Rigid Perfectionists and Self-Centered Partners

In our previous article, we described the first two subtypes of rapacious rescued partners. Here we describe the final two subtypes- the Rigid Perfectionist and the Self Centered. Please note that although we use feminine pronouns in our descriptions, rapacious partners are equally likely to be male.

The Rigid Perfectionist

Perfectionism, rigidity, control, and preoccupation with details taken to the extreme, can significantly interfere with a person’s life. You may admire your partner’s wish to keep the closet organized, but when she becomes enraged because your shoes have caused hers to move from their designated place, you may become concerned about her rigidity. You understand the moralistic reasoning behind everything she does, perhaps agreeing with her in principle but also to avoid conflict. Soon, you will understand that rescuing her means complying with her agenda.

Making a decision can be agonizing for some rigid perfectionists who are so worried about making a “wrong” choice. Thinking he is helping to stop his partner’s suffering, a white knight often will step in and make the decision for her, only to find that his voice in the matter has now led her to defend the other choices.

The rigid perfectionist believes an ideal exists that she and her partner must achieve. One white knight found his partner at the kitchen table in the middle of the night, obsessively reworking the party invitations she was making. When he suggested that she stop fussing over insignificant things and come to bed, she became enraged and threw the stapler at him.

Indications that you have rescued a rapacious/rigid perfectionist typically include some of the following:

  • Your partner becomes upset if your standards do not match her own.
  • Your partner has difficulty moving forward with tasks because they must be done perfectly.
  • Your partner is very anxious about how others view him.
  • You often regard your partner’s standards as unreasonable or unattainable.

The Self-Centered

A person whose self-esteem requires continuous validation and affirmation may be perfect for a white knight who always wants to be in the powerful position of dispensing reassurance. But although you give her comfort, attention, or material gifts, you often find that she envies what belongs to someone else or that she most wants approval from someone (other than you) who won’t or can’t give it to her.

In these situations, it can seem as though you are the inadequate person, instead of your rescued partner. For example, one white knight gave an elaborate birthday celebration for his self-centered partner. But rather than express his appreciation for all his effort, his partner focused on the “insulting” fact that two “important” people had not attended.

For the self-centered partner, being the best is important. At some level, she knows that she is not the best, and this knowledge, combined with herenvy of others whom she is likely to idealize, means that any reassurance you provide will fall flat. Nevertheless, part of your job as a rescuer is to make sure you bolster her self-esteem.

Intermittently, she will idealize and adore you in a manner that is delightfully unreal which keeps you in the relationship. But as you unintentionally take on your rescued partner’s shame, fragility, or negative feelings, you will feel more defeated and vulnerable than when you began to rescue her.

Indications that you have rescued a rapacious/self-centered partner typically include some of the following:

  • Your partner complains about someone who has offended, upset, or competed with her, expecting you to express (her own) outrage that she has been wronged, all the while ignoring you and any recognition of your importance in her life.
  • Your friends may view your partner as highly entertaining but very arrogant.
  • When you tell your partner about an accomplishment of yours, she will talk about her own.
  • Your partner hurts your feelings without any recognition of having done so.
  • Your partner has an insatiable need for admiration and becomes angry if you call attention to it.
  • Your partner has an uncanny ability to twist facts, distort reality, and revise history.
  • Your partner can, at will, empathize with you or withhold empathy.

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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© Copyright 2013 Mary LamiaPh.D., All rights Reserved.
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  • unhealthy relationships
  • white knight
  • white knight syndrome
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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.