No relationship is perfect, but some are certainly healthier than others.
In a good relationship, both sides work together to support and love each other. They do their best to grow together in life and find ways to overcome difficulties.
For far too many couples, however, a savior complex can start happening that can ruin even the best relationship and dampen even the strongest spark.
A savior complex is fairly simple: it occurs when someone believes they can “fix” or “save” their partner from their problems. It can come from the best of intentions, but as the shaman Rudá Iandê explains in his masterclass on love and intimacy, the savior-needy complex can be very damaging and can seriously delay and interrupt us on the road to finding real, lasting love.
I have found Rudá’s teachings extremely helpful and I know whoever is reading this will, too. His masterclass on finding true love and intimacy honestly clarified so much for me about what has been standing in my way.
And how often we can repeat the same mistakes until we understand the lesson they’re teaching.
Sometimes we don’t even realize we are in the position of a savior or thinking we need a savior until our heart is broken and we feel like all our dreams are lost.
Many of us, including myself, find that we have played the role of savior and of the needy.
But the good news is it’s not too late to find true love.
Not at all.
Guided by deeper understanding we can walk the path with confidence and optimism.
It’s just a matter of knowing what to watch out for and responding wisely when we hit some quicksand.
Instead of kicking your feet harder and sinking down further, you can assess the situation calmly, understand the reality and pull yourself out with a jungle vine to get back on the right path where you can grow to your full potential.
Here are 17 signs that you’re stuck in a savior complex in your relationship.
1) You really want to change and “fix” some fundamental things about your partner
It’s totally fine to notice some things about your partner you wish were a bit different.
It crosses the line into savior complex zone when those things become a focus of your relationship and one of its driving motivations.
It crosses the line when your relationship becomes more of a project than a partnership.
The savior feels a deep need to “fix” or change their partner, but this often feeds into a toxic dynamic that hurts both people.
2) You feel like you know what’s best for your partner – even more than they do for themselves
We all go through tough and dark periods in life and it’s inevitable that these influence our relationships and how we behave around our partner.
The thing is that often what someone in pain wants most of all is just someone to listen.
To be with them through their pain.
But when you are embodying a savior role you will feel the need to jump in, to “fix” and provide instant answers for whatever your partner is going through.
You will be upset they are in pain, certainly, but you’ll be even more motivated by the sinking feeling that it’s up to you to provide a solution ASAP.
3) You treat them like you’re interviewing them or “checking up” on them frequently
If a lot of your conversations start to seem more like an interview down at the local police station then you may be in a savior role.
Especially if you’ve been trying to get your partner on the right track for some time and are checking up the interactions can become downright interrogatory.
There’s a major difference between lightheartedly asking how the diet or no-drinking is going and asking detailed followup zingers with a demanding tone.
It’s normal to want what’s best for your partner. But being an accountability partner to an extreme level can start to seriously get in the way of being a romantic partner.
4) You have many ideas and answers for their life and long-term improvements
When you think of your partner and your life together you think of the big picture.
It’s often something dramatic: you know where they should live, what career is best for them, how they can finally beat their psychological issues once and for all completely.
You aren’t so much along for the ride and supporting them as you are trying to direct the movie of their life with all sorts of interventions and advice.
Sometimes you just need to let the movie play out instead of trying to shape exactly where it goes in the end.
5) You trust yourself more than any professional or expert to help address their problems
It’s normal to try to help out those we love in an intimate relationship.
This can be with advice, emotional support, affection, maybe even a nice massage? Who would say no to that, right?
But if you’ve gone too far you may find yourself feeling you’re the only one who can remedy your partner’s problems. You may find yourself doubting the credibility and efficacy of professionals.
Often the needy partner will feed into this, clinging to the savior partner like a life-line and feeding a huge amount of expectations that are unhealthy and often lead to codependency and disappointment.
6) You start paying their financial costs
There are many upsides to being there financially for your partner and it can be the sign of a maturing, responsible relationship.
But if you find yourself bankrolling your partner and being treated like the Community Chest on Monopoly then it’s time to hit the pause button.
There’s a big difference between helping out in hard or tight times and becoming a go-to source of funding for your partner.
You aren’t a bank, you’re a person (I’m assuming, anyway).
If you find yourself constantly keeping your partner afloat financially you may be stuck in a savior complex.
7) You run your partner’s schedule and organize their life more than they do
Part of every healthy and happy relationship is helping each other out and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Some days are hectic and our partner can help out in great ways.
But if you’re always the one organizing things and keeping track of their schedule then you could well be playing out a savior complex.
Unless you signed up to be your partner’s personal assistant when you had your first kiss and decided to be a couple then chances are this isn’t what you planned on.
But it’s happening, and it’s getting to be a bit too much. Step back and take a look at what’s going on. Is it very one-sided?
8) You’re working overtime while they sink deeper
If you find yourself doing all the work while your partner always has something better to do then you could well be trapped in a savior dynamic.
Sometimes this can be through things that seem minor: you always do the dishes or laundry, you always make sure you both remember dental appointments or medical checkups.
But over time you may notice that it extends to many areas.
You’re doing the work, they’re doing the receiving.
Savior complex alert.
9) Your romantic spark is eclipsed by a therapist-patient dynamic
Every relationship is different, but when you’re stuck in a codependent savior-needy cycle you will often find that the spark or romantic attraction has been eclipsed by a therapist-patient or teacher-student vibe.
