FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Perfectionism and Your Marriage: Faith Chang

with Faith Chang | July 9, 2024
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Is perfectionism impacting your marriage? Your parenting? Listen to part 2 of Faith Chang's conversation with Dave and Ann Wilson on perfectionism's impact on your family — and practical ways to find grace and peace in imperfection.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Is perfectionism impacting your marriage? Or parenting? Faith Chang saw the impact of perfectionism on her family—and offers insights on breaking free.

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Perfectionism and Your Marriage: Faith Chang

With Faith Chang
July 09, 2024
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Dave: One of the tensions in our marriage from day one is still there. Do you know what I’m going to say?

Ann: No.

Dave: Well, we started the conversation yesterday about perfectionism. I was thinking about how that plays out in our marriage. We talked a little bit about it yesterday—

Ann: —you mean because I’m so laid back?

Dave: You are so laid back. [Laughter] You just don’t even care about anything. “Let’s just wing it again today.” [Laughter]

Shelby: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Shelby Abbott, and your hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson. You can find us at

This is FamilyLife Today!

Dave: That’s been the tension, is that—

Ann: —I’m not that.

Dave: You have high standards, and you are driving really hard. I’m not saying that I don’t, but I tend to have more of a, “Let’s just go with the flow. That was good enough. Let’s move on.” Even the yard, you know: “The yard looks great.”

If I snow blow the driveway in Michigan, you want me to snow blow five more neighbors’ [yards] before I come in. It’s never good enough. That’s been a tension.

Ann: For sure, it’s been a tension. Part of it is personality difference, background difference.

Dave: Yes.

Ann: There are so many things that make us different. I think, when we are dating, we really enjoy those differences—

Dave: [Laughter] —yes.

Ann: —and then, when we get married, it’s a tension in the marriage. It’s hard. I love that you are so laid back.

Dave: Anyway, we have Faith Chang back in the studio, who is a self-proclaimed Christian perfectionist, right Faith?

Faith: Yes.

Dave: Sort of?

Faith: Yes, more than sort of.

Dave: You don’t want to say that with pride, do you?

Faith: No.

Dave: It’s not a bad thing. This actually could be a really good thing, right?

Faith: I mean—hmm. [Laughter] Complicated question. Yes, the striving for perfection can be a really good thing. Yes, that’s true.

Ann: Your book is called—I love this—Peace Over Perfection; because as a perfectionist, that peace part can feel evasive. It can feel like, “I want that so much,” but because of perfectionism, sometimes it’s hard to get there.

I think this is what we are all longing for: toenjoy a good God when you feel like you're not good enough. That’s the subtitle, and I love that because it plays into our spiritual lives. We talked a lot about that yesterday.

Dave: Yes, so let’s talk about your marriage. Forget our marriage. [Laughter] Let’s talk about yours.

Faith: Maybe I should have brought my husband with me, so that there’s a more fair take on it.

Ann: How long have you been married?

Faith: I have been married for thirteen years now.

Dave: Four kids?

Faith: Yes.

Ann: And the ages of your kids are?

Faith: Twelve, ten, eight, and five.

Dave: Wow.

Ann: You are in a busy stage of life. Your husband’s a pastor. Talk a little bit more about what you do, besides being an author.

Dave: And a mom.

Faith: And a mom! Well, pastor’s wife in a small church would cover a lot. [Laughter]

Dave: There you go!

Ann: That does cover a lot.

Faith: If you are in ministry, you know what that means.

Ann: That’s a job.

Faith: It is; it is a calling. I’m grateful for our church and for serving there. I work part-time at a bookstore connected to a seminary, with children’s books. I write. I’m taking a break right now from studies, but I am also a student.

Ann: I’m not sure how you are doing anything else besides raising your kids and helping with the church.

Faith: Actually, the reason why I am taking a break with school is because one of my seminary professors said, “This is an important season for you; not because of your book launch, but as a parent of young children, to disciple your children at home—”

Dave: Oh, yes.

Faith: I was telling him this was going to be a busy season, in terms of the book, and I was also going to take these classes that I was excited about. He pulled back and said, “You know, Faith, when my children were younger…” and it was just words of wisdom.

Anyway, that is why I am taking a break. My primary—or one of my primary callings right now is to disciple the little ones at home.

Dave: Oh, yes.

Faith: As I’m growing as a disciple of Jesus to disciple them along with me.

Ann: Way to go!

Dave: How does your—as we talked about yesterday—perfectionism or striving for the highest standard of excellence, how does that impact your marriage? What would Jeff say?

Faith: Yes. [Laughter] “What would Jeff say?” I think he would say, “You’re better than you used to be.”

Ann: Aww.

