the fixer

Can’t relate to the Following Wind type? The Impossible Dreamer type impossible for you to fathom? Then perhaps you’re The Fixer.* You go by many names, but underneath them all, there is one thing, and one thing only, that pulls you in: someone who needs your help.  You know who you are.  You find injured birds and you collect human strays.  To you, someone who needs your help is as compelling as a new puppy is cute.  You are the selfless helper, the eternal volunteer.  Others think you have endless energy and they admire your penchant for putting others first.

 The Fixer Relationship Type

This one’s a hard one to cop to for many people, because it has a dark side. The Fixer relationship type has a lot of layers and many facets.  Most Fixers learned their Fixer behaviors at their parent’s knee. You’ve probably been practicing most of your life, first by being a child who ended up caring for siblings and sometimes even parents. This is called a “role reversal,” where a child switches places with the adult.  Once the role reversal is learned, it is really hard to unlearn. When the role reversed child grows up to be a Fixer, there are usually no siblings, no inept or alcoholic parents, or no sick family member to take care of. Therefore, the Fixer must find someone else to administer to.

The effect this has on the Fixer’s adult relationships is twofold. First, because the Fixer is looking for someone to fix, it goes without saying that the partners the Fixer ends up with are generally lacking in some major life area—in other words, they need fixing. Common sense should tell you that if you select someone who is broken, you will be trying to have an equal relationship with someone who is incapable of doing that. No big surprise then, when you find yourself trying to prop up a relationship in which you are getting none or very few of your needs met.

The second aspect to being a Fixer is that this is very limiting for the Fixer. Most Fixers believe deep inside that they will only be loved for what they do, not for the person they are.  Those who were supposed to love and take care of them unconditionally didn’t do that. Instead they called upon the child to do things for them that a child is not equipped to handle emotionally. So it is no surprise that the child interpreted that as “if I do what mommy or daddy needs me to do, then they will love me and give me what I need.”

So now, if you are a Fixer type, when you’d like to have a give and take relationship with another adult who is your equal, you don’t know how to let that happen. It is thoroughly mystifying and terrifying to risk letting another person learn to love you for you, without you doing anything to bind that person to you for the care taking or other things you can do for them.

Think about it: instead of offering to rescue, nurse, comfort, defend and support the other person, you…don’t. You just get to know each other slowly and comfortably. You are polite and considerate, of course, but you don’t offer to swoop in and take care of a situation that is stressing the other person. You let him or her pay her own bills, clean his own house, deal with her own crazy parent or dangerous ex. You don’t adopt her orphaned children or financially support him until he gets back on his feet.  You don’t solve his legal problems or cure her loneliness after knowing him or her for only two weeks, even though you really, really feel the other person’s suffering.

Why? you ask. Because the reason you want to do this is not because you are Buddha or Jesus or Mother Teresa. The reason you want to do this is because you want the person to be grateful to you. You want him or her to love you because you took care of him.

If you are a Fixer, you want to make them need you so they won’t leave you. It’s hard to admit, granted.  It’s buried pretty deep.  Fixers believe they have to do for the other person or that person won’t love you and they won’t stick around.

Look, if you can hear this and relate to it, can you also hear that you are so not alone in this? There is a huge crowd of Fixers out there, all looking for the same thing, and missing the point in the process.  What’s the point?  The point is: You are worthy of being loved just for being who you are.

Terribly Mr. Rogers-like, I know.  But it’s true.  No, not everyone will love you. Not even everyone you really wished loved you. But the good news is, someone will. A good someone who you will be able to honestly love in return—not someone you just settle for.  Fixers tend to settle.  They settle for an unequal relationship because they learned early on the false idea that they don’t rate high enough to be loved for just being themselves.

So how do you make this happen? How do you learn to do something you’ve never been able to do before? The answer is, you heal yourself. You heal the wounds you were given as a child and you deal with all the loss you’ve experienced as an adult who didn’t know how to be in an equal, loving relationship.  Easy-peasy.  At least, the answer is simple.  The implementation may be a little more complicated.

You will probably need help doing this. Counseling or psychotherapy would be appropriate, certainly. But some people manage their needed changes in recovery places like ACoA or ACA Ala-non. Or church, meditation or deep personal study. People are different in how they take in information. But people are the same in the bottom line of what they need.  I guarantee it.

Humans are a social species. We always live in social groups of some kind, and we are not happy and productive when we are isolated from others. We all need that connection. We all need to feel cared for just because we are here on the planet. That includes you. Yeah, yeah there are people who like to be alone a lot. They still have connection in some way. That’s my informed opinion.

So if you want true love, if you want the real thing, prepare yourself to start letting go of being a Fixer. Get some help working on what you are going to replace the Fixer role with. Talk with others about what you really want from a partner. And start healing yourself, chapter by chapter.

When you are healed into a place where you have something to offer other than fixing someone, you will begin to attract those who don’t need fixing. It will take work and it will take time. But do you have anything better to do that will serve you more?

Fixers are not all bad or wanting in every department. If you are a dyed-in-the-wool Fixer, as most Fixers are in my opinion, you are probably also genuinely helpful, genuinely compassionate. You are likely generous with your time and resources for those who are truly in need. You are usually a very nice person.

You Fixers do tend to be quite a bit on the stressed side of things as you try to bend others to your will without letting on that that’s what you’re doing. So you need to engage in exercise and other activities that reduce your stress and anxiety in order to protect your physical health. The adrenaline that courses through your body when you are stressed is very hard on your immune system and on many of your organs. Once again, therapy can help with stress reduction, relaxation, and mindfulness meditation instruction.  You can get this kind of help from me, or look for a therapist with experience in stress-reduction, mindfulness techniques and co-dependence recovery.  You will find that if you allow yourself to let go of being the helper and just this once be the one who gets the help, your life will change remarkably, and in a way you deserve–a very good way.

*The Fixer and other “relationship personality types” are presented to entertain, inform and educate, not to diagnose.  They are Auntie Veranda’s way of describing sets of behaviors she has  observed in others.  The list is not definitive; she hasn’t had time to share all her observations of other humans, but she’ll keep working on it.