What To Do If You Cant Help Falling In Love With A Man Who Needs Rescuing

How do you break the habit of falling in love with a man who needs rescuing? As women, we have a natural nurturing instinct. We want to help others, to mother them, to take care of them. Evolution made us the caregivers.

Unfortunately, many women try to take this skill into their romantic relationships and wind up choosing men who need to be rescued -- fixer-uppers, as they say in the real estate world. And it rarely ends well. Why not? Because while it's true that a lot of men need repairs, it's seldom possible for a girlfriend or wife to provide them. Self-improvement is called SELF-improvement for a reason: The change has to come from within. Men don't like to be nagged, molded, and sculpted into something else. Be honest: If someone came along and made YOU their project, how would respond? Yet despite the obviousness of this fact -- you can't change a man, so you shouldn't even try -- countless women still make the attempt.

Therapists write books about it. Talk show hosts devote episodes to it. Comedians make jokes about it. ("She made me change everything about myself -- and then complained that I wasn't the man she fell in love with!") Why do we do it? Sometimes the problem is very easy to understand: We just don't notice we're doing it. Studies show that for as much as women tend to dissect their individual relationships, they often overlook threads that run among several of them.

Hence, though you might have had four bad relationships in a row, you might not notice that they were all bad in the same way -- i.e., that the men needed "fixing" and you weren't able to make the repairs. Identifying the pattern is the first step in breaking it, of course. Having recognized that you choose these men, what are the underlying reasons for it? It often goes back to a woman's earlier life and childhood. Despite our best efforts, we often subconsciously seek out relationships that mirror the ones our parents had.

If your father was a deadbeat there's a good chance you'll unwitting look for men like him. Sometimes it becomes a conscious thought: "My father was abusive to my mother, so if I find a man like that, I can fix him, and do what my mother couldn't. I'll make the world a better place." Of course, reason tells us this just isn't feasible most of the time. Research suggests that what it usually boils down to is self-esteem.

Deep down, some women need these "projects" in order to feel good about themselves. They need to accomplish something, and this is all they feel there is available to them. Psychologists say these women who feel incomplete without working on something should work on themselves first. Finding out what's really causing the problem -- the low self-esteem -- is critical. Therapy and self-help books can be of assistance, but many times good old-fashioned soul-searching is all that's needed.

What is it about yourself that you don't like? Does it need to be changed, or is your negativity toward it irrational? If it needs to be changed, can you change it yourself? In other cases, women don't feel they "deserve" a good man. They keep subjecting themselves to men who need help because not only does trying to help them feed their own needs, but because they believe they're not worthy of anything better. These women, too, must address the problems within themselves.

So what do you do if you realize the relationship you're in is one of these fixer-uppers? Do you stay or go? First you need to accept that you are NOT going to be able to fix him. Your case will not be the exception to the rule. No one can make anyone else change unless that person wants to change.

It has to come from within. Now, once you're accepted that, it doesn't necessarily mean you have to get rid of the guy; it just means you have to stop trying to fix him. It may be that the man you chose as a fixer-upper is actually OK as he is, warts and all. Sometimes the men that women try to "fix" are fine the way they are; women just want to make them better. Maybe your "project" falls under this category. If so, let him be.

He'll be pleasantly surprised that you've stopped working on him, and the relationship will be better for it. But maybe he's not that type. Maybe he really does need rescuing -- from drugs, from immaturity, from irresponsibility, from alcohol, from something else. In that case, the only sensible thing is to cut him loose. You can't take it upon yourself to save people. It doesn't make you a bad person to leave him.

You have to see to your own happiness first, and being with a miserable character has never made anyone anything but miserable.

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