by Dr. Randy Gilchrist, LDS Psychologist
www.LDSdimension.com (FREE LDS online dating site)
Cinderella. Snow White. Sleeping Beauty. Other classic Disney princesses. What do they all have in common? They were all rescued and saved from their unhealthy, unhappy existence from a man all too eager and willing to save them. A prince. A knight on a white horse. A white knight coming in to make it all better. Cinderella was saved from her wicked stepmother. Snow White was saved from a jealous witch. Sleeping Beauty was saved from, again, a disgruntled witch with a grudge. Men all came in and saved the women in the end. It worked well for Disney and legions of enchanted girls over the decades. The excitement of being rescued was quite an engaging fantasy. It still is in many ways. However, how does this effect work in real life relationships with men? This brief article examines the "white knight" role men sometimes take on to rescue the woman as the "damsel in distress".
The White Knight
The "white knight", also known as the "knight on the white horse", is a man who sees a woman in trouble, also known as the "damsel in distress". He sees her in trouble and quickly swoops in with unsolicited advice, help, or assistance in some form to make it all better. She rarely if ever is asking him for the help, but he is there to give it anyway. Sometimes she accepts the help, sometimes she doesn't. But what is the effect? From what I have seen, the male "white knight" role in the LDS singles dating world usually leads to 3 possible results:
1) She accepts his surprise help to a degree, appreciates it, and goes on with her life not thinking too deeply about it. Perhaps she develops a light friendship or connection with him as well. But that is about all. "Thanks". Period.
2) She accepts the help, decides the white knight can be useful in her life to help rescue, fix, and/or save her from her issues and challenges, and she embarks on a codependent relationship where he regularly, even continually has to help her.
3) She is suspicious of his unsolicited help as a tactic to impress her and get in with her. She either rejects or warily accepts some help, but quickly sees him only as a "friend" or a "nice guy", but not dating material. Instead of winning her over, his efforts paradoxically push her away and/or place him in the friendzone. It is often deemed annoying and/or like he is being opportunistic to use her problems or issues as a strategic way to get in with her. The result: pushback (usually, unless he is very rich and good looking I suppose--then see option 2).
The Problems of the White Knight/Damsel in Distress Relationship
To women attracted to white knights who engage in relationships with them (option 2), these relationships are unfortunately usually doomed. The basis and foundation of such relationships is unbalanced and unequal from the beginning. He is the hero to continually rescue, fix, and save her away from her problems, and she is the damsel in distress regularly needing his help, moving from problem to problem. Resentment in such relationships inevitably builds both ways. She gets tired of his superior hero role, he gets tired of her continually needing help. He also gets weary of her limited ability to help him when he might need some help now and then, which she is usually poor at giving. The whole thing usually ends very badly.
The Alternative to Being a White Knight: Quality Listening Skills
In the classic book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, John Gray points out the poor effect of male unsolicited advice and help with women, and that his efforts to jump in and fix her problems are usually repelling. John Gray simply recommends to men instead, the following: when she is willing, simply give her some good quality listening. If you feel like trying to help her, see if she's open to talk to you about her issues. If not, back off. If she is willing to talk to you about her issues and vent, then listen with validation, empathy, and understanding. Look and act patient and interested. Give support. Not fixing. Not unsolicited advice. Not confronting or arguing with the other offending person or people in her conflict. Don't bail her out with money. No devil's advocate and arguing with her. No switching the subject to make it about you somehow. All forms of bad listening and reacting that definitely won't fix it. Just let her talk. If you really want to help her--or even try to get on her good side--quality listening is usually your best approach.
But…But…But…She is Really Hurting and In Pain! She Is Really Being Treated Unfairly! Shouldn't I Help Her?
What, are you assuming she is helpless? News alert: she isn't. Besides possibly giving some quality listening--and intervening if she was being actually being physically assaulted--you probably should back off. If she has her own personal problems she keeps repeating, she may not be ready or wanting to change yet. She will probably resist your helping efforts when unsolicited. As strange as this might sound, women have a right to have whatever problem they wish to have, to engage in whatever unhealthy relationships they wish, and make whatever self defeating choice they wish to make. And for whatever amount of time that they wish. They are adults. They have their agency and cannot be helped against their will.
If she is having conflict with another woman or women, stay out of it. This will almost always be seen as you being out of your element that it's none of your business. If she is having a conflict with another man, usually the same--especially if it is a dating relationship, going through ups and downs. If she didn't ask you to intervene, what makes you think she wants you to throw yourself in the middle of it? She usually already knows what her game plan is to try to address her issues, conflicts, and challenges. Remember, women have been socialized much more so than men that if they need help, they should and will ask for it. Case in point: asking for directions. Women usually do so quickly, men not so much.
In sum, when she doesn't ask but you just jump in to help with her problems, a lukewarm or even negative reaction is most likely. Give her some credit. She isn't as fragile and vulnerable as you might assume. She is used to experiencing and handling strong emotions. She is a woman, not a little girl. She will let you know when she needs you, if she decides she needs help. A lot of time, she will not. And that is ok. That is her right.
Men please step out of the white knight role. It is so middle ages. Treat her like a 21st century equal and an adult. In dating, find another equally yolked, healthy woman with her life together and you be and offer the same in return. Be strong in the gospel together. Be healthy and interdependent in your relationships together, not codependent. This is what makes for the happiest, healthiest, lasting future marriages. And remember, "…neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 11:11).
|2017-12-03||Randy Gilchrist||Dating, Healthy relationships, Psychological health|
About the author
Hello, my name is Dr. Randy Gilchrist (aka "Dr. G"). I am a licensed clinical psychologist, a licensed marriage & family therapist, and a certified hypnotherapist in private practice in Roseville, CA (www.dr-rg.com), practicing since 1997. Also, I am happily married in the temple (Manti) since 1996 and have 4 sons. I am a volunteer writer and contributor to LDS Dimension. I use my training, education, and experience to share insights with LDS Dimension on all things of interest to the LDS dating community. Please read my articles and columns on this site to assist you in your online dating journey. Also, to be considered for an answer in a future Q and A column, please email me your dating/relationship oriented questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Finally, I also offer a powerful, effective worldwide custom hypnosis recording service just for LDS Dimension members for weight loss, pornography, and many other issues of concern to those in the LDS dating community (please learn more now at www.dr-rg.com/lds; email me questions to email@example.com).