Could You Have Knight in Shining Armor Syndrome?
Answer honestly: If you're a woman, Is your ideal man one who can "protect" you from the woes of past relationships? If you're a man, do you constantly feel the need to "rescue" women who have been wronged? If you answered "yes" to either question, you may have Knight in Shining Armor Syndrome--a relationship faux pas that can take you down treacherous paths.
What are the Symptoms?
If you're spending a lot of time telling the woman in your life what to do, making plans for her, or taking control of her life, or if you fall easily into the role of helpless female who needs a powerful protector, these are symptoms of "knight" syndrome, says Tina B. Tessina, Ph. D., psychotherapist and the author of The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again.
Why Does It Happen?
The urge in a woman to be protected, safe and secure is very common, says Lauren Mackler, BA in psychology, psychotherapist and author of Sole Mate. "We have the mindset that if a man loves you, he will take care of you," she says.
A woman can be most vulnerable to this way of thinking when she's just emerging from a divorce or a breakup. "Wanting to be taken care of becomes a more powerful need during such a time," Tessina says. Today's culture sets up both men and women for falling into the knight in shining armor trap, she says. "The syndrome is a result of being bombarded with images that imply that love and dependency are the same thing."
Is It Always a Bad Thing?
There are pitfalls that come along with this way of thinking, Mackler says. Chief among them is that if you're waiting for someone to come along and carry you off, you could wait forever. "A woman can get into a holding pattern just waiting for a man to show up," she says. Also, if you have a knight in your life and he leaves, your sense of security and well-being can disappear, too.
If you are waiting for someone else to provide all your sustenance, it's not healthy, Mackler says. A better strategy is to resolve to take control of your own life. Recognize that with independence come confidence and a sense of wellbeing, she says.
Is It Unhealthy for Men to Have Knight Syndrome?
Initially, when a dependent and passive person looks to you for everything, a guy can feel like a hero. "But there's a huge and painful payback when the woman's bad habits surface and he becomes aware of them," Tessina says. "The dependent person is not going to change just because you want her to." If you recognize yourself as a knight, you may want to examine your own motivation for your behavior. Subconsciously, you may think rescuing a woman makes you more strong and manly. For a guy who is lonely or has low self-esteem, stepping in to take charge of another person's life can initially make him feel more purposeful. But the feelings of well-being are short-lived.
Helping a Dependent Person
You may have to make the difficult decision that you just can't be part of her life until she gets her act together, Tessina says. In the end, this may help both the knight and the damsel.
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