Being a Fixer

5 Jun

I am a fixer.  When I see a problem I want to correct it.  If there is something to do, I attack it.  I am also an overachiever and a perfectionist.  I want to be the best.  I won’t accept less than what I know I am capable of.  I strive to stand out from the pack.  While these things have led to accomplishments and good outcomes in my life (full college scholarship, 4.0 GPA while maintaining a full-time job, owning a home at 19), they are not healthy traits overall.  They can lead to missed opportunities (because if I can’t guarantee success I will most likely not try at all).  They can lead to controlling behavior (if you want something done right, just do it yourself).  They can lead to frustration, stress, low self-esteem, and a host of other things.

My husband’s sex addiction is the biggest personal test of those traits that I have ever experienced because I can’t fix it.  Not being able to control that aspect of our life makes me feel helpless, useless, and deficient in some uncorrectable way.  I have to address my “fixer” urge and perfectionism head-on almost every day.  Nothing I can do will change or correct my husband’s sex addiction – now, in the future, or in the past.  It is his journey.

I am slowly accepting the fact that there are aspects of our marriage recovery that are not in my hands.  It is terrifying because the outcome doesn’t solely rely on me.  I have to put away the notion that we can have a “perfect” marriage.  I also have to challenge the idea that perfection is possible in any other aspect of my life.  That is my ongoing battle.  It is one of the major contributions I can make to our marriage.  Accepting that means I am also accepting that my husband’s sex addiction and his hurtful actions existed outside of me.   He isn’t perfect, either.  What he did wasn’t about me, I can’t control it, I couldn’t have loved him out of it, and his behavior wasn’t my fault.

That resolve is put to the test every day, though.  I often hear people parroting that an affair is just a “symptom” and the real “cause” is a bad marriage.  They point the finger back at the betrayed spouse and say that there is something more or better that we should have been doing.  They say that we failed in the marriage first by not fulfilling every need our partner had.  These people are fond of saying that affairs are wrong, but that they wouldn’t have made the wrong choice if this or that thing was better to begin with. It plays right into my “fixer” complex.

I’m not going to go into the merits of that argument as they apply to standard affairs without a sexual addiction component.  I really can’t address that because that’s not what I am dealing with.  I do understand that there are always things ANYONE in a marriage can do more of or better.  No one is perfect, and that includes me.  That admission is a hard one for me to make.  As much as I would like to do everything right all of the time, I don’t.  Even if I did and had been all along, though, the issues that I am dealing with in my marriage would still be there. Because my husband’s “cause” is deeper than our marriage. 

There are other “causes” of affairs than just “my marriage sucked” or any variation thereof (I wasn’t getting enough sex, she didn’t love or cherish me enough, etc.).  There are some people who are dealing with a pattern of sexual acting out that is a lifetime behavior not caused by the person they are with.  Sometimes affair behavior has nothing to do with their primary relationship at all – and confessed sex addicts will be the first to tell you that – at least my husband would.

Does that mean there is something fundamentally wrong with me that I picked him to marry? Quite possibly. That is part of my journey to healing.  I need to figure out why I was attracted to someone who was emotionally unavailable.  I can say that sex addicts are masters of covering up their emotions, compartmentalizing, rationalizing and denying.  But that doesn’t change the fact that I inadvertently accepted that behavior by allowing him to offer me thin explanations, bad lies, and surface emotions.  I let him give me less than I deserved, and I tricked myself into thinking I was getting everything I needed.

I know that this will sound awful, but sometimes I wish that I was just dealing with a garden variety affair. I know that they are painful and difficult to get through. But at least there is a clear path, and it is more of a partnership to find your way out.  This?  I’m not sure what it is.  Any books I read call me codependent if I try to help my husband through it.  So I have to just sit back and let him do the work.  Sure, I have things that I’m working on as well.  But none of those things will matter if he doesn’t unravel his “cause” and break his underlying patterns.

I WISH that I could do something to fix this.  I WISH that our cause really was as simple as some fundamental thing being missing from our relationship.  It just isn’t.  His sex addiction was not caused by me.  It was there before me.  The primary cause of my husband’s cheating had nothing to do with me.  It has to do with his addiction.

