How are you as a Christian wife to handle your perfectionist husband? Do you sometimes dread the moment you hear his car pull up in the drive way, because within 30 seconds of him being in the door he will find five things to complain about?
Why God makes perfectionists
It is not a mistake that there are perfectionist people out there. It is by the design of God. There are many professions that demand a person of a perfectionist mindset. Perfectionists are detail oriented, and typically well disciplined. These types of qualities come in vary handy for military jobs as well science and engineering jobs.
Perfectionists are often great planners and organizers. If a perfectionist is good planner or organizer, these traits are not necessarily bad to bring into the home, in fact they can be beneficial, if applied in a loving and flexible way. The trick is, leaving room for differences. For instance, the perfectionist husband can often be tempted to have every detail of a vacation planned out, when maybe there needs to be some room left for spontaneity in a vacation.
My father is a perfectionist. He has worked as an aircraft parts inspector for many years and he is very good at his job finding flaws in aircraft parts he inspects. If my father were not such a perfectionist, the air planes on which his parts go might crash and people would die. God gave him the ability to be meticulous when he needs to be.
The negative hallmarks of a perfectionist
Being organized or wanting things done a certain way is not always the mark of perfectionist or a negative thing. But it is the inflexibility, the impatience, and the lack of mercy and grace toward those around them that mark the perfectionist. Perfectionists are often plagued by anxiety and insomnia because no one around them seems to live up to their expectations (including themselves) and they don’t know how to handle the imperfections in the world around them.
Perfectionist tendencies need to be left outside the home and personal relationships
My father had to learn the hard way early in his marriage and when we were growing up, that some of the perfectionist tendencies that made him a great worker, would make him a terrible husband and father if he brought them home with him. Occasionally these tendencies would start creeping back in, and my mother would have to lovingly remind him that we were not parts in his plant, but that we were his family whom he loved.
A perfectionist husband needs to leave his perfectionism at the door of his home. It should never come into his marriage or into how he interacts with and parents his children.
Our heavenly father is not a perfectionist toward us
I want to make something very clear. God is perfect, but God does not act as a perfectionist toward us in the relationship he desires with us. Some Christian teachers over the centuries have incorrectly tried to say that God is a perfectionist toward us with passages like this (and others in the Bible):
“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.”
But the idea God is trying to communicate in these passages, is for us to be “complete” in him. He wants us to walk with him, and to be complete in him. God does not want us to sin, but God knows we are sinners. Listen to God’s compassion here:
“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”
Being a compassionate husband and father, is the opposite of being a perfectionist husband and father. Your husband cannot be both. In the same way God recognizes our frailties and weaknesses, so too a husband ought to recognize these things with his wife and his children and be gracious about these things.
When your perfectionist husband criticizes you for trivial things, he is not acting in a loving and compassionate way. God wants husbands to love their wives and in those moments of criticism he is doing the opposite of what God has asked him to do toward you.
So how do you handle your perfectionist husband?
First of all as a Christian wife remember that two wrongs never make a right. It may be very tempting for you lash out at your husband’s perfectionist tendencies. But if you are unkind and disrespectful to him, God may not bless your attempts to bring these issues to his attention. It would be a mistake for you to try and take on the role of teacher to your husband, because he is your authority. But there is nothing wrong with those who are under authority conveying in respectful ways their grievances with their authorities.
“If I have denied justice to any of my servants, whether male or female, when they had a grievance against me, what will I do when God confronts me?
What will I answer when called to account? Did not he who made me in the womb make them?
Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?”
So if God wants masters to humble themselves and hear grievances from their servants (as we see here in Job 31), how much more should a husband be willing to hear respectful grievances from his wife?
Let me give you an example. Let’s say you are cooking dinner for your husband and family. Your husband comes into the kitchen and begins complaining about how messy of a cook you are. He says something like “hey when I cook, there is no splatter on the stove, and I am careful how I stir and I clean and put away things as I am cooking, why do you have to leave everything out to clean up at some later point?”
