I'm being fixed. What should I do?
March 27, 2011 9:35 AM   Subscribe

I like him, but I like myself less when I'm around him.

I'm in a one-down position with my friend "Chris." How do I get my confidence back?

He's rich, attractive, confident, and brilliant. I'm unemployed, merely cute, trying to recover from a toxic relationship that shook my confidence, and smart in a completely different way from him, a way I'm not even sure he considers important.

He seems to like taking care of people, and I really don't like to be taken care of. He gives me a lot of unsolicited advice. It's good advice, and it's stuff I wouldn't think of myself, and I know he's motivated by caring about me. I do appreciate his help. However, I just feel like, on some level, he thinks I'm not smart or competent enough to handle my problems. This reminds me so much of my dad, who expresses affection the same exact way, and I react the same exact way to him. This is the opposite of what I wanted out of this friendship. I wanted equality.

We've had a lot of talks about our past relationships, and stuff he's said indicates he has a pattern of caretaking with friends/lovers. I'm a very independent, self-sufficient person by nature and I'd rather make a bad decision on my own than a good one because someone told me to.

I feel like he thinks I'm a fixer-upper or something, and I am sure that this is the way he expresses caring for people. But since I'm a person who has so much respect for people that have their shit together, I can't imagine anyone respecting someone who doesn't. I keep wishing I had improved myself before meeting him.

I'm looking for work. I expect that will improve things too, when I find it. In the meantime, what should I do? I've never been someone's project before. I try to reciprocate, but he won't really let me.

(On a side note, I've been the "helper" before, and now I understand why, once the person I helped became more independent, I got dumped. "You remind me of a person I don't want to be anymore," I was told. Yep, I get that now.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (25 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
So...you're not getting a relationship of equals and you don't like the person you are when you're around him. You also don't seem to mention any positive things about this relationship.

You deserve to be around people who make you happy. This guy isn't worth your time.
posted by corey flood at 9:42 AM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


anonymous: He gives me a lot of unsolicited advice.

Well, two things. One, this seems to be the heart of the issue, ie this advice is unsolicited and thus, unwelcome. So tell him, "Dude, I admire the way you approach problems but I don't want you to be solving mine unless I ask you to. When I need to think something through with someone, you'll my go-to guy."

Two, some of us are just problem solvers by nature. It is very hard for me to listen to someone talk about how much their life sucks without picking up on aspects I think can be easily fixed and suggesting they fix them. Part of this is that I have zero tolerance for complaining, and part of it is that this is a fundamental aspect of my personality. (People actually pay me for this professionally, that's how core this is for me.) Result: I am a brilliant friend in a crisis, but a really crappy friend for general unloading.

Ergo, if you don't like the responses you're getting from him, you may need to closely examin the input you're giving him, or friend dump him if you can't make it flow well.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:47 AM on March 27, 2011 [18 favorites]


I would run. It sounds like you realize how incredibly unhealthy this dynamic is, which is a great first step.
posted by you're a kitty! at 9:48 AM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


This cuts two ways:
Don't stay in a relationship with someone who reminds you of your dad.
Don't allow yourself to construe your partner as if he were your dad.

Ask yourself whether it is his attitude that bothers you, or whether you are re-casting whatever he says and does to you, in order to suit your built-in 'father script'. If the former is the case, and if he doesn't understand what you mean when you ask him not to be taken care of (which you should), he might not be a good match in spite of all his good intentions.
posted by Namlit at 9:56 AM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seconding DarlingBri's point re: problem solvers by nature. Yes, indeedy, that's me. It's what I do, it's who I am. It never occurs to me that people who complain about something would do so without being in search of some kind of solution -- I mean, if it's bad enough to make you complain then you want it to get fixed, right? This, to me and my personality type, is logical. I could no more stop this behavior than I could stop breathing.

Solving problems is, to me, being a friend, being helpful. If I care at all about you, then I want you to not have things to complain about.

So, if this is who he is and if who you are is someone who just wants to vent, then you can either stop venting around him or make your friendship infrequent.
posted by gsh at 10:00 AM on March 27, 2011 [6 favorites]


Have you told him how you feel? As someone who wrestles with compulsive helper tendencies of her own, I know that in the past I've incorrectly read "not asking me not to" as "really glad for the help being offered." A lot of what you've said in this question would be good for him to hear as well - if he's worth having as a friend I would think he'd respect your boundaries once you make those boundaries clear (this is, of course, assuming that his desire to help is more about his concern for you than about his own need to feel useful).

