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.

  • WWG

    Hi there,

    I stumbled across your website several days ago when an acquaintance asked if I was associated with this blog because of my email address. So, I began reading your posts, intrigued by our very similar titles.

    I think there is a very negative connotation to "White Knight Syndrome" in referring to it as some kind of a disease, ailment, or disorder. I think that in some ways, all women are looking for a "White Knight" to some degree – and to each their own, of course. The trouble is finding some equilibrium with a partner who recognizes that they might need some fixing (and, we all do) and with your own ability to contribute to their personal growth in a non-controlling, mutually beneficial way. Playing the White Knight should benefit your partner, and you – a happy, healthy partner should reflect on you as well. Makes sense, no?

    There is a spectrum of women ranging from very submissive to defiantly dominant. Playing the White Knight automatically means that you're going to be attracted to women who fall to the middle and left within this spectrum, as you've correctly deduced. Some women NEED a White Knight – whether it is someone as you describe in your post, or something more extreme and dominant such as a D/s relationship. Of course, there is nothing horrifically wrong with the majority of these women, so I don't feel that you should necessarily be wary of such thoughts. Just find someone who melds with your idea of being of being a supportive partner – put yourself on the same spectrum and find the corresponding woman.

    Only when your relationship dynamic becomes physically and mentally unhealthy should you start to become "wary." Just don't forget that everyone is damaged – it's just a popular, erotic stereotype to categorize some women as such.


  • Hey WWG,

    Thanks for writing. Do you have a blog of your own? It would certainly be interesting to read the work of someone with such a similar moniker.

    I understand and agree with your sentiments, and in fact you've lent quite an valuable and interesting insight into the issue. You're absolutely right that we're all damaged (or at least the vast majority of people), and that ideally, we'd find a partner that would help us to heal those wounds to a certain degree. I'm just wary of falling into the trap of developing a "fetish" for "damaged women", and by damaged I mean those who need serious professional help. I use the "White Knight Syndrome" term to mean that one has crossed the relatively normal boundaries and into the realm of becoming the obsessed savior of someone who cannot be saved, all for the sake of a "selfless love" that is in actuality damaging in the way that it disrupts one's regular life.

  • Matthew French

     Anyone that has ever seen the batman film The Dark Knight knows the flaws of a White Knight. A White Knight wants the hero status. A true gentleman will do what is best even if it means losing hero status, or being hated for it.

  • I've been where you are many times my friend. A couple of years ago I was involved with someone who was bipolar and borderline paranoid/schizophrenic. She was a beautiful girl, a smart girl, and when she was doing okay she was a wonderful, vibrant, "everyone stops and pays attention to her when she enters the room" kind of a girl, but when those Demons got to her they really turned her into a wreck. A violent, (mostly to herself) dark and somewhat viciously abusive (mostly emotionally and psychologically) sort of person. I really loved her a lot but seeing as how I could also be a self-destructive and immature sort of person I just couldn't justify us being together because I knew we would bring out the worst in one another. I also dated a girl who had a major (at the time anyway; she's doing great now) issue with alcohol and I've been with a couple of girls who had issues since they were with abusive boyfriends before they were with me.
    Now though I'm with someone who is warm, friendly, clean-cut, well-adjusted, considered for most intents and purposes a "normal" average girl next door kind of gal who I'm (mostly) sure I love and care about a lot, but I still have the weird "white knight" thing going on where I know that if a certain ex or two who is considered by most to be a "damaged woman" called and wanted to work things out I would want to try to establish some kind of relationship with them again (not necessarily a romantic one but a friendship or something). So you're not alone or weird for being this way, I think us men who have the "white knight" complex have it because we're romantics and we really like the idea of love changing someone's life for the better. It doesn't make you an egotist or a freak like others would lead you to believe, it just makes you naive and sometimes it's okay to be a bit naive. Sometimes.

    • Anonymous

      Hi Sean,

      Thanks for writing in and sharing your experience.  It serves as a small comfort that there is someone out there who understands the feeling and, like you said, knows that this isn't about being egotistical or anything.

