“My partner is a perfectionist”


Exclusive Excerpts from “The Wounded Healer” by Andy Chaleff

In This Story: A looking glass view into an archetype that holds: “My partner is a perfectionist.”

Lisa and Nick are in a negative reinforcing loop. Lisa wants space to make sure that she gets it “right,” while Nick wants her to simply get started. We see how they navigate their struggles and, at the same time, learn how Lisa makes peace with her desire for perfection.

Exploring the Series: Through understanding and reclamation, freedom and radical self-love are found. This series of 20 stories explores the facets of blocks that get in the way of loving ourselves.

“We are all just walking each other home.” 
–Ram Dass


After spending three days in Seattle, I continue my journey to Portland. I deviate from the straight drive to meander through a set of mountain ranges. 

The day before, a massive fire has consumed much of the area. The ground is still smoldering and I can feel the radiant heat as I approach the embers. There have been so many fires in California over the last few years, but I have never seen the devastation firsthand. The strange feeling of death comes over me. I feel the weight of the loss of so much. Then I realize that in a few years, this place will once again be thriving. 

I come to visit Nick, whom I met for the first time about six months earlier at a training I gave in northern California. When I arrive at his house, I meet his wife, Lisa, and their son, Luke. Nick had warned me before I arrived that they were struggling in their marriage. They ask if I might be able to assist.

I am welcomed with great warmth. We sit and we have breakfast together. Nick and Lisa are very reactive to each other. Lisa says, “I am thinking that I am going to start a yoga practice.” 

Nick is clearly triggered. “Just begin with it,” he mutters. 

I see a vicious circle of triggers. I can hear the judgment in my head: He does not trust that she will follow through. I do what I always do and ask if we can move past the content of the story and discuss the process. I distinguish these two spaces because it is often in the content that people get lost. If I am focused on how to make my point and convince you, it’s not very likely that you will feel seen and understood. 

I ask both if I can express my observations of triggers. I ask if we can use the triggers to understand the dynamic that is forming. I explain, “I don’t care what the story is. I just want to make sure you do not lose one another when you get triggered.

“When you fall into the old pattern, you will find that you move further and further away from one another. My desire would be for you to never get stuck when you are with one another. You don’t need to agree, but there is no reason you should lose connection in the process.”


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I explain that, in my experience, expectations in relationships become a real problem when they go unseen. Especially in the heat of an argument. I point out the triggers over and over again so they can see how they are reacting not to what is being said, but to an expectation they have of one another. Usually this expectation is not even conscious. It’s simply a reaction that goes on without reflection. 

I came to realize a long time ago that when a relationship is struggling to survive, each side is longing for something. Usually that longing goes unseen and the other is blamed for it when it is missing. Quite ironically, the thing that each one is lacking is rarely being given to the other. So it usually ends up that each person blames the other for exactly the thing they are not giving the other. Each wants to feel seen and understood, but they are not giving that understanding to their partner. Instead, they are often neglecting the other’s feelings and consequently pushing them away in the process. 

This goes back to the reason why that process is so important. If we stay true to the process, we find we can always assure that our partner feels seen, and therefore remains in connection throughout the interaction. To discuss issues when out of connection tends to compound the problem and does not set an example of how all issues can be solved. It is the difference between simply dealing with the symptom and fundamentally solving the problem. 

In this case, Lisa tells me, “I have suffered from depression for many years. I’ve had a hard time nailing down what I want to be doing with my life.” 

She has spent years of training in yoga and nutrition. She is clearly intelligent and emotionally aware, but she is lacking self-confidence. She says over and over again, “There are many people far better than myself in the field,” and, “I need to complete further training before I can call myself qualified.”

This is a phrase that I have become all too accustomed to hear throughout my years as a mentor: “There is one thing I need before I can start.” This tends to land in a perpetual cycle of procrastination that leads nowhere. “I need a website.” “I need a physical location.” “I need a pamphlet.” Unfortunately, once that one thing is achieved, there tends to be another thing that becomes the next hurdle. 

