I Wish I Could Fix You

I have a problem. An inexplicable need. An innate compulsion.

See, I have a big heart and I’m a good listener. I’m not trying to pat myself on the back, that’s just the way I am. And no, that’s not my problem.

My problem is that when people confide in me, when they share their problems, I have this overwhelming urge not only to comfort that person and listen, but to fix their problem for them. I take on the problems of others as my own. This, according to my counselor, is the very core of codependency. The need to control every thing.

When he first worded codependency thusly I thought to myself, “He’s nuts. I’m no control freak.” And I’m really not. I have never tried to dictate to anyone other my children how to do anything and everything. But over time, analyzing all of my past situations, I’ve realized my counselor is correct. It’s just a different sort of control. When people share their troubles with me, I don’t feel understanding and apologizing are ever enough. I always feel compelled to do more. I feel inadequate because I can’t do more. I’ll be damned if I don’t try anyhow.

Of course, my friends assure me that merely listening means the world to them and that my empathy is more than enough, but that never pacifies me. I’m still left feeling as if I haven’t done enough. That I’m not a good enough friend. That I should be doing more to help those who need my help.

I’m assuming their problems.

Lately, I’ve had an easier time letting go of these things. I’m analyzing them after the fact and realizing just how asinine my feelings are a lot of times. I mean, were our positions reversed, my friends wouldn’t be able to do anything for me. They can do nothing to properly medicate me for my depression. They can do nothing to eliminate the devastating sense of failure I feel for getting divorced a second time. There was nothing they could physically do to mend my broken heart. But they listened. They empathized. They distracted me from my self-loathing thoughts. They made me laugh. It saved me. Now I just need to realize that when I return the favor that I don’t need to do any more than that unless specifically asked.

In looking back at my failed relationships, before counseling I would reason that I was duped into those relationships by the other person. And to an extent I was. At the same time, however, I was also satisfying my need to fix problems that aren’t my own. With my first wife, she was a financially destitute single mother unable to pay her bills and feed her children. I took it upon myself to solve her problems by moving in with her and assisting with the bills. She, of course, ensnared me by using attempts and threats of suicide, guilting me into staying, but it was still ultimately my decision to make. Then I became trapped. With my second wife, she was broken by her brother’s suicide and I was doing everything I could to fix her in any way I could. She never asked me to fix her, but I felt like it was my responsibility and I tried. I tried so hard. True, I did fall in love with her, unlike my first wife, but it was my need to fix her that ultimately led me there.

This all came to a head last night. All these realizations crashed down on me like a tsunami making landfall. I was talking to a friend who was having her antidepressant changed after only a month on her current one. She wasn’t very happy about it. I apologized for her situation and immediately set to task with suggestions and doing everything I could think of to solve her problem for her. I even mentioned that I felt like I needed to be doing more even though she’s told me repeatedly that just listening means the world to her.

Then I realized – there’s not a damn thing I can do. I can’t change her medication back. I can’t change her doctor. I can’t cure her. I can’t do anything to rectify the situation just as she can do nothing to rectify mine. Listening and being empathetic is really all I can do. All she wants me to do. And it really is enough, even if it doesn’t feel like it. I know when I’m venting my frustrations I don’t expect anyone to swoop in and save me. She certainly doesn’t expect that from me. None of my friends do and that’s why they are awesome.

So now that I’ve realized this I have work to do. I need to somehow learn what I can control and what I can’t. I need to learn that only my problems are my problems. If someone asks then I’ll be more than happy to help, but I need not assume someone’s problem just because of some incomprehensible desire to solve it. It’s not my job to fix you, it’s yours.

Another life lesson learned at the school of Hard Knocks. Fuck that place.

About Twindaddy (342 Articles)
Sometimes funny. Sometimes serious. Always genuine.

71 Comments on I Wish I Could Fix You

  1. That’s such a wonderful, open post. I can see that behaviour in myself too, especially the frustration when I literally CANNOT fix the problem that someone has come to me with. My ex-wife made it clear to me on more than one occasion that the reason she came to me wasn’t to get things fixed, but to get empathy & sympathy… and I although I offered it, I also tried too often to fix things that I really couldn’t or had no business trying to fix.

    I am so in awe of your ability to write such heart felt posts, you have an exceptional talent.


  2. How are you at taking advice, when people offer suggestions for problems you’re having?


  3. Wow…great post. A lot of what you wrote describes me as well. I’ve been that way since I was a kid because I was always trying to fix my parents drinking problems. It’s a very hard habit to break but I did that with my divorce. I finally learned I can’t fix everybody.


  4. Insight into our deeper selves is harsh and enlightening – all at the same fuckin’ time. I am a fixer, too – and I have a string of broken boyfriends to prove it.

