White Knight Syndrome is the tendency to get into intimate relationships with people who one sees as weak or in need of being rescued. White Knights are people who enter into romantic relationships with damaged and vulnerable partners, hoping that love will heal their broken partners and help transform their behavior or life. Although most white knights feel that they are being selfless, their rescuing behavior is often misguided. Problems arise when white knights care for their partners at the expense of their own well being, indulge indestructive behaviours and become controlling partners.
White Knights feel compelled to fix the broken and mostly end up breaking their ownselves in the process. Their need to save is so strong that they give and give without realising the damage they bring onto themselves.
Clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst Dr. Mary Lamia, author of The White Knight Syndrome: Rescuing Yourself From Your Need to Rescue Others, notes that there are different “subtypes” of White Knights. These subtypes can include the overly empathic rescuer who grows up in a household catering to neglectful parents to the terrorized rescuer who lashes out or manipulates due to a deep
sense of shame from childhood terrors.
For eg, male partners who exhibit signs of White Knight Syndrome, may resent stronger women who don’t openly show need for emotional support. They might end up taking chivalry a wee bit too far or even using the term to mask their need to save damsels in distress. Female partners who exhibit “White Knight Syndrome” are socially conditioned to take on the role of nurturers, so they are more likely to be drawn to taking care of partners who have addictions, abusive patterns or any negative traits.
They may be overly empathic and more prone to making excuses for their partners, believing they are actually in trouble and are trying to be saved, in turn saving them from consequences or being answerable.
A few signs of White Knight Syndrome are:
1. Abandonment Issues: The syndrome generally stems out of toxic home environments, nobody to fall back on and being forced to be your own everything; surviving life after everyone abandons you and you’re left with nowhere to go. Examples may include having to behave like young parents because of unhealthy levels of responsibility.Since no one came to rescue them, they project their own need to be saved by being the
2. Fixing people is a life goal: White Knights purposely seek out unhealthy partners because of their compulsive need to save as many people as they can. This way they unconsciously hold themselves back from true intimacy and end up doing much more harm to themselves then good to others. They are fixated with healing their partners; this need arises from past trauma, loss etc.
3. Controlling Partners: White Knights end up becoming very possessive and controlling partners because their first and foremost need in a relationship is not connection and intimacy, but to save the other person; from hurt, pain, loss and a lot of times something abstract and non existent. Because of their tendency to save their partners, they tend to become controlling and manage the lives of their significant others.
4. Unhealthy Dependency: A White Knight’s partner is unhealthily dependent on them emotionally. This is because people suffering from this syndrome infantalize their partners in a bid to protect them from the world.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH WHITE KNIGHT SYNDROME?
At first glance, nothing seems to be wrong with someone who is emotionally available to you and whose sole purpose is to save you from hurt and put your needs above their own. The perfect idea of true love.
However, relationships with such people are very unhealthy and can do irrepairable harm to the Knight as well as to the partner. The Knights, because of their compulsion to give and save and fix and protect, end up giving up their own needs and comforts to very large extents, harming themselves in a life threatening ways. For their partners, it is harmful because one can only survive in a relationship with them by giving up all control. They lose all sense of self and end up hero worshiping instead of loving their partners.
Identification of behaviour patterns and tackling the root cause of the syndrome is important and is the need of the hour as this phenomena is more common than one might think. Love is not based on rescuing, it is based on building each other up when either one of you falters.
Written by Marvie Magotra (Second Year).