Nick is seeing the pattern, and yet he is not clear how to deal with it. He wants his wife to succeed. He wants to support her. Yet he sees that continually giving her more and more support is only validating the impediments Lisa is putting in her own way. 

The more he tries to point it out, the more tension builds between them. I understand his tension, and at the same time, I understand how it feels to be so insecure to start. You feel like an imposter, teaching something that you, yourself, have just learned. 


Andy is offering his exceptional coaching as a gift to experience this body of work and new book. Any of the free digital workshop dates below:

“Become Your Own Healer Workshop: making peace with your emotional trigger” on Eventbrite.


I ask Lisa if she’ll be open to investigating what is behind her beliefs. I see Nick getting very enthusiastic. He is hoping he can leverage my support to move Lisa past her limiting beliefs. I ask Lisa, as I often do, “What’s going on?” 

She explains that the last two years have not been easy for her. She has had a hard time with her self-confidence. She says, “I have studied these things but I am not good enough to actually charge money for doing them. There are others that are more qualified than I am.” 

As she speaks, I see Nick in the background vibrating with a palpable intensity. He finally explodes. “There she goes again, saying everything she can’t do and not doing anything in the end.”

I interrupt my talk with Lisa, who clearly feels unsafe, and turn to Nick. I ask Nick to heighten his attention to what is going on. I explain that this is the exact moment where he loses contact with his wife and alienates her. Although he believes he sees something in his wife’s behavior, he is stuck in the content. I ask him to pull back into the process once again. 

I ask, “What’s going on?” 

He replies, “She’s always said this, but nothing changes.” 

I respond, “I understand it’s been that way in the past. But behaving this way will most certainly guarantee that it will remain this way in the future. No one wants to be pointed at and told, ‘I don’t trust you.’ It tends to push people away and decrease their limited confidence. In many ways, you are creating this reality by imposing your beliefs on her. You inadvertently have guided the outcome through your behavior.” 

He understands and settles, which gives me some time to support the dynamic between them. I am coaching two things at once: Lisa’s lack of self-confidence and Nick’s judgment of it. 

As he slows down, the two begin to reflect on the unproductive pattern that’s formed between them. I ask him if he will be open to reflect on the moment when he gets triggered. I say, “If nothing else, it will make it impossible to support Lisa.”

I also share that I cannot continue if every time I help Lisa overcome an emotional obstruction he chimes in with, “See, I told you.” I know my work would be in vain. He agrees and we continue. 

I turn back to Lisa and ask, “What are you uncomfortable about?” 

She says, “I am not as good as many others that are doing the same thing.” 

I say, “Clearly, that will always be the case. It’s also the case for me. So why is there a problem with that?” 

She says, “I want to get it perfect before I start something.”

I say, “Yeah, of course we’d all want to get it perfect.” But then I ask, “How does getting it perfect stop you from actually getting anything done?” 

She admits that for years she’s been trying to get it right. To get it perfect. She tells me there is a voice in her head telling her that she isn’t good enough. I ask if we can take another step deeper into this.

I ask, “What are some of the things you are worried about if you don’t get it perfect?” 

She tells me she’d love to give yoga classes but she hasn’t done it for quite some time.

I laugh and say, “Wonderful. We’re going to start giving yoga classes.” I see her whole body recoil at the thought that she might now be forced to do something uncomfortable. I ask, “So why not just do it?” 

Again, she says, “I would need to get another certification before I’d be comfortable doing that.”

I say, “There’s nothing wrong with you getting the certification. But how about offering some classes before, so you can grow and begin to build up some level of confidence?”

Again, she recoils, feeling as if she is going to be put into an uncomfortable position. She isn’t happy about that. I don’t want to push, so I ask her permission to try something together. I ask, “What is it that you are most frightened to say?” 

She says, “I am not a good yoga instructor.” 

I reply, “How about if we take that a little bit further and say, ‘I am a shitty yoga instructor.’”

She looks at me with big, confused eyes. “I can’t say that.” 

I say, “Just give it a try. Allow yourself to say it and feel what it feels like to let that be.”

