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White Knight Syndrome 3 of 4: Are You Rescuing The Needy or Unstable?

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Unhealthy relationships

White Knight Syndrome 3 of 4: Are You Rescuing The Needy or Unstable?

Just When You Thought You’d Found Paradise

Initially, the covertly predatory style of rapacious partners may lead you to believe that you have found paradise in their arms, but sooner or later you feel like a victim. Desperate for nurturing and security, the rapacious partner manipulates to get what she needs, at times, through being irresistibly seductive. Her needs eventually leave her partner feeling exhausted, depressed, or confused. The rapacious rescued includes the depleting needy, the exotically unstable, the self-centered, and the rigid perfectionist subtypes. Please note that although we use feminine pronouns in our descriptions, rapacious partners are equally likely to be male.

The Depleting Needy

Many white knights initially fail to see the manipulative and controlling behavior of their partners. The manipulation and control are not intentionally malicious but are adaptive in that they calm your partner’s fear of abandonment. At the start of the relationship, her fear leads you to feel powerful and secure. You interpret her controlling style and frequent questions as a natural insecurity that comes with love. Her impulsive and self-destructive behavior, entices you to feel sorry for her, and you forgive her behavior by using the same reasoning that she may use: she has been a victim of unfortunate circumstances beyond her control.

Intense moods are common in the depleting needy partner and you will have difficulty understanding how your partner can be so hostile towards you. Still, you will make excuses for her, as she will for herself, or you may lash out aggressively in retaliation if she triggers your shame and fear of weakness.

An overly empathic white knight complained that his partner would call and demand that he come home whenever he went out with a friend. If he did not curtail his visit, she called him vile names and threw things when he returned. She claimed she had no control over her behavior because of her childhood history of physical abuse and him neglecting her. He felt that she was “sucking the life” out of him, but he was too worried about her to leave.

Indications that you have rescued a rapacious/depleting needy partner typically include some of the following:

•At one moment, your partner may express animosity (devaluation) for someone in her life she has recently admired (idealized), and may severe her relationship to that person.

•If your partner feels abandoned, even if she is unable to say so, she may respond with anger or a suicide attempt or threat.

•Your partner is impulsive and seems to do everything in excess, including spending, eating, sexual behavior, and substance use. The potential negative consequence of such risky behaviors is ignored.

•Your partner’s thinking is black-and-white.

•Your partner elicits your sympathy when she shares her history of neglect, abuse, or mistreatment.

•Your relationship with your partner leads you to feel burdened or suffocated.

The Exotically Unstable

She is absolutely engaging, dramatic, sexually seductive, and creative. But beneath the glamour, you will find unstable emotions and manipulative, attention-seeking behavior. She communicates her outer need to be desired by seducing you, which, in turn, makes you feel desirable. However, negative feedback from you or anyone else exposes her fear of inadequacy, and she reacts angrily, by denigrating or humiliating you.

An exotically unstable partner’s exaggerated emotions initially may feel exciting, catching you up in a whirlwind of feeling. She may admire and be comforted by your rationality, which may lead you to believe she appreciates your capacity to ground her. Over time, however, she may criticize you for being “boring” or “controlling.”

One white knight who was dating a beautiful and adoring exotically unstable partner, felt powerless whenever he attended an event with her because of her loud and often inappropriate behavior. In one instance, the white knight left a reception, offended by her seductive dancing with another man. She then went home with her dance partner, spent the night in his bed, and blamed her behavior on having drunk too much because the white knight had “abandoned” her.

Indications that you have rescued a rapacious/exotically unstable partner typically include some of the following:

•Your partner is highly emotional, dramatic, and constantly seeks attention. After she has your full attention, she tends to seek the attention of anyone else but you.

•Over time, you may consider your partner’s emotional expression childish, highly sexualized, or exaggerated.

•You catch your partner in lies that she vehemently denies.

•Your partner seems to sexualize everyone and everything but feels misunderstood if you refer to her behavior as seductive or inappropriate.

•When you help your partner, she views the situation as one in which she is doing you a favor.

•Your partner must be the center of attention and becomes angry when she is not.
•You hear your partner telling a story that is highly impressionistic and distorts the actual event or reality of the situation.
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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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