White Knight Syndrome: 15 Reasons & Signs Some Men Love White Knighting

With any typical fairytale, it’s always the white knight that saves the girl, and they live happily ever after. But what if he just has the white knight syndrome all along?

white knight syndrome

What does every good fairytale have? A white knight in shining armor. He is the man who shows up at the end to save the day, makes the hurt go away, and whisks the damsel in distress away from the horrible situation she finds herself in. But all of us know this is a fairy tale, and almost all of it is crap! But what happens when a guy believes he’s the knight in shining armor and suffers from the white knight syndrome?

For most of us, as you grow up, you end up realizing fairytales and white knights are all fantasies in your head. These aren’t events in real life. Nobody will come to save her from brokenness and darkness, especially not a white knight on a horse.

But what if you happen to meet a guy who has the white knight syndrome? What if you’re the person who’s made it your life purpose to save and rescue people from whatever they need rescuing from?!

[Read: 25 most common dating deal breakers for women all men must avoid]

White knights and happily ever after?

There are some guys who grew up with the same ideation of what a relationship entails and consider themselves to be the white knight put on earth to save a woman from the darkness she finds herself in. Although in a fairytale, the end of the story concludes with the damsel and white knight riding off together, that is never the end of the real story.

The “happily ever after” isn’t the ride away, it is what happens after you ride away into the sunset that is real life. And, that story, well, is never in a Disney film, is it? This is real life we’re talking about and in the real world, the romantic story doesn’t end when you fall in love, that’s just the beginning!

We’re not saying that happily ever after doesn’t exist. But we’re saying that the fantasy of a white knight saving the girl and them ending up forever in romantic bliss is highly unlikely.

Real life gets in the way, and unless both partners make the effort to keep love alive, chances are, happily ever after will be a long way from reality. [Read: 15 subtle things that completely change after marriage]

What is the white knight syndrome?

White knight syndrome is a term that’s used to define those people who are obsessed with the idea of saving others who are in a relationship with them.

White knights may be men or women, and they are usually romantically drawn and attracted to damaged people, clingy or needy partners, or any kind of partner potentials who need rescuing of some kind. And when they help these people, it’s usually done at the expense of their own well-being and happiness.

As we’re talking about men who suffer from the white knight syndrome here, this is the kind of guy who is completely obsessed with the idea of saving the girl from her problems, whatever they may be.

No matter what it is he’s saving her from, he has this fantasy that if he just saves her, that’s all that matters and they’ll be together forever. When you have this syndrome, you think that just by saving her, you’ll also have her heart and all of her. [Read: The damsel in distress and why men find her so irresistible]

This is because you assume she’ll owe her life to you, and she can’t help but give you her heart and soul because you “rescued” her.

The white knight syndrome means you want to be seen as this amazing hero and a great guy who does all these good acts altruistically. But the truth behind those actions isn’t because of the genuineness of heart, but to project a goody-two-shoes image to others.

Guys who have this syndrome clearly love saving people from misery for various reasons. Maybe they just like turning someone into their personal project, maybe they couldn’t save someone in the past, or they grew up in a bad childhood.

But even if being seen as a white knight in fairytales seems like a good thing, it’s the exact opposite when you have this syndrome in real life. Not only is it unhealthy for you and the person you’re trying to rescue, but it’s also terrible for the relationship as well! [Read: The nice guy syndrome – 16 things fake nice guys do and how to fix them ASAP]

The subtle things driving your white knight syndrome

If you are a guy who thinks it your duty, no wait, your obligation, to save a woman from either the bad situation she finds herself in, or, possibly even, from herself, it might be time to look at what you get out of it.

There is often a presumption on the part of the white knight that their actions are purely altruistic, but that isn’t necessarily true. For the white knight, if he wasn’t gaining something in the mix, why would he continue to put himself in harm’s way?

Love is a pretty powerful tool. It isn’t always the only thing that drives a white knight to come to the rescue, even at his own, or the damsel’s, demise. Before you think you are sacrificing yourself and doing someone else a favor, figure out what is driving you to be the knight in shining armor, selflessness or selfishness?

As someone suffering from the white knight syndrome, you need to understand that there are deeper and more subtle reasons for your behavior. And they’re not all good!

Here are all the reasons why you may be doing good, even if you believe you expect nothing in return.

1. You want her loyalty forever

The white knight knows that if he slays the dragon and saves the princess, she will be forever grateful and “owes” him her life forever. You might have the white knight syndrome if you try to gain unconditional love through your acts of valor instead of through true love.

