Stop Trying to Fix Everything in Your Relationship : 6 Things You to do Instead
Written by Alysha Jeney, MA, LMFT Owner of Modern Love Counseling and Co-Founder of The Modern Love Box
“Stop trying to fix everything in your relationship!” may be something you’ve heard a bazillion times. Maybe it’s something you didn’t even know you were trying to do; but you just know you hate when the one you love struggles or when there is conflict between the two of you. Your intentions are sincere. You want to keep the peace and make “negative” feelings go away. Your natural go-to is to logically assess the situation, then fix the uncomfortableness. So you may be confused as to why your partner doesn’t understand your genuine attempt to help them out or to defuse the situation.
When your partner starts to get angry with you for always trying to fix things, you may find yourself at a frustrating point and don’t quite understand what to do to make things better. This may make you feel completely discouraged, stressed and rejected. You may start to believe that you can never do anything right. Maybe that is why you have found yourself googling, “stop trying to fix everything in your relationship.”
If you’re in this boat, hear me when I say, this is a common issue for couples.
We have all heard of chronic people pleasing, but we often don’t hear enough about the “chronic fixer” mentality. “The chronic fixer” was often the child growing up that was in charge of their erratic or irresponsible parent or sibling; the child that was expected to be the mediator in the family when abuse or escalation would surface; the child that was neglected from their parents attention or who grew up not understanding unconditional love. The fixer is often the child that never learned how to emotionally express their needs or feelings and becomes easily overwhelmed with other’s expression of emotions. If you are the fixer, this is often why the inner child in you feels so helpless and why it may feel incredibly hurtful when your partner gets angry with you for trying to help. If the fixer mentality in you is so ingrained, it can be a challenge to stop trying to fix everything in your relationship.
So what do you do?
As the fixer, your conscious intentions of diffusing the situation are noble. You care, you try to support, you want to make things “right” again. However, your automatic drive to fix things, is usually more of a defense mechanism to protect yourself, than it is an altruistic drive to help. This is why the attempt to fix doesn’t soothe your partner and it seems to only make things worse. So, if you are the fixer, this doesn’t mean you are “bad,” or wrong. It’s just helpful to realize that your automatic behavior to shut things down and to fix them, are usually an innate defense against your intolerance to emotional discomfort and/or escalation and conflict. Your actions and attempt to fix things, are an automatic response to your subconscious fears in childhood or a toxic past relationship.
So, in a nutshell, the (subconscious) attempt to fix everything is often motivated by a desire to protect yourself from being triggered by a wound that hasn’t fully been healed from your past.
One of the reasons this comes up a lot in couples counseling, is because one person’s natural approach to supporting the other can unfortunately be the exact opposite from what their partner actually needs. Together, they don’t know how to communicate about it, so they tend to just get frustrated at each other and get stuck in repetitive arguments. They both end up feeling dismissed and frustrated.
It’s like the example of never telling a frantic person to “calm down.” Generally, telling someone to calm down has the opposite outcome, because it makes the person who is feeling frantic, now feel dismissed and embarrassed for feeling how they are feeling. Even if “calming down” is the logical and helpful thing to do, in the moment of heightened emotions, it is impossible to flip the switch into a logical state of mind. When we are feeling emotionally triggered, our brains can stop working properly and the amygdala can be hijacked. This is important to understand because we are incredibly complex as human beings and sometimes, when we are emotional, we aren’t always choosing to react in the way we desire. This is why it is incredibly important for both partners to work on strengthening emotional intelligence and tolerance.
I often tell my clients to picture a disgusting scenario: Your partner is stuck in poop. Literally. They are drenched in it. It’s like quick sand and they are barely able to keep their head above the disgustingness. You see them and you want to get them out, but you look around you and there is absolutely nothing you can use to pull them out with. Your partner is defeated and stressed. You are defeated and stressed. Best thing you can do? Jump in the pile of poo with them. That’s it. Sound crazy? YES, it does, but this is often all we need as humans. By jumping in, you show up for them. You give them permission to be overwhelmed and you give yourself permission to be powerless. You ride the wave together and you see your partner with compassion, they see you with intention. Sometimes there is no solution other than that. Eventually the disgustingness becomes livable and the two of you realize you actually aren’t covered in poop, it’s just mud; and by the time the sun goes down, it starts to loosen up, allowing the two of you to get out comfortably to find shelter… together, as a team. “Problem” solved!
Stop Trying to Fix Everything in Your Relationship | 6 Things to do Instead:
Breathe | So when your partner is struggling with something, try to breathe consciously. Literally take a few moments to calm your instinct to react by shutting the emotions down and fixing it. Just breathe and remind yourself that you are safe. Be conscious of what immediate thought popped into your head, “Oh no, here we go again,” or “What did I do wrong?”
Don’t Make Assumptions | When you’re sensing your partner’s vibe is off, you automatically go to worst case scenario in your head. Stop that train of thought, observe the situation and try asking yourself, “Is what I am assuming/thinking true? Do I have evidence to support these automatic thoughts? Am I giving my partner the benefit of the doubt?”
Ask More Questions | Listen more. Ask more. It’s simple enough to help your partner feel validated, but also helpful in soothing your anxiety. Maybe your partner is upset about something that has nothing to do with you, and they just need a moment to talk through it. Try asking a simple question about their needs, “Do you want me to help you solve this, or just listen?”
Set Boundaries | It is completely OK for you to request boundaries when you are feeling overwhelmed and need a moment to collect yourself from flooding emotions. A healthy example on how to request space from an emotional partner is, “I hear you, I see you’re upset, and I need a moment to process all this because emotions can be challenging for me to process. Can we revisit this conversation when I get back in a couple hours?”
Work on Feeling Uncomfortable | Work on your tolerance to difficult emotions or conversations. If being uncomfortable with emotions is something you struggle with, it may be time to do your own counseling to help you regulate and process them effectively.
Relinquish Your Responsibility to Fix Everything | You may feel as though it is your “job” for one reason or another to fix everything, but it isn’t. In fact, that belief is causing you the most pain and discomfort. By relinquishing the responsibility, you surrender to not having control. This is uncomfortable, but it is equally relieving.
*Obviously, if your relationship hits any of these red flags, then you may want to reconsider your relationship’s health and may not want to continue the relationship. There is a difference between being a fixer due to childhood triggers and feeling coerced to please your partner because they are abusive.
All and all, relationships are challenging! The best thing you can do is try to assume the best of your partner (if it is not toxic or abusive). We are all trying our best, even if it doesn’t seem that way sometimes. If you don’t feel heard, there may be somethings you can try differently to be softer with your approach. If you don’t feel appreciated or understood, then you may be trying too hard to fix the situation rather than just hear your partner out.
Thanks for reading our article, Stop Trying to Fix Everything in Your Relationship.