How Can I Accept an Imperfect Marriage? In a relationship, trying to be perfect can cause you to fail to appreciate the positives. Consider ways of accepting yourself and your marriage as perfectly human. BY DR. NEIL FIORE
Every piece of your marriage doesn't have to be perfect for you to be happy.
Why do I obsess about making my marriage perfect?
Holding the popular, but fundamentally flawed belief that life should be a certain way––our way––leads to unnecessary pain and anger. If life isn’t going the way we think it should be going, we insist that it’s going wrong. Someone obviously made a mistake and should be blamed, criticized, and punished.
The simple fact is, to paraphrase Dr. Albert Ellis, if it should be different, it would be different, but reality is just the way it should be. Get used to it or stay frustrated, angry, and obsessed about finding a perfection that does not exist.
Comparing reality to some imagined perfection means that you are continually telling yourself "It should be perfect, but it’s not. The way it is, is bad. I should be perfect, but I’m not. The way I am is bad." Repeating this negative comparison and criticism dozens of times a day leads to the same depressing conclusion––everything is bad in comparison to how I say it should be.
The bigger problem is that once upon a time, when you were a perfect infant, everyone loved you unconditionally. All you heard was "Yes." Then, when you started to walk on your own and could run into the street, you heard your first "No." All too abruptly, acceptance and rewards became conditional upon good behavior that didn’t scare or embarrass your parents.
The faster you let go of hoping for a return of that magical time when you could make your mother smile and love you unconditionally, the faster you’ll be able to accept yourself and your relationship without demanding perfection and perfect control over the feelings of others.
What you can do to stop obsessing and start enjoying your spouse and marriage
Work toward a goal of improvement and excellence and it will bring you more realistic and effective results than striving for the impossible goal of perfection. Accept the truth: You are not perfect, you can't make your spouse perfect, and you are not in perfect control of what happens in the world or in your marriage.
Practice being grateful for what we have––the big stuff, the big picture, the 80 percent that's pretty, pretty good. Nothing in this world will comply 100 percent with your fantasies and goals. In fact, refusing to accept your human limits is what keeps you struggling for perfection and obsessing over small "mistakes," rather than enjoying the positive aspects of your marriage.
Your mind will slowly stop its obsessive search for ways to perfectly please your spouse when you tell it "Stop. I’ve let go of trying to be perfect. Focus on being human. By accepting myself, my spouse will be happy to see that I’m no longer making my marriage a contest to prove that I can create the perfect marriage."
Keep handy the Serenity Prayer––Grant me the serenity to accept what I can't change (and can't control), the courage to work on what I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Dr. Neil Fiore is a psychologist practicing in Berkeley, CA, a coach, a speaker, and author of Awaken Your Strongest Self: Break Free of Stress, Inner Conflict, and Self-Sabotage [McGraw-Hill, 2006]. His bestselling guide to overcoming procrastination, The Now Habit [Putnam, 2007], is revised and available at iTunes under "Audio books," and at www.audible.com. You can find Dr. Fiore's "Free Articles & Tips" at www.neilfiore.com. and a copy of Regardless Affirmations at neilfiore.blogspot.com.