disaster. The family arrives in two hours. It needs to be perfect.”
As I take my own advice, peering around our home, I only see problems. The carpet needs scrubbed because our mastiff stamped muddy paw prints on the once-clean carpet. The dessert table needs re-organized for easier access. We need to tackle the tower of dishes, arrange decorations, and align the chairs. Lists of tasks need to be completed... and perfected.
“Relax,” my husband says. “It’s fine. No one’s going to notice the things you’re panicking about.”
And I know he’s right. My obsessive worrying over details won’t make our decking of the halls happier. A straightened hand towel in the bathroom or a perfectly arranged dessert table won’t put the merry in our holiday.
So, snatching a candy from him, I breathe deeply and do the one thing I’ve struggled with my whole life—I accept the fact nothing has to be perfect.
From the time we met in junior high art class, my husband and I have been exact opposites.
I’m the uptight one, embarrassingly so. I’m the girl who sat in the front row and panicked if she didn’t get a 100% on every test. I’m the girl who carefully plotted out her entire life from the age of twelve, making sure every aspect within my control—and sometimes not in my control—was meticulously arranged. I worried constantly about grades, the future, and every interaction I had with everyone.
My husband, on the other hand, was the free spirit. He celebrated a 70% on a test. He worried about tomorrow... well, tomorrow, if then. “Good enough” wasn’t only a part of his vocabulary—it was his life motto.
I was the stress to his relaxation, the planning to his flexibility, and the worry to his carefree tendencies.
Even at twelve, it seemed like we were too different to ever function as friends let alone as a unit. But I guess that’s the funny thing about love—it doesn’t always seem to make rational sense.
So, long story short, the perfectionist fell in love with the go-with-the-flow guy, we got engaged, we got married, and we found our very different selves melding our lives together.
Let’s be clear—I’m not claiming to be perfect. In fact, as any perfectionist understands, it is the lack of perfection that is the driving force behind my often obsessive actions. The mere understanding that perfection is unattainable is anxiety-inciting.
Let’s also be clear in the fact that perfectionist tendencies aren’t always a bad thing. Through my life, my desire to achieve perfection has allowed me to reach many of my lofty goals, to create a life path for myself that I’m happy with, and to chase after challenges. It has created a tenacity in me that is a part of who I am. I never want to completely lose that.
Nonetheless, at twenty-nine, I’ve come to realize that the perfectionist lifestyle isn’t practical. Life is unpredictable and quite stressful. It’s much harder than I could’ve ever realized.
I’ve learned that by focusing on perfection, I’ve set myself up for disappointment in not only myself, but life in general. The stress of trying to master all areas of life exhausts one to a debilitating level. I’ve shed many tears and sprouted quite a few premature gray hairs in my desire for the unobtainable.
Most importantly, as I age, I’ve come to realize perfectionist tendencies prevent us from appreciating the fundamental beauties of life because I’m always focused on what’s wrong instead of what’s right.
The Marriage Cure
Marrying a man who is decidedly and intentionally an anti-perfectionist has, in many ways, toned down my rampant perfectionism.
And I’m so thankful for it.
His flexibility and “good enough” attitude has rubbed off on me by default. His life perspective has helped me realize a perfectly clean house for a party does not equate to a better party. I’ve learned that small failures aren’t the end of the world, and that there truly is always a silver lining. I’ve come to understand that accumulating successes isn’t the only thing life is about—it’s about laughing, having fun, and finding a sense of peace with what is.
It’s not just during the holidays, either, that he helps me overcome my obsessive nature. Last year at this time, I received some hateful mail over a typo in one of my published articles. As a perfectionist, I was outraged—at myself. I spent hours agonizing and beating myself up. How could I miss that? How could I let that typo slip? I was traveling down the perfectionist spiral.
He saved me from my own head and reminded me of something I’ve struggled to accept—I’m human, which means mistakes are okay. He helped me see that sometimes you just have to accept that “it is what it is” and move on.
In many ways, our marriage has brought about a balancing act. As much as he’s helped cure my extreme perfectionism, I’ve reminded him that some things are worth worrying about. He’s learned that tenaciously attacking challenges can drive you toward your dreams.
Life is always about balance. It’s about finding a sense of peace with what actually is and what you want. It will never be perfect, and neither will we.
Still, I’ve come to realize that the whole, cheesy opposites attract thing... well, it’s real, and I’m glad for that. Most of all, my marriage has shown me that sometimes just “good enough” is, in fact, good enough.
Lindsay Detwiler is a published contemporary romance author with Hot Tree Publishing. Learn more about her works by visiting www.lindsaydetwiler.com.