It feels a bit awkward to say the least. And it doesn’t really feel like love.
The force of emotions can be strong, but something just doesn’t sit right and you know it.
The feeling is of a one-sided partnership where you’re doing the heavy lifting in a constant rescue scenario of some kind.
If you’re in a savior complex there are likely deep roots of this that were cultivated in childhood experiences and trauma as well as our own “script” of who we really are that includes deep subconscious patterns.
It’s completely possible to overcome and you’re well on your way by becoming aware that you may have a savior complex dynamic.
10) You look after your partner so much you don’t leave enough time for yourself
Being a savior is hard work. It can be noble in the right context, but in an intimate relationship it tends to be a one-sided pattern.
You’re there with the literal or metaphorical wad of bail out money every time your partner gets in a jam.
You’re his or her literal or metaphorical one call from jail.
As for your needs and personal energy? It can hit rock bottom when you already thought you hit rock bottom a month ago.
If you find yourself exhausted from always putting your partner first it’s time to take stock and check up on yourself; it’s also past due to have an honest talk with your partner about how you’re feeling.
11) You blame yourself for their problems and setbacks
You know when you’re looking for your glasses and can’t find them because you’re wearing them? Or when you can’t find the car keys but they’re in your hand?
When we are in a relationship that’s built around a savior complex we can get a very distorted picture of reality.
As Rudá talks about, finding true love and intimacy is about letting go of our illusions, expectations and ego-centered way of being in order to embrace the even more positive experiences that are waiting for us.
That habit of blaming yourself for your partner’s setbacks …
Of wanting to hold out your hand as a lifeline …
The idea that their misfortune is on you …
It’s not true. And it doesn’t help them or you experience true love and intimacy.
12) You place your own happiness completely in your ability to help your partner
When you’re playing savior to your partner, your happiness is based almost entirely on how they’re doing.
If they have a bad week at work you become a qualified career coach.
When they’re feeling badly depressed you basically become a licensed therapist and professional online researcher.
Whatever happens in their life is magnified in your life.
You don’t just “feel good” independently, or get absorbed in a new hobby or friendship and have the time of your life. Your life is your partner and even when your own personal life is going well, if your partner isn’t doing great you feel like a weight is around your neck.
13) You’re certain that without you your partner would be toast
Another flashing sign that you’re acting out a savior complex is that you feel certain your significant other would be toast without you.
Badly-burnt, over-crisp toast that gets chucked in the trash can of life.
You imagine them crying and staying in bed all day without you.
You imagine the downward spiral that you caused.
The overwhelming feeling is simple: you’re the one who has power here and you need to use it to improve and salvage your partner’s life.
14) You stay in the relationship even if you’re unhappy because you feel a sense of responsibility and dependence
You have this underlying sensation that this is where you belong. But it’s not really in a good way.
It’s like scratching an itch that just gets worse. You scratch and you scratch until you’re bleeding. And hours later you still want to scratch the scab.
You feel tied down, trapped and unhappy, but the idea of leaving just seems like a bridge too far.
This is where you belong.
Your other half needs you. They couldn’t do it without you, you’re sure of it.
15) You don’t think you deserve someone who treats you better
Many times in a savior complex relationship you will start to realize you aren’t being treated all that well.
You could feel ignored, overlooked, even disrespected.
You might feel like you’re only there to help and boost your partner, but what about you?
Everybody needs somebody sometimes, as Keith Urban sings …
But you have this nagging feeling inside yourself that maybe you don’t. Maybe you are being weak for wanting more. Maybe you should stop thinking of yourself and focus on your partner. They just told you it’s a really hard time for them yesterday, remember? You really love them, don’t you?
There goes the savior instinct again.
16) Your sex life and emotional bond frays but you just try even harder to help
One of the signs that you’re stuck in a savior role is that your own needs aren’t being met but it only makes you push harder.
You may feel a lack of intimacy – emotionally and physically – and just generally cast adrift.
But you convince yourself that it’s on you to work harder, reach out more, accept more neediness from your partner.
It’s just what you do. They need you. If you don’t like how it feels it must mean you’re a selfish person who’s not working hard enough, right?
17) You feel bound by an invisible cord that just gets stronger with time
It’s normal to feel deeply connected to someone you’re in an intimate relationship with.
And it can be healthy and wonderful.
But when you’re in a codependent cycle like the kind Rudá Iandê teaches about, it’s not healthy or wonderful.
It drags you and your partner both down, and the wound-mate bond just gets stronger over time.
You feel this overwhelming guilt that you can’t leave them. It’s too late now after all this time.
You feel a wound inside yourself that can only be validated and healed by fixing or rescuing this other individual you care about.
But it’s not true. And it’s time to step out into the sunlight.
You are worthy of love and a strong relationship and you are not compelled or even capable of fixing someone else. It’s OK to recognize and fully accept that and love yourself and love your partner outside the framework of the savior complex.
Sometimes there are issues you can work through, sometimes it is time to go your separate ways.
Either way: be strong in the deep inner knowledge that you both deserve love that is unshackled and true.
If you think one of the partners in your relationship is suffering from a savior complex, we suggest checking out the free masterclass on love and intimacy by Ideapod. Learn more here.