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Rescuing Yourself From White Knight Syndrome (2): Letting Go

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Unhealthy relationships

Rescuing Yourself From White Knight Syndrome (2): Letting Go

Letting Go of Misguided Hope

You may have ended your rescuing relationship (or several of them) but, in your head and heart, still hear it calling to you. Letting go of a relationship filled with tension and excitement, the kind of drama a white knight tends to experience with a partner, is a difficult endeavor for many reasons. Relinquishing hope and your illusion of control means coming to terms with your failure. But there are still other important factors that cause you to hang on to a rescued partner when the relationship is over. This blog looks at your misguided hope.
Your hope may have led you to assume that rescuing your partner could help him achieve his expressed goal: be it financial success, sobriety, security, or happiness, and he would then need, love, and appreciate you.

Relinquishing hope is hard to do because it means that you have failed to get what you expected. Rather than accept your failure, you may be inclined to create the illusion that you still have some control over the situation and some influential power. An overly empathic white knight might blame herself for her partner’s inability to give her what she needs, if accepting the blame allows her to stay in the relationship. Tarnished or terrorizing/terrified white knights will attempt to control or manipulate their partners, even in destructive ways, rather than accept defeat.

Your continued efforts to rescue your partner allow you to avoid and deny your own feelings of helplessness, despair, depression, or yearning that psychologists have described as the negative counterparts of hope. The feelings associated with giving up hope are often the very same emotions that often contribute to becoming a white knight such as a sense of weakness or shame. Once you accept that your rescuing failed to get you what you wanted, you will have an opportunity to look at the feelings that are hidden behind your white knight façade.

Here are some starting points for letting go of misguided hope:

  • Recognize that your continued hope to rescue or change your partner represents your own need to feel powerful and avoid feelings that you find undesirable. Reflect on the feelings of helplessness, despair, depression, or yearning that you have avoided. Where did they originate?
  • Accept that what you see is what you’ll get. Once your relationship becomes firmly established, your partner’s personality and the way in which she treats you will most likely be what your future together will look like. Staying with a partner whom you hope will change usually results in disappointment.
  • Think about what you had hoped for in this relationship, and evaluate whether or not your hopes were realistic given your choice of a partner.

This blog 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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