A few years ago I was in a relationship with someone I believed to be my soulmate.
Things took a turn when after a few months of dating, he began having erratic breakdowns. He would threaten to commit suicide. He would talk about how his life meant nothing.
I offered all the support that I could. I tried to help him change his eating and exercise habits to feel better. It lasted about a week and then he went back to cigarettes and red bull for breakfast.
I tried to help him prep for a promotional interview for what would have been a more fulfilling position. The night before the actual interview he was out until dawn partying. He didn’t get the position.
Near the end of our relationship, he broke down and told his friends that he had nothing worthy in his life. My efforts to help him and believing I could change his self-destructive behaviors had been futile.
I had been staying with my boyfriend at the time because I believed that one day my efforts would finally stick and he would change.
Instead of letting go, I held on to the idea of what I thought he could become and trusted that my love would eventually be enough to “fix” him.
That experience taught me four main truths that I have carried with me in the relationships that followed.
#1: Change has to come from within a person
It doesn’t matter how much work you put in, you cannot change someone unless that change comes from them.
Also, if someone claims that they did change someone, I can promise you that it came from a place of manipulation.
Mark Manson writes on his blog: “For a person to truly change, they must feel that the change is theirs, that they chose it, they control it. Otherwise, it loses all its effect.”
It doesn’t matter if you love someone with all of your heart. It doesn’t matter if you construct an idea after idea to try to help them change their self-destructive behaviors.
As painful as it is to accept, your love will not save them nor should you ever take on that responsibility.
Sacrificing your own emotional and mental health by pouring it all into someone else is never worth it.
#2: You cannot be in a relationship that is all give
Some of us are natural caretakers. We are drawn to the broken and the scars that they carry.
We believe that if we just love them hard enough a miracle will happen and they will emerge restored.
Yet what really happens is that that you end up pouring our entire being into another person. You make them the focus of your life and try to help them be the person that you believe they were born to be.
If all you do in a relationship is give without receiving anything you will eventually come to the realization that you have nothing left to give to yourself.
#3: It is not your job to fix anyone
People are responsible for their own actions and you don’t need to be throwing on your superhero cape to save the day.
“It’s the Savior Complex, the belief that you can somehow make it all better when someone who’s broken or damaged or toxic comes into your life.-Bolde”
Time and time again you accept a job that nobody gave you to do, trying to fix someone who never asked you to fix them.
My ex once looked at me and said “I will never change who I am. I’ve chosen this path, even if it kills me.”
At the end of the day, it is not your job nor your responsibility to fix anyone.
#4: You may be the one who needs fixing
I finally chose to walk away from my ex but the damage had already been done.
I left that relationship drained, beaten down, and absolutely exhausted.
After a few months, I was able to reflect on our relationship and I realized that it was a similar pattern to several other people I had dated.
I kept falling for the same kind of broken person and there was never a happy ending.
Finally, I accepted that I continued to focus on trying to fix other people so that I wouldn’t have to look within and work on the parts of myself I didn’t want to face.
After all that time it turned out that the person who needed my energy and actually needed to be fixed… was me.