Kathleen and I lived together for a couple of years. She is really sweet and smart, but has a lot of issues stemming from a bad childhood. She also has terrible self-esteem. For all the time we were together, I worked really hard to build her up and help her work through her problems. She seemed to appreciate it, although I don't know how much good I did. Often she would behave badly, which I knew was a result of her problems. Many times, I lost my patience with her. Afterwards, she'd feel bad about it; we'd talk it out; she'd promise not to do that thing again, we'd kiss and make up, and things would be OK for a while..until she acted out again. After a while, it seemed we fought more than were loving. We both knew this was bad for both of us, but we loved each other so much, we always tried to find a solution. Then, one day, I came home from work and she was gone. No note. No goodbye. I was devastated. It's been three months and she won't take my phone calls or reply to my emails. I am still reeling from the hurt. I gave her so much and she just turned her back on me. I don't know if I will ever be able to get over this or trust anyone again. Please tell me how to handle this.



Dear PL

You have the same problem I do! I'm a "fixer." I see someone hurting, in need of loving, and I move right in. I'm like Dudley Doright.."I'll save you, Nell!!" Most people respond to this love and support least initially. But I've come to understand that for them, this "love therapy" eventually becomes a burden.

I'm sure Kathleen wanted to change for the better as much as you wanted her to. You showed her a vision of how she could be happy. Of course, she really wanted it, so she followed you down that path... for a while. In the end, however, she found herself incapable of making those changes in herself. Now, not only did she have this lifelong frustration of being a disappointment to herself, she was also disappointing you, which only made her feel worse about herself. I'm sure she felt she was doing you a favor by leaving you. She probably thought it was better if you just forgot about her.

I have often asked myself if this "need to fix" is about love or about ego. To have someone need you so profoundly and look up to you, feels wonderful for a while. There is deep, primal bond between you. Ultimately, however, that person will either become helplessly dependent (no fun for you!) or they will rebel against that feeling of dependence and run away. (Her "acting out" was already a form of rebellion.) It's a no-win situation.

It's hard for us "fixers" to love someone and NOT try to help them, but in the end, the most loving thing we can do is to just let them be; accept them exactly as they are - flaws and all. It may not be possible to be in a full time, romantic relationship with them, but if you're lucky, you might come out of it as good friends.






© 2019 Adrienne Gusoff

August 2, 2012