This post was written March 2, 2012 for my original blog. I am reposting it because I made reference to “white knights” in my fresh content today. I’m providing this post as/is for context purposes. Looking at the number of comments and hits this post got on my old blog, I think it’s high time I reposted it anyway. There are a lot of “white knights” out there and they need a reality check. Incidentally, the relationship with the “white knight” in this post did not last. “Princess” has stayed with her husband. So much for the public declaration of love.
Today’s topic is one with which I am very familiar. I am married to a so-called “White Knight”. He is a kind, benevolent, gentle man who has a propensity toward rescuing people, especially women. There are a lot of guys out there in the world who are “White Knights”. They can be wonderful, supportive partners to people who are not abusive. However, when they get involved with drama queens who exploit others, they can end up in serious trouble.
While it would be easy for me to just write about my husband’s “White Knight” syndrome, I would first rather highlight a situation I recently ran across online on one of the many message boards I troll. I found a prime example of a post written by a guy who appears to have “White Knight” syndrome.
Here it is, posted on Facebook for all the world to see… I redacted names to protect the guilty.
I love ______ with everything i have got to give. She is the most amazing woman that i have ever met. She captured my heart with her smile and the sparkle in her eyes. She engaged my mind with her wit, humor and intellect. Wicked Smaht! And she saved my soul and made me want to be a better man…not for her but for me. She is incredibly strong and a wonderful mother to five incredible kids of which i have grown quite fond. She is a PRINCESS and deserves to be treated in that manner. I LOVE YOU _____! Thank you for everything you have done for me.
Now, bear in mind that the guy who wrote this is dating the “princess” who is referred to in this post. And the so-called “princess” is still married to her husband with whom she has five young kids. She has no doubt told this man whose heart she’s stolen that her husband is an abusive bastard. And who knows? Maybe he is a bastard. On the other hand, she is still married to him and has been with him for years. I know this because I have followed her story for years and I have seen that she has a flair for embellishment and drama.
“Princess” does indeed have five adorable kids whose pictures she has plastered all over the Internet, along with their full names, birthdays, likes and dislikes, etcetera. She has a lot of people who support her because she comes across as very charismatic. She’s also young and attractive and has a way of making people think she’s a victim. She also has a long history of financial problems and has posted repeatedly about her many personal dramas. Despite her physical attractiveness and surface congeniality, “Princess” lives a life that seems constantly embroiled in chaos.
Guys with “White Knight” syndrome are drawn like moths to a flame to women like “Princess”. She looks good. She has adorable kids. She needs HELP, because her ex or soon-to-be-ex is supposedly an abusive, irresponsible bastard. None of this situation is her fault. And she is perfectly justified in “dating” even though she is still legally married because she is such a victim and none of this is her fault! She conveniently ignores the fact that she’s a grown woman with choices and responsibilities, particularly toward her five kids. Instead of taking actions that would get her on the track to recovery and stability, she throws up her hands and wails “RESCUE ME!”
“White Knights” who encounter these types of women get swept up in the drama. They see a helpless damsel who needs them to “step up to the plate” and “save the day”. And something inside these “White Knights” prompts them to act, envisioning themselves as heroes. They feel better about themselves. The damsel in distress feels better for having been rescued. The children may or may not like the new arrangement and it may not be the best thing for them, but who cares about them, right? Because it’s all about the drama queen who never emotionally matured beyond adolescence and, to a lesser extent, the “White Knight” who has a need to feel needed and a desire to rescue someone. But what happens after the great rescue? Reality sets in.
My husband rescued his ex wife and her eldest son. She showed up on his doorstep in Germany after my husband had a chance encounter with his ex’s first husband on a military airplane on the way back to Germany. The three of them had gone to high school together; ex had supposedly married her first husband as a means of escaping her abusive mother. She had a son with him, but later claimed that her first husband was “crazy” and “abusive”. When the ex and her child showed up in Germany, she was still married to her ex husband. But she tearfully told my husband tales of woe about her disastrous marriage. She alluded to her first husband’s abusive treatment of their son. She rationalized that because her husband was so abusive, she was perfectly justified in cheating on him. She laid it on thick and sweet and my husband, who suffered from low self-esteem and poor self-image as well as an overly large heart, bought her stories hook, line, and sinker. That was his first huge mistake.
