A Message to the Girl Who Loves a Broken Man

If you’ve ever watched ‘Fixer Uppers,’ you’ll know the hosts find three houses, assess the damage in the homes, and give each house a name based on what impression it left on them.

Looking back, I treated some of my relationships the same way. I dated a guy when I was a teenager who was the perfect example of a fixer upper—someone I wanted to save.

I remember assessing this guy’s life, categorizing his mistakes, and assigning a “name” of sorts to him. Others had already written him off as a lost cause, but I remember looking at this attractive bad boy and literally naming him “Mr. Fixable.”

In hindsight, I think a lot of my desire to fix things stemmed from my own brokenness. I thought if I could just find someone and improve their life that in some way it would make me “worthy” of love. Instead,  it led me to do some pretty stupid things.

Not yet twenty, he had already gotten in trouble with the law in a big way. He had gone to jail and had been in a losing battle with alcohol for a few years. But there something intriguing about his lifestyle and his devilish yet childlike grin. He was like a wild spirit that I felt I was meant to tame.

I thought I was in love with this person. I also thought that he would choose me over his poor choices and—just like in a romantic comedy—our love would save him from himself. But he continued to make the same mistakes. He would seek out parties, he would get drunk almost nightly, and he would get into fights. It wasn’t long before “Mr. Fixable” landed himself  in jail for another stint.

My mother expressly forbade me to visit him in jail, but his mom had requested I come as quickly as possible because he needed me. I skipped school the next day, caught a ride with his mother, and found myself sitting in the lobby of the jail.

I had never stepped foot in a jail before in my life. I should have been taken aback by how bad his choices were. But in my naïveté, I was struck by how romantic my undying love and sacrifice for this kid and his need for me felt.

As I set there with his mom, she looked me directly in the eyes and said, “You know, you are too good for him. But I am glad you are here. He needs someone like you in his life.”

With those few words, she made me all the more determined to save this man.

I never got to see him in jail. The correct paperwork wasn’t in order, and I got in big trouble with my mother for my rebellious actions. But I continued to keep in contact with him. I wrote him letters for six months, sneaking them to him when I could in a last ditch effort to save him from himself.

Eventually, as I began to mature and saw how unhealthy our relationship was, I realized “Mr. Fixable” didn’t want to be fixed at all.

All my efforts to fix him only made him feel good. And he enjoyed the cycle of failing, pep talks, valiant declarations of change (like promising to party only on weekends) only to start the process all over again. And sadly, so did I. I felt validated when he told me how perfect I was and by how much he needed me.

But as my life went on, I met people who challenged me to be better instead of just telling me I was perfect. And I didn’t want to settle for someone who thought his greatest accomplishment would be to not party during the week.

My desire to feel needed by trying to “help” this man meant I sacrificed a lot of valuable things along the way. I lost a full year of being on good terms with my mother, who was my best friend. I lost my sense of worth every time I felt like I failed to be enough to make someone want to change. And I lost precious time trying to fix people who didn’t want to change when I should have focused on bettering myself and healing my own wounds.

I couldn’t fix him. Mr. Fixable needed to fix himself.

When I had given up on finding a man to save, that’s when I found my husband. I took the lessons of my earlier mistake and assessed this new guy’s life. Instead of deeming him “Mr. Fixable,” I found myself appreciating who he was and who we were in the moment. He didn’t need my pep talks. I couldn’t be his savior and didn’t need to be. He didn’t need me to fix him.

 I realize now that what I really needed was a teammate rather than a project. I found in my husband a person who wanted to grow with me and for me. And there isn’t anything more romantic than that.

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