Everyone likes to think they’re the exception to the rule.
Taste your food before you reach for the salt shaker.
Buy the clothes that fit you today.
Hating someone who has what you want will never get you what they have.
Before buying that dress in the color that’s the new black, see if it looks better in black. (It does.)
Next time you think there’s nothing to do, read a goddamn book.
Don’t believe everything you think. (That’s from a bumper sticker, not me, but it’s solid.)
If I can impart any wisdom to you in this life, besides the above, it’s this: As a rule, everyone likes to think they’re the exception to the rule.
And nowhere does this come into play with someone who’s dating or drawn to dating a fixer.
We all fancy ourselves as stars of our life’s movie or the protagonist in a grand adventure. We all claim we want a happy relationship, but the narrative line, “I met a great man/woman and things worked out as we navigated life’s ups and downs together,” just doesn’t feel epic, huh?
And some of us crave the epic. That struggle will be real if it kills us. We want to climb the Kilimanjaro of people and live to tell the tale.
So, we fall for fixers. There are, of course, different types, and some people are only fixers temporarily, or mild fixers.
Benign fixer types: These are the guys who maybe still live with a tumult of smelly roommates, wear white socks with dress clothes, only eat whatever monstrosity of a burger Carl’s Jr. has, of late, sexily shoved into the mouth of a model.
Or, they might have slightly bigger things going on: a rough time dealing with their family, trouble figuring out if they’re on the right career path, insecurity after one too many heartbreaks.
To this I say, you have to decide what you’re willing to work with. You can positively influence habits (my husband is 25 pounds lighter than when we met thanks to my encouragement of better food and exercise), or make suggestions (“You’d look so sexy in that suit … with black socks.”).
Still, you need to have feelings for the person they are now. Enter cautiously if you’re looking at the person as all potential because your love alone won’t guide them into the perfect job or fix their family problems.
But if they’re someone who works hard and tries at his or her career or someone who is kind and good-hearted but facing an uphill family battle, remember that you, too, are imperfect. We’re all fixers for life, in that sense.
Who I want to warn you away from are the malignant fixers. This is a scarier type altogether.
There are the obvious problems: drinking or drug addiction, a history of abuse, untreated mental disorders. I’d advise you don’t go there.
You may anyway and you may be putting yourself in true danger. I honestly can’t navigate that for you with my skill set.
I’ve fallen for the malignant fixers and I’m here to warn you about the emotional fixer. They are a world of hurt and you want to be a satellite, orbiting them, gravitationally pulled to them, absorbed into their earth until there’s nothing left of you.
These people are likely an assortment of the above issues. They’re unhappy, they have baggage (familial, career, past relationships, the works), they may abuse alcohol or drugs, and they may have reputations that precede them as players or collectors.
They might be charming, sexy, and seductive. They might seem to “get” you, magnifying whatever issues you may have in your life and say they’re just like their own.
Most importantly, they seem to need you, especially when they’re telling you they don’t need anyone. And you, as the lead in this story, want to gently unwrap them until they know they are loved as they are.
I’ll say it again, world of hurt.
Here are some brutal truths about dating a “fixer.”
1. No one changes because of someone else.
Change really does come from within. They probably do really like you; they might even mean it when they say they want to change for you.
But think about a change you made: Was it for someone else, or ultimately, for you? Cynical as this is, I don’t believe anyone really changes altogether, ever. We just learn how to live with ourselves as we are.
People can end addictions and get past emotional damage. But I’m with Rose Kennedy, who said, “It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”
I think the same is true for what’s at the core of us. When we change, we’re really just bringing out a different version of ourselves that’s always existed.
2. Fixers know how to find you.
It’s a mystery to me how this works but the fixer seems like fate, when they actually just have a radar for the people who will take them in. If you’re someone who’s with a fixer, chances are you’ve been there before.
Chances are also good that you’re someone who’s pretty damn great at doing things for yourself, being independent, having goals and direction. The fixer is drawn to your competence.
But you have a weakness when it comes to being needed or thinking that someone needs you. You’ll have to work hard to be the version of yourself who can resist them.
