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Why are some people willing to stay in a toxic relationship?

Have you ever had a friend willing to stay in a toxic relationship? She might say, "I cannot leave him because he will suffer without my help." Or “I am the only one able to change him and he is just misguided right now; he will change eventually.” Meanwhile, your friend is constantly abused, whether physically or verbally, by her partner. If you have ever had a friend like this, there is a high possibility that she has a savior complex, also called the Messiah complex.

A person with a savior complex sees rescuing people as their purpose and will always sacrifice herself to help a romantic partner, no matter how badly she is treated. Now, helping people is great! But there should be boundaries and limits, or else one will burn out and end up doubting herself. People with a savior complex are typically attracted to partners who have been hurt physically or mentally before. Those partners come in two main types, encapsulated in the casanova complex and big baby complex.

The casanova complex refers to a person who loves pursuing women without committing to serious relationships. Even though it seems such a person is popular, the “lifesaver,” or person with a savior complex (yes, I know this gets confusing), tends to believe that he is actually lonely and unhappy. The lifesaver will provide the person with the love he is supposedly missing, believing her love will change him.

A big baby is a person who is dependent, immature, and needy for care and love. Saviors will find their “purpose” in relationships with big babies because they feel needed. Saviors will do anything to provide their babies support.

Lifesavers often experience only conditional love in their childhood. (Conditional love is love that is only given when its recipient accomplishes something, making the person think she does not deserve love unless she achieves something.) The thinking goes that they are attracted to the aforementioned two types of romantic partners because they see in them their own younger selves suffering from conditional love. The “lifesaver” will sacrifice everything to prevent her partner from experiencing the same fate as she. She will end up in a cycle where she gets harmed repeatedly and starts to blame herself, before entering a similar relationship without acknowledging the pattern, and so the cycle continues.

If you are a victim of the savior complex, do not panic. Take solace in advice from the book, “Don’t Take Anything Personally:” first, “you are never responsible for the actions of others; you are only responsible for yourself.” Second, remember that the person you are helping will never change unless you are willing to change yourself. Last but not least, remember to set boundaries and respect them.

  • Angie Lee


Mary's Love: Endless tolerance for each other? In fact, I want to confirm that I am worthy of being loved| Womany Womany

Sarah A. Benton “The Savior Complex”

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