She says again, “I can’t say that. I can’t say that.” 

Then we wait in silence. Slowly she builds up her voice and says, “I am a shitty yoga instructor. I am a shitty yoga instructor. I am a shitty yoga instructor.” 

I then ask her to repeat the same phrase, only this time adding, “And it’s okay.”

She begins to repeat it, taking a pause between each sentence. “I am a shitty yoga instructor, and it’s okay. I am a shitty yoga instructor, and it’s okay. I am a shitty yoga instructor, and it’s okay.” 

As she slowly repeats the sentence and feels deeper into the acceptance of it, the fear and anxiety of needing to be perfect is slowly melting. The thought that once dominated her thinking is loosening its grip. 

She keeps repeating the phrase. I can see her eyes looking upwards at the corners of the room with an inquisitive gaze. Something is going on, but she can’t quite put her finger on it. She laughs and says, “How is it that being okay with being a shitty yoga instructor makes it so much easier?” 

She slowly repeats the phrase with wonder. Almost as if she is looking inside her own mind to try and figure out what is going on in there. I say, “Instead of just being okay with it, you could take one more step and say, ‘I love it. It’s great.’”

“I am a shitty yoga instructor, and it’s great. I am a shitty yoga instructor, and I love it.” She laughs at the space she has created for herself. 

The thought of trying to be a perfect yoga instructor was killing her, and now she is free to just be. Undefined by perfection. 

I now ask, “How do you feel about giving courses now?” 

As if she is an entirely different person she says, “Well, since I am a shitty yoga instructor, I guess I have nothing more to lose.”

“So are you ready to start your courses?” I ask. 

She replies, “Yes.” 

Two days later I receive a text with a thank you. She recognizes she is now free to be whomever she wants and do whatever she wants. She no longer needs to defend or protect around the fear that she isn’t good enough. 

That solves the challenge regarding her and her professional journey, but it doesn’t yet deal with the challenges between the two. The next day, I ask Nick if he wants to reflect on how his behavior has been separating him from Lisa. 

He says, “Yes.” 

I ask, “What happens to you when she talks about these things and you feel as if nothing’s going to happen?”

He says, “I get frustrated and then the frustration turns into anger and resentment.”

I ask him, “How’s that working for you?” 

He says, “It’s not.” 

I ask, “Well, what’s an alternative?”

He looks puzzled and shrugs his shoulders. “I don’t know. What is it?” 

I ask, “Before you get angry, what happens inside of you? Before the frustration comes up. What’s the first thing that happens?”

He says, “I feel helpless. I feel incapable. I want to help. But I can’t.”

I ask him, “What happens when you allow yourself to speak from that space, instead of the anger and frustration?” 

I see him sit in wonder. There is a calm that comes over him. “It’s vulnerable,” he says. 

I can see in his eyes that he knows there is a truth but it isn’t easy for him to wean himself off the addiction to blame others for his frustration. 

He says, “If I spoke from my incapacity it would actually bring us closer together. It would allow me to support Lisa in her journey without excluding myself and my own feelings.”

I say, “Wow, that sounds great! Let’s try it now. Nick, Lisa’s now saying she’s going to do something and you’re quite sure that she’s not. What are you going to do?”

He says, “Lisa, when you speak I feel myself get very uncomfortable. I know that you say that you’re going to do this or that, but in the past we’ve had similar discussions, and I want to support you, but it’s hard because I feel like it hasn’t gone anywhere. I want to support you but I don’t know how.” 

I can see from Lisa’s face that she can see that Nick isn’t judging her. He is just sharing his own struggle. She does not respond as she has in the past when she felt Nick was pointing things out in order to force her to see it. He isn’t imposing it upon her.

She says, “Yes, I can understand why you’d say that. How would you feel about supporting me there?”

I interrupt. I see that this is a trap that Lisa isn’t aware of. I say, “You can’t delegate self-discipline. This is something that you’ll need to dedicate to yourself. You can’t ask someone else to manage that for you. Instead you can tell Nick what you are planning to do and ask him if he could support you in that. When he sees you’re not doing it, he can point it out. You keep the agency over your own life, instead of delegating it to Nick and having him take responsibility for your determination.”

