It has been called “White Knight Syndrome” to the pathology in which a man or a woman fall in love with problematic or vulnerable people, to rescue themselves.
In the study of couples’ conflicts, clinical psychologists Mary Lamia and Marilyn Krieger call them “white knight syndrome”, presented by men and women who fall in love with troubled or vulnerable people seeking to rescue them from critical situations, their behaviors, and even from their own lives, in the hope that their love will transform them into princes or princesses of tale and in the end a happy ending will be given.
Such relationships can also be established with the nuclear family, friendship and work environment.
The syndrome is named after the White Knight of fairy tales who rescues princesses from the Dragons. These dragons translate into economic problems, substance abuse, depression, a bad relationship, an unfulfilling life and among others.
The rescued couple seeks to resolve, and even impose, the needs of the other, in order to have a stronger bond, but in reality, these cares hide a need for control and dominance over the couple.
The problem is that it is a bond based on dependence and, when your partner recovers, you will feel that you no longer need them, and then the Knight will leave that relationship in search of another person who needs (and is willing to) to be rescued.
In this kind of relationship, frustration appears when the expected gratitude from the “rescuer” person never arrives.
The frustration of such a relationship arises because the rescuer never gets the expected gratitude, because she unconsciously seeks her own rescue based on her personal history of loss or abandonment and, to hide her vulnerability and acts through a compulsive rescue mechanism towards others.
At first, gentlemen are very seductive, thoughtful, attentive, considerate. They show a high empathy towards the feelings of their partner in order not to understand the other, but to take control, and gradually they become a kind of tyrant who forces the rescued to behave in the way their White Knight believes to be the right one.
Although in the beginning, the “Knights ” are attentive, empathetic, detailed, it is only in order to be able to take control of the other person.
They fear distance, both physical and emotional, and constantly seek their partner’s approval to feel unique and special. To do this, they reinforce their partner’s weaknesses, leaving them insecure, even infantilizing their partner so that they continue to depend on their care. They easily show attacks of jealousy and, when their partner does not accept their constant display of care and concern, they use guilt, brazen criticism, or even violence.
As in a war, the “Knight” will seek to reinforce the other person’s weaknesses so that he or she remains dependent on his/her care.
The White Knights end up feeling powerless, disappointed, complaining about the ingratitude of their rescued and criticizing their unwillingness to let themselves be helped.
People who engage in relationships of this type seek to repair damaged or negative self-esteem that usually comes from their own childhood.
Jealousy attacks are common and, if your partner does not accept your constant care, then reverse the situation by making the other person feel guilty.
Therefore, it is not uncommon for this white knight to sue his rescued ones to rescue him, playing endless interchangeable roles.
The White Knight will tend to overprotect, even suffocate his partner; he may be extremely jealous and asphyxiating, and take part in the credit of his partner’s accomplishments, for he will think that he owes them for his dedication.
Another characteristic in this relationship is the tendency to exaggerate the qualities of the couple, to make it look much better than it really is.
Very often a person with the characteristics of this syndrome may be jealous of the success of the partner; if the partner appears to be a threat, he or she can manipulate the partner in such a way as to make the other person feel insecure and self-sabotage.
Another characteristic is the tendency to exaggerate the qualities of a couple to make them look better than they are and yet to give themselves the credit of being able to rescue them, to feed the personal ego. But if you feel you no longer need it, then you lose sight of your true vulnerable essence: fear of abandonment, inadequacy, and shame.
The most controlling type of all is the one who perceives a threat of being emotionally hurt, so he is always alert and can become extremely strict and aggressive with the behaviors of his rescue. He seeks to transfer to his rescued feelings of emptiness, jealousy, shame, anger, and fear of abandonment. With this, he seeks to free himself from these feelings by seeing them reflected in the other, behaving very critical, accusatory, and even sarcastic with his partner.
The controlling type is always alert and can be very aggressive with the behaviors of his rescue.
Although this White Knight may be very manipulative, it is common for him to prey on a person who plays the role of victim and turns him into his emotional slave to satisfy his needs. When they discover their need to help, they are vulnerable but very abusive, and use the “White Knight” for their own ends, even at the cost of hurting him.
A healthy self confident person knows that its emotional attributes and deficiencies is the perfect solution and shield for not falling into manipulative games, or avoid manipulating your partner by requiring him to fill the emotional gaps of the other, eliminating dependence on the relationship and changing it to a conscious choice to be with a self-sufficient person who provides a stable and pleasant company.
A love that demands one’s own intellectual, emotional and even existential sacrifice is not love, but slavery disguised as romantic demand.