Faith: By the grace of God. One thing that, as you asked that question, I remembered was, actually, how difficult our conversations used to [be] when we were first married, for a few years. There was actually a lot of silence from my end. I would just be quiet. I’m not just saying for a couple minutes, but we’d be sitting in a car, and it would be twenty minutes when I’m not saying anything to him. And it’s not because I was mad at him, but because I was afraid of saying the wrong thing.

Dave and Ann: Hmmm.

Faith: I would wonder, “What do I say in this disagreement? If I say this, will it come across this way? Is it the wrong way?” So, a lot of my perfectionism—and we are talking about spiritual perfectionism, so it’s not just like I want to be a perfect wife in a non-Christian standard, but in terms of what the Scriptures command: speak with gentleness; speak truth; do things in love.

I think I was so afraid—I wasn’t afraid of disagreeing, but of saying something that I shouldn’t say. I had to learn, actually, how to be okay being in process in relationship, which is the mirror of me being in relationship with God, who loves me in process. As I am imperfect, as I am striving toward the perfection that He commands, He still loves me, and He knows me and loves me.

So, for me and my husband, actually, a lot of that—it was hard for him! I didn’t know until later, but the whole time he just thought I was angry.

Dave: Hmm.

Ann: Oh.

Faith: Yes, he thought, “She is just so mad at me.” That is why he wouldn’t say anything, because [he thought], “She is so angry.” That’s what I looked like sitting next to him, quiet. I have grown so much since then, and I think he would say that has been good for our marriage, for me to learn to not be afraid to make mistakes in marriage.

Ann: I got teary as you said that because of the purity of your heart. It shows your love and your desire to be obedient to Jesus; but you are also saying that it can step into the part of that perfectionism: “I don’t want to fail Him.” Maybe it became a fear of failing Him. What does it look like now? That’s what it looked like, you were silent; when you have more freedom in it now, what does it look like?

Faith: It looks like actually saying what I’m feeling.

Ann: Yes.

Faith: And I’m still growing in this. This could just be personality and not even perfectionism, but I think I have come to realize that I have a little avatar, I think, of my husband in my mind; a representation of him.

Ann: [Laughter]

Faith: I have these conversations in my mind, “If I say this, then he’ll say this.” and then, “That’s what he’ll say anyway.” It’s my representation of him!

Ann: Okay.

Faith: So, I think it’s similar: I’ve learned, in my relationship with God, to recognize: “I think God is going to be like this, so I’m not going to say this, or I’m not going to do this.” It all happens within my mind, instead of actually going to God.

Ann: Yes.

Faith: Now, I’m learning, but it is still hard. We are no longer sitting through twenty-minute silences, [with] expressing how I’m feeling or telling him what is happening inside of me and being less afraid of making a mistake.

Ann: You are putting that perfectionistic heavy [things] on yourself. Do you ever put it on your husband, that you want him to be perfect, like we were talking about earlier?

Faith: Yes, yes.

Ann: [Laughter] Good. I’m relieved that somebody else has done that!

Faith: I didn’t think I did. And I think I’ve realized, too, as a parent, that being in process is such a difficult thing for me to understand. And that when I am not experiencing God’s grace in my life and being okay with “God loves me in process, He shows grace. He delights in the little steps of obedience that I take,” and I’m only focusing on the ways that I’m failing to live up, then I only see that, too, in my children and in my husband.

Even if I’m not saying it out loud to him, it will be something that’s in my mind. There’s a judgment and critical lens in my mind [about], “Is he loving Jesus enough?” kind of questions. I don’t think I think of it that way. My husband loves Jesus, and I’m grateful for that but, “Could he be loving a little bit better?” How do I make space for some of his “in process” or even just processing some of the things he is going through? He’s still in process with God—

Ann: —yes!

Faith: —working through some things that are difficult in ministry or difficult in being a dad and being a husband. Giving space for God to work in that is something that I’m learning.

Dave: I’d love to hear both of you talk about that tension; because, when you’re the spouse—and I’m talking about me, married to someone who is more of a perfectionist—I’m not saying I don’t have any of it, but I don’t have as much as Ann—

Often, early in our marriage, too,—I mean, we’ve been married forty-four years, so we’re talking about way back in year five or six—I felt like she really was disappointed in a lot of things in me. “I don’t lead her spiritually the way she wants me to. We don’t read the Bible enough. We don’t pray enough as a couple.”

Then we had kids, and it was, “Are you going to lead our kids? Here’s what family devotions could or should look like.” And I said, “No, we’re going to do it this way.” Do you remember?

Ann: Yes.

Dave: There was tension there. I felt like I was going to do the things we wanted to do. We’ve talked about this in our books about marriage and parenting, but “I’m doing them differently than you want me to.” So, even though I thought it was a great moment, she’s disappointed in the moment and in me. I didn’t feel free. I felt like I had to do better next time.

