Being one with penchant for psychology, and as a perennial observer of romantic relationships, I am acutely aware of my own personal attractions and whatnot. As such, I have come to a particular revelation about what attracts me to particular women.
We have all heard of the white knight syndrome. It’s an affliction where you have the need to rescue others, specifically your romantic partner. According to this book, you suffer from white knight syndrome if “you care for their partners at the expense of your own needs, encounter abusive or self-destructive behavior in their partners, or try to control and make decisions for their partners.”
Now, I am not a controlling person. I never do that. I never did that when I was dealing with Malissa (you know, the one that got away). I never tried to make decisions for her. Rather, I tried to help her make decisions that were right for her. I tried to move her down a path that would be beneficial to her without making assumptions about what was best for her. I didn’t suffer in my helping her: no part of my life was neglected. Of course I cared for her deeply, so it comes as no surprise that I was rather stressed out most of the time. So apparently I’m not meeting most of the criteria for being a white knight. However, it was clear to me that Malissa had self-destructive tendencies that stemmed from low self-esteem and a general lack of self-worth. She compartmentalized it very well though. When we went out on a date, I didn’t get the sense that she was unstable or that she had a wealth of psychological issues. I worry that I might be attracted to women who are “damaged”. I worry that I will develop this white knight syndrome. I do not believe that I have developed it yet…but all of the ingredients are right there. I am an intensely passionate and caring person, especially towards my romantic partner. Outside the context of a relationship, I am very empathetic (perhaps to a fault). I hate to see anybody suffering, especially because of mental anguish. I love to help people, and I give of myself freely. It’s very easy to see myself falling into this pit.
Sometimes, I wonder if I fell in love with Malissa because she was someone I could fix. I remember how badly I needed her to be better. Although she never exhibited any maladjusted behaviors around me, she did express to me her inner thoughts. She told me about the daily mental battles she had to fight just to keep it together. And I wanted so much to take that pain away. All I wanted was to see her happy.
It’s easy to imagine that I wanted to be with her so that I could be her savior. It’s not a far stretch by any means to imagine that I would want to give my love to a girl who needed so much of it, so that I would become the guy who pulled her from the darkness, who saved her from the dreariness of her own tormented psychology. Being that knight in shining armor is an attractive idea. I am by nature a guardian, so all the pieces just fit together too nicely to ignore the possibility that I wanted Malissa because she was a damaged girl.
After some personal reflection, and a long dialogue with myself, I cut through the misremembered memories that were clouded with doubt and emotion. I remembered that I felt such an immense attraction towards her from the first time we wrote each other. I was attracted to her before I learned of her issues, and I remained just as attracted to her even after she told me about her problems. So no, I don’t believe I fall for women who are damaged.
Even so, I must remain wary of my thoughts. It is far too easy to fall prey to this fantasy of being the one good man who stood by her side through all her hardships; to be the single person who understood her and loved her. It is entirely in the realm of possibility that I get stuck trying to be the one to fix a woman’s issues, the guy who is so deeply in love with so much love to give that he is blind to her problems. I know and must admit that I probably have a hero complex. The real difficulty is figuring out whether or not such a desire to help others is intertwined with romantic attraction.