My husband and Ex eventually got married once Ex got divorced. My husband was quickly assimilated into the “dad” role to his ex wife’s son. By the time the kid was six, his real father was completely out of the picture and didn’t even pay child support. Ex also somehow managed to change the boy’s name. Meanwhile, Ex, who had claimed to be on birth control, got pregnant within a couple of months of marrying my husband. Bear in mind that at the time, she had no income and my husband was a junior officer in the Army who also wasn’t making much money. Getting married, stepping into daddy role, and not insisting on condoms were my husband’s second, third, and fourth big mistakes.
A couple of years after my husband’s daughter was born, Ex got pregnant again. Again, she claimed that the birth control had failed. My husband’s second daughter was born and their finances were about to get worse because Ex wanted my husband to leave the Army. She said she didn’t want to live the military lifestyle, moving from place to place. For a number of reasons, my husband’s career wasn’t going so well back then. He agreed to leave the Army. They moved from Washington State to a town in Arkansas, where my husband had an awful time finding a suitable job. Meanwhile Ex had a lot of trouble holding down employment and would frequently complain about how she didn’t want the kids being raised in daycare, hence justifying staying unemployed.
Soon, my “White Knight” husband was doing a lot of the housework, earning most of the money, and taking care of the kids, when he wasn’t working second shift in a factory making $25,000 a year. At one point, Ex moved her younger sister in with the family. The younger sister also had no job, but she did have a daughter. Soon, my husband was supporting seven people on a tiny salary. As you might imagine, things went to hell in a hand basket from a financial standpoint. But my husband stayed committed to the woman he had “saved” and their kids together.
When my husband finally wised up and decided he needed to get back into the Army full-time, the marriage quickly crumbled. And before he knew it, my husband’s beloved daughters and the “son” he had informally adopted all hated him due to things Ex had told them about him. Ex was also trying hard to ruin my husband’s relationships with his parents.
It was during this period of crisis that my husband found me, at the time, very single. Our relationship developed platonically and online over a couple of years, which is probably why we still get along so fabulously. And maybe I have a touch of “White Knight” syndrome myself… because common sense should have told me NOT to get involved with him. However, I did get involved and ended up with a wonderful supportive “White Knight” for a husband. Our marriage has been very good, but it hasn’t been without cost. It’s taken years to recover from the financial mess my husband was in when he was with his “damsel in distress”. He has lost contact with his kids… which may actually be a blessing in disguise, since it means we have no contact with their mother, either.
Meanwhile, the cycle has started anew with Ex’s third marriage and two youngest kids. No doubt Ex’s current husband has heard all sorts of horrible things about my husband and he’s probably dumb enough to believe her without even using his common sense or powers of logic. Ex is uncannily persuasive and believable. Even after all he had been through, my husband was still believing a lot of his ex wife’s bullshit when we first got married. It’s taken years for him to move past the fog and see the truth. Meanwhile, my husband’s “son” has reunited with his biological father, the man who was supposedly so abusive to him when he was a little boy that he needed a name change. “Son”, by the way, has changed his name back to what it originally was and has no contact with the man he called “dad” for most of his life.
As for the “White Knight” and “Princess” I wrote of at the beginning of this post, well… I have heard that maybe their relationship has gone a bit rocky. If so, it’s probably a blessing for the gallant knight, who will have no doubt dodged a bullet. It’s a pity that the Princess’s young kids have bonded with this man, since he will no doubt be going away at some point. If he doesn’t do it now, it will happen some time in the future. These “damsel” types never like to stay rescued for long. They love the high drama of being in a crisis and being swept to safety by some kind-hearted guy. After a few minutes of being wrapped in a loving blanket of kindness and support and given a nice mug of sweet love to warm them, a true damsel will jump back into the sea of despair, waiting for the next “White Knight” to come along and rescue her.
I have a lot of empathy for “White Knights”. I wish they would take some time for self-reflection and save themselves. It’s admirable to want to “step up to the plate” and sometimes “White Knights” really can end up rescuing an appreciative woman and her children. But I would caution anyone who feels the need to “rescue” to step back, take a deep breath, and take stock. You can’t save anyone who doesn’t want to save themselves. And you can’t truly replace an absentee parent. Don’t kid yourself. Being a “White Knight” is a thankless job that will get you nowhere.
For more on this subject, I recommend reading Dr. Tara J. Palmatier’s excellent blog, Shrink4Men.