Ann: But the difference for me—and this is just sin—is I would put my own expectations onto Dave. I would think, “You should want to be better. Don’t you want to be great at this?”

Faith: Yes.

Ann: Man! In the early years of parenting, that seeped right into my kids. “Don’t you want to be better at this? Don’t you want to be great? Don’t you want to be great at what you are doing?” I had this pride in myself, saying, “You could be way better.”

And all that did for Dave, I think, was make him feel like a failure. He felt pretty good about himself until I came along. [Laughter] And the same with my kids. I already had that inner part that hadn’t wholly healed yet; and so, whatever they were doing—and this is the rub, I do want my kids to do the best that they can do in whatever they do.

Dave: Yes, because there is a good aspect to that, even for your spouse.

Faith: Yes.

Ann: But I don’t want it to be contingent on my love or affection or approval of them, and that’s where the rub can go wrong.

Faith: Yes.

Dave: So, what would you say to the spouse that is wired a little bit like you guys and is putting that on their spouse?

Faith: I don’t know that I can speak to this as someone with authority or someone who has been there and moved passed it, but I do find that if I, myself, am enjoying the grace of God—

Ann: —yes.

Faith: —and recognizing it, then it is a lot easier to believe that.

Dave: Yes. You give away what you have, and you can’t give away what you don’t have, right?

Faith: Yes, and I think, sometimes, it’s also, for those who are struggling with perfectionism, the way that we bring that into our relationships. There can even be a little bit of perfectionistic fear: “If I don’t say something, if I don’t do something, then what if they head down this path that is not where they should go?”

Dave: Yes.

Faith: Some of it, definitely for me, can come out of my own preferences like, “I don’t want you to do this right now, because it’s annoying to me,” right? But I think that some of that drive to put that on our kids is, “What if I don’t push them, but I should have?”

Ann: I know.

Faith: I’m ok with my kids not being the best if I knew for sure God told me, “Your kids are not supposed to be the best.” Then I’d think, “Okay, sure God. Sure; I believe you.” But if I’m not sure, what if I’m supposed to do that? What if I’m supposed to do this?

For marriage, for family, for other situations, there’s this kind of anxiety that is driving some of our actions, because we don’t want to fail God; because we don’t want them to not be who God wants them to be.

One thing that has been helpful for me, then, is looking at my own life and in the Scriptures at what God’s providence is. What does it mean that God is in control? What does it mean that He is working in imperfect people to make them more and more like Jesus? And even working through imperfect people to help others? So, I don’t have to be afraid that, if I don’t say this one thing right now, or if I don’t correct them right now, they’re going to head down this path of unrighteousness.

I remember when—my poor daughter—she was little at the time, maybe three or four, and we got in late to a hotel, and she was unkind to her sibling. I went down this hole in my mind, “Is she even a believer? Does she even know Jesus if she’s treating her siblings that way?” Then it was like, “I have to have this conversation right now.” She’s cranky and sleepy, and I’m asking, “Do you know God?” Not like that but, “What do you believe? Is the Holy Spirit at work in your life?”

There is just this anxiety, I think, that can, for Christian parents and for Christian moms—probably Christian dads, too; I’m not a Christian dad—this idea that, “We have this task to disciple our kids; we have this task to be encouraging and helpful to our spouses in their relationship with God; and if I don’t do this right, then they aren’t going to turn out right,” you know? I think that learning then, instead, to look throughout the Scriptures to see, “Who is in control here?”

Ann: Yes.

Faith: Not in a way that is in a rebuke, like, “You need to let go of control,” but in a comforting way, through the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, all these patriarchs of the faith who make mistakes, and yet, God is doing something here. He’s building a nation that is bringing glory to Himself.

One thing that has been really comforting to me has been the story of Joseph and how, in the end of Genesis, Joseph says to his brothers, who had sold him into slavery and wanted to kill him—and all of these years seem like they are wasted. They’re afraid that he’s mad at them, then he says, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” [Genesis 50:20]

That’s been comforting to me in my marriage, in my ministry, in discipling my kids. When I think about the fat that—and I got this from another pastor, so it’s not like I came up with this on my own, if God can use the evil things people do for good, how much more can He use our attempts at doing good and even our failures for good. When I am resting in that, then I show more grace to those people around me.

Ann: Oh, that’s really good. I think that’s really relatable as parents, too. All of our sons are in their thirties. It’s kind of crazy, because I felt so much pressure as a mom: “If I’m not”—as you said, as a perfectionist—“I’m not doing this. I need to do this. I shouldn’t have said this.” And the older I got, the more I realized, “I just need to walk with Jesus and be faithful to loving Him.”

