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White Knights Need Rescuing Sometimes

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White Knights Need Rescuing Sometimes

Mary, I love what you have written on White Knights needing to rescue themselves from themselves. I have managed to enter a relationship where my partner’s life is a mess.

I resonate with people being in a mess for some reason even though everything in my life is comparably ‘okay’. Growing up and up to now really, my mother in particular has poured her soul out as well as a lot of negativity for me to absorb if that relates.

Anyway, in the situation with my partner, I didn’t realize he was in a mess, but I did not hesitate at all to get involved when I found out, in fact, I felt like we’d bond better. He’s getting divorced and it’s all quite fresh so he has not healed from his past failed relationship. I don’t think it’s appropriate to run because someone’s out of a job, has a child when I don’t, getting divorced even though I’ve never been married, etc.

He says he’s here for me and that he just needs time to get things together (it’s been two months, the first month was fine). The second month, he’s actually been so busy and emotionally unavailable. If I get anxious, he’ll tell me he cares a lot but he just feels like a zombie at the moment and again, needs time. I either obsess over him and try to shower him with love or I get all worked up and think I need to get out… Now I have rambled but do you have any thoughts on what I’ve said?


Dear White Knight,
How fortunate that your mother’s neediness and negativity provided you with an empathic gift rather than bitterness. However, if you continuously empathize with a partner, and make excuses for him because of his circumstances, you may end up resentful that your needs are never met. You deserve as much!

Now that he is in the midst of being emotionally unavailable and figuring out his life, this would be a great time to focus on yourself. What attention could you give to yourself that would increase your self-esteem and your sense of having a hold on your own life? You cannot rescue him, but focusing on yourself will help you to decide what you need.

For some people, the unfortunate part of growing up having to attend to a parent’s needs is that it can leave you unaware of what you deserve. Recognition of your own needs may lead you to experience disappointment in what you’ve received, but will also provide you with hope and a new perspective on what you want in a relationship.

Best wishes,


This article is in no way intended as a substitute for medical or psychological counseling. If expert assistance or counseling is needed, the services of a competent professional should be sought.

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Dr. Mary Lamia is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst who works with adults, couples, adolescents, and preteens in her Marin County private practice. She is a professor at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. Extending psychological knowledge to the public has been her endeavor for thirty years. Dr. Lamia’s opinion has been sought in hundreds of television, radio, and print media interviews and discussions, and for nearly a decade she hosted a weekly call-in talk show, KidTalk with Dr. Mary, on Radio Disney stations. Her books include: Emotions! Making Sense of Your Feelings; Understanding Myself: A Kid’s Guide to Intense Emotions and Strong Feelings: and, The White Knight Syndrome: Rescuing Yourself From Your Need to Rescue Others.

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