  • Alan

    I am now winding my way through a possible relationship with a woman that I have real feelings for.  Unfortunately a couple of "men" of questionable psychology got to her first.  She got involved with a man at age 17 who was her elder by 14 years.  He had been married twice before.  I believe he was looking for someone he could totally control.  It took him 3x but he got her.  Her life with him was marked by his constant suspicions, his drug and alcohol use and his infidelities.  She finally divorced him and he later passed from his bad habits.  She was involved with a man who had been imprisoned, "for a crime he was framed with??!".  She got pregnant by him and aborted the child which she regrets to this day.  She then became involved with a man who still comes around.  Let's call him "Bill".  They had a romantic relationship which lasted a while, but ultimately ended.  He proposed to her 2x, both of which she refused and he told him that they would never be together.  But Bill still comes around and she lets him.  He is also controlling.  He found out I was interested in her and started talking me down.  She is also hesitant to date me because of Bill.  What a mess!!  I am still intent on pursuing her.  I see possibilities and I am truly attracted to her.  That doesn't come along very often.  I need to add that I have been married 2x but neither of the marriages was marked by this type of dysfunction.  Although I know this may be a long shot, I don't see myself as a rescuer.  To me it seems a practical matter and a matter of real chemistry.  All of the sordid details of the past are just that, the past.  Futures can be built on junk just as buildings are built on landfills.  I am not looking into the past for guidance but education on what cannot be duplicated.  God I hope it works.

    • Hi Alan,
      I want to thank you for writing in.  It serves as a measure of comfort, no matter how small, that there are others who can sympathize with what I have gone through.  Coincidentally, Malissa was also emotionally entangled with a much older man, a married man who worked with her father.

      I do often wonder what would have happened if only I fought to stay in her life. I did truly love her; and like you said, that doesn't happen very often.  I suppose that the most important thing at hand though is to really dig deep and look at whether we are indeed rescuers.  Speaking strictly for myself, I had to see whether I could even be attracted to other women who did not need rescuing.  That, to me, was the true measure of whether I was suffering from this white knight syndrome.

      I do wish you the very best of luck…love, when true and found, is worth any price to attain.  If you ever feel like writing to me, you know where to find me.


  • Lukowa

    Dear Wistful:  Thanks for the comments.  I do have an update.  She and I had a falling out, not uncommon, a couple of weeks ago and of course she disappeared as usual.  I received a phone call late one evening, surprise, surprise.  We talked for 3 hours and managed to reestablish something, who knows what.  I sensed a different attitude with her, she was less frantic and more willing to listen and not run at the first sign of closeness.  However, over the ensuing week or so as we got back to "normal" she became more accepting of my physical advances, only hand holding, nothing sexual.  I knew that wouldn't fly.  I became a little more confident and emboldened about my feelings and today told her that I thought we should be together, meaning become a "couple".  She of course balked at the idea but at least she did not cut and run.  Hopefully later today we will still be able to discuss the issue.  I told her I was not here to rescue her, and I am not, nor am I a White Knight.  I simply fell for a woman who in appearences and in other ways is definitely my type.  I told her that I am here to pursue the woman that I was attracted to and the person that I see in her, minus, of course, her insecurities.  I have no idea what is going to happen.  I do know that I am not as strong as I once was and won't be able to invest a lot more into this pursuit.  Wish me luck.

  • Lukowa

    Wistful:  Yet another update.  After two days of really nice conversations and establishing some attachments, I am again on the outside looking in.  It was 10/15, Sweetest Day, I was broke and couldn't get her anything.  But not a problem.  I asked her if she could come over in the evening.  To my surprise she said yes, but she did have a couple of things to do first.  Fine!!  I couldn't wait.  But I did, and waited and waited.  At about 10 pm she texted me are you sleeping, I said no, I texted, are you coming over, she said no.  I asked why she said she was chillin alone.  So I tried to remind her, in a very neutral tone, that she had said she would come over.  She was struck with a case of amnesia.  I had deleted the texts so I couldn't show them to her.  Well I convinced her to let me come to her place, across the hall, and we sat and talked.  After a while we began a bit of a make out session which was very nice, we were both happy.  Well today after I texted her a couple of times and got no response.  She texted me Please leave me alone.  End of story.  I may only be good for one more episode or not, who knows.  This has really been difficult.

    • Hi Alan,

      I know that particular pain and ache that comes with being on the receiving end of that peculiar kind of behavior from a woman.  To look on the bright side, at least you received some physical manifestation of her attraction towards you, which is more than I can say for myself.  

