I Can’t Fix You.

This is a story about self-awareness, managing expectations in new relationships, a tenuous Coldplay lyric, and moving on from divorce.

Consciously uncoupling my Coldplay listening habits was a different type of breakup

“Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you”

Live 8, 2nd July 2005, I was at a wedding. My ex wife and I were, as usual, wasted. My best mate Antony and his wife had actually got tickets in the ballot. Apparently it was amazing. Looked ace on TV, apart from the Robbie Williams medley (no I won’t let you ‘entertain’ me)

The standout of Live 8 for me was the Coldplay song ‘Fix You’, it never failed in making the hairs on my arms stand out, its a beautiful, loving song of hope.

Ok I used to get so much shit for being a (former) Coldplay fan, I used to fucking love them, I met the band many times through my ex wife, and I genuinely love how Chris Martin plays piano, makes everyone feel superduper, and managed to make 2 beautiful kids with Gwyneth Paltrow, who despite being utterly bonkers, is one of the most perfect women, god (or scientology) ever created. Anyway I digress…

It’s a lovely song.

“And high up above or down below
When you’re too in love to let it go
But if you never try, you’ll never know
Just what you’re worth”

This bit kills me. Imagine being too much in love to let it go. But most of the time we are. Its easier to stay in a bad or toxic relationship. Doing the right thing is so much harder. Thats why people can’t leave.

Then we get to the most gaslit, toxic falsehood. ‘I will try to fix you’

You can't ‘fix’ someone

Well you can’t. You cant ‘fix’ someone, and that is the truth about toxic rebound relationships, and the pursuit of broken dreams, fuelled by low self-esteem, good alcohol and the need to make the next relationship ‘work’

Chris and Gwyneth ‘consciously uncoupled’ as they couldn’t fix anything.

You can’t fix someone, its not your job, they have to fix themselves, and only then can they be ready for a stable long-term relationship.

Let me explain.

Most new ‘40 something’ relationships, especially after divorce or a long term partnership ends, don’t get past the 6 month point. After 3 months the free trial period ends, and you have to start paying for the product, then after 3 months of paid subscription (actual relationship stuff like conflict, commitment, communication and introducing family and friends, going away etc) you are at the 6 month point. You are now in a ‘proper’ relationship. This also means you have both exhausted your skills at representing the Instagram version of yourself, no more ‘peacocking’, your ‘representative’ avatar leaves, the novelty wears off and you then work as a relationship ‘fight or flight’.

It’s ok to ‘flight’ at this point, you rarely do too much damage and both parties usually feel a bit relieved as well as sad and regretful. Wish them the best. Lick your wounds, and wait until you are ‘ready’ for the next go.

The definition of ‘ready’

Ok first things first, you need to be completely over your ex. If you were married and have kids, this does not take 6–8 months. This takes YEARS. If you are still legally married, get a divorce asap. Go Eat Pray Love, find yourself and then go shopping for the next long term partner.

Being ‘over’ someone is not thinking about them daily, not looking at old photos, their social media, talking about them, relying on them as part of your day, thinking about the good times, or using them to support you in any way possible. Its over. Deal with that first. Exorcise the demons. Harder when you have children together or still share responsibilities.

If you have kids, guide them through the process and make sure they are ready for a new person in their life. It’s a pretty big deal watching your mum with someone who is not your dad. I found this out when my amazing mum met Bob in her late 60’s. Watching him fawn over her and buy her gifts (Bobs game was tight) was weird, and I was in my late 30’s. Kids are pretty weird when the new guy steps in and tries to be part of their mothers life. Expect some pushback but ultimately don’t take too much as that is a sign that the kids are not ready, or still traumatised, or sociopaths. No amount of PS4 or Lego will mitigate this, believe me I’ve tried.

Any new partner who does not welcome your children and your life with them as a loving parent is not a viable proposition. And conversely if your children don’t welcome your new partner, it’s game over, cheque please. Don’t fight it, it rarely gets better, and your self confidence will suffer profoundly.

If you are still thinking about your ex, or talking about them with your friends or worse, your new partner, thats not fair on the new partner. Calling them your ex’s name is sadly a common mistake, so should be tolerated once or twice. And discussing your old sex life or feeling the need to use your past experiences as whimsical analogies, just shows that you are still living in the past.

We all use ‘experiential’ examples and anecdotes as part of our debate, but try to make them broad and general, rather than discussing actual ex partners sexual habits, behaviour or quoting them in discourse. Even if you are trying to use their negative behaviour in a positive way, Its just not acceptable. Thats private and no longer acceptable. Even the worst ex deserves privacy. You might still have feelings or miss them terribly. Again, wait a bit longer before you go wasting someone else’s time.

Don’t change yourself for someone else

If you struggle with self esteem, or feel crappy about yourself, go fix that. Get your house in order, go lean on your support network, lose some weight (4 kilos, its the law) Don’t go on dating apps as that will make you feel dreadful.

The old adage is ‘you cant expect someone to love you if you don’t love yourself’. I don’t really believe that as I don’t feel like I love myself, I struggle to understand why someone would, yet had loads of really strong relationships, full of love. You have to be comfortable with who you are, and your life.

Working on self improvement is not the same as changing yourself, people don’t change. Its not your fault, you shouldn’t try to change yourself to fit the other person. If the red flags of either party are more than you can count on your left hand, then its time to go back to being single, until you can work out what you want to learn from this and then give it some time to heal again. This, again takes longer if you are divorced.

Meeting someone whose life is a bit of a mess, and/or they are going through trauma, or divorce, or they are still quite fresh from a breakup, is a waste of time, I’m 4 years into the ‘official’ end of my marriage and still struggling to cope with new relationships. It takes approximately 5 years to properly get over a marriage. Its only then can you really give finding ‘the right one’ a decent go. Anything else is just ‘relationship tourism’.

If you meet someone, remember, you are not their parent, you are not there to look after them. You cant ‘fix’ them. Its not your responsibility and if they are in trauma, they will suck the life out of you as they become dependant on you as a support mechanism, when they need therapy, possibly some medicine, and a support network. They don’t need to fall in love with someone else again. The need to fall back in love with themselves.

Until you properly vanquish a relationship, you wont be able to move on. The new partner will sense a frustration, a lack of commitment, and if they are self aware, they will feel like an accessory. And you can try this as many times as you like, but you will struggle to make anything work. Its easy to go get a new partner soon after a serious breakup but its just sex and self loathing, and whilst that is fun for a few weeks, only a narcissist or sociopath can make that work in the long term.

“I promise you I will learn from my mistakes”

So learn from them. Only you can Fix You.

Design Director. Dad. Cyclist. Flâneur. Piano student. Fondue enthusiast. Hopeless romantic. Not necessarily in that order. IG/Twitter: @matvenn