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Worried Partner Has White Knight Syndrome

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I’m divorced (6 years now) and dating a divorced man who seems to be a pretty great guy. However, I have some reservations.

My SO is 11 years my senior, and was married for 17 yrs before having an affair with a woman 20 yrs his junior. He volunteered this information, saying he wanted me to know upfront. While I find it problematic, I empathize with the fact that his wife had denied him sex for over 2 years and that his daughter was co-sleeping with him and his wife all of her life at this point (7 yrs).

What I am having a harder time letting go of, is the possibility that he has some kind of White Knight Syndrome, or that I have reason to be threatened by this younger woman. Following the breakup of his marriage, she moved in with him and lived, rent-free, a year. He says that after a few months, the relationship became one of friendship, as she wanted to date other people. However, she never paid rent. Following his move to another state, she asked if she could come live with him. He agreed, and she moved into his new home. Again, they began a relationship, but progressed into a friendship. She continued to live off of him, rent-free, for 4 years.

She moved away one year ago. They remain friends. She does occasionally text him and he told me as much. She contacted him when she saw (Facebook) that he was in a relationship with me, telling him she was happy for him. A few days later, she called him, telling him her BF broke up with her, but now wanted to talk to her…and she didn’t know what to do. He thinks this is harmless, if victim-like, I see it as manipulative.

Her paintings still decorate his home, although he says this is because he just hasn’t thought to replace them with anything. I have no reason to think he has seen her since dating me, or anything like that. I am disinterested in banning him from talking to her or anything juvenile like that, but I did tell him that I did tell him that situation made me feel insecure.

He and I have dated for 3 months. We see each other 2-3x a week. He has told me he loves me, and he is supportive, nurturing.

Worried Partner Has White Knight Syndrome

Answered by on -

A.

Set clear boundaries with him. Explain that it is hurtful to you, that this need of hers has a history that has continually pulled him in, and that this isn’t what you want in a relationship. Make this very clear. Explain this is not okay, that it isn’t a gesture of support or help on his part as much as it is her inability to manage on her own, and that it smacks of manipulation. Make this simple for him. This is only a three month relationship and you setting very clear boundaries now is important. Explain that he is welcome to help her, but that this will directly influence how and if you relate to him.

Not to do this now would give a complicit endorsement to him — not at all what you want to do.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Worried Partner Has White Knight Syndrome

Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: http://www.dare2behappy.com/. He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2018). Worried Partner Has White Knight Syndrome. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 25, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2016/03/04/worried-partner-has-white-knight-syndrome/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.