Should I date a “Fixer-Upper”?

Dear Laura,

I’m a single mom and I’m having a tough time finding a relationship. When I first started dating again after my divorce, I assumed that I would meet lots of creeps and have some really terrible dates, but that hasn’t really been the case. Most of the men I’ve dated meet a lot of my criteria, but then there are deal-breakers that I can’t get past after a couple of dates. For example, I met a man for coffee who was very attractive to me, seemed very genuine and kind, but wasn’t on a stable career path with a steady income.

I went on another date with a good looking guy who seemed very interested in me, but was very limited in his grasp of the English language. I speak broken French, but it wasn’t enough to communicate effectively and I felt very frustrated. I also met a really kind, funny, financially successful guy who was really cute, but admitted to me that he struggled with some serious mental health problems that I couldn’t get past.

Last week, I went on a date with a man who was attractive, had a great career, seemed very sweet and polite and even had a kid who was close to my children’s ages, but he had such a severe speech impediment that conversation felt very strained. I wanted to give him another shot, but I kept returning to this idea that I’m hoping that his stutter will improve as I get to know him and I think that it’s wrong to date someone that you think of as a “fixer-upper”.

I’m aware that I have my own faults and shortcoming, but I just don’t want to commit to dating someone that I have really big reservations about. I like to think of myself as a loving and accepting person and now I’m feeling more like a judgmental, superficial jerk.

What should I do?


Done with Dating


Dear Done with Dating,

To borrow a phrase from Emily Dickinson “The heart wants what it wants..” and it is very difficult for most people to commit to a relationship when it is obvious to them that their needs are not going to be met by the other person. In our society, we tell women that they should be grateful for any attention that they receive and I think the mistake that we make as women is to compromise our needs so completely that we start relationships with people who we know are not going to be a good match for us in the long-term.

You mentioned that you are divorced and I wonder if you succumbed to this pressure to compromise and married someone who wasn’t an appropriate match for you. Now you have to experience the challenges of being a single parent along with all the baggage that comes with the emotionally devastating implications of divorce. Because of that simple fact alone, I think it’s in your best interest to avoid repeating the same mistake.

I want to validate your thoughts about dating “fixer-uppers”. Think about the trials and tribulations that are faced by people who buy homes that are “fixer-uppers”, they know that, for the foreseeable future, they will spend their time in the house tripping over those uneven floors in the living room or cramming dishes into cabinets that are too small. If you don’t have the resources to fix everything up front, you could potentially spend the rest of your life struggling with these kinds of barriers every single day.

In the context of a romantic partnership, no one needs that level of frustration because relationships already involve lots of compromise. If you are seeing these whoppers on a first date, that means that you are looking at major compromises upfront to be followed by all the day to day compromises of a normal relationship. You’ll be dealing with the built in relationship irritations like the toilet lid up, the difficult in-laws, or his comic book obsession on top of the fact that you can’t have a coherent conversation or the knowledge that he’ll never have the resources to contribute to your life together.

I know it feels bad to reject people, but you also have to consider how difficult it would be to be dating someone who thought of YOU as a “fixer upper”. What would it feel like to be with someone who was tolerating you, but secretly hoping that you would change dramatically? Do you want to do that to someone else just so that you can feel like you’re a good person?

Wanting to share your life with someone who is your equal is not superficial. You are raising children who are going to model your behavior and if you enter into relationships that have so many barriers to success, you are teaching your children that in order to be loved, they have to compromise all of their needs, too. I would advise you to continue to put yourself out there and wait for someone who meets your basic criteria.

I hope this helps.



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Stop Texting and Start Talking

I contributed to a wonderful article about the benefits of direct communication with your partner. Check it out here:  Talk Don’t Text70943d20-3032-0134-b04a-0a814d95abff

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My best advice and tips for online dating

I’m finally an expert!
Check out my best tips and advice for online dating:



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11 Ways to Quit being So nice and Learn How to Set Boundaries

Check out this Woman’s Day article that I contributed to about a subject that I am passionate about (I am quoted in sections 9 & 10)

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It’s important for us all to develop better tools…


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Should I move out and leave my parents?

Hello Laura,

I’m about nineteen and I’m turning twenty in a few months, and I’m absolutely terrified. For me, it’s always been “family comes first”, even if it’s not what I want. I love my family, but as of late things have been very rough, to put it lightly. My mother and I have never been the best of friends, and my stepdad has always been the one to stand up for me if a fight started.

A few days ago, I announced that I’m moving out. I told them that I’d be out in a few days, and my announcement was met with a mixed reaction. My little brother seemed entirely uncaring, my stepdad acted as though I was an enormous inconvenience, and my mother seemed to slip deeper into a shell that she has been skirting around since my father cheated on her several years ago. I thought that maybe this would come as a relief, this way many of the bills would be cut down, or that maybe they would have less of my “hostility and entitlement” to deal with, but somehow it was turned around on me.

For the last ten years of my life, I’ve been in charge of a good deal of the household. I cook, clean almost everything, and raise my brother. All of this is due to a combination of my mother being sick almost nonstop, and both her and my stepdad’s clashing schedules. My mother currently works nights, while my stepdad works days. This means that someone is always sleeping, aside from me, and that I need to take on the responsibilities.

I suppose this makes sense because I only work two days a week now that I’ve graduated, but it’s tiring. I find myself constantly worrying about how they’re going to handle themselves without me. A few years ago my mother and I took my younger brother and left my stepdad alone. Every weekend I would come back and the house would be a wreck. It’s clear that he can’t take care of himself and while I was with my mother, I was the only person who ever did anything.

The father of a very close friend of mine, we can call him Red, tells me constantly that I don’t need to worry about them. I’m an adult and have been ever since these responsibilities of caring for a house and a child were put on me. He says that I need to let them be the adults and move forward with my own life, rather than babysitting my parents. Red tells me to voice my concerns to them if it really bothers me, but every time I do I’m met with the same comment: “I’m an adult and you’re just a child. Worry about yourself and don’t put your nose in my business.”

I don’t know what to do. My family now seems to resent me, and I’m afraid I’m going to let this stop me from starting my own life. I don’t know if I should try and tell them how I feel or simply go. I hate admitting it, but I’m terrified.


Should I Stay Or Should I Go


Dear Should I Stay Or Should I Go,

It makes sense to me that your parents would be unhappy about you leaving, you said that you cook, you clean almost everything, and that you have taken total responsibility for raising your brother, so, of course they would prefer for you to stay. They are getting free childcare, a free cook, and free maid service.

When it comes to the responsibilities of caring for a family, the onus lies with your parents. The role of the parent is to mentor and guide your children, not force them into unpaid servitude. I hear you saying that you find yourself constantly worrying about how they’re going to handle themselves without you and that is the sign of a codependent family system.

Your parents are going to resent you for moving out, but you have to remind yourself that their resentment is not coming from a healthy or a rational place. I think it is in your best interest to start over and create a new life that focuses on getting your needs met. With that said, I don’t know how old your brother is, but if know that your parents aren’t going to properly care for him, you may want to consider taking him with you into this new chapter. Your friend’s Dad seems like a good person to turn to for solid advice. He understands healthy boundaries and age-appropriate responsibilities. I would suggest finding more mentors like him in your life to help guide you into adulthood.

This sounds very tough. I wish you the very best of luck in this transition. Look out for yourself.



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