      There is one part of me wishes that I pursued Malissa after we had already "broken up," but another part of me says that I left at the appropriate time.  Friends, family, and my own intuition told me that a relationship could not healthily exist between myself and Malissa on account of the fact that she was mentally unstable.  And when a woman makes out with you one day and tells you to leave her alone the next, when it's a woman that you've described, my intuition says that there is indeed a common vein between my situation and yours: these women, who are damaged and functioning on a very different level than your average person, are best left alone.  They are more trouble than they are worth, Alan.

      I don't say this lightly either…I have been through the torturous nights of pining and desire, the constant worry in the back of my mind, the conflict between wanting her and wanting her to get well, the text messages that get ignored as if they disappeared into the airwaves.  I wanted to leave her well alone, and after months of no contact, I would think about moving on.  But then she would text me and offer to meet up, and I would say yes: after all, I was in love with her.  And then on the day that we were going to meet up, she would cancel.  

      The young, hopeless romantic in me told me to stay.  But now, years after the situation has transpired, my blinders are off and I have learned to see things more clearly.  Being in love makes that a nigh impossible task, but I hope, for your own sake Alan, that you will save what little love and desire is left in your heart for a more…"healthy" relationship, one that doesn't involve so much drama and friction.  The path to finding love is a long one, as I am sure you know, and the heart grows weary: you'll need all the strength you have to give of yourself.

      Either way, I do hope the very best for you…  Please do stay in touch Alan.  If there's more that you want to say, feel free to email me.


  • Lukowa

    Dear Wistful:  Well another day, another attempt.  We have spoken again and cleared up some of what happened.  Yet this time I find myself even further behind than before.  She wants to stay friends but will absolutely not agree to being any more than that.  Perhaps I should be happy.  I am not yet ready or willing to totally throw in the towel.  I will attempt to keep a safe distance but at the same time cultivate whatever I can with her.  It just seems that every time we go through this we get a little closer, which is why I don't want to give up.  It has been less than  4 months, so I've got some time to spend and I know she is worth it (fooling myself??).  I am willing to give it a little longer but I did tell her that I can't keep this up forever, at some point we're gonna have to give it up.  We are both aware of the difficulty this situation is presenting but at least we're staying friends.

  • CarrieSteve

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  • TheOtherMan

    In 1991 I fell in love with a 14 year old woman. I say “woman” for a reason, because she was very mature for her age. She saw me, she mesmerized me, she took what she wanted, the aggressive approach was attractive to me. Since I was 21 at the time and our relationship was viewed as very taboo in our culture, she convinced me we should keep our relationship a secret. I would write secret short stories and poems for her, and give them to her every time we met, and not just a few, but many which she kept hidden in a notebook, a lovers diary so to speak. Although a little oral sex was involved to express our love, it wasn’t a sexual relationship at all. It was mostly a passionate mental relationship, and something I could never forget. She really is my true love like perfect magnets.

    Unfortunately the secrecy didn’t last long, because we got caught smooching one day. She got scared and concerned about my safety and freedom, and vowed to never let any of her family to know what happened. If anyone asked, then she would enforce full total deniability like nothing ever happened. And she really did that, she really, really did. No issues surfaced at all. To this day not even her mother knows about me.

    She returned a few days later though, but not to give herself unto me, but to offer a cousin she trusted to me. She didn’t want me to me lonely due to her fears. She wanted me to give her cousin a shot and she figured I would be safe with her for a while. This cousin was like the only other woman she would approve of me being with. You see, it wasn’t goodbye… It was more like, “Until a later time, my cousin can borrow you.”

    And, while I was with her cousin, my true love would visit. Of course she had to pretend she was only there to see her cousin, but she was actually there to check on me and make sure I was alright. Was I alright?… No, not really, just hanging in there waiting… that’s all I was doing.

    I tried to make it work, I really did, but to make a long story short… the relationship with her cousin only lasted 3 years. I was aiming for at least 4 years, but I just couldn’t take the mental abuse of both my own making and the abuse her cousin did to me. Yeah, turns out her cousin wasn’t the person she thought she was. I wasn’t safe at all, because her cousin turned me into a weekend alcoholic, and I’m not just saying that, she literally would get mad if I threatened to stay sober for a weekend. She literally ran out to buy alcohol, comes home and sticks it in my hand! No BS! She did that! Apparently I’m more fun and interesting to her when I’m drunk. Can you understand how that makes me feel?…. like total sh*t!