One caveat, though: once you've asked him to back off with all the helping, be careful of venting to him about things in your life. I know it's common for friends to let off steam with one another in this way, but some of us (though I'm working on it!) have a hard time grasping the notion of venting just to vent - to someone who instinctively wants to help, hearing (for instance) "I'm really bummed about my job search" comes across as "HEY I NEED YOU TO HELP ME WITH MY JOB SEARCH" because why else (to someone of this mindset) would you even bring it up?
posted by DingoMutt at 10:00 AM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you're in a relationship with someone that makes you feel worse about yourself, that's not a good relationship to be in. He may be a perfectly good person, but not necessarily a perfectly good person for you at this point in your life.

I'm a very independent, self-sufficient person by nature and I'd rather make a bad decision on my own than a good one because someone told me to.

I think you need to think about this attitude. It's not a zero-sum game, and it doesn't automatically make you independent to ignore good advice. Listening to the experience that someone else has had, judging how it might apply to your situation, and deciding that following their advice to not continue down the road where the bridge is washed out doesn't make you a weakling. Sometimes we need to experience a potentially negative thing in order to discover that yes, that was actually a bad decision, and learn from it. Sometimes we need to put a cap on the ego and and give the advice of friends due consideration, and follow it.
posted by rtha at 10:13 AM on March 27, 2011 [13 favorites]


May just not be a good match.
posted by vitabellosi at 10:22 AM on March 27, 2011


Yeah. If you stop bringing up problems, he'll stop with the advice!

But beyond that, it's a good thing to strive to become independent of the good OR bad opinions of others.

For me anyway, that happened once I started to appreciate myself no matter my job situation, or how I looked, how much money or success I felt I had achieved ... Do you get the idea?

People like your friend don't effect me nowadays one way or the other because I figured out I'm valuable to myself. Sure I'm always working on goals and stuff! And I'm still pretty awesome, even if I never achieve one more thing in life. That said, it's funny how the longer I live, the harder it is to avoid growing up, expanding my understanding, and (hopefully) becoming kinder to myself and others.

Don't know if I explained this right. Just saying the issue you describe is not unusual! It goes away when you develop confidence in yourself. Life experience and time can get you there. Until it dawns on you from inside that you are already OK, you'll bang your head against a wall like the rest of us. Totally normal. You're on the right path if you are questioning your dynamic with this guy in the first place. Well done.
posted by jbenben at 10:37 AM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


He gives you good advice, which is stuff you wouldn't have thought of yourself -- and you'd rather make bad decisions without input than good ones that are influenced by advice? Question this attitude. The fact that he has some good ideas doesn't make him smarter or better than you.

Listening to other people and recognizing that they might have something to add doesn't make you weak, stupid, or a bad person. Reevaluating this attitude might go a long way in repairing that confidence problem.

(Of course, he might just be a condescending douche. In that case, either dump him or friends-dump him, depending on what type of relationship this is.)
posted by J. Wilson at 10:44 AM on March 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


So you probably already know that part of still recovering from a toxic relationship is filtering out negative messages you got accustomed to receiving/accepting/believing on a regular basis. "You remind me of a person I don't want to be anymore" was probably the icing on the cake there. You're still working on repairing the damage from those negative messages, and weeding the messages out. Expect your senses are still offbalance from your previous toxic experiences. Even without new guy in the picture, you would still need to be busy working on YOU.

Have you considered that he might not just make you uncomfortable because he reminds you of your father, but also because he reminds you of you... because he's a helper (trigger for remembering what made you fail before) it feels like he's constantly reminding you of all your failings, which just might be more than your self-esteem can handle in recovery for now. Definitely consider whether your conversations are typically winding up focused on your problems (just by virtue of his help-seeking tendencies and your own desire to resolve the matters on your mind). Are you guys stuck in "your problem-his solution-negative reminder" conversations?

