Being A 'Fixer' Could Be Why Your Relationships Keep Breaking

Out of all the qualities people might look for in a romantic match, kindness is often regarded as one of the most valuable. In fact, a survey of 250,000 singles conducted by dating website EliteSingles revealed that kindness trumped all other partner traits when ranked in order of importance.

While kindness can show up in many different ways, offering help and support, especially when a significant other is going through a tough time, might be one of the most common definitions of being kind. However, this form of kindness can backfire when it comes along with being a "fixer."

Essentially, fixers make a habit of — you guessed it — fixing their loved ones. "You're always jumping in to give solutions, even when you're not asked," Dr. Perpetua Neo, a psychologist, shared with The Zoe Report. "You believe it's your duty to clean up someone's mess." Trying to fix others' problems may be your preferred way of proving you're a ride-or-die partner, but according to Dr. Neo, it might reveal deeper issues, such as codependency, that could ruin your relationships.

What's so wrong with being a fixer?

Devoting yourself to fixing your S.O.'s problems can, on the surface, seem like a good thing — who wouldn't want a partner to help them overcome trouble? But the reality is that fixers often use their savior role to cover up their own problems. As Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford, a licensed marriage and family therapist, revealed in a blog post on PsychCentral, many fixers have experienced past abuse and use their fixing tendencies to prove their worth. This pattern of always putting others first can result in fixers neglecting their own issues, meaning they may never learn how to process their trauma.

Besides hindering your own growth, being a fixer can also keep you from forming authentic connections with others, according to licensed mental health counselor Nicole Kleiman-Reck. "Fixing can get in the way of differentiation in a relationship, which is essential since both partners need to be able to express their individual needs. Being able to openly communicate this is essential in a healthy relationship, and fixing is unhealthy because it prevents this growth," Kleiman-Reck explained to xoNecole. Moreover, offering unsolicited advice often feels better for the advice giver than the receiver and can even create power struggles in the relationship, according to a 2018 study published in "Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin."

In other words, fixing might be your way of trying to strengthen your relationship, but compulsive problem-solving may only drive you and your loved one further apart.

What to do if fixing is ruining your relationships

Fixing can be a hard habit to break, especially if it's rooted in past trauma. However, turning your attention inward can help you become more aware of your triggers as a fixer. Dr. Perpetua Neo told The Zoe Report that a good starting point is asking yourself, "What about my own needs am I running away from?" Dr. Neo explained, "When something strikes a deep chord with us, it's possibly the last thing we want to sit down and honestly face. So we distract ourselves with others' needs. This can be a sobering wake-up call to get started on the things that matter."

After taking an introspective pause, learn to respond to your partner differently when they hit a stumbling block. Rather than swooping in to repair the situation or telling your S.O. what to do, psychotherapist Dr. Erin Leonard wrote on Psychology Today that it's often more helpful to practice empathy. Focus on the other person's feelings, validate their predicament, and offer a solution only if it's requested.

If you're struggling to separate yourself from the fixer role, consider working with a mental health professional. They can help you learn healthier coping strategies and sources of self-esteem that won't wreck your relationships.