She looked at me with tears streaming down her face; she couldn’t do it any longer.
After just a few short years of marriage, she needed a change.
Deep into a very heartfelt conversation, we began discussing the change she was seeking. It wasn’t clear, but what was clear is that she was looking for something.
The conversation lasted for awhile as conversations like this do. Finally, I looked at her and said, “What is it that you think I want?”
You may think this conversation was about the foundation of our marriage, but it wasn’t. My wife and I’s marriage was, and is healthy, and we love each other deeply. What wasn’t healthy was the constant sense of failing she was feeling.
We dug a little deeper into the heart of the matter, and we stumbled upon what I term: “The perfect wife complex.” This is defined as the need to strive to be something that only TV and novels tell us about. Or perhaps, a comparison role that existed in the 1940’s when life was much different from what it is today.
I asked her to define what she thought the perfect wife looked like.
She couldn’t define it.
Nothing was enough: the house wasn’t clean enough, meals weren’t rated a 10 out of 10 enough, laundry was never caught up enough, she couldn’t entertain well enough; nothing was ever enough, and it was too overwhelming to keep striving for something.
I remember looking into her eyes, smiling (because I loved her enough) and saying,
“If you can’t define the perfection you aim to seek, you’ll never achieve it.”
Perfectionism always leaves you, desperately, wanting more. Just like cancer, it seeps into your life, undetected and unannounced, then one day spreads and begins to destroy. It’s a killer, and often a silent one: it kills dreams, it kills hope, it kills ideas, it kills goals, it kills romance, and yes, it can kill relationships.
From that day on, everything changed. She recognized that the perfection she was seeking was, not only, unobtainable, but it wasn’t something I wanted or expected of her.
Together, we killed the perfect wife complex because we defined what we wanted her role to be.
If you struggle to achieve in your life and you always feel as if you’re never getting “there,” this could be an indicator that your role or goals haven’t been defined, or what has been defined is so unachievable that they should be reconsidered.