You first instinct might be rage – you are justifiably feeling “how dare you come in here while I making our family a meal, and criticize the way I cook and tell me your way is better? How ungrateful! Why don’t you just cook the rest of this meal yourself?”
It might feel great to get that off your chest in that manner and storm off. But instead of losing it I admonish you to try this instead.
Ignore what he has said, say nothing to him in response.
If he asks why you are not saying anything, just calmly let him know you are trying to finish dinner and that you and he need to talk later.
Let him sit and think about what he has said to you, let him wonder what you will say to him later. After dinner is done and everyone has eaten, ask him to go to your bedroom or some private place away from the kids. This is where you can share your feelings and feel free to cry and let your feelings out in front of him. Being respectful, does not mean being unemotional.
Let him know how much it hurts you when he criticizes how you do cook.
Don’t fall for the perfectionist husband’s justifications
When you try to address your husband’s perfectionist tendencies be prepared for these three justifications in defense of his perfectionist ways:
His way is “the better way” or “the right way”
He might just try and tell you he was just trying to show you a better way, or the right way to cook. You need to let him know that his way might be what he thinks is the best way to cook, but you do not think his way is better and he needs to accept that.
His way is not so hard
He might try and say his way is easier, or what he is asking you to do is not so hard, so why can’t you just do it the way he does? Again you need to respectfully let him know that you are not purposefully trying to upset him, you just have your way of cooking and he has his.
Why do you just want to keep doing things you know upset him?
This is the final weapon many perfectionist husbands will pull out if all other attempts fail. “Why do you cook this way, or leave your tooth brush this way, or leave your clothes on the floor if you know it upsets me so much?” This is the perfectionist’s attempt to put you on a guilt trip, to make you feel that each and everything you do that is not done their way, is a personal attack on them.
You need to let him know that when you are cooking, you are not doing it differently to make him upset. You are doing it that way because it works best for you.
If you accidentally leave some clothing on the floor, or leave a cereal box on the counter, you were not doing it to upset him. You simply forgot to put the cereal away, or you missed the clothes hamper.
Whenever something is out of place, or you do something different than he would have done it, you need to gently and respectfully remind him that you are not him.
He has his way of brushing his teeth, and you have yours.
He has his way of folding clothes, and you have yours.
He has his way of cooking, and you have yours.
He has his way of driving, and you have yours.
I could go on with a 1000 examples of small things, but you get the point.
What is not a perfectionist husband?
Sometimes a wife may falsely accuse her husband of being a perfectionist. These false accusations of perfectionism usually come from lazy or rebellious wives. I know that it’s not easy sometimes as a wife and mom to keep up your home. There are just going to be those days where you feel like you were not able to get anything done because you were a mom-taxi cab or because of other things that happen with the kids.
But while I don’t think a husband should be coming home yelling at his wife, if a wife is lazy and sits around watching soaps all day and does nothing he has a right to say something (and as the head of his home, he must say something). But it needs to be done in the right way and this is not being a perfectionist husband. I will get more into this topic of lazy housewives in another post.
If your husband has rules for your children, you need to enforce those rules even if you don’t agree. Your husband is not being a perfectionist for expecting that you will enforce the family rules when he is not around. Of course there needs to be a place for mercy and grace when children break family rules but children do need discipline.
What I am NOT saying to Christian wives who are married to perfectionist husbands
I am not saying a Christian wife does not have to submit to and obey her husband. He is the authority in the home by the design of God. As I have said on other posts, a wife should listen to her husband as to how she keeps her hair, or what styles of clothing she wears and in many other areas she should seek his counsel. Especially when it comes to moral decisions of the home, she needs to follow his leadership.
What I am saying to Christian wives who are married to perfectionist husbands
But let’s face it, how a person cooks is not a moral issue. The way a person brushes their teeth is not a moral issue. Clothing not making it to the hamper is not a moral issue. The perfectionist husband cannot differentiate between these types of insignificant things, and truly important things that have moral consequences.
As a Christian wife, you need to in a loving and respectful way, be a helpmeet to your husband and help him not to be a perfectionist toward you or your children.
Related article: How to handle a perfectionist wife