Men love to fix things. It probably has a lot to do with the toys they played with when they were little boys. Boy toys are things likeplastic tool belts, or train tracks that come in pieces to be put together and taken apart and put back together in a new way, whenever they want. Girls can play with these toys too, but most of them are marketed toward boys, who are taught early on that it's an admirable and masculine quality to be able to fix things with your own hands.
A lot of those boys grow up and become men who forget about fixing things and become bankers or writers instead. Some love fixing things so much that they grow up and become construction workers or handymen. And others—and this is the worst option—decide they want to move onto something new, and fix women. This is the Fix You guy, and you've probably dated him.
Fix You guy is everywhere. One of the most famous ones I can think of is Paul the writer, who falls in love with the beautiful but deeply tragic Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Another is Aidan from Sex and the City, who pushes Carrie to improve her apartment and make it better, but only after buying it and becoming her legal landlord. The most recent example of the Fix You guy is Gus (Paul Rust) in the new Netflix series, Love.
The Fix You guy usually shows up right after you've been through a breakup or when you're feeling really sad, or when you're—for whatever reason, really—just feeling a little low. For example, in Love, Gus shows up right after Mickey's gone through a breakup with a shitty ex, and has just wrecked a year and a half of sobriety.
Maybe the thinking is that the Fix You guy wouldn't be able to date hot women if they didn't have any problems. Or maybe it's that we've seen so many damsels in distress as love objects that there's an internalized notion that makes Fix You guys think the most fucked-up girl in the room is the best girl in the room. If she's a damsel in distress and he can help her, does that make him a prince?
The trickiest thing about the Fix You guy is that he presents himself as someone who loves women, who is drowning in empathy and will listen to all of your problems and promise to make things better. But Fix You guy has his own blueprint. He wants to fix you, but really he just needs to feel important. He'll stick around as long as things aren't going well for him, and as long as he feels you're something to improve. It's not about making you better, it's about making you better for his needs. He gets off on your personal traumas and the power he feels when he offers advice that doesn't fit. It doesn't so much matter if Fix You guy is actually helping. It only matters that he feels like he is.
Fix You guy looks like Nice Guy in a lot of ways. He's nerdy. He comes across as smart and intellectual, and he's read more books than he's played sports, but he's not ashamed of that. Maybe it used to bug him that he was smaller than the other guys, but now he's proud to have avoided such a masculine ritual. This doesn't make sense as you get to know him, but Fix You guy abhors the patriarchy. He had a pretty easy childhood—no traumas or problems, his parents are still together, no major deaths or anything that landed him in therapy as a teenager—and that's why he's qualified to fix you. He knows what it means to be healthy and good because he is healthy and good, and you are not. You are fucked up, he's here to tell you, but don't worry. He can fix you.
Even if you do come to the slow realization that this guy is not a Nice Guy, it's incredibly hard to leave Fix You guy. Usually because you didn't know you needed to be "fixed" until you met him. He helps you identify all these problems you didn't know you had, but calls them "areas of improvement" or "ways you can grow."
He makes you believe you can be a better person with his help. He listens to you talk about your problems. He takes those on as his own, but not in an empathetic way. This is more like stealing your traumas.
Usually, Fix You guy wants to be an artist, and to make good art, he believes one must suffer. If he can't suffer, he'll surround himself with women who have. He will jerk off to your heartbreak and hold your head when you cry.
But Fix You guy can't stand to watch you make good choices. He needs you to need him. If you can excel on your own, where does he fit in? This is all about his power, remember? He needs to be in control of something to feel good about himself, like Tinker Toys but with human feelings.
If Gus were the Nice Guy, he would've listened to Mickey when she said she needed some time apart. Mickey isn't perfect—she clearly has her own problems. Watching her spiral out and stalk Gus' Facebook when he won't text back, watching her frantically search for her missing cat, watching her try to find literally anything that can make her feel like she's not failing is so hard because that's what happens when the nice Fix You guy leaves when he feels unneeded. Fix You guys do not repair your problems, they create more. And they don't care.
Here's the other thing about Fix You guy. He does't know—he doesn't care—that people can't fix each other. Wanting to fix people implies that some are broken, and he's been given an invisible toy tool belt that no one else has.
Don't date this guy, don't date the Guses you meet, who seem great but only when you're feeling like shit. As long as you're with someone who's trying to fix you, you'll only ever feel broken. And you're not. People don't break that way.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.