How to Stop Being a Rescuer of “Needy’ Men

He’s been through hell and is “emotionally wounded.” It’s your job is to heal him. Right or wrong?

“Shanece” and “Alphonso” met at the hospital where they were both employed. Alphonso was deeply scarred by his troubled childhood and was emotionally unstable. Shanece had always been drawn to down-and-out guys. She figured if she could rescue him, he’d adore her forever. So Shanece became Alphonso’s girl­friend/therapist/caretaker/mother.  Just like previous boyfriends, Alphonoso ended up ditching Shanece because all patients leave their caretakers when they start to feel better.


Romantic relationships require that the partners be peers. If one plays the role of “caretaker/parent,” it’ll make enough emotional dis­tance between the two of you for real intimacy to be impossible. Caretaker types are often unaware of the reason for their co-dependency: they don’t believe they possess much that can attract and sustain a man’s romantic attention. So they offer their services instead of themselves. The arrangement is lopsided in another way too: It means 90 percent of the relationship centers on the broken person’s needs and feelings. But once a hurt­ing man has been helped back to strength, chances are he’ll start looking for a mate who matches his new and improved status. He figures, “I de­serve an even better woman now, because look how much better I’m doing.”


If you have a history of dating wounded men, there is help. Look to a good therapist or a minister, and your closest friends to help you under­stand the roots of your rescuing behavior and how to break the habit. When next you’re dating someone new, ask yourself honestly, How much is this guy, like the last guy? And always get candid feedback from some men in your life who are themselves in healthy relationships. They can tell you how you may come across, which helps far more than merely trusting your own assumptions.


Commenting area

  1. Kenneth Holland February 10, 2011 at 12:08 pm · · Reply

    Hello Dr. Elmore, i am so honored just to send this comment to you, I am a 23 year old GOd fearing, married man, who really believes in everything that you put out. My wife and i have both of your books, and absolutely love them. I actually want to do what you do for a living, and have a deep passion for relationships. I have started a group on facebook called the CONVERSATION PARTY, and would ove for you to join or i can add you and maybe you could join in on the beautiful conversation we have

  2. Dr. Elmore, this is an excellent word. I am actually a married woman who in some way has made all 4 of my grown children rescuers. My husband and I are both rescuers. My husband and I have rescued down and out men and women all of our 35 years of marriage. We have made our children this way, unknowingly. I am now watching my daughter, specifically rescue down and out men. She plays the role of the man meaning the breadwinner and constantly attracts either physical abusers, or substance abusers. There was never alcohol or drugs in our home; there was always lots of love so I don’t quite know how to handle the situation. My sons, likewise, choose women that they need to rescue and as you say, after spending time with my sons rescuing, they then go on to the next guy. One of the young people that we rescued in our past is now dealing with a terminal illness and has returned to our home and my husband and I are again the the parental role of rescuing him as he has no one to care for him. However, I don’t want him so dependent that he can never leave “home” our home again. My husband and I are both Christians and saw ourselves in the role of being able to be a blessing to those without. Somewhere we missed something.

  3. Thank you for providing an article which explains the who, what, when, where and why of these types of situations. I am a single 33 year old mother of one child and through this article and the past failed relationship realizes what “it” is that made it fall apart. I am enjoying my singlehood and the healing process to become a complete woman to attract a complete man.

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