I am a chronic “fixer.”
Over my lifetime, a majority of my romantic relationships have been with men who I perceived to be in need of “fixing” in one way or another. I dated chronic underachievers, men with children they never saw, and men with abysmal self-esteem. I didn’t just see their red flags, I charged directly at them like a bull to a matador. I told myself I saw their potential. I rationalized away their shortcomings:
“Oh how perfect he would be if he would just apply himself!”
“He just wasn’t raised in a supportive household that recognized his talents.”
“It’s not his fault, he’s never been in a stable relationship before.”
I constantly dismissed warning signs as rough on the diamonds, choosing to see the glimmer of promise buried beneath piles of wreckage. And I convinced myself that it was my duty to save them from the rubble.
It wasn’t until I started to work on myself outside of a romantic relationship that I realized that I was the one who actually needed fixing. I had mountains of issues that I had never even acknowledged, let alone resolved. Severe lack of confidence, poor sense of self-worth, and body image issues galore all bubbling beneath the surface, never permitted to emerge. After decades of pushing up against the door, I finally moved to the side and let all of the skeletons pour out of my closet into a heap on the floor. I closely examined each, one by one, and then put them on display in the forefront of my mind. I tended to them every day via writing, meditating, and putting myself and my well-being first.
Today, I am no longer just a fixer – I am a fixer and a fix-ee. I am loving myself wholeheartedly and dealing with my stuff like a goddamn adult. It’s not easy, but it is a whole lot more productive than seeking out, trying, and failing to fix others. And I have learned a few lessons along the way. If you are a chronic fixer, you really need to hear this:
1. Dating a fixer-upper is the same as ignoring personal red flags. A partner working the same job for 10 years can indicate stability or a lack of ambition, depending on your personal value system. Registering this as something to “fix” tells you that you view it as a problem, a deal breaker, or a personal red flag. In other words, there is a fundamental difference between you and your partner’s worldview and belief systems. When you are in a healthy relationship, however, there is nothing to fix because your values, dreams, and ambitions are aligned.
2. You cannot fix anybody but yourself. We all have issues that interfere with our happiness and our potential – that’s the price of being human. Either those issues control us, or we control them by owning up and doing the work. There is no other option and there is no shortcut. No matter who you date, how much money you make, or what you look like, those issues will always be there until you, and only you, decide to deal with them. The same goes for any romantic interest that may enter your life; they must make the decision to fix their issues. No matter what they might tell you, nobody else can do it for them – not their mom, not their boss, and sure as hell not you.
3. Once you fix your own shit, you will no longer feel the need to fix others. Once you start really taking care of yourself and working through your issues, you will realize that you are no longer interested in the people you used to date. When you work so hard to level up, you will not want to be around those that have not put in the effort to do the same. Your time and energy become sacred because you worked so hard to make them that way. And anybody who threatens that will no longer be welcome.
Fixing others can be a hard habit to break, especially if you struggle with your own self-esteem. However, once you decide to love and make yourself whole, you will create the space for somebody deserving to enter your life – no fixing required.
Note: This post originally featured on Thought Catalog. See the original post here.