Saving her is awesome. Doing it so she will be indebted to you forever, isn’t so awesome. You’re not doing it out of the sincerity of your heart, but doing it, so she feels like she is in your debt forever. Loyalty isn’t earned this way, you know that, right? [Read: 15 ways true love sets itself apart from fake love]

2. People with white knight syndrome always want the upper hand

A white knight knows that once he shows his dominance, the damsel forever sees him as her protector. But, sometimes he wants more.

Sometimes, the white knight is looking for more power over her. If you save her from something horrible, then you show her how “powerful” you can be, and put her in a submissive position.

If you have the white knight syndrome, you’ll always need to have the upper hand by showing your dominance. Not because you want to be the protector, but to make her submit to you. [Read: 15 signs of manipulation in a relationship you should never ignore]

3. You want to be seen as “the good guy”

Sometimes, the white knight sacrifices it all, not for the love of the damsel, but to show the townspeople how amazing he is. It isn’t about the love he feels for the woman he saves. It is more about the recognition and adoration he gets from everyone around him.

Your image and reputation are both important to you, which is why you try your hardest to be seen as the good guy. While this is seen as a good thing, your intentions aren’t coming from the pureness of your heart.

Being the guy who sweeps in and saves someone elevates you to a pretty big stature in a community, whether you do it intentionally or not. Adoration is pretty powerful. [Read: The 20 qualities in a guy that makes him a really good man]

4. Wgite knights are just as dependent on her as she is on you

There are times when the white knight saves the damsel because, without her, he would be lost forever. Fairytale romances rely on two characters, not just the damsel but the knight too. There are times when men try to save unsalvageable women because they need them just as much as the damsel is needed.

Codependent relationships aren’t about saving anyone; they are about dragging both down. If you see she needs saving, and you just hang on because you can’t be without her, then you aren’t a knight. You are a co-conspirator of her bad behaviors.

If you aid her in ways that you think help but are really only fostering her and keeping her stuck *i.e., cleaning up her mess*, that isn’t saving, that is helping her to drown, and dragging yourself down as well. [Read: Emotional dependency & signs you’re overly dependent on someone]

5. You enjoy the sympathy

Some people live off the sympathy of others because it negates them from any responsibility. If you stick by a woman in a bad situation who continually puts herself there, then you aren’t there to save her, you are there to cry “poor me.”

If you tried to bring her out of it and aren’t able, but just run around trying to elicit sympathy by telling everyone how much you care and tried, consider the possibility that it doesn’t really have anything to do with her at all. It might be all about you needing attention and people to feel sorry for you.

If you have the white knight syndrome, you love grabbing the attention of others through sympathy. Making people feel sorry for you is a central theme in your life. [Read: 16 insufferable signs you may have an attention whore in you]

6. You are all about self-sabotaging

Self-sabotaging is a way we make choices knowing we’d fail and then saying, “See I knew it was going to fail.” If you have the white knight syndrome and this isn’t your first rodeo or chance at saving someone, then you might want to think about whether you enjoy sabotaging yourself for some reason.

We sabotage our own happiness for many reasons.

What is it that you gain by setting yourself up in a situation where failure is the only result available? Whether or not you intentionally do this, you self-sabotage your happiness and success if you have this syndrome. [Read: Are you sabotaging your own happiness? 12 ways you ruin your own life intentionally]

7. You couldn’t save someone in your past, so this is your second chance

Sometimes we grow up in families where we watch people we love destroy themselves, and we aren’t able to save them. That sets many adults on a path to right the wrongs of their childhood. If you have the white knight syndrome, you want this second chance to save someone you weren’t able to before.

Maybe it’s a parent, a past lover, or even a best friend. If you had an alcoholic mother or a drug-addicted father, you might be trying to save someone to undo the past and the lack of control you had before.

But you can’t ever save someone who doesn’t want to be saved. Not when you are a child and not when you are an adult. Saving someone isn’t your duty, it is their own job. [Read: The nice guy syndrome – 16 real reasons why girls find you boring]

8. People with white knight syndrome grew up watching a codependent relationship

If you grew up with parents who had a similar relationship where one always saved the other, then that is probably all you know. Sometimes, we are addicted to drama and codependent relationships because it is all we know. So we seek out destructive relationships because we can’t handle normal and stable ones.

If you grew up in a dysfunctional family *which almost everyone did*, try to change your future by leaving the damsel to work her own way out and save yourself for once.

