Gold Digger in Disguise: The Damsel in Distress

Here’s the latest from CrazyBuster, Micksbabe. It is a follow-up to her article, How to Spot a Gold Digger.

This article will discuss the manipulations of the Gold Digger’s evil counter-part, the Damsel in Distress. Whereas the Gold Digger is overt in her, “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme” in exchange for sex and other favors, the Damsel in Distress is much more covert in her manipulations. In fact, you can think of the Damsel in Distress as a covert Gold Digger.

The Damsel in Distress’s shtick is that of the helpless waif, tied to the tracks with a train approaching. The Damsel in Distress first finds a Giver or Rescuer and begins appealing to his inherent generosity with her needy helplessness, and rewards him with gratitude and makes him feel like a Knight in Shining Armor for saving her.

The Damsel in Distress would have the Knight believe that, without his intervention, she would certainly perish. In this relationship, the Damsel in Distress has her needs met by fulfilling the Giver’s need to be needed.

In reality, the Damsel in Distress is lazy and shameless and is, essentially, seeking a host. She’s an entitled manipulative brat who was trained in this manner, either by observing a female role model, or by having a male role model who treated her like a Princess.

She is not responsible for her own actions or solving her own problems. She will never carry in her own groceries from the car. She will not mow the grass, take her car in for an oil change, move a piece of furniture or use a screwdriver, for anything. She will not get up in the middle of the night to care for her crying baby, even though she doesn’t work.

At best, she will insist that you work in feeding shifts. She hates changing diapers and will moan about it until you end up doing it and it becomes your job, exclusively.

The bills? Those are yours, too. It is your job to fund her shopping sprees and if there is not enough money left to pay the utilities, then you failed and you are not only no longer a Knight, but you are no longer a Man.

In the real world, all of us suffer natural consequences. The Damsel in Distress manages to find a Giver who is willing to insulate her from natural consequences, just as her parents did when she was a child. In fact, the Damsel in Distress is a child, emotionally. But a child with an adult intellect who learned how to be manipulative to continue getting all of her needs met by someone else.

How do you avoid becoming prey to the Damsel in Distress?

Here are a few warning signs to watch for that might indicate you are dating, married to or divorcing a Damsel in Distress:

1. She’s always in peril. This is not normal. Normal people figure out how to get their shit together and avoid crises. The Damsel in Distress manufactures crises and uses them as her mating call.

2. She has problems with finances. Occasionally all of us run into some financial problems. But the difference in the Damsel in Distress and the rest of us (normal people) is that we figure out what went wrong in the first place, suffer a little until we get back on our feet, and don’t let it happen again. Improvise, adapt and overcome. The Damsel in Distress flops around like a flounder until someone takes pity on her and bails her out. Incidentally, the Damsel in Distress never pays back loans.

3. She “Can’t.” Normal people “can.” There are a long list of things that the Damsel in Distress “can’t” do, and that list looks very similar to what the Damsel in Distress doesn’t “want” to do. Avoid dating women who overuse the word, “Can’t.” Otherwise you will be the person picking up her dog’s poop out of the yard.

Before you think I am admonishing you for being generous, I’m not. There’s nothing wrong with being a Giver. It’s better than being a Taker. Givers make the world a better place. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if two Givers got together and gave to each other? Reciprocal giving – there’s a concept.

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  1. Micksbabe says

    Thank you for posting this, Dr. T. I think that of the two archetypes (Gold Digger vs. Damsel in Distress), that although both are horrible, the Damsel has more potential for inflicting more damage, simply due to creating co-dependency issues and GUILT. It’s easy to learn to identify and tire of overt greed. The threat of the waify damsel’s demise, makes leaving one more difficult. IMO.

  2. bubbajoebob says

    Sigh… I was taken so many times, my own weaknesses drawing me to them.

    Going through old paperwork during divorce from wife, I found the old credit reports and credit card statements that told me about her prior Ch 7 bankruptcy (she sure didn’t tell me) at the same as I was paying for her college to get her CPA. Uh-huh. Her auto insurance was over $2400 a year, fifteen years ago, because of all her accidents. She still owed more than $10k on the car she bought new off the lot (at the kind of interest rates reserved for post-bankruptcy cases). But I forgot about her owing the IRS more than $4000, something I’d completely suppressed.

    How did she first introduce herself to me? Well, her roommate (who owned the townhouse) had tried to rape her and now she needed help moving back to her old digs. Her roommate was gay, but details, details… Downhill from there. She asked questions early on clearly designed to feel out how much of a sucker I was, fed me more and more lies to see what I would swallow.

      • Dr Tara J. Palmatier says

        I agree with Micksbabe, BJB.

        Women like your ex view kindness as a weakness to be exploited. Definitely, shame on her. You’re well rid of her.

        • bubbajoebob says

          Oh, I agree with both of you about her nature, but I have to be honest that I repeatedly and willfully ignored or misinterpreted what was smack in front of me. And in coming to grips with my own role in this, I had lots of little lightbulb moments when I remembered a different girl doing something similar, or myself rushing to a damsel (real or play, doesn’t matter). It was a dance, I was a partner. I still don’t know why I joined the dance, but I know that something about me is predisposed to them, and at least now I can avoid them.

          As for rid of her, not yet. Fighting through the divorce while still in the same house (military, stationed overseas). It’s a knife fight in a phone booth. My military retirement is going to be shredded, all my retirement plans blown to Hell–and every bit of it will be worth it to keep the children away from her as much as possible, and her out of my life as much as possible.

          • LT Greenwald says


            I feel for you man. You’re not a sucker. But if you do it again, knowing what you know now, then you would be a sucker. But you won’t, you’re too self-aware and smart for that.

