It’s Season One of Sex and the City, and Samantha refers to a cute little Fixer-Upper. If you don’t recall, she’s describing the Turtle.

That’s Bernie Turtletaub to be precise – far from every woman’s dream – complete with balding dome, nerdy glasses, boring babble regardless of topic, and notoriously nasty breath. But he seems kindly enough (and has deep pockets); theoretically he’s the ideal target for a woman looking to “fix” a man – transforming him into what she imagines he could be.

Fixer-Upper Relationships

Think it’s just women who play this game? Trying to change the man they’re dating? Think again. 

I have an old friend who falls for younger (unsophisticated) women. He refashions their sense of style, buys them a new wardrobe, instructs them in wine and food, and once these Eliza Doolittles are ready to stand on their own, invariably – they leave him.

Personally, I’ve never been attracted to Fixer-Uppers. I don’t believe in dating a man with the objective of changing him. Life is challenging enough without turning a person into a project – especially when you’re raising kids, which involves projects enough – thank you very much.

Besides, when you fall in love with a Fixer-Upper, aren’t you falling in love with what you think the person will be? With an idea or an illusion? How can it possibly work?

Fixer-Upper Homes

As for a Fixer-Upper home?

For me, that’s a different tale entirely. If you’re a Do-It-Yourself enthusiast – even if you aren’t – you understand the thrill of building on good bones and recreating your environment exactly as you would like it.

If you manage with a small budget, you also understand. Besides, conventional wisdom says – better to purchase the least expensive home on the block than the most expensive – and over time, fix it up.

My own little home qualifies as a Fixer-Upper – at least it did, when we moved in – older, solid foundation, good location, and ample options for tweaking this and expanding that. My boys and I have done our share of fixing up around here, with no shortage of possible projects in the future.

Date a Man So You Can Change Him?

But unlike the prospect of dating a Fixer-Upper guy, or for that matter, being the woman a man would like to change, I love the creativity of a home with the promise of possibilities – sprucing up the deck by potting some plants, brightening a bathroom with a coat of paint and new towel racks, the “some day” vision of a bay window here, or an expanded entry there. (Maybe even my Parisian courtyard?)

The pleasure? It’s in the imagining, as much as the doing.

Anytime I’ve undertaken a house project, even if it’s small, I’ve experienced a surge of energy in the renovation process.  Fixing up my space feels hopeful, like an investment in the future.

But fixing up another person? Dating a man so I can change him?

No thanks.

  • Are you big on Fixer-Upper men or women?
  • What happens when they’re “fixed?”
  • Are you a Do-It-Yourself person, always dreaming up projects around the house or apartment?
  • What about puttering around in the garden?

© D. A. Wolf



  1. Forget it. It doesn’t happen. People can grow and mature, and this can be one of the blessings of a right relationship, but that’s not what we’re talking here. We’re talking about one person imposing their will on another. Forget it.

  2. Do it yourself fixing in a home, yes. It’s fun (after the exhaustion and possible despair) to see what you have made.

    As for people, I don’t think so. Real changes come from within.

  3. Supporting someone in their own efforts to become the way they want to be – to be their best, that is love. Trying to fix someone, to make them into what you want, that’s self-centred.

  4. I can’t even fathom that type of thought process – why one would undertake such an endeavor. I wonder, these fixer-upper types, what attracts them to the person in the first place. Are they truly attracted or do they feel some motivation to have a “project”; to prove themselves as a “savior” of sorts?

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      It stupefies me, Cathy. But I’ve actually known quite a few women with these tendencies, and only that one gentleman I mentioned who routinely engages in fixer-upper encounters. I suspect there’s an element of control involved.

      But personally? I don’t get it.

  5. I delight in fixing up my garden and home. I am truly exhilarated when the first new bloom of a previously planted bulb emerges in spring. I also dream of reading nooks and bold color palettes in different rooms of my house.

    This is where I end my fixing up pleasure. I am not a woman who cares to fix up a man. I accept mine for who he is, was and will be. But the “will be” is most definitely up to him.

    A delightful read here. I enjoyed musing about gardens and such.


  6. I dusted my guy off and helped his personality shine, but he’s the same guy he was before we met. I don’t have the time or energy to fix anyone, especially they person who’s supposed to be my partner.

    And when it comes to houses? I have no interest. I wish I cared more in the way things look. I just want them comfortable and clean. (Kinda like my men?)

  7. I’m a build it from scratch kind of person. I don’t want to fix a man (as you brilliantly point out, that’s the last thing I have energy for while trying to mold yet protect the selfhood of little people). I don’t really want to fix a house. I have, since nothing exists that I don’t want to art up a bit, and I loved it. But I’d rather go back to school for an architecture degree, draw up plans, go *back* to school for a carpentry degree, build my house, go back to school again for my electrician’s certifiwhozit…you get the picture. I’m a hands-on, get out of my way, can’t delegate, perfectionist kind of jackass. Maybe someone will try to fix *me*.

    Now THAT sounds kind of nice. ;-)

    • BigLittleWolf says:

      Oh, now you’re talking, Ms. Naptime. What could be better than a lifetime of learning? Don’t fix that! It’s good stuff!

  8. It’s too time consuming to fix another person. In reality, I am striving to better myself so that I can adjust my reaction toward others. I think if you feel the need to fix someone, you must reevaluate why you chose the relationship in the first place.

  9. I think the only person I try to “fix up” is myself … and some days, I’m pretty sure that’s not very wise either. And I do love fixing up a space, though the potential for frustration always looms. Why can’t those damn knickknacks on those damn shelves look like the ones on Pinterest, dammit! =>

  10. So, it occurs to me that as I am an editor in my day-job life, I might be drawn to try to fix other things: men, structures. Not so. It is as if my fixing someone else’s poor sentence structure I get all the practice I need. My partner in this life is who he is, and we are a good match. Both of us could use improvements, I am sure. Our house is a messy disaster in need of major repairs and other more subtle improvements. Bottom line: We’re happy. With each other. And in our home. :) Thanks for this, Wolfie.

  11. I tried for years to fix myself, even enlisted a woman to help. Nothing worked.


  1. [...] Recently, Big Little Wolf wrote an article on her blog about “fixer-uppers” – people who want to change other people they consider “fixer-uppers” and the legitimate fixer-upper – a house.  Her conclusion as it relates to people is:  “How can it possibly work?”  But fixing up a house: “feels hopeful, like an investment in the future.” [...]

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