    I often feel that I might *know* what is the right thing to do (like letting go) but I’m often stuck figuring out how to go about doing it…sounds like you are on the path to knowing what to change.

    Peace to you, friend ~


  5. May the force be with you, TD.


  6. Can I copy your homework?


  7. *begin sarcasm*
    You know, that sounds like quite a problem, TD… go the fuck away.
    How’s that for not assuming others’ problems?
    *end sarcasm*

    I have the same problem. My method of dealing might not work for everyone.


  8. Exact same lesson for me , I always say, to say a counselor makes you mildly discomforted is a huge understatement. The characteristics you learn about yourself is uncanny. Good to know you thought all of it through, I think I was always subconsciously caught in being the altruistic hero. We all have our fantasies right ?


  9. Yeah, I’ve got a little bit of the same problem in myself. It drives my wife nuts sometimes because I have a lot on my plate at home that needs my attention to trying to fix other peoples’ issues should probably take a back seat from time to time. Let’s just call ourselves awesome people and be done with it.


  10. It’s so ingrained. It’s a tough thing to change.


  11. I’m a fixer too. I hate not being able to fix everything, and I too have had to learn to let go when and where I can’t control the situation, when and where I can’t do more than listen and apologize. Hence, comments like “I’ll head over and watch Finding Nemo to give you a break from it,” because if I lived closer, I would be there any time you needed me. We both know that’s not going to happen though and yet I type the words anyway.
    Hooray for self discovery. Hooray for learning something new and important about yourself and using that knowledge to be a better person. We should all strive towards those sorts of discoveries every day.


  12. Thank you for listening and not trying to fix me. Love this.


  13. I think it’s part of what makes you who you are. You have a deep sense of empathy and really know how other people are feeling. Even if you can’t relate you listen in a way that makes me feel like you really hear me. I appreciate that. It is a valuable life skill that not many people have these days.


  14. It is hard not to take on others’ burdens. But I’m glad you’re coming to accept that being a friend is the best help you can be.


  15. wannabepoet // October 1, 2013 at 8:27 am // Reply

    And again you’ve blown me away with your raw honesty and emotions. I’m kind of the opposite of you; I listen to people’s problems and issues, and then I try and back off, back away, and not become so involved. I think that there are pro’s and con’s to how both of us react to these situations, but I feel that I sometimes take it to the extreme, coming across as cold and uncaring, when in actual fact I’m only trying to protect myself.

    Loved reading this post 🙂


  16. I used to take stray crazy people into my life and try to fix them. I never fixed one. But they often came to depend on me for something I couldn’t give them. When I moved away, I knew I was leaving them out on a limb that was already cracked.


  17. You seem like a problem solver that’s why you have the urge to always help solve a problem. Nothing wrong with that. It’s also because you’re probably gifted with an ability to empathize. Nothing wrong with that either. But, you’re also pretty rational, and so, you come to realize that you don’t have control over a lot of things. And people. And events. So, sometimes, you just have to let things play out.

    This of course is hard to do when it’s your kid, your significant other or any other person who really really matters to you…..


  18. I took a lot from this. I see a bunch of myself in this. We may be the same person..well except you are funnier and have a penis…and…twins…and ok …we are similar


  19. Natalie DeYoung // April 18, 2014 at 9:43 pm // Reply

    I’m just like that; assuming other people’s problems. My issue with it though? Not trying to necessarily SOLVE their problems, but FEEL their problems. So if you feel like shit and start crying? I feel your pain. It’s like I’m a shape-shifter or something.
    I became aware of it only last year, and am trying to stop doing it and just listen. It’s not easy.


  20. sounds like an epiphany for you. it’s so hard to actually see ourselves and amazing that you have. and it’s such a wonderful thing trying to help, but you’re right, you can’t solve other people’s problems anymore than they can solve yours, you can only be there for them as a good friend, which clearly you are.


  21. Co-dependency can be a beast. We are “Kindred Spirits” with this blog post. Helping others in Recovery is a great, but I can tend to want to help “Fix Them” and end up doing more than needed 😦
    We have Big Hearts! Another great post. 🙂


  22. Like you, I always want to try to fix things for people. To somehow make things better for them. Like you say though, we really can’t and most times people don’t want us to. All they want and all we can do is listen.


  23. Wow, Twindaddy, this must have been quite the revelation. But the question is, how does one rid oneself of this tendency? Isn’t it like an addiction? So sorry to hear it has plagued your life. I know people like this. It’s really hard.


    • I don’t know that you can. I saw a counselor (for as long as I could afford) and I also read the book Codependent No More, which was extremely helpful with identifying and emphasizing the importance of boundaries.

      I am by no means healed, but I’m more aware of it now and can therefore make better decisions.


  24. GeminiMystique // May 17, 2014 at 9:14 pm // Reply

    Reblogged this on Made of Quirk .


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