You’re addicted to the cycle because you saw it growing up with your own eyes. But you can always choose to end the cycle. [Read: How to not be codependent and learn to start on your own two feet]

9. You are a narcissist who thinks it is your duty to make things “right”

Sometimes a man has the white knight syndrome because he believes it is his duty to morally protect and guide everyone because he is so perfect. If you save her just because you think you are the only one in the world who can, and you’re that perfect, then maybe you need to consider if she wants to be saved in the first place.

It isn’t your duty. If you’re always carrying the weight of the burden on your shoulders and you feel like it’s your responsibility to make things right, you have the white knight syndrome. [Read: What causes narcissism? The facts & theories to read a narcissist]

10. You want her to be dependent on you

You believe you are the only one capable of not only saving her, but keeping her safe as well. Is that is the type of relationship you want with someone? Would you want someone to be entirely dependent on you just to lead their own life? Is this even healthy if she can do nothing but weigh you down, so you have two lives to lead – your own, and guiding her along her life as well?

Do you want her to love you because she loves you, or do you want her to love you because she must out of fear of being lost again? If you truly love someone, then you should want them to choose you because they want to, not because they fear the consequences of not staying.

That’s not love anymore, and you should know that by now. [Read: 20 glaring signs you have a control freak in you]

11. You can’t save yourself so why not save someone else?

There are many people so messed up inside that they focus on those outside themselves. Figuring they can’t save who they are or get themselves together, they might as well cure someone else. You’re not doing it because you care about her or love her, but you’re doing it to divert your attention from your own issues.

Instead of always looking for someone to save to take the onus off of trying to change yourself, you might just want to take some time to figure your own shit out and let her figure her’s out. Once you have both gotten yourself together, it makes for a much better relationship. [Read: How to woo a woman right – 17 secrets to sweep her off her feet]

12. Your self-worth is based on fixing people

If your self-worth is based on your need to save or fix people, you have the white knight syndrome. You think you’re not worth anything if you don’t try to save people or make them better.

In fact, you probably think your life purpose is changing people for the better and saving them from their issues. Only if you’re able to save them and make them better, do you feel needed and feel like your life purpose is being met. [Read: How to respect yourself – 14 secrets of self-worth and self-belief]

13. You gravitate towards those with issues

If you’re guilty of having this syndrome, you tend to be drawn towards the broken and needy ones. You fall for those with issues such as a broken family, abandonment issues, commitment issues, or something along those lines.

When you have the white knight syndrome, you aren’t drawn towards those that are already complete and secure. In fact, happy and secure people repel you!

You fall for those that clearly need saving *and you make it your obligation to save them, no matter what*. You see them as fragile and incapable of standing on their own feet, even if this is far from reality. [Read: How to deal with guilt & drop the baggage weighing you down]

14. You control your partner and pass it off as helping them

The lines between control and love can easily be blurred, which is further proof of that. If you have this syndrome, you try to control your partner and if they get upset, you pass it off as love or helping them.

You make them believe that you’re only trying to help but your obsession for fixing or saving them always gets in the way and turns into control. [Read: 23 subtle signs of a controlling boyfriend most girls don’t notice]

15. You manipulate your partner when they set boundaries

When your partner realizes your syndrome and your need to change them into a certain way, it’s normal for them to want to set boundaries with you.

But one of the signs you have this syndrome is when you manipulate them into dropping their limits altogether because you’re uncomfortable with any kind of limits and boundaries set on you. You want total access to them, and you manipulate them to rely on you or be dependent on you entirely, whether you’re aware of doing this or not.

[Read: Emotionally manipulative boyfriend and the 22 reasons why every girl should walk away from them]

So, do you have the white knight syndrome?

Instead of focusing on saving or changing someone for all the wrong reasons, drop your obsession to save someone. Be more concerned about saving yourself than saving someone else.

You may genuinely want to help others stand on their feet again. But if that person feels strong enough and wants more independence, does that annoy you or hurt you? Do you want everyone you save to stay under your wing forever?

If that’s the case, you need to ask yourself if you’re even helping someone, or just using and controlling others to feel good about yourself!

[Read: Am I manipulative? 20 signs you’re clearly manipulating every single person in your life]

Before you storm the castle, yet again, take the time to think about why you are suffering from the white knight syndrome, what you get out of it, and, if it might be time to step back and instead save yourself. Helping others is good, but not if your goal is total manipulation and control over others.

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Vinod Srinivas Serai
Vin Serai
Vin Serai is the founder of LovePanky.com, and has delved deep into the working of love and relationships for almost two decades. Having dipped his feet in almo...