It may not hurt to set a boundary with him. You're getting to be good friends, but you need him to understand you need some time (even in conversation) to find your own solution to a problem you're presenting, and that you really appreciate if he could step back sometimes. Consider if you need your own boundary in watching that you're not so focused on what's wrong with you when you're with him (and then bringing it up regularly). This may be part of not being ready yet, while in recovery: struggling with having sufficient GREAT things to talk about (not just negative).

Either way, if he cares and respects your ability to handle yourself, it will show through friendly support.
posted by human ecologist at 11:25 AM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm also a somewhat recovering advice-giver. My 100% natural, solid, no-ego-involved response to someone telling me how miserable they are is to figure out how to solve it. Since I've learned (mostly via Metafilter) that this is incredibly irritating to some people (sometimes), I now try to evaluate whether they are really looking for a solution (even if they say they are), or whether they just want a safe space to vent.

I don't mind at all being the vent person, and am quite willing... now and then. If someone is constantly complaining about X in their lives, when X is not their child (or similar... parent with dementia or something), I'm going to give them advice about how to get X out of their lives. If they can't get X out of their lives, I'll probably still spend tons of time researching how to mitigate the pain and frustration of X, and pass it on to them. That's just how I'm made.

If it's once a week or once a month or something, no big deal – I can be your sympathetic (and mostly silent!) ear. Or, in any case, if it really has to do with something that you have no control over, or have decided to put up with because of circumstances (fucking-asshole boss during bad economy/high unemployment), I can be supportive without trying to offer a solution.

But I'm still working on trying to be a good closed-mouth friend when someone complains again and again about stuff that they have the power to change. I do recognize that just being there and sympathetic can be so much better than offering ideas, so I try to determine what is wanted.

But if I'm not offering solutions or ways to mitigate? It means I'm stifling!

However, I've come to realize that this is just how some people talk, how they share. It would be bizarre to them to talk about what's going well, how this or that turned out super good; to them the de facto substance of conversation and closeness is bitching, and maybe they think talking about the good things in your life is like boasting or showing off — or just tempting fate, or something. It's just not natural or comfortable for them.

So it can be like being from different cultures for a complainer and a solver, even if they are from the same background.
posted by taz at 11:43 AM on March 27, 2011


I have some friends that I generally love and appreciate, but who occasionally drive me a bit nuts/get hard for me to be around. This is how I deal with it:

1) Remind myself of what I love and appreciate about them
2) Have at least one other (very good and very discreet) friend to whom I can vent about them.
3) Give myself permission to give myself space from them when (1) is getting harder than it should be
4) Think about what it means to have friends who sometimes rub me the wrong way, and how, I'm general and in particular, I can learn and grow and become a better person and a better friend from the experience.

For this situation in particular, it sounds like you have a lot of ego involved, in a bad way, and what you can learn is how to get a lot more ego involved, in a good way - to believe in and love and appreciate yourself enough to be able to appreciate your friend for who he is instead of comparing yourself to him.
posted by Salamandrous at 11:57 AM on March 27, 2011


I like him, but I like myself less when I'm around him.
This made me want to say run far, far away.

He's rich, attractive, confident, and brilliant...I'm not even sure he considers important.
Then I wanted to amend the previous advice to run far, far away into therapy to talk about self-esteem issues.

It's good advice, and it's stuff I wouldn't think of myself, and I know he's motivated by caring about me. I do appreciate his help. However, I just feel like, on some level, he thinks I'm not smart or competent enough to handle my problems.
To echo DarlingBri, then don't come to him with your problems. And I think you may be projecting some there with the "he thinks I can't handle my problems bit."

This reminds me so much of my dad, who expresses affection the same exact way, and I react the same exact way to him.

Um, therapy?

In the meantime, what should I do? I've never been someone's project before. I try to reciprocate, but he won't really let me.
Frankly, based solely on what you wrote here, it sounds like the problem is how YOU perceive your friendship with Chris, not necessarily in the reality of how he's treating you. Like he's not being insulting, but you find receiving his advice as being insulting. If this is the case, I stand by my therapy suggestion; there might be some distorted thinking going on here. In any case, try telling your friend some of this. If it doesn't get better, then spend less time around him.
posted by smirkette at 12:25 PM on March 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sounds like it's not him, it's you.

My recommendation is to realize you may have to reframe your own thinking processes. I see that others have recommended therapy;that may be a great idea.

