Anonyman the Hero

I found an interesting blog post yesterday on Insist on Honesty. It was written by a wife whose husband had a deep emotional affair after having a long string of inappropriate friendships (could be wrong on the particulars here – I haven’t read the blog before). You see, he has a hero complex, or at least something similar that could be called that. He sees a damsel in distress and he rescues her. Quoting:

He has this incredibly strong desire to rescue damsels in distress; to be their hero and make them feel better. He’ll fix it and thereby, feels appreciated.

Go read the rest if you haven’t already. The first 2/3 of the post is like it’s my wife writing about me.

I don’t think I go looking for these damsels in distress, but they sure do find me. My wife thinks it’s partly because people see me, a married and successful man, as someone who is also stable and reliable. Like the adage “Men are like parking spaces – all the good ones are taken,” I, being in a long-term relationship, must be good, while all the single men must be defective in some way.

I don’t say this to flatter myself (although I used to think that way), only to say there’s a certain logic to it if. This is especially true if one doesn’t think too hard about what it says when a man in a long-term relationship would enter into an inappropriate relationship – namely, that I’m not a good man, just a man.

I also think there are women out there who play the damsel in distress because they want someone to be their hero. I imagine it must feel good to have someone care for them and make them feel good about themselves. They may not be looking for an affair, but quite possibly they are looking for someone to flatter them because they themselves are insecure.

However they find me, I’m only too happy to play the hero. I’ve always been a pretty good listener to women and I’ve learned what to say in order to make women feel better. It’s not simple flattery – I see the worth and the beauty in all women, and I have compassion for them when they are in distress. So when I tell someone that they are not stupid, they are not ugly, they are not unlovable but instead that they deserve to be listened to and praised – I’m telling the truth and I do want them to feel better.

And they do feel better. For my part, it feels good to make them feel better. It’s become a part of my identity that I have this ability with women, and it definitely tends to puff me up. “Look at me, I’m the super-man who can make women feel good about themselves. Aren’t I just so awesomely selfless?”

What the women don’t see is all the times I’m a selfish jerk, or the times I’m short tempered and irritable, or the times I leave trash on the kitchen counter. So it satisfies, but it’s not lasting satisfaction based on true intimacy.

That’s why being appreciated by another woman is akin to false intimacy. Intentionally or not, I show my best features in a safe, controlled way that makes me look like I’m some kind of demigod among all those selfish men out there. It’s self-flattery by proxy. I show the carefully edited version of myself and get appreciation and praise in return. Yes, I am also trying to help them with their problems, but I can’t claim to have purely altruistic motives.

Even my blogging has been part of this pattern, which is something my wife and I have talked about. We both want to make sure that I’m not doing my hero bit to all the hurt women out here in the blogosphere. That’s part of why I’m not going to be as involved in other people’s blogs. It’s not my job to make anyone feel loved or appreciated, with one exception: the woman I pledged my life and my heart to over a decade ago.

So why do I do it? Like IOH’s husband, I think it’s insecurity on my part. Yes, it feels good to make someone else feel good and it feels good to be appreciated and looked up to like a hero. But deep down, I’m a very insecure person (as I’ve noted many times before). I need to be appreciated and looked up to because I feel unworthy of those things. I’m insecure about what appreciation I do get because I feel like I’m unworthy of it and that it will only last until the real me is revealed. I’ve always been uncomfortable with praise, probably for the same reason.

Ultimately, it’s not helpful to the damsels or to myself, but I chase it anyway like a cheap high. Being the hero and reaping the praise and attention that comes from that fulfills the desire for appreciation, but it doesn’t solve the insecurity.

Really what it comes down to is I already have a woman who deserves my best AND sees me at my worst. And you know what? She still loves me. If I really want to be kind to these other women, I won’t put both of us in a position where I’m being something to her that I cannot and should not be. If I really want to be the hero, it starts with taking care of the woman I’m supposed to take care of, my wife. I can’t do that and be the hero to the damsels in distress who inevitably find me. To try both is to fail at both.

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About Anonyman

Recovering adulterer and husband of an awesome wife who has given me a second chance. Sinner and Christian, saved by grace alone. I cuss a lot
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8 Responses to Anonyman the Hero

  1. OHC says:

    This is interesting to me. There was definitely something of this dynamic in my EA, in fact, in a huge fight we had when we were effectively ending the affair, my AP said something along the lines of loving the role of being my white knight. It isn’t how our relationship started, but when a few major events occurred for me where I needed help and he stepped in, it definitely led to an intensification of the relationship

    But I think it can go both ways. In my EA we both played the role for each other. I came in to save him as much as he came in to save me. We both had some pretty major events happen over the years we were involved and both had the tendency to give everything up to help the other person, going way beyond what you would do for a normal friend. It got even more intense when his wife refused to speak to him during a pretty major crisis, that was when our EA really spun out of control

    There is one thing I disagree with your article, though, is this concept that an AP only sees the good side. I am in the camp that thinks there are a lot of different kinds of affairs and I am certain that there are affairs in which the affair partners have limited knowledge of each other. But there are others where there is a lot more honesty and awareness.

    My EA may have been unusual, but there was really no way we could have hidden our bad sides with the sheer volume of time spent together over many years. I can give you a detailed list of all the ways he can be a major asshole or just plain annoying. Ranging from how he eats breakfast to how he handles professional crises to how he communicates with his parents to what he’s like when he drinks too much.

