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When Lisa and Chris met 10 years ago, Chris says his wife was fun and spontaneous. Now, he says her extreme Type A personality is starting to come between them. Though they both describe their marriage as stable, they also agree that it's stressful.

After Lisa gave birth to their two daughters, Chris says her perfectionism started causing problems. Lisa began to keep detailed spreadsheets and schedules, which track everything from what her daughters are eating to the family's budget. "I think it's unhealthy," Chris says. "It grinds on her. It makes her tired, irritable. It's not the person she is."

Gary says that Lisa's perfectionism is really a sign of something deeper. "Under anger is pain. Beneath the pain is fear—this basic fear of powerlessness," he says. "The same thing underlies any compulsive behavior, such as perfectionism."

How can Lisa discover what's causing her fear? The next time she feels the need to add something to a spreadsheet, Gary says she should stop and feel what she's feeling. "You'll feel a tremendous urge to get back and do it, but frustrate that need and feel the sensation," he says. "That will be a first step in moving towards your ability to be less controlled by this fear. ... That is spiritual growth. That's the development of self-mastery."
FROM: What Five Words Describe Your Marriage?
Published on January 24, 2007


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