Fix You

Posted on October 2, 2020


An individual client was telling me about a failed attempt to connect with his wife when she was in distress.  He asked her what she needed from him when she was upset and she told him, “You can’t fix me.”  I thought it was an interesting comment and it gave me pause.

Often couples come into therapy hoping I will fix their mate.  Sometimes individuals come to therapy hoping to get fixed.  The short answer on that score is that I don’t fix anyone.  I think a better way of thinking of it might be seeking healing for some wounds.  Fixing implies that something about you is broken.  Healing wounds implies that you have some injuries that need tending. 

You don’t get through this life without acquiring some wounds.  No matter how effective mom and dad were as parents, they still would have loved you imperfectly.  Your other family members, friends, teachers, and former romantic partners loved you imperfectly.  All of this combined to create some sore spots where if they get bumped, it hurts.  If you felt not good enough, when something your partner says or does feels like you are being told yet again that you are not good enough, it hurts.  Only most of us don’t necessarily notice the pain, but know that it makes us angry.  If you experienced love as something that could be lost if you said or did the wrong thing, it might be scary for you when you feel like your partner is pulling away from you. 

These wounds usually happened in relationship and they generally get healed in relationship.  We go into our adult relationships with two basic questions: 1) Am I loveable? 2) Are you safe for me?[1]   The first question has to do with, “If I show you who I really am, will you reject me?” The second is about “Is it safe to open my heart to you?  If I am vulnerable with you, will you use it to hurt me?” 

Human beings aren’t particularly binary.  That is to say, we are not this or that, but somewhere in between.  There is an extent to which me might feel loveable or not, or safe or not in close relationships.  Internal Family Systems therapists would speak of that in terms of parts.  There is a part of you that fears you aren’t loveable. 

Wherever you are at on that continuum, the prize for human beings is secure connection with your partner.  Secure connection occurs when you experience yourself as loveable and your partner as capable of loving you in that close relationship.  This is not a “one and done” kind of experience.  It took you a lifetime to learn about what to expect in close relationships.  It will take some alternate experiences to unlearn it. 

What do you need from your partner when you are in distress?  If you could rewrite the script and take the leap of faith that you are loveable and your partner is capable of loving you, what would you want from your mate?  It’s not about fixing you.  It’s about healing.  It’s about reclaiming some truth. 

[1] Credit for that needs to go to Sue Johnson, but I don’t feel like looking up the reference.

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