Home » Blogs » Relationship Corner » Broken Things: Our Need to Fix Others
Relationship Corner
with Tarra Bates-Duford, Ph.D., MFT

Broken Things: Our Need to Fix Others


For some, the need to “fix” others can be overpowering, we want to fix what we perceive to be broken or not working properly. The need to fix others can often be seen in romantic relationships, one partner feels the other may need “a little work” in order to make him/her a better person or better partner in the relationship. One problem with this is that the other person may not want fixing or may not even see a need to be fixed. Partners that are in a relationship with someone they perceive to require fixing are doomed to experience a failed relationship. Healthy relationships consist of mutual respect, love, and acceptance between partners. Relationships that include one partner feeling that the other is “not good enough” as they are and require work to make them more acceptable often leads to frustration, sadness, anger, and resentment. Most people wish to be loved for who they are not by what the other partner can make them into.

Unfortunately, a lot of “fixers” struggle with unresolved issues of past childhood abuse. Some individuals that have been abused as children have difficulty managing negative feelings associated from the abuse. Persons with an abused past are more likely than those without and abused past to struggle with low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, low self-worth, etc. Abuse occurring in childhood has the ability to cause both immediate and long-term negative consequences. Some survivors of childhood abuse have difficulty accepting the abuse was not their fault, many believe it was their fault that they were abused. As some believe the abuse was their fault, they begin to internalize they are not loveable, not good enough, and display a compulsion to save or fix others. Once in adulthood some survivors will project their damaged selves onto others. Many will see themselves as flawed, therefore, in need of repair. He or she will unconsciously attempt to fix others, thereby fixing themselves. As humans we have a tendency to gravitate toward the familiar, we gravitate towards damaged people because we ourselves may be damaged. We may be used to damage as that is what we can relate to and what we are comfortable with.

Growing up in an unhealthy environment creates challenges for someone that grew up in a dysfunctional home with relating to others in a healthy environment. Dysfunctional environments limits opportunities for healthy learning, development of appropriate learning skills, and healthy adjustment. When we encounter individuals such as potential partners that were raised in a healthy environment, we sometimes have challenges knowing how to act or what to say around them. Ironically, for some people raised in a dysfunctional home, he or she may feel there is something “wrong” with the person that came from a healthier upbringing.

Reasons We Desire to Fix Others Include:

• We want to be their savior
• We want to fix what is broken or not working
• We like the thrill of the challenge
• They make us feel needed
• We feel special when we are able to change the lives of others
• We see ourselves in them
• By “fixing” someone else we unconsciously fic ourselves
• We thrive the unpredictability of seeing the impact of our “work” on someone else
• We desire the feeling of gratefulness of the individual we “fixed”.
• We want to make them better for us
• We want them to feel indebted to us

Although, there is nothing wrong with having the desire to help others, we must not do so for selfish reasons, such as, changing them into someone else. Not all things perceived to be broken have a desire to be fixed, either we accept them as they are, or leave them how we have found them. Loving a broken or damaged person is not a bad thing, everyone in this world deserves to be loved and to experience love, but loving someone, damaged or not, who is not amenable to your effort to change can be difficult for a “fixer” to accept. Relationships should be centered around a love that sharpens both people, a love that holds onto the goodness of each individual and constantly works to bring that out of each of them. Some broken things have sharp edges that proves difficult and dangerous to fix, so it is best to accept those things and persons for who and what they are.

Broken Things: Our Need to Fix Others

Bates-Duford, Ph.D., LMFT

My name is Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford PhD, LMFT, CRS, CMFSW, BCPC I have a PhD in forensic Psychology specializing in familial dysfunctions and traumatic experience. I work with individuals and families struggling with familial dysfunctions, trauma, rape, and incest. I also have a masters in Marriage, Couples, & Family therapy. I am a certified relationship specialist with American Psychotherapy Association (#15221). I have more than 15 years in the field of mental health, relationships, and behavioral sciences.

3 comments: View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Bates-Duford, T. (2018). Broken Things: Our Need to Fix Others. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2020, from


Last updated: 4 Nov 2018
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.