To Fix or Not to Fix?

Hi, my name is Cole and I´m a fixer.  I define ¨fixer¨ as someone who goes solution first when a loved one comes to them with a problem.  I know I am a fixer because there have been many times over the years when my wife has uttered these dreaded words,

¨No, just listen. Just listen!¨

Other times, I´ll ramble on, offering my great solution to the problem, only to be met with a dispassionate, ¨Yeah I already know all that.¨  The fact of the matter is people often already know what they need to do.

They just need connection before they can get up the courage to go through with it.

When fixers jump in the mix, we provide a nice distraction from the difficult action that needs to be taken.  We end up crippling the whole situation!  If we fix things long enough, it becomes codependency, a dreaded and heavily stigmatized label.

As a long-time fixer in recovery, I thought I would share some truth-bombs and advice regarding fixers.

Here are 10 thoughts that apply to parenting, relationships, and life in general.

  1. Our kids are going to grow up and need to solve the world’s problems.  Let´s allow them to start practicing early by solving their own problems with our love and attention.  By early, I mean like today, unless they are an infant.
  2. Teenagers automatically hear unsolicited ¨good advice¨ as lecturing.
  3. Nobody ever woke up and said, ¨You know what I need today?  A lecture!¨.  Unfortunately, many people do wake up and have a subconscious need to be loved, accepted, and listened to.
  4. A foundation of a healthy relationship is the ability to ask for help.  Fear is the biggest obstacle of people asking for help.  Fear of an angry reaction, fear of losing freedom, fear of judgment, etc.  If your loved one does not believe it´s safe to ask for help from you, they’ll go elsewhere.  That´s a risky gamble.
  5. In my experience, the two biggest culprits of fixing behavior are men in relationships and mothers.   Both are biologically conditioned to fix problems.
  6. Best I can tell, there’s only two possible destinations for a ¨fix-it¨ man.  One is being a knight on a white horse, weighed down with more armor and responsibility than he can really handle.  Brene´ Brown does a great job in Daring Greatly describing how lonely it is up on that horse.  The other option is ending up as a boring professor that drones on and on in his lectures, but no one is really listening.
  7. A huge reason behind fixing behavior is conflict avoidance.  Avoiding conflict and discomfort leads to a shaky foundation that has not been tested.  For parents, this can look like saving a kid from a natural consequence they need to learn from.  In relationships, this can appear as trying to find a quick fix at the end of a long day for a partner´s struggle rather than really diving into what is driving the struggle.
  8.  This one is for the guys who know their relationship is on the rocks.  This is not an 80´s movie. Big, quick, desperate moves donot lead to a long-term solutions.   Making slow, consistent change shows true change that your significant other or family can really trust.  So don’t buy a boombox and stand outside holding it over your head while it blares a love song.  
  9. If you are in a relationship with a fixer and need to vent, there’s nothing wrong with beginning with the simple preface,     ¨Now, I just need you to listen.¨  Seven words can make a big difference.  Guys in particular may benefit from that direct communication.
  10. The last one is simple.  Just ask your loved one if they want help when they confide in you about a problem.  By giving permission the other person is able to take ownership in how the problem is handled.

Certain issues will manipulate and hijack normal ways of helping.  Addiction, unhealthy relationships, and personality disorders can create patterns of codependency.  Escaping fixing behaviors, in those situations, may require help and support from qualified professionals.   Hopefully, these thoughts are helpful and lead to greater awareness into your own relationship patterns.  Thanks for reading!