I remember, when I was in the midst of parenting teenagers, I looked in a mirror and had this inner voice. I felt like it was God saying, “You’re striving. Your name is Striving.” And it wasn’t out of condemnation. It was this pure love from a loving Father who was saying to me, “I want you to be free. I love you! You don’t have to perform for Me. You don’t have to go through all the hoops for Me. I delight in you. I want you to understand my utter delight in who you are as My daughter, made in My image.” I remember that I thought, “I have no idea what that looks like.”

So, I think the more I’ve pursued God and Jesus, and understanding His delight, the more I’ve been able to relax in my parenting and even with Dave, thinking, “Lord, You’ve got it! You love them way more than I do.”

Faith: Yes!

Ann: That’s exactly what you are saying. “You love them so much more than I do. You’re leading them and drawing them.” And if they fail, that can be one of the best things that is happening to our kids. It’s not necessarily a reflection on my incompetence, but “Lord, You’re going to teach them so much.” And that frees me up.

Dave: As I listened to Ann say that, I was thinking, for the spouse that is wired a little differently than a perfectionist, Faith, what you said earlier—she just resonated that had happened in her. When she started to rest in God herself, it affected me. I saw it. I felt it. At this point, she looks at me and thinks, “You’re amazing.”

Ann: You are amazing!

Dave: “I love who you are.”

Ann: I do.

Dave: And that doesn’t mean there aren’t moments where there’s truth: “Dude, let’s step it up. Raise the bar.”

Faith: Yes.

Dave: That still happens; but it went from feeling like I was constantly disappointing her as a husband, and then as a dad, to, I’m not that much better, but she delights in me. Almost like I feel like God does.

Faith: Yes.

Dave: Again, not that there isn't the intention that I want to do better. As I look back on what I did as a dad raising my sons, there are moments that, because I was so laid back, I wish I could have again and raise the bar and do a better job. But because you were able to look in the mirror and say, “I don’t want to be called Striver, that’s not who I want to be. I have to find out what it means to be free and peaceful in the grace of God.” Because you went on that journey, it impacted our marriage, and I feel like it made me free.

So, I’m saying to that spouse, if you go on that journey, it’s going to take your marriage to a whole other place. It doesn’t mean your husband or wife is going to become a slacker, and they’re just going to sin away, and you’re not going to even—but even when you study parenting, the worst results with our kids are based on rules-based parents; the ones that are highly dominant, rules-based, usually don’t get the results they are hoping for.

Ann: That aren’t grace-based.

Dave: Not that there’s a correlation between how we do it, but there is.

Faith: Yes.

Dave: There’s a balance of, “Yes, there have to be rules and standards,” but there is grace and freedom to fall and not meet those standards and be loved back to it. Our kids turn out much better than: “You’ve got to do this; you can’t do that. You can never do this.” The families who have the highest rules, when their kids go to college, they go rebel. They think, “I was never allowed to do anything.” And when they can, it’s scary what happens.

I’m not saying that is always the case, but it’s the same thing in marriage. That can be easy for a perfectionist to project that, right?

Ann: I think so.

Let’s close with—I wanted to ask you this, Faith: in your marriage or in your friendships; I’m thinking of spouses or friends who have perfectionistic friends or a spouse. What are the words that mean so much to you if your husband says—or your friend says to you?

Faith: That is a great question. I think when they look me in the eye and say, “God loves you, and I love you.”

Ann: Yes.

Faith: There’s just something about having that eye contact, and you know that they know you.

Ann: There it is.

Faith: And there is this knowing of you, and all of your flaws and all of your imperfections and all of your perfectionism and all of your striving, and to say, “I know that. God knows that, and He loves you; and I love you, too.”

Ann: Hmmm. Me, too. I think anybody that would have those perfectionistic tendencies, to say I fully see you, and I fully love you. That’s the gospel.

Shelby: Tim Keller once said, “God knows you to the depths and still loves you to the skies.” When we get a human relationship that reflects that to us, it’s so, so special. It really helps us to see our Savior more clearly. That’s what it reminded me of today as we heard Faith and Ann talking there at the end.

I’m Shelby Abbott, and you’ve been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Faith Chang on FamilyLife Today. Faith has written a book called Peace Over Perfection: Enjoying a Good God When You Feel You're Never Good Enough.


And I know so many people, myself included, who struggle with that; never feeling good enough. The book offers a fresh perspective on God’s character and provides reassurance and guidance for Christians struggling with that burden of perfectionism.

This book is going to be our gift to you when you give to the ministry of FamilyLife. You can get your copy right now with any donation by going online to and clicking on the “Donate Now” button at the top of the page. Or give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329; again, that number is 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

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Now, tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson are joined by our very own David and Meg Robbins as they explore the dynamics of perfectionism in relationships, personal growth, and parenting. That’s tomorrow. We hope you’ll join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We’ll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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