In Search of a Well-Built Man (And Why I’m Not Buying Anymore Fixer-Uppers)

Posted by Deborah Huso on Apr 2, 2012 in Men, Relationships |

Time to call in the professionals....

A friend recently forwarded me an essay in which the columnist referred to men as “fixer- uppers” and noted that an acquaintance of hers actually claimed to have “fixed up” her “fixer-upper” husband.

Being a builder’s daughter, this got me thinking.  I grew up under the tutelage of a man who made me believe that anything could be fixed, no matter how complicated. Granted, the fixing might involve a lot of time, trouble, and cursing…and maybe even the use of a sledgehammer.  But nothing was unfixable.

That seemed to be the take of the woman who claimed to have “fixed up” her spouse.

But this begs the question: do you really want to marry a fixer-upper?  Because it’s going to require the same kind of investment as a fixer-upper house…unless you’re okay with all the leaks, rot, and cosmetic deficiencies.  And most of us just aren’t.  Plus, if the fixer-upper is so bad that you need to use a sledgehammer and start gutting the whole thing, well, that’s the sort of work you want to leave to a professional.

Unfortunately, for me, it took me awhile to learn this.  Builder’s daughter: anything can be fixed.  Sure, if you want to spend a lifetime doing it. Meanwhile, you could have just bought a well-built house (or man) to start with.

I’ve fixed up a couple of houses.  Scraped paint off of rotting window sills, replaced shingles, ripped out shag carpet, even jacked up a foundation once to replace the rotting sills underneath. And while the experience of all this home remodeling eventually led me to the conclusion I wanted to build a new house from scratch instead of trying to make old and icky ones work for me, I did not take that wisdom into the realm of dating and marriage.  Somehow I thought if I could be the general contractor on a home renovation project, I could also be one on a man renovation project.

Unfortunately, being the kind of “let me test the limits of my abilities” kind of person that I am, I selected whole house gutting projects. (I hope my former spouse is being honest when he says he doesn’t read this blog, but if he is reading this, perhaps he’s been fixed up enough that he’ll think it’s funny….) My experiences have run the gambit from trying to make a compulsive liar stop lying to trying to make a guy with zero self-esteem pick himself up and do something. These were projects for people with PhD’s in psychology, not for an English major with home improvement background. I was way out of my league.

If you have to jack up a guy’s foundation because it has rotted away, you’re in serious trouble.  It’s like a friend said to me not too long ago when talking about whitewater kayaking: “If you get into big water and don’t know what you’re doing, you could get really hurt.”

The same applies to home renovation and relationship building.

But there is something to be said for “trial and failure.” You learn a lot.  I never got the compulsive liar to stop lying. (I finally gave up on him after helping him write stellar job application letters for several months only to find the unmailed applications stuffed into the glovebox of his car.)  And I never got the guy with trampled self-esteem to believe he was worthy of love and success either. (Though I gave it the good old college try—something along the lines of taking seven or eight years to get through college because you keep failing the same course over and over.)  I’d like to think I can now recognize a major fixer-upper a mile away.

Not that I’m looking for perfection, mind you. I’m okay with a few squeaky floorboards, some air leaks around the windows, and maybe even some scratched up cabinetry. I can live with imperfections on that scale as long as the big picture looks good.  But if I see any faulty foundations or caving in roofs, I’m heading for the hills.

Of course, I realize some of my gentlemen acquaintances are going to be quite happy to turn the tables on me here and talk about “fixer upper” women.  And I realize on the male scale of renovation projects, I might look like a property deserving of demolition given my propensity to do things that men find extremely annoying…like write blog posts such as this one, for example.

But that’s okay. We could all use a little self-improvement. The thing to remember, however, is that people aren’t like houses. You can’t just go in and start tearing things out and putting in new plumbing. If the guy (or gal) you’re with doesn’t want to improve himself (or herself), no amount of fixing on your part is going to do any good. (Which is why I am suspicious of the woman who claims to have “fixed up” her husband.)  You’re wasting your time, your life.  Move on, get over it, and find something (or someone) that doesn’t need repairing.

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