Friday, May 9, 2014

An Ounce of Prevention: '5 Steps to Avoiding White Knight Syndrome' (and Florence Nightingale Syndrome Too)

When co-dependency peaks its ugly head in a relationship...

It tends to result in White Knight Syndrome or Florence Nightingale Syndrome. If you've ever wondered if you've been or currently are the victim or victimizer of either one, this article may shed some light (straight copy and paste):

Many of us fall prey to “White Knight” or “Florence Nightingale Syndrome” — trying to rescue our love interests from their problems. If this sounds familiar, read on to break this destructive pattern.

You’re successful at work, you know loads of great friends and you’ve got strong bones and teeth. In short, you’ve got it made… well, except in the love department. Despite all this, you’re a mess when it comes to love, continually dating people in some kind of crisis or another. What gives?

You could be living out what’s known as “White Knight Syndrome” (or “Florence Nightingale Syndrome”). You abandon successful relationships or start unhealthy ones believing your love can transform or save another person’s life — while you’re actually sabotaging your own. What?!

“People who become White Knights and Florence Nightingales seek to rescue others because they don’t wish to face their own personal unhappiness,” explains Debbie Mandel, author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman’s 7-Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life. In general, the syndrome is a reaction to a recent trauma, like the end of a serious relationship or the death of a partner. But sometimes, it’s a deeper thing related to someone’s own low self-esteem. “Turning the rescue outward, these people are distracted from transforming their own selves and eagerly get caught up in the drama of someone else’s story.” Unfortunate, but it happens more than you’d think.

1. Get a clear picture of what you’re doing. To figure out what’s driving your romantic rescue missions, certified dating coach Sandy Weiner suggests visualizing yourself as a literal, real-life rescuer. What’s your purpose? What do you want to get out of the situation? What feelings are you seeking out? What’s motivating you to save this person? “Once you identify the underlying need that’s behind the rescuing behavior, you can begin to meet it in a healthier way,” Weiner notes. To get started, find some quiet time to go over your relationship behaviors, reflect on yourself and your personal identity and consider your own past dating patterns. Then get input from trusted friends and family, too. All this will help you develop a realistic picture of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Then you can develop a plan for adopting new behaviors.

2. Work on feeling complete within yourself. For some rescuers, their inner saviors are the byproduct of their own problematic self-esteem issues. Saving others makes people feel more successful and loveable. Too bad it rarely works out that way! Instead of fixing your dates, you’d be better off investing energy in your own self-improvement. “Look for your inherent value outside of your ability or desire to save sinking ships,” counsels Rob Mack, author of Happiness from the Inside Out: The Art and Science of Fulfillment. “Keep a daily self-appreciation journal. As you fill yourself up with positive reinforcement and find your own value, you’ll feel less compelled to play the rescuer.” 

3. Pursue your real purpose in life. Maybe the motivation isn’t about self-doubt. For some of us, all this saving and nurturing is really about a drive to lead a more helpful and purposeful life. That’s a relatively easy issue to fix: just transfer that desire to something other than your dating life and pursue partners who share your commitment to making a difference in the world. “Find other pursuits, activities or even professional endeavors to fill that need within you,” Mack notes. Volunteer at the local assisted living home or some other public service. Volunteer for a government advisory board. Work with a local charity. Or, change careers entirely: “Perhaps you’re really meant for a career in therapy, as a counselor or as a writer,” says Mack.

4. Envision being in a healthy relationship. Despite what we learned from Jerry McGuire, single people need to give up the idea of completing (or being completed by) someone else. You may be super-adorable and loving, but choosing partners who are incomplete with the hope of filling their void is an unfulfilling experience. Paige Parker, author of Dating Without Drama, explains that “lasting relationships aren’t comprised of two halves desperately trying to fill each other up, but rather, two complete people choosing to share their happy, satisfied selves with each other and experience life together.”

Start by committing to letting go of the need to repair your romantic partner. “Look for the beauty within others instead of searching for something within them to fix,” Mack asserts. “You will do more in your positive expectations of others than you could ever do in your negative expectations of them.” Instead, visualize a healthy relationship. How will you and your partner interact, deal with conflict and support each other in constructive ways? How will you be in the world together? This vision will help you choose more “complete” dates — and will help you break it off with people who can’t give you the positive relationship you want.

5. Seek professional help. Most Knights and Nightingales can do the heavy lifting required to break this bad rescue-behavior pattern. Others can’t save themselves and would benefit from working with a therapist to explore the root issues and create healthier ways to be with another person romantically. “A bit of counseling or therapy with a good professional is always a good idea,” explains Dorree Lynn, a psychologist and life coach. “Hurt daters have a remarkable capacity to pick new dates and place them back into the same ‘need-to-fix’ scenarios they’ve experienced in the past.” If this sounds familiar, take some time and make an effort to get out of the rescuing business — and into a new romance! 

Personally, I really like #4. Some people don't even have a standard for what a healthy relationship should look like and so they don't realize that they are in something that is, well, unhealthy.

We are not here to "rescue people". Being a Savior is Christ's job.

Make sure to free yourself from these syndromes so that you can get to God's best for you.



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