Relationships are like a secondhand car; as soon as you fix the muffler, the engine blows

Tracey Folly

Fixing an old car over and over again just seems like throwing bad money after good — and so it goes with relationships. Are we doomed to fix one aspect of our relationships only to watch something else go horribly wrong?

*based on a true story

Have you ever driven a beloved old car that gave you nothing but trouble?

I once owned a 1980 Jeep Grand Wagoneer with more than 200,000 miles on it. It had jagged holes in the floorboards where the rust had worn through and a manual choke that I never understood.

The woodgrain panels had long been missing from its dented sides, and someone had spraypainted the entire thing a flat muddy brown. It was perfect except the windshield wiper motor was burnt out. That meant I couldn’t drive it in the rain or snow.

When I brought it to my mechanic, he advised that it would be too expensive to fix it “the right way,” but he could fiddle-faddle some sort of haphazard solution that would enable me to have windshield wiper blades at one speed only. Fast.

Anything is better than nothing. So I gave him the go-ahead. I was pleased with the results and the price, and when one of my tires went flat a few days later when I was five miles from home, I drove it until the tire shredded down to the rim.

A representative from my auto service club came to my home and changed the tire for me. He wasn’t impressed with what I’d done to the old tire, which had probably needed only a patch and some air but now lay hanging in strips from my aft-tilting Jeep.

I had the battery replaced, and the leaky radiator fixed, and then I found out I had an oil leak. My brakes were bad, and I had to spend another week separated from my beloved Jeep Grand Wagoneer while it sat in the shop undergoing repairs for injuries both seen and unseen.

I was happy to have it back on the road, and then the transmission blew. Unfortunately, that was the final straw. Fixing it over and over again just seemed like throwing bad money after good — and so it goes with my relationships.

My relationships often feel like secondhand cars that have outlived their prime. The men are always damaged goods. (As am I.) And they all seem to be looking for something different from me. I am forever getting new parts installed, and replacing them with equally faulty replacements. Then, when the inevitable happens, I have to start over with a whole new relationship.

Sometimes I wonder if this is what life is really about. Is there no other way? Do we get stuck here because we don't want to make it any easier on ourselves? Maybe it's not a matter of our will, but of our failings.

It's hard to stay in love with someone who doesn't love you back. It’s even harder to remain in a marriage where neither partner seems to care enough to put in the work. We all know how that feels.

What would happen if I took a chance on somebody who wasn't perfect? What if I didn’t demand perfection? Would I still find myself sitting in the passenger seat of his broken-down car, looking at a map with no idea where I was going, metaphorically speaking?

Would he still need to worry about fixing me up every time I broke down?

Love is supposed to be easy, isn’t it?

How can we expect people to do what we won’t?

What would happen if I stopped trying to fix everything?

Would I finally get to see what was underneath the hood?

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that my love life is equivalent to driving a secondhand car. As soon as I fix the muffler, the engine blows — and that’s the worst part of driving a car, but it’s also the only way to get around town.

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Writing about relationships online since 2009.

Massachusetts State

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