Are You a Rescuer?

Remember, he's your boyfriend, not your patient.
Remember, he's your boyfriend, not your patient.

You may be falling in love with the guy you want him to be instead of the guy he really is.

This is the third post in our series 8 Signs You Aren’t Ready for a Relationship. I’m going to spend the next week or two delving into each of these more deeply, one by one, and discussing what you can do to make sure that you are ready for a relationship when your Mr. Right comes along.

Are You Looking for Someone to Save?

Do you find yourself very often inexplicably drawn to a project guy – a guy with some serious personal problems, emotional, financial, or physical, that you think you can help? Maybe it's the guy that just can't seem to hold a job, or the guy who drinks too much or has drug dependencies. The end result is that you typically find yourself in a relationship where you are care taking for a partner, and feeling responsible for his well being in one or more areas of his life. You may even be enabling his dependencies without even realizing it.

Take an honest look at your past relationships, and see if any of these sound familiar:

  • You have often felt sorry for your past partners in one or more areas of his life.
  • You often find yourself minimizing your own needs and focusing excessively on your partner's needs.
  • You believe that people that have been hurt in one way or another deserve love more than people that haven't suffered any serious hurts in their past.
  • You have often been drawn to men that you feel need your help in pulling their life together.
  • You often feel and act like a parent in the relationship, guiding your partner and feeling the need to give advice or point him in the right direction.
  • You have found yourself in a position where you feel like his life would crumble if you weren't there to help him with your support and love.

If any of the above sound like what you’ve experienced in your past relationships, you may be prone to being the rescuer. Instead of seeking a partner to have a deep, meaningful mutually supportive relationship, you are driven by a need to get into relationships where you can be in the position of feeling needed.

This is fairly common and can be caused by several issues, such as:

  • You may be focusing on someone else's issues to avoid facing your own.
  • You may not feel valuable or worthy on your own account, so you have a need to find value in yourself by feeling as though you are helping other people.
  • You may have some serious personal issues yourself, and you find that being with someone with personal issues that are worse than your own makes you feel better about yourself.
  • You may feel that if you get a fixer upper and then fix him up that he'll be so indebted to you that he'll never leave.
  • As a child you may have been made to feel that you weren't competent enough, and now helping someone with serious problems may make you feel capable.
  • You may be trying to make up for something in your childhood that you weren't able to save. If you lost someone close to you to a drug or alcohol addiction, you may be trying to find men with the same problems so that you can relive that part of your life and save them this time. Or you may be trying to save your brother or mother from the pain of being picked on or belittled. If anyone from your childhood was mistreated, abused, abandoned, or otherwise not accepted, you may be trying to save that person subconsciously by finding a partner with the same issues and trying to save them.

As you can see, it's critical to get to the root cause of the reason that you have a pattern of consistently attracting these men into your life.

How Do You Break the Cycle?

The important thing to remember here is that if you find yourself starting to be attracted to someone with some serious personal or financial issues, make sure that you are acutely aware of his issue and consciously consider whether or not you are subconsciously trying to fix him or save him from his problem.

The best thing to do in this type of situation is to help him help himself, but put the relationship on hold until he does.

For example, if he's drinking excessively, make it clear that you are interested in a relationship but only if he can first get his problem under control by seeking professional help. Then support him and help  him to seek out professional help with his problem.

That way you are separating the help he's getting for his problem from your relationship. Let him know that you'll support him during the time that he's getting help, and you will gladly be his friend during that time, but that you will not be romantically involved with him until he gets the help that he needs on his own.

For yourself, when you enter a relationship with someone, make sure that the relationship feels equal – that is, you are getting just as much out of the relationship that you feel you are giving. You should be complementing each other – you should both be supporting and valuing each other in relatively equal amounts. Of course, you will both have your strong suits, and that's what complementing means. In order to have one healthy relationship, both partners must be healthy to begin with.

Before you get into, or re-engage with, a romantic relationship with him, you also need to make sure that you feel happy with how he is today, not just the vision of what you think he'll be in the future once he has his problem in check. Don't fall in love with his potential. If you are not absolutely happy with being in a relationship with this man the way he is right now, then step back from the relationship until it really does look like what you want out of a relationship.

The only kind of relationship that will ever work well is the kind where you feel that the person is enough for you just the way they are. Then, if there's any improvement, it's wonderful and something you can both celebrate, but it's not something that's required to make you feel happy with your partner.

Remember, you're looking for a boyfriend, not a patient. Leave the therapy to the professionals, and find yourself a man that adds as much to the relationship as you do.

To learn more about breaking free of the tendency to try to rescue others in your relationships, check out Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie.

Next post in this series: Are You Waiting to be Rescued?

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