    He can likewise give you a long list of my faults as well as descriptions of how crappy I can look when I’ve been sobbing or throwing up or am just exhausted and couldn’t bother putting on makeup or brushing my hair when I saw him because he was the one person who didn’t care

    I give these descriptions not to make it about my story, but to say I agree with the power of having someone be your white knight. It felt amazing when he would save me–it also felt amazing when he would let me save him. It made us feel like we were in our own little bubble, it’s intoxicating. And if that was all I ever knew about him, I would be infatuated for sure, but I agree it wouldn’t be a relationship

    But let’s stop repeating the same story over and over again that there is no way for two APs to really know each other and they are just selling their best side. It happens, I know, but it’s not a universal truth

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anonyman says:

      Fair enough. I don’t want to paint with too broad a brush, but I would say that in general affair partners do not know each other as intimately as husband and wife do. There are exceptions of course where husband and wife don’t know each other well and the affair partners do or in which the affair is free to be particularly long lasting and involved.

      I don’t mean to be trite in my observations, but for me, it took me a long time to realize just how unreal my stupid little two-month affair was. I was unconsciously pretending to be married when I wasn’t. That fantasy was flawed because we simply couldn’t know each other that intimately while still remaining married to our spouses. I won’t tell other people how to feel or what they are feeling, I’m just extrapolating based on my experiences and the experiences of some other people I’ve read. Obviously, my experiences are not representative of everyone’s.

      Like

  2. It’s hard to watch the trainwreck coming, especially since – in the past – I often only saw it coming after it was halfway through… it would appear to be harmless from the outside. But I know him. And my damsel-in-distress radar has been finely tuned over the years.

    He’s been working HARD on this since the fall. We tried a little experiment, to sift out the obvious ones. Whenever some woman began to tell him her problems/thoughts, he would gently interrupt and defer to me. “You know – my wife would have a really great perspective on this. Here’s her number or message her on Facebook. She’d love to help out, I know, if she can” The proof was in the pudding. NOT ONE ever messaged me. W gave off a vibe of… It’s not my place to know the intimate details and struggles of your life and psyche. I have to work. “You know – our healthcare plan covers therapy if you need to talk to someone.”

    Someone needs her brakes done? “No- I will not be calling for you. No – I will not be able to drop you off and/or pick you up on break… you can have it done for $20 more right across the street. That’s the surcharge for convenience.”

    Having trouble with your mother-in-law? “Talk to her or your husband about it. I have my own mother-in-law (don’t extrapolate – that’s an opening for further conversation)… I talk to her or my wife about it.”

    Feeling distant from your husband or your boyfriend? “You’re sure not going to get any closer to him by talking to others about it… tell HIM.”

    Any other problems? “Hey – you’re a big girl now… figuring this out yourself will give you so much confidence for other problems that arise in the future. Good luck!”

    At this point, every woman who knows him knows he’s no longer the person to ask for help. MAGICALLY, they didn’t NEED *his* help anymore. Either they don’t talk about it or they don’t appear to even been affected by the alleged “problems” that existed before. They were in it for him and his attention and gentleness with them. That was something, before we started this, that he was [maddeningly] worried about. “Who will help them if I don’t?!”

    It doesn’t matter. As kind-hearted as you are, your specific help is not unique to you… let her find the help she needs/wants from a more appropriate source. Her own husband, if she’s married. A best-qualified-to-deal-with-her-problems therapist. A single man, if she’s single. Again, with the “But she can’t/doesn’t have good people in her life! What will she do if I/we don’t help her?!!”
    Answer: She’ll do whatever she would have if she’d never known you. That’s what. She’ll figure it out. Wouldn’t *I* figure it out? She’s not strong enough to do that herself yet? Guess what… this will give her experience in that, so she can take care of her business herself. She’ll live. That’s life.

    Boundaries, you know? He has them and I have them. As a married man, he’s no longer available for damsel-in-distress rescue operations. As a married woman, when I need help, I ask him for it. As a married woman, I don’t nurture other men. I don’t spend time alone with men. I don’t cook for them or bring them glasses of water on scorching days when they’re mowing the lawn or coffee when they’re on the second hour of shoveling snow – even though the mother in me can clearly see they’re getting dehydrated or need a break and a hot beverage – because that would be outside of good boundaries. They’re grown-ass men who can get their own drinks and food and more-appropriate sources of encouragement and praise. I know that *I* would mean nothing by it… but I also know how vulnerable men react to nurturing like this. The result wouldn’t be appropriate. I just can’t risk it. It’s the same for married men – they need to understand that while they wouldn’t mean anything by it at first, the vulnerable women will react to their kindnesses in a certain way. The result wouldn’t be appropriate. They, if they intend to be faithful, can’t risk it.

    ****
    Thanks for the linking, btw! And hello, Mrs. Isle of Man!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. So I guess the deeper question here is why do you feel insecure and unworthy? Why are you looking to be appreciated by others? And does this all stem from your depression or is there something else?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Janelle says:

    It’s so nice to see you blogging again. Welcome back!

    My DH suffers from this … he calls it “rescuer” syndrome. I think the fact that he recognizes it and has consequently always been upfront with the damsels who seek his assistance and counsel that “I will have to check with my wife about [insert problem/need for help here]” tends to curb the attention seeking.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Why the Insecurity | Isle of A Man

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