They both smile because they see how they can quickly create codependency if they make the other responsible for their ambitions. I ask if she can phrase it in a way that takes responsibility and invites support from Nick. She replies, “I commit to taking action in getting these courses arranged. I ask you to support me if you see me not continually taking action in that direction.” 


See What Experts Are Saying Below About “The Wounded Healer: A Journey in Radical Self-Love”, Now Available on Amazon


Nick is anxious and replies hastily, “In the past when I have brought my concerns to you, you have felt judged and it has become a fight.”

I ask him to feel into the insecurity we discussed earlier and try to say the same thing again. He pauses, slows down and says, “Knowing in the past that I have sometimes tried this and it hasn’t worked, how can I make sure to do it differently, so I don’t trigger you?”

She smiles and says, “Well, do me a favor and bring it forward as you’re bringing it forward to me now. I can see you and I don’t feel judged.” 

They both laugh and smile, then hug, happy to have discovered a new approach to communicating with one another.

They ask, “Andy, we don’t want to lose this. What rules can we lay down?”

I say, “I can’t tell you what to do, but I can certainly tell you what not to do. You will need to break the pattern. Whenever you’re triggered, don’t fall into the trap. Don’t react without consciousness.” 

Nick says, “I can’t guarantee that I am not going to get triggered.” 

I say, “I certainly hope you do. This isn’t about stopping your triggers. It’s about how you deal with it the moment you see it happening. The real question is, how willing are you to put your ego aside at the moment you’re triggered, and allow yourself to share vulnerability instead of frustration and anger?”

He says, “I am dedicated to doing that.”

I then say, “Okay, so if you set up the rules, then what would they be?” 

Nick answers, “The first rule would be I no longer accept that I react from a state of being triggered. Then the second rule is when I am triggered, I’ll share my incapacity instead of my frustration. And the third rule is that I will listen to everything the other person has to say, without interruption. They must feel completely seen and heard. I won’t speak until they feel that they’ve expressed themselves completely. After they’ve expressed themselves completely, I will share what I believe I heard and then add whatever it is that I feel might complement what they have said. I won’t just be silent and wait for my opportunity to speak, as I have done in the past.”

I agree. “If you’re not listening to the other person, but rather waiting for them to finish talking so you can make your point, you’re not really listening. You’re just holding back, but that’s not really listening. It’s a technique and people can sense it.”

I ask them to truly listen to one another. Of course, listening begins by first not reacting unconsciously to triggers. And when we’re truly listening, we don’t know what our next question will be until we feel it. Our questions do not push people in any direction, but rather help the other get more connected to themselves and thereby clearer on the challenge they are facing. For example: “What’s going on with __________? How is that impacting you? How open are you to looking at alternatives at the moment? Would you possibly consider ____________? How might I be able to support you in that regard?”

Through such questions, a powerful process of self-discovery occurs. Once we put our egos aside and no longer react from triggers, we begin to see one another. It’s here that people see and feel seen. They are no longer trying to win an argument, but rather seek to get closer.


Andy Chaleff is one of our heroes in the profound work of healing our world’s heart.

He is an acclaimed author, motivational speaker, talk show host of “A Wonderful Chaos”, a conscious business advisor, and a beloved mentor to many.

He dropped everything and devotionally toured across America for three months holding “Last Letter” healing circles for a wide array of communities to safely explore the depths of their grief, giving people permission to release suffering and move forward with an opened and unburdened heart. 

This recent body of work, “The Wounded Healer”, showcases personal stories of breakthroughs where most people deprive themselves of self-love. We are honored to showcase excerpts from this transformational series. A voice of clarity and wholeness in our transitional time

This recent body of work, “The Wounded Healer”, showcases personal stories of breakthroughs where most people deprive themselves of self-love. We are honored to showcase excerpts from this transformational series. A voice of clarity and wholeness in our transitional time

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