My take is that YOU are unhappy with YOU and are projecting those feelings as coming from HIM. Do what you need to do to be happy with YOU and the rest will fall into place. I can just about guarantee that.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:33 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


For all his being rich, attractive, and perfect in every way, something's going on here that he prefers to hang out with people who he perceives as needing to be fixed, instead of with a crowd of equally rich, attractive, perfect-in-every-way types.

Either that or nobody really has all their shit together. Maybe trying to fix other people keeps his mind off whatever he isn't satisfied with in his own life situation.
posted by citron at 12:52 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am struck by the fact that, right out of the box, you described "Chris" as a rich, attractive, confident, and brilliant...friend. As most of those adjectives haven't the slightest bearing on your problem as stated, I suspect that you have not characterized the true nature of the relationship very accurately. I think you'd better be honest with yourself about what's really going on.

Is "Chris" using his resources to help you get through a tough spot? More importantly, are you using him in some fashion to ensure he'll continue to do that? If so, don't be surprised if your patron patronizes you. That's the part of the nature of the transaction. (Other charges may apply.)

Is "Chris" truly your friend? More importantly, are you his? Then you'd rather have him leave than have him patronize you, even if it means you have to struggle more. So tell him that. Further, establish it. Draw firm boundaries. You'll find out quickly enough whether he is really your friend or not.
But since I'm a person who has so much respect for people that have their shit together, I can't imagine anyone respecting someone who doesn't. I keep wishing I had improved myself before meeting him.
Every word of this speaks volumes.

I suggest a very sober and honest assessment of what you mean by someone "having their shit together". Also, ask yourself if you want to emerge from your personal difficulties as a stronger person, or if you just want to get through them.
posted by perspicio at 12:53 PM on March 27, 2011


I feel like he thinks I'm a fixer-upper or something

Bleh. I've done that one before. For, like, 15 years. Now I'm with someone who thinks I'm work fixing up FOR.

Dramatic difference. Dump him. Find someonw who loves really loves you for who you are and not for who they want you to become one day.
posted by madred at 2:34 PM on March 27, 2011


should be: *worth* fixing up for.
posted by madred at 2:35 PM on March 27, 2011


and *someone*. jeeze.
posted by madred at 2:35 PM on March 27, 2011


Do you know he thinks you're a "fixer-upper" or are you projecting that into him?
posted by BillBishop at 3:24 PM on March 27, 2011


Also are you younger than he? I mean, he's rich but he can't make himself younger and sometimes culture places a premium on youth.

I'm a very independent, self-sufficient person by nature and I'd rather make a bad decision on my own than a good one because someone told me to.

I mean, I'd say just keep doing your thing. Sometimes if someone really enjoys being a know-it-all and delivering lots of life advice, I figure maybe I'm the one doing them a favor by being patient enough to politely listen to and consider their life advice. Maybe you're helping him out, in a way. I feel like sometimes older guys just like to pontificate and appreciate people who will indulge them?
posted by citron at 8:34 PM on March 27, 2011


What would happen if, the next time Chris starts giving you unsolicited advice, you calmly asked him to hit the pause button and just listen/commiserate/whatever you need instead?

If he can take feedback, there's hope for a friendship of equals. If he can't, then your dynamic isn't equal and probably isn't healthy for you right now. Either way, you need to speak up before giving up on this friendship - and I agree with previous posters that it's worth examining how to defuse your father's negative influence on your current relationship.
posted by SakuraK at 8:45 PM on March 27, 2011


I don't mind unsolicited advice unless it sounds like unsolicited admonition.
posted by bz at 8:46 PM on March 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


For all his being rich, attractive, and perfect in every way, something's going on here that he prefers to hang out with people who he perceives as needing to be fixed, instead of with a crowd of equally rich, attractive, perfect-in-every-way types.

Either that or nobody really has all their shit together. Maybe trying to fix other people keeps his mind off whatever he isn't satisfied with in his own life situation.


I sort of agree with this. Anonymous, are you sure he is as awesome as you say he is? Maybe he is just a normal person that you perceive as perfect because you are so used to others treating you badly.

From what we've heard, either is just as plausible. Maybe he's a jerk who is just getting his kicks, but maybe he is just a nice guy.
posted by gjc at 4:57 AM on March 28, 2011


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