This series looks 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.
GUARDED WITH MONEY
I find that many obsessives harbor a fear of being exploited financially - one component of an overall tendency to be guarded with money. Frugality may take many forms, including the following:
More than just the fear of being taken inspires the obsessive's tendency to be guarded with money. Many people learn early in childhood that saving is a virtue; they may come to associate it with out "good" characteristics such as self-denial and the postponement of pleasure for long-term rewards. <snip>
- A reluctance to spend money on anything but true necessities.
- The need to get the very best buy - regardless of how much time and effort are expended in shopping for it.
- A reluctance to disclose how much was spent for something - either because someone might judge that the buyer was "taken," or think that he had a lot of money and an easy life, or that he had been unduly extravagant.
- A refusal to make personal loans - or, if a loan is made, the lender tracks it vigilantly - even if only in his own mind.
- Feelings of utter outrage if some product or service purchased turns out to be flawed.
- Pride in making one's possessions last a long time.
GUARDED AGAINST SPONTANEITY
Another form of interpersonal guardedness is the inability to act spontaneously. By definition, spontaneity means an absence of planning, anathema to most obsessives. "I'm not even sure how to take a risk," said fifty-year old Jim. "Before I do anything, I think about it every which way. before I buy something, I've gotten prices at five different places. I get things all figured out so I know which way to go, no matter what happens. I don't like to get anywhere close to situations where I don't have a lot of control; I can never just be."
<snip> When there aren't any guidelines, they feel uncomfortable. Many complain that they aren't good at small talk, and they may even avoid parties for that reason. Instead they choose their words slowly and carefully; even their casual conversations may seem scripted. One patient declared that unpremeditated talk scared her because of the possibility that "some kind of real feelings - weak feelings - may come out." <snip>
Ahh, frugality. I am still struggling to overcome the training whereby one kept one's paper napkin as clean as possible, so it could be repeatedly reused.***
Almost everyone who's lived with an OCPD'r has some horror story of the couch/car/mattress That Could Not Be Bought until we had checked thirteen kajillion places, and then dithered over the decision SO long that the process had to begin again. Burning up three gallons of gas to drive to BF Nowhere to save twenty-five cents on a gallon of milk or loaf of bread.
And nothing could be thrown out. "We might need that some day!" It took several years and bitter fighting to get rid of the non-functional TV sitting on the bedroom floor. After the TV in the living room went out, I said, "Okay, now's the time to take the spare TV and get it fixed."
"I'm not sure it's worth getting fixed."
"Well, take it in and find out."
"I don't want to waste the money."
"Dude. The reason it is here (along with a second "spare" TV, in storage) is as a spare if we need one. Now we need one. It's time to either fix it and use it, as a spare, or if we're not going to do that, it needs to go away. I am tired of vacuuming around it."
He conceded there was nothing wrong with my logic, but it still took another six months of agonizing before he was able to junk it. And he bitterly resented my "making" him get rid of the old TV. (While I resented having to live for 3 years with a broken TV on the floor of the bedroom and another one in storage.)
There's nothing wrong with saving money. I was raised in a household where gift wrap was carefully peeled off presents and reused repeatedly. Where we recycled everything - even jar labels were carefully soaked off and included in the stacks of newspapers to go for paper recycling - and of course, the jars themselves were sorted and turned in: clear, brown, and green glass. I still am big on recycling, but those with OCPD...
And the spontaneity. My ex told me in the beginning he didn't like surprises. I assumed (wrongly) he meant stuff like people jumping up and saying "Boo!" (which is actually quite mean, IMO) or birthday surprise parties, stuff like that. No. Anything unexpected freaked him out. Like me coming home from the grocery store with a different kind of meat to try, or a package of Hawaiian sweet rolls (which he liked) - the horror! "Where are we going to put those?"
Forget about friends just stopping by (except his single best childhood friend) and hanging out. Although, oddly enough, we were able to take a road trip that was largely unplanned, the idea being drive up the coast as far as we felt like, then get a hotel wherever we wanted to spend the night. We had some minor meltdowns along the way, but for the most part, had a good time. Some others with OCPD'rs report on vacation, it's like they've left the OCPD behind. (Where for others, the obsessive behavior and meltdowns are greatly magnified.)
His fear/loathing of spontaneity carried over into things like loveplay in the kitchen. There was no "surprise" affection, no kisses just because you happen to be passing the other person in the hall - at least from him to me, and I soon learned that those from mine to him upset him terribly.
Makes me sad because while I could say, okay, we're different people, whatever makes him happy... But it didn't make him happy. I was lonely, not getting the kind of affection I wanted, being discouraged from giving the kind of affection I wanted to give - and he was lonely, too. After the "honeymoon" period, I became painfully aware he didn't believe I loved him, didn't trust that my love would last. For so long I struggled to show him in every way I could how much I did love him, thinking surely some how, some way, I would break through, and he would feel secure in my love, and then things would get better.
If he could have accepted (not simply tolerated, but appreciated, enjoyed) spontaneous loveplay or passing kisses, would he have felt more loved?