Are You a Rescuer Who Picks the Wrong Partner?

by | May 2, 2018

Do you pick the wrong partner over and over? Do you look for a fixer-upper—someone you can help? If you’re honest with yourself, do you seek out relationships that require you to rescue or enable your partner? And when you can’t change or fix him, do you move on to the next person you can “help?” It’s a cycle you can break only when you realize why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Molly grew up in a household with a narcissistic mother. Molly was taught at an early age that she was an appendage—her mother, after all, was star of the show. There was nothing Molly could do to earn her mother’s love no matter how she tried. Her self-esteem was rock bottom.

Molly was always meeting her mother’s needs before hers. She eventually learned to meet her own needs by meeting the needs of other people. She connected with others through rescuing them, thus giving her a reason to exist. When she grew up enough to seek out partners, she sought men who needed rescuing—men who needed her to save them, thus giving her validation. Because when she’s not saving someone, she’s not feeling worthwhile.

The trouble is, the men Molly’s attracted to are broken and often unfixable. They can never fill the empty hole in Molly’s psyche. Yet she continues to find lovers who need rescuing because they make her feel needed, which to her, equates with love. Molly depends on her role as rescuer to give her a sense of self worth. Sp she readily commits to relationships with men who fill that need in her—the need to feel needed.

Are You A Rescuer Who Picks The Wrong Partner? Nancy'S Counseling Corner

Some rescuers never give up rescuing because they have to admit it’s a failed strategy, a tough thing for anyone to do. But once they accept they aren’t getting what they want they can start examining what does work. When Molly got tired of working hard to charge her partners without reward, she began to understand some important truths:

  • Molly’s rescuing had less to do with her partner and more to do with her need to feel needed and loved. Upon reflection, she understood she was yearning for her mother’s love.
  • Molly discovered that no matter how much she wanted to change her partner, if her partner didn’t want to change, it wasn’t going to happen. Staying with a partner you hope will change is a tragic disappointment.
  • Molly realized her hopes for the future of her relationship were unrealistic, and that the first order of business was to look to herself, not to someone else, to develop her self-worth.

The fact is, Molly deserves a healthy, loving relationship. She deserves to feel loved for who she is, not for what she can do for someone else. When Molly began to understand this she could build her self-esteem and become open to being loved for the person she is.


Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here:


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