    But I hate the feeling of loneliness, it tears my mind apart, and my true love still wasn’t ready for me yet. Plus I learned she was going through some confusing tough times of her own and she didn’t need me to complicate things. Particular things happened in her life which made her feel like she couldn’t love a man properly. That 18 years of age goal suddenly jumped higher. Life just stinks like that sometimes and I hate it when you can’t do anything about it.

    So, like a needy puppy, what do I do?… I start a relationship with my previous companion’s best friend. Well, she thought she was her best friend, LOL. This woman is kind to me. She got me sobered up and clean cut again, like I used to be. We’re still in a relationship now and it’s been 19 years. A new record for me, LOL. But I still have one problem which I also had with my previous companion…. When it comes to sexual expression I still think of my true love during the act. In my mind I’m still loving my true love, not the actual woman I’m with. I dare not ever reveal that fact, because it would show non-appreciation and disrespect on my part, not to mention it would totally obliterate this woman’s heart. I know it’s wrong, but it’s the only way I could cope with my separation anxiety from my true love. Yes, what I’m saying is… I’m still stuck in love with my true love for the past 24 years. Just waiting, just waiting, just waiting for a sign.

    So now, thanks to the internet, that sign has finally arrived! I’ve hooked up with my true love again! Yaaay! And she’s still just as incredible as she was 24 years ago. Her eyes still suck me into another world. She’s like my own personal Goddess and I would do anything she told me to do. I guess you could say I’m the submissive White Knight and I pine for her every day, now more than ever. It’s my duty to bring happiness to her, and I want to make her happy, and I want to be with her until I die.

    I’ve gone back to writing again too. She is the only woman I have ever written for. I’m writing short stories to her and poems of passion, which are more passionate than I have ever written. I spill my heart out into words for her and it makes me feel like gold to be able to do so again. Plus she’s thoroughly enjoying it again also. It’s still a mental love driven by the heart and energized further by our entangled essences.

    BUT… we have a problem… both of us are already married and she has 2 kids which complicate things even further. She thought I didn’t want her anymore, and I thought she didn’t want me anymore either. Boy, oh boy, do we both feel stupid now! We both assumed 24 years was enough to live and forget, but apparently it’s not. We’re asking each other the same questions of why didn’t we just simply check on each other more often, which is a good question and neither one of us have an answer. Just preoccupied with life and work itself, I guess.

    But what we DO know is we’re working on making the correction and putting things together like it should have been a long time ago. On my end it’s pretty easy for me, because my wife is just a placeholder companion I don’t fully love like I do my true love. On my true love’s end though, she has a mature family anchor with a 10 year old, a 2 year old, and feeble in-laws she is nursing in home (which is her profession… Home Health Care). I’m trying to help her and give her ideas on how things could be done, but she still hasn’t gotten over the shocking fact I still love her and it’s got her mind all twisted up. Plus she’s had a much rougher life than I have had and there’s still some residual scars associated with that. For all intended descriptions, she is “damaged goods”, and I sort of blame myself for not being there sooner and being more aggressive about it. She’s been doing the same thing I’ve been doing, which is just loving her spouse at a friendly companion level. Just like I have been dealing with, she hasn’t had any real love with embedded passion since 1991. I could say FTW and just go with it. I was ready like yesterday, she is too, but then we both think about her kids and worry about a broken home impact with them. I’ve helped raise step-children before, they turned out alright, so I think her kids would be okay in this scenario too. It just that she has issues with the “step-dad” format due to what happened to her in the past.

    I don’t know what we’re going to do next, but if it takes years to fix it, then so be it. I’ll just have to muster through the pain of not being by her side full-time yet and challenge the intensified separation anxiety that’s being rehashed after every “rendezvous”. I’ve never had an affair before. “Affair” doesn’t seem like the correct word though. It’s more like a transitioning repair than anything else. I can’t lie, there is some agony involved with the process, but to me the prize is worth it. I can’t stop, I must not stop, and I will not stop. Do it or die, man… Do It Or Die!!