Do Overachievers Lack the "Skill Set" for Relationships?

Overachievers strive to be the best at everything, which can cause tension in a relationship.
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Overachievers are characterized by being perfectionist workaholics who constantly fear failure. They are frustrated and angry and work harder in an attempt to make-up for their insecurities. Generally, these are not the descriptions you think about when thinking if someone is capable of a healthy relationship. However, there is a special group of overachievers that does not show the negative traits that most overachievers display.

1 They Might Lack Compromise

Because overachievers might have chronic feelings of inadequacy and they might fear failure, they tend to have high anxiety levels. Frequently, anxiety is coupled with or masked by frustration, anger, and resentment, writes clinical social worker Linda Esposito in her “Psychology Today” article, “Welcome to Xanax Nation: 46 Million Were Here.” An overachiever is likely to get frustrated with you, as she perceives that you don’t work as long and hard as she does. Anger and frustration tend to reduce her ability to empathize, her willingness to compromise and to consider other ways of doing things.

2 They Might Overcommit

Overachievers have a tendency to overextend themselves, writes psychologist Bridgett Ross in her article, “Plague of the Overachiever” on her blog, “Ross Psychology.” In an attempt to thwart failure, the overachiever is likely to prefer doing everything himself. As a result, he tends to be a workaholic. When he isn’t at work, he has a hard time relaxing, and feels guilty because he thinks he should be doing something productive. In a relationship, this can cause problems, because the woman might not see him often or when she does see him, they might be able to enjoy a relaxing day together.

3 They Might Be Competitive

Overachievers are frequently competitive, and need to be the best so that they can feel adequate and that they have achieved, writes psychologist Marcia Reynolds in her “Psychology Today” article, “The Dark Side of Confidence in Women.” This competitiveness can cause tension in a relationship if her need to be extraordinary causes her to compete with you. She’s not likely to be a gracious loser. This can put you in a lose-lose situation – losing and feeling less adequate or winning and dealing with her negative mood.

4 Some Have a Hardy Personality

There is subgroup of overachievers that are described as having a “Hardy Personality,” write psychologists Kenneth Allred and Timothy Smith in their “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology” article, “The Hardy Personality: Cognitive and Physiological Responses to Evaluative Threat.” The Hardy Personality has three “C’s” that typical overachievers don’t -- commitment, control, and challenge. The Hardy type gives 100 percent because he’s given a commitment to be the best he can be. Just as he has made a commitment to his employer, he has also made a commitment to you. Acting out of commitment rather than fear gives him a sense of control. This enables him to view difficulties as a challenge, rather than a threat. He is able to use the skills of the overachiever in positive ways. His organizational abilities will ensure that he’s always on time. His desire for perfection will make him try to find new ways to make you smile. Unlike the typical overachiever, he will know how to relax.

Amy Guertin has a master's degree in counseling psychology and will earn her Ph.D. in 2014. Guertin is a licensed counselor and has 15 years of experience practicing psychotherapy, primarily working with children, adolescents and their families. She is also a college psychology professor and is the happiest when she is in the classroom.