3. When they make themselves available, they’re really available.
This is when they hook you. Because when they want to, fixers can (and do) open up, or seem to, even if they’re just telling you their side of their story. (Fixers often aren’t to blame for their woes; there’s always something or someone that f*cked them over.)
But they’re that irresistible warm summer rain; the sky grows heavy as you wait for it and when it finally comes, you just want to turn your face up to the storm and let it pour down on you.
It’s nice sometimes, but then a cold wind blows and you end up shivering, wet, and unsheltered.
4. They stink at the hard stuff.
Theirs, and yours. Like I said, their myriad issues are often someone else’s fault. And when a life crisis pops up — work’s really bad or a family member is shutting them out — they might unload without really bringing you into the problem.
They also want to detach from you at these points, making you push harder to be close (because people in love help each other in times of need). Likewise, when you have a real crisis, they’re there in the most perfunctory of manners.
But ultimately, they don’t know how to help you if it takes too much energy from them.
5. They take more than they give.
They might be great lovers; they might say all the right things; they might even occasionally demonstrate affection with a thoughtful gesture. But they want credit for all of these things, even if it’s only in their own minds, where they tell themselves they really tried.
Fixers ultimately don’t want to be fixed; they just want you to see them as better than they are. So, even when they’re giving, they’re really taking.
Believing the best of someone even when they suddenly flake on plans, withdraw into a moody funk, or can’t be there for the hard stuff — that’s giving and it’s hard to keep doing when there’s no return.
6. You won’t know how to love them because they don’t know how to be loved.
One second, you’re thinking you should be a fountain of unconditional love. The next, you’re thinking you need to be a drill sergeant with a plan to help them.
And with every step you take, you’ll worry about losing them because they’ll often make you feel like you’re trying to manipulate them and maneuver yourself into their life. Fixers don’t trust your motives because theirs are often less than pure.
7. They rely on you, but you can’t rely on them.
Maybe you crave that feeling of being needed, but you can’t even rely on them to make you feel needed. Many fixers feign that they don’t need anyone, but truthfully, they need you to be available on their terms.
8. They think they’re special.
The reason things don’t work out for them — jobs, relationships, friendships — is because no one gets them and everyone is out to get them. Believing too much in our specialness, even if it’s the cause of our failure, is a way to cut ourselves off from really connecting.
Don’t fool yourself even if they seem modest or self-loathing. The secret? All that self-flagellation is just another form of self-admiration. They don’t want your love; they want to absorb you.
A fixer I was with always told us how much we were alike. When I look back on it, this is what I think now: Leaning on our similarities is like treading water — it keeps us afloat but we’re halting ourselves from swimming in a gorgeous ocean of our differences.
9. You like the hurt.
Here’s a big secret about fixers: if you’re drawn to them, it’s probably because you need some fixing yourself.
You want to believe that you can be the one to reach them; you want to believe that what everyone has ever told you about these guys is wrong, and you were the one to see the truth.
You want to be the exception to the rule: yhe brave protagonist who opened the wardrobe door to find not skeletons and dust, but a whole magical world waiting for you. From someone who knows, even if you glimpse that fantastic horizon for a minute, that door’s gonna shut and you’re gonna be locked in with the skeletons breathing dust and wishing for some light.
All the energy you’re pouring into them and all the seeking you’re doing … why?
Chances are, you’re afraid of something in your life. Maybe it’s a huge professional project you want to launch.
Maybe it’s a life-changing trip.
Maybe it’s falling in love with a person who seems simple and “boring” but is really just someone great who can give you love back.
Maybe it’s all these things.
Maybe you just don’t think you’ll feel special enough unless you tame a wild beast, climb the big mountain, and look down on the rest of us in our humdrum relationships with people who weren’t as hard-won.
I don’t want to repeat some aphorism about how you’re enough and you’re special. We’re all special and we’re all not. Life is fair in that it’s unfair to all of us.
But it’s still a precious little spot of time we get, and I believe, though struggle with, the notion that in our stories the little things matter.
We can’t always be having the big adventure, climbing for high summits that no one’s reached. When we spend too long trying to find purchase on someone who doesn’t really have much to hold on to, it will only lead to falling again and again.