This series will look at a small snippet of The book on the Perfectionist Personality, aka The Obsessive Compulsive disordered Personality, aka OCPD, each week. Please follow along, leave your comments, engage more on the FaceBook website... whatever your heart calls you to do.
Too Perfect, When Being in Control Gets Out of Control by Allan E. Mallinger, M.D. and Jeanette DeWyze was published by Random House in 1992. If you believe you are dealing with OCPD or someone who is "Too Perfect," whether that's you or a loved one, please buy a copy of the book and read it for additional insights that will not all be covered in these excerpts.
<snip> there is another variation of perfectionism: an exaggerated inclination to be upset over the flaws in other people or things. <snip>
While most people would prefer an ideal spouse to an imperfect one, they generally accept that much of life is imperfect, and they don't invest too much time or energy in fretting over minor flaws in their mates. If you're a critical obsessive, however, you're a true expert at finding fault with anything, and you can't help feeling upset over the shortcomings you find.
<snip> Sarah sadly admitted that her perfectionism had undermined several relationships: <snip> With her ex-husband, Edward, she morosely acknowledged," I was constantly on his back - criticizing his opinions, his appearance, the way he handled money, his interactions with our son. He finally started to keep things from me just to avoid my disapproval.
Ultimately, Edward grew resentful toward Sarah because he had come to feel so inhibited around her. His resentment then spilled into other aspects of their relationship. He lost interest in their sexual relationship and began spending less time with her. <snip> She became even more citical, perpetuating the problem.
Their five-year-old son, Jonathan, also felt belittled by Sarah's pickiness. <snip> When she praised an art project, or his performance at a Little League game, she couldn't help throwing in a hint as to how he might do better next time. When she watched him interact at a social event, her attention was always seduced by the things he didn't do well.
Upon reflection, Sarah could readily recognize the destructive impact of her constant fault-finding, but she felt powerless to change. She'd always been picky, to her this trait seemed an immovable pillar of her being, and she even took some pride in it. She saw herself as more discerning than most people. <snip>
If, like Sarah, you constantly focus on the negative, this tendency is likely to sabotage not only your relationships but also your general enjoyment of life. The speck on the glass not only catches your attention but also robs you of the pleasure of drinking from it. <snip> The thing you hear loudest is the static most people ignore.
I think as much or more than any other facet of OCPD, that pickiness can destroy a relationship. And as the author points out, many who have this trait take pride in it. They are more observant, they care more, they pay attention to things other people miss.
If you think some trait makes you superior to others, why would you try to overcome it? You won't. Though he would occasionally apologize for being too picky, my ex conveyed that he was doing so as a sop to my feelings, not because he truly believed there was anything wrong with his behavior. He, too, was proud of his "discernment."
Part of trust is feeling like you can expose your weaknesses to your partner, your friend, your parent, and that person still "has your back." I couldn't trust him, because he was untrustworthy. In the beginning, I shared with him some of my most intimate fears, doubts, and shame. Later, I realized it was not emotionally safe to disclose any fears, weaknesses or doubts to him, because they would - not might be, would - later be used as weapons against me.
When you are constantly criticized, though you know it's a facet of this disorder, and you "shouldn't" take it personally, it's pretty much impossible to block it all out. It's like standing in the pouring rain - even if you're wearing boots, a raincoat, and holding an umbrella, if it rains hard enough and you stand in it long enough, some of the wet is going to get through.
Most people like to spend time with... people who make them feel good. Being called an assortment of derogatory names on a daily basis, being constantly criticized for not being "good enough" by someone who is supposed to be on your side, is a love-killer. Generally not a sexual turn-on, either.
With my ex, I think partly he used sex to try to make up for the other ways he'd hurt me, but in the last few years... too much hurt, too many insults to be kissed away. In the end, I really didn't want him touching me, at all.
I shudder at the stories I've heard of children who were nitpicked by one or both of their OCPD parents. Never good enough. It's the kind of pain that haunts forever.
Have you had to battle pickiness, your own or someone else's?
Please, share how you overcame it, or learned to stop most of it.