That means we are working not just to find the proper footing in our marriage.  We are also working to find a way to connect and get to the “real” person underneath the sex addict veneer.  I want to know my husband.  I want him to share with me.  He wants to share with me.  But his gut instinct, his default programming, is to lie, hide, and cover his true emotions with acting out behavior like porn, sex chatting, sexting, etc.  He isn’t acting out sexually anymore, but he is still lying and hiding things that he could and should be sharing with me.  He has to figure out why.  He has to get to the root of that programming, undo over 40 years of “faulty wiring,” be okay with being vulnerable, and learn to accept the love that I am offering him.

And I have to learn to let go.  I have to learn to let him figure things out.  I have to learn to keep offering love and support whether he accepts them or not.  I have to keep being vulnerable even when he isn’t.  I have to lead by example and put into my marriage what I hope to get out of it.  That is the only way that I can “fix” anything – by doing the things that are in my power and being aware of the things that aren’t.  What an easy concept that is in theory, but how incredibly difficult it is in practice.

Maybe now you understand me better.  Maybe you don’t.  I don’t know.  I just wanted to point out that not every affair has the same cause.  Maybe other perfectionists out there will be able to let go of a little bit of their guilt, feelings of responsibility, and shame regarding their husbands’ affairs.  There are more spouses of sex addicts out there than you might think.  This is written for them.  Hopefully you will be able to identify what things you can change and what things you can’t.  Maybe you will start to understand the areas where you have responsibility and the areas that are completely on your spouse.  Don’t accept more responsibility than is really yours because it will only lead you to try to change things that aren’t in your power.

20 Responses to “Being a Fixer”

  1. Trina January 9, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

    I wanted to bless and thank you for your the posts. I have been dealing with almost the identical story. Drowning adminst a sea of lies and disappointment, it’s comforting to read your truth and learning. Thank you.

    I have stumbled on these lessons myself. I don’t know what’s in store for my husband or myself. We are embarking on a trial separation when more lies and deceiving were revealed.

    I can’t walk in the the fear of my world falling apart any more, so I directly head into destroying the life I have built. How high of a price for love should we pay? How it hurts to love the person but hate their choices and their actions, and watch as it completely destroys your family. But at what point do we stop ‘fixing’ and just let go.

    I am working on surrender….leaving it to a higher power and saving myself. For after all I am the only one I can truly save…..and if I stay under these conditions I think it’s possible that the darkness of despair could swallow my heart. I finally want more….more of what I desearve and less of fixing and loving him. If he does the work he needs to do….maybe there is a chance for us….if he doesn’t, I am willing to free myself.

    • beautifulmess7 January 9, 2015 at 6:34 pm #

      You are so right that the only person you can save is yourself. It is a difficult thing for a “fixer” to accept. No one can make changes for someone else or motivate them to want to make changes. More and more I wonder if that concept of changing can even really happen. We can learn and grow, but we are all fundamentally the people that we are and want to be. I hope that you can free yourself to be the person you are, outside of the turmoil in your relationship. What would you do without that stress and worry and heartache? Who were you before that? Can you envision what your world will be like without it? Scary and different, for sure, but also wide open. I am sending you peaceful thoughts because I know you’ll need them.

  2. Ariella June 6, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    Wow, this is an amazing post, and it describes so much as to how I feel. John, in my opinion is a serial cheater, because he is a sex addict. I have told him a thousand times, I can’t “fix” you, and that is very difficult for me to admit and accept.

    The only thing that I didn’t agree with, when it comes to my relationship is the part about “affairs.” I think the only reason John and I are still together is because he is just in search for sex. I know me and I know that I would not be able to handle if he had any emotional attachments with these women. As crazy as this sounds, I would rather him just have sex with some random woman, then sit for hours and talk and cuddle with someone. I just would not be able to handle that.

    There is an article that I read on the relation between cheating and Narcissistic Personality disorder. I have to attempt to find it, I really think it would be beneficial for you to read! If I find it I will send you the link, it truly helped me a lot. . .

    • beautifulmess7 June 6, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

      I agree with you 100%. I guess I didn’t really think through the use of the word “affair.” I was thinking of the type of cheating my husband has done, which has been a purely sexual thing. If there was just that without the sex addict part or the serial cheating aspect it would be easier to handle. I didn’t think of the flip side of the emotional attachment that comes with some affairs. Very good point!

      Thanks for widening my perspective. I definitely couldn’t have handled an emotional attachment to another woman. I don’t know if I could ever have gotten over him saying “I love you” to another woman.

