Being rescued by a gorgeous knight in shining armour is a fantasy so many women share. In fact, it’s what many of us have dreamed of since we were five, right? Someone to step in and save the day? But the fact is, getting into a relationship with a “rescuer” is not always as chivalrous as we imagined. As a divorce attorney, I have seen many different types of relationships that have their problems and this one is what I call the “rescuer” relationship. There are red flags to help you identify if you are in a rescuer relationship and why you should proceed with caution.
In a healthy relationship, partners support each other in times of crisis with the goal of getting better. After the crisis passes, you should be more independent and on equal footing with your partner. The goal of a relationship should never be for one person to provide all the financial and emotional support the other may need. Instead, each partner should contribute equally to the relationship, and support the other partner as he or she also pursues friends and interests outside of the relationship. If you are not in a relationship where this is happening, or where both partners are actively striving for these goals, then you should take an honest look at your future with this person.
So what are the surefire signs you’re involved in a rescuer relationship? They’re right here. Read them carefully to see whether they apply in your case. If you recognize any of these signs in your own relationship, you should proceed with caution.
Caution: 3 Signs You’re in a Rescuer Relationship
1. You met during a vulnerable time.
All rescuer relationships start when one person is going through a rough patch in life. For example, maybe you were heartbroken over a recent breakup, or grieving the death of a loved one, or experiencing a health crisis, or recovering from addiction, or going through a financial crisis. Something big was going on where you needed significant support, and he stepped in to save the day.
While it is possible to meet a wonderful person during difficult life periods, you have to be careful when entering a new relationship at a time like this because your judgment is probably clouded. You are vulnerable during a crisis, and you are not looking or acting like your best self. Once your crisis passes, you will often act, look, and think differently, inside and outside the relationship.
2. He was your lifeline through a crisis.
Did you feel your significant other was a lifeline during your crisis? A lifeline is someone who is right there as a shoulder to cry on—on a constant basis. This lifeline is available at all hours, and constantly validates your feelings. Maybe he even offered financial support, a place to stay, and activities to distract you. Or he keeps calling you all the time to check on you and spend an inordinate amount of time with you.
Typically, your lifeline will encourage you to view him as the strong one in the relationship, the one person who will take care of you and all your needs. As a result, you might start to see yourself as wronged, victimized, and in need of help—all the time.
3. He is threatened by your recovery and independence.
Rescuers are often insecure themselves. They seek out someone who needs them and fear what may happen if their loved one needs them less once the crisis has passed. For example, your partner may get upset if you don’t spend as much time with him, or if you make new friends. He may make you feel guilty for doing activities without him, or discourage you from pursuing a hobby or more education. He may even make comments that undermine your confidence in how you look, what you are capable of, or your choice in friends. Although it may be hard for you to see, these comments are a result of your partner’s insecurity and desire for the power dynamics in your relationship to stay the same, and are not a reflection on you.
Nanda Davis founded the Davis Law Practice in Roanoke, Virginia, and currently focuses on family law.