Being a 'fixer' can be the kiss of death for a marriage. Here's why.

Attention couples - have you ever been dealing with a stress, woe, or annoyance, and your partner's response has been an automatic attempt to rationalise and fix said situation?

Seriously, why does it happen SO DARN often...

In a lot of these scenarios, the partner means well. And trying to solve someone else's concern often comes from a place of consideration and desperation to make it all dandy again.

But the cold, hard truth according to experts is that being a fixer in a relationship can do a lot more harm than good. 

Watch: relationship red flags. Post continues below. 

Video via Mamamia. 

Nahum Kozak is the co-founder of Lighthouse Relationships and is a senior psychologist. For 15 years now, Kozak has been helping hundreds of couples get back on track in their relationships.

Over the years, he has noticed a strong pattern of 'fixer' identity among male partners or husbands - and the detrimental impact it can have. For the partner on the receiving end, it can make them feel incredibly lonely and almost judged. And that leads to disconnection.

With this in mind, here are some dos and don'ts when it comes to navigating the fixer response.

Don't resort to an immediate problem-solving response amid grief. 

Kozak says he has seen cases in couples where comments of a glass-half-full nature or fixer mentality have hindered rather than helped, even if well-intentioned. 


"We see this really have a negative impact amid situations that are high stress or where a loss, grief or trauma has occurred. The stakes are higher, and often the person feeling sad or stressed just wants to be listened to and have their feelings acknowledged," he tells Mamamia

Take, for example, an instance of miscarriage.

"I think in those moments of grief, the best thing you can do is acknowledge how vulnerable your partner is feeling. It starts with recognising your partner's feelings and then reflecting those emotions back.

"If someone's in distress, they don't need their husband to come in from the outside to try and suggest solutions. They don't need someone to try and make it better or draw a silver lining."

Do opt for reflective statements rather than questions.

For Kozak personally, he and his wife have learned this trick firsthand. 

Both of them work as couples therapists, and so they each have a myriad of handy tools and coping strategies to draw on. But that doesn't mean immediately offering advice to one another is the best route to go down in their relationship. 

"In the day-to-day dramas is where I resort to fixer mode the most," says Kozak. "If my wife has had a general issue at work for example, I immediately begin to offer solutions saying things like 'Have you tried this?' or 'Why don't you do this instead?' But that's not what my wife wants or needs."

Now aware of his response and its effect, Kozak says he's opting for reflective statements such as 'I understand', 'That must be really annoying', and 'You're doing a good job'.


Simple, but it's incredibly effective. 

"If anything now I give consent before I offer solutions or treat her. Just having a conversation such as, 'Hey is this something you want me to problem solve, or just for me to hear?' And 95 per cent of the time, she just wants me to listen. And I totally understand that."

For the partner on the receiving end - don't let resentment build.

Yes, it's not fun to have a loved one try to 'fix' your broken feelings. But the worst thing you can do in response is let it slide, says Kozak, as that could culminate into a bigger issue.

"Given I'm a psychologist, communication is always going to be the answer to these problems. If we don't have the tough conversations up front, albeit respectfully, we're gonna keep failing. The risk of not communicating is that resentment will build."

Although the downsides of being a fixer might be cognisant to some, Kozak explains that a lot of men wouldn't have zero clue.

"Men have been socialised to be problem solvers or fixers, whether it be in their everyday life, work or relationships. When we as men are offering solutions to our partners, it is most often done with the best intentions," he tells Mamamia

"In our minds, we would see someone as simple as active listening and offering a hug as not enough effort given on their end."

For hetero-couples, Kozak says if he's dealing with a husband that is feeling particularly confused, there's an analogy that tends to act as a lightbulb moment.

"I remember one client was a husband who was a mechanic or something, and was struggling with emotional communication. I said to him, 'Your wife is like an electric vehicle. If you start pouring petrol into an electric car, it's not going to respond well. Not everything that works for you will work for her, the thing that fills her tank is different'. 


"This along with acknowledging the fact his efforts were well-meaning really opened his eyes."

Do try this 10-minute relationship exercise.

Something that Kozak recommends for his client couples is for them to engage in a stress-reducing conversation every day for 10 minutes.

It's where the couple carves out uninterrupted time to sit down, and actively listen to one another about their respective days. Sounds easy? It's actually a little harder than you think, considering how many external stimuli and distractions there often are.

"For 10 minutes you need to be one another's cheer squad. This strategy is a Gottman Method intervention, and I use a lot of those for couples because it often provides the strongest results," says Kozak.

"You spend the whole time actively listening, empathising, saying things like 'Wow that's great' or 'Oh gosh that really sucks'. You have to create the opportunity to have this sit-down as well, given that effort leads to better connections."

Long story short - if your tendency in a relationship is to be a fixer, now might be the time to flick the switch. 

Is your partner a fixer in the relationship? How do you navigate it? Let us know in the comments below!

Feature Image: Canva.

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