      If you find that article I would SOOOO love to read it!

  3. Robyn Carey Allgeyer June 6, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    Your post is beautiful and powerful. I want to share with you and your followers a book that helps so many women in this process of recovery – Your Sexually Addicted Spouse; How Partners Can Cope and Heal by Dr. Barbara Steffens and Marsha Means. Both authors have been there, recovered, and have devoted their professional lives to helping other women in relational trauma. Dr. Steffens and her husband are a success story -they will celebrate their 37th year of marriage this year. Keep blogging – it is such a wonderful tool for garnering support!

    • beautifulmess7 June 6, 2012 at 11:32 am #

      I have that book, and I agree that it is a really good one to read. We are working through some of the exercises in it together. It has definitely been a great help.

  4. Wendy June 5, 2012 at 10:56 pm #

    Amazing post!!!

    I am also accepting that there is always room for improvement in everything I do, which is hard for me. You must be a Virgo, like me.

    You can’t love him into changing, as you know. Any addict has to first acknowledge they have a problem then take the necessary steps to fixing it. Is he in therapy? I don’t remember.

    I am an addict as well (drugs)…9 years clean, so I understand how hard it is to live a life without something that “took away” all of your problems instantly. I would bet that his problem arose out of some kind of need for control as well…a way to relieve some kind of intense feelings – maybe his parents fought a lot and it created anxiety in him that he released with sex acts? He’ll get there eventually.

    In my recovery (from the affair), I have been learning to take baby steps and that has been aggravating for me because I feel as though I should know how to fix everything at once.

    • beautifulmess7 June 6, 2012 at 7:48 am #

      That’s a good guess, but I’m a Capricorn. We share some of the same traits. The perfectionist thing is definitely a hallmark of a Capricorn. I think it’s funny how accurate those things can be.

      I do know in my head that I can’t love him into changing, but that is hard to accept, too. He has acknowledged he has a problem and he is taking the right steps… most of the time. He was in individual therapy, but then he stopped. He went back for one week, then has had a hard time getting another appointment because the guy is crazy busy. We do couple’s therapy. And he sometimes goes to SA meetings. I wish he would do that more, but again, if I push him into it does that really accomplish anything at the end of the day?

      I think that’s where my real struggle lies. What’s the difference between setting firm boundaries – like you must attend SA meetings and go to individual therapy – and controlling behavior? I feel much safer and more at peace when he is doing the things he should be. But when I have to make him do them it does take away some of that security.

      We are moving in the right direction every day – getting closer, talking more, enjoying one another… But the addiction is in the back of my mind when he isn’t doing everything he can to guard himself against it. I don’t worry that he is acting out now. But like you said, addiction is a powerful thing. He did use it as a way to relieve intense feelings, and it was a coping mechanism for many, many years. I’m afraid that just when he starts feeling relaxed and “cured” his inaction will sneak up and bite him (and by extention, me) in the butt.

      That’s the hardest part for him I think – acknowledging that this will be a part of him that he has to be aware of for his entire life. Once it is in control it won’t take so much energy, time, and effort but there really is no “cure” for addiction. My grandmother is a recovering alcoholic. She has been sober for 8 years now and still goes to AA meetings weekly. You just have to keep guarding yourself against those desires or the patterns that lead to the desires.

      The baby steps thing is something I have to constantly keep reminding myself of. I, too, am not good with that. I want everything to be better, and I want it fixed as soon as possible, preferably now. I know that’s not possible with this sort of thing. I know the baby steps that we are taking are really huge in the grand scheme of recovery. Some days they can be discouraging, though. Why does every little step have to be so agonizing? On those days I remind myself of where we came from and how much closer we are to our goal.

      Thanks for the support.

  5. NZ Cate June 5, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

    This is a really great post. Thank you and good luck in your journey to let things be. But you know I really do wonder when people will learn not to judge until they’ve walked in another’s shoes. No one has the right to judge you or your husband. If only they could learn to keep their big mouths shut.

    • beautifulmess7 June 5, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

      Thanks. I have been judged my whole life for one thing or another. I know from your blog that you have been as well. It gets my hackles up. You were able to see that.

