White Dame Syndrome

Have you ever been “lucky” enough to catch yourself right at the start of an habitual pattern you’ve been a slave to all your life? Et voilà. Behold…

Something I’ve only just clocked pretty recently, after my last girlfriend broke up with me, is that every single relationship I’ve ever got into (and these have all been with women) has started with me wanting to rescue the girl, in some way.

This is classic abuse survivor behaviour, by the way – we need to care for someone who isn’t us, or we’d have to face the unfaceable fact that no-one came to our rescue.

But I was also carefully programmed into this by my dad, who pretty much told me to look after my mum so he could bugger off with someone else. And my mum absolutely bought into that too. Ever since then, I’ve found myself constantly acting under a perceived obligation that has caused me and the women I’ve been involved with a lot of unnecessary suffering.

So there’s this lovely woman I have a bit of a crush on. And she’s recently painfully single, and looking for somewhere new to live, and having a hard time with it all. And suddenly I spot myself feeling compelled to respond to all her facebook stuff, to reassure, to… well, to schmooze, when it comes down to it.

My motives are mixed. The great thing about mixed motives is that some of them are positive. I like her, I feel for her situation, I want to comfort her just like all her friends do. But I can feel in myself the awful urge to do this other classic abuse survivor thing: I’ve heard it described as Best Friend Syndrome (since we’re doing syndromes tonight). It means, wanting to be not just close to someone, but closer than anyone else. To be the most important thing in their universe. And it applies just as much to friendships as to relationships – it’s the grand romanticizing. (This we do to make them dependent on us, so they never leave…)

This is a terrible and pointless burden to place on anyone, including on myself. And, if you’ll pardon my Middle English, I’m fucking well not going through this all over again, please. It’s not my job to make it alright for anyone – not even for myself. That’s no basis for a relationship of equality and health and happiness… believe me, I know whereof I speak.

So I’m stepping back into “merely” caring about her.


[Incidentally – there’s an irony here to the whole Dame thing that you’re never going to hear the details of… and it hath nothing to do with dragging up, be assured.]


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