Of duct tape and dishes and the power of listen

“Hello, my name is Rusty.”

Hi Rusty.

“I’m a FIXER. My DNA has made me this way. I’ve been working on this (fixing myself) for years now and have been quasi-sober for about 13 hours…”


I’m not sure what the draw is, the drive that pushes me to instinctively try to fix everything. I’m not talking about cars and toilets, I’m talking about people and problems.

If you come to me — or even if you don’t — and make mention of something that is an issue or frustration to you…yep, I’ll do my best to put a patch on it and send you on your way. What’s that? You weren’t looking for a fix or solution? Hmmm…then why did you bring it up?

This is one of the fallacies I’ve found in myself that has been a slow-work-in-progress to correct. The irony is that when a younger person asks me what’s the answer to a successful and happy marriage (me and the wife are doing pretty good together), one of my top three answers has to be “just listen, don’t try to solve the dilemma.”

You see, for many years of my marriage I was under the assumption that when my wife would comment about something that was giving her issue or bothering her, that she would want me to fix it — silly me.

You want an example? Of course you do…


I’m at work, in the middle of writing a pretty involved report, my desk phone goes off and I reach for the receiver, my eyes still looking at the work on my screen…”Hello?”

“I can’t get Chris to do the dishes.”

“What?”

“I’ve told him several times, but he just keeps goofing off and I can’t get him to do the dishes.”

Me, still looking at my monitor and the mind-numbing problem in front of me, “Put Chris on the phone.”

Chris, a timid “Hello.”

Me, “What are you going to do?”

“Uh, the dishes.” Right answer.

“When are you going to do them?”

“Right now.” Another correct answer.

“Hand your mom the phone,” a slight pause as she gets on the phone, and then I add, “There you go, anything else?”

“Why won’t he do it when I ask? It’s so frustrating. I call you and he starts doing the dishes right away. It’s so frustrating!”

Wait a minute, I’m the bad guy now? I just fixed the problem didn’t I? Uh, FIXER. That’s what I do. You mean that’s not exactly what she was looking for, a quick fix, a solution, a bullet of a remedy? Nope.


Ready for what I’ve learned — here it comes — don’t fix anything unless you are specifically asked to fix it. What are you supposed to do? Listen — and make sure and nod once and a while. Okay, don’t nod mockingly, listen and pay attention. The golden nugget of knowledge is that she wants me to just listen to her frustrations, and if she wants me to fix the issue, she will ask.

You know that you’ve mastered this — and obtained ninja level — when you’re sitting on the sofa, in the middle of watching a college football game, and you can see her walk into the room just far enough to get your attention. The ninja move is to hit the mute button and give her your full attention. Easy you say? Phhttt…try it in the fourth quarter with 30 seconds left in the game, then brag to me.

There is one other thing though. Sometimes she will bring up something that needs to be fixed, and guess what, you need to fix it! Confusing? Of course it is, of course it is…


“Thank you, my name is Rusty.”

Thanks Rusty.

Leave a Comment





This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.