      This post did start out as a reply. There are some people who are so confident in their view of things that they can’t accept it wouldn’t be true for someone else. Or maybe they are so insecure they have to push their beliefs into others to feel like their position is justified. Or maybe I’m the one with all those issues. Who knows? That’s why I try not to judge others. I say try because, again, I’m not perfect.

      That’s why I decided to post this. It started as a defense of myself, but as I wrote it instead it started turning into a reminder to let go. That includes letting go of other people’s opinions of me. I really don’t owe anyone but myself and my husband an explanation for my feelings and recovery choices as we make our way through this. But I want to express myself and hopefully help someone else feel more empowered to not worry about being “perfect.”

      • NZ Cate June 5, 2012 at 11:06 pm #

        And I think you did it really well! 🙂

        • beautifulmess7 June 6, 2012 at 7:36 am #

          Thanks! It feels good when something comes together. So many times I worry that I’m not properly conveying the thoughts inside of my head.

  6. Samantha Baker June 5, 2012 at 6:17 pm #

    Bravo, bravo, bravo. I too an a fixer, and we are even more alike. Everything you’ve said here is beyond perfect.

  7. recover1day June 5, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

    This is a really great post BeautifulM7. My partner hasn’t been diagnosed as sex addict, but also is not in counsiling. He appears to maintain control for periods of time. 5 affairs in 4 years, possibly 10-12 in the past 7 years, he’s cheated on every woman he was EVER with since his early teen-age years, had dozens of on line profiles,hundreds of internet fantasy affairs plus porn, difficulty controling sexual urges and habitual acting out when depressed or stressed, among other things. I’m guessing the odds are not in our favor that he’s free of sexual addiction. Your post is powerful because I fight the same urges to fix things. I have a deep need to control my life. It’s not that I want to control people and it’s not that I want to do everything myself. Far from it actually. Why would anyone choose that life? It’s that I’ve spent my life aiming for perfection because somewhere along the way I developed the belief that I HAD TO strive for perfection because leaving my life in anyone elses hands would only end up badly. The more I achieved, the less uncertainty and risk there was to deal with. It’s truly difficult to stand back and trust that our partners will own this and take responsibility for their own outcome while we accept responsibility for the few things we can control. It’s sometimes an overpowering need to be able to just fix it or steer them toward fixing it. One might ask, how on earth would I ever fix HIM, when I can’t seem to heal myself completely? My answer to that is I probably couldn’t. But what I know is that it’s precisely the lack of control and uncertainty over how much he will or won’t fix it vs continue to hide it that’s leaving me on less than my usual solid footing. My reactions to the circumstance we’re in is so far removed from my reactions to other things in life where I’m able to charge forward and assume control and manage the outcome. I can relate to a lot of what you’ve written here. I just want to say thanks and to give you a few cheers for support.

    • beautifulmess7 June 5, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

      Thank you! Everything you said is exactly right. I feel like that all the time. It’s not that I want to control other people or be responsible for everything. Far from it! I want someone to tell me that they will take care of things, that they will do what needs to be done, that I don’t have to do it all. I want that person to be my husband.

      At the same time I’m afraid to let go before I see that he has the wheel. What if we crash? History has taught me that when you rely on someone else it doesn’t work out. I have been hurt, let down, betrayed. Not just by my husband, either… The only person I have been able to fully count on is myself. It’s an awful catch 22 because sometimes I prevent the very thing I want from happening by holding on too right.

      • recover1day June 5, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

        Perfectly said, preventing the very thing we want by holding on too tight and yet… ya gotta wonder what other choice we have some times. But…. we are going to get through this, each of us. WE CAN DO IT!

        • beautifulmess7 June 6, 2012 at 7:34 am #

          Yes, we will get through this. It’s just a scary ride. Sometimes I just close my eyes and hope for the best.

  8. survivamama June 5, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    Your post today touched a chord with me. LETTING GO…so hard to do. My hubby isn’t a sex addict but he is an individual who can and will behave as he pleases…I cannot control him or his actions (or the ow’s actions) and I have to LET GO of that. So hard to do as you say and yet I’m learning to do it and feeling better the more I do it. This has been a major “ah ha” moment on my affair recovery journey. For my own mental health I can’t hold on to what is beyond my control. Wishing you courage as you struggle with this too!

    • beautifulmess7 June 5, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

      I just read that on your post today. When you said that he could cheat on you again, he could die, you could die… It’s all out of your control. That is so true. We can’t control it, so why let it control us?

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