  3. Mr. E says

    Bad credit, constant drama, “can’t” do things… In hindsight, her stories don’t add up, but at the time, I thought I was helping her out.

    I was thinking about this the other day, and realized that my life will be much, much easier without her in it, just in terms of responsibilities that have become mine. I have SO MUCH work to do. I’ll have half the laundry to do (just mine!), half the dishes (just mine!), half the vehicle stuff, etc. etc. The bills are all in my name anyway! I currently put in a hell of a lot of work for the occasional scrap of kindness.

    Shoot, on my own, I’ll probably be able to read now and then.

  4. tenquilts says

    I once wrote a blog post for men on how to weed out Ms. Wrong when dating. One of the things I suggested was, on a first or second “getting to know you” date, try to start a game where you take turns asking and answering questions, and ask her something like her most embarrassing moment or biggest regret or worst quality, or some other question along those lines. If her answer has to do with someone else – like “trusting my ex-boyfriend” or it’s got a tinge of victimhood – then probe a little further, like asking why her last relationship ended. You want to be sure that she has the ability to be introspective and insightful and that she can take accountability for her own mistakes and failings. Run, run, run far and fast from anyone who only ever says things like she’s not talking to her best friend because that person is rude and can’t handle a humorous comment and that her ex is a liar and cheater and that her boss is a tyrant. Make sure she understands the role she plays in the dynamics in her life and has not only recognized past woes as her mistakes, but learned from them.

    As Judge Judy says, if it doesn’t make sense, it’s probably not true. Screen potential dates like job applicants. There are ways of doing it without it seeming like an interrogation!

  5. Confusicated says

    While I agree with the basic premise of this article, I don’t think I agree with all the absolutes(she’ll never do this or always does that) from my own personal experience these types will do just enough so that they can make themselves out to be victims of whatever. The smart ones always make sure that they are the victim at face value, but just beneath the surface on the other side of the page….they wait to rear there cute little heads.

  6. Sad State says

    I agree with Confusicated that it is not quite that cut-and-dry. My ex was definitely a D-in-D, but instictively knew what cards she could play and what ones she should avoid. For example – she took care of the bills in order to hide her spending shenanigans (a good Irish word for St. Pat’s Day). Granted, she would complain about me not making enough and how she has to struggle by delaying payments on some to pay others, etc.. Her goal was to make bill payment so complicated that if/when I would take over, it was incomprehensible. I learned after the divorce that even paying her alimony, I still had plenty of money at the end of the month. She must have been burning through thousands each month.

    Another example is the kids. When they were babies, she would do EVERYTHING for them because nobody could do it as good as her. She ridiculed all my efforts at everything from diaper change to picking out the clothes. Then she complained that she had to do all the work with no help from me whatsoever.

    I guess my point is that some D-in-D have to project their victimness outside the relationship too.

  7. jefe says

    The archetype of the Knight-In-Shining-Armor is man who comes to “slay her dragons”, but the trouble is, those dragons are actually part of her. They are her PETS, and she will not take kindly to seeing them hurt in any way.

  8. tallwheel says

    Right now I’m chatting with a woman I met on an online dating site, and I have a feeling she is trouble with a capital T.

    First warning sign was in her profile on the dating site. She had written something like, “I am used to a certain standard of living, and I am looking for someone who can allow me to retain it.” She lives with her parents, has quit several jobs over the last few years, claiming that she was “bullied” at all of them (which may be true, but she may also have been a needy worker). She is in her early thirties. Recently she had been doing only an irregular part-time job, and now she is not even doing that – claiming that in March her allergies are so debilitating she has trouble leaving the house. She also says she has back problems, with X-rays of her spine up on Facebook to prove it.

    I got even more warning signs in the message I just received from her today. She says she’s not doing very much of the housework for her family, and does not like to cook. She was also telling me something about trying to stay thin and “vomiting”, and I’m not sure but, I think she might be trying to tell me she is bulimic.
    On the plus side, she says she is looking to find a new job. She asked me if my company has any openings now.

    Hahaha. This woman is giving me so many red flags. Why the hell am I even still chatting with her? Because her photos are so cute. I found her to be the most attractive on the dating site I was using. She has many more on her Facebook page, so I’m pretty sure they’re not fake or doctored. I still think I might want to try meeting her once, but I will definitely proceed with caution. I already recognize warning signs, and have no intention of getting involved with someone who is obviously only going to bring me down.

    • Ken says

      RE tallwheel’s red flags & distressed damsels — reminds me of a couple/three girls I dated (about a year apart) a lifetime ago, though clearly MUCH worse above than my experience (well, the cutest of the three may have had a genuine case of multiple personality disorder…). These, in my experience, were really gorgeous/cute, and, had some very very strong points in their favor that truly set/s them apart from the crowd favorably.

      By the way, it seems to be an inherent weakness in us guys to let looks get the better of us for a little too long, at least early in a relationship while there’s still a novelty factor & core vs. peripheral issues are unclear — we, so many of us, seem to work, instinctively, to downplay obvious flaws as peripheral issues when they often turn out to be core to the personality.

      Anyway, it wasn’t long before a good friend/s noticed some quirks in them & let me know…it was really easy to downplay the warning signs…at least to a point. In each case the break-up was pretty traumatic, vindictive even. I was basically badgered, by a friend, into having a direct heart-to-heart confrontation…and in one she basically lied, which is something I don’t tolerate & that break-up was easy; the others were evasive…and fortunately I just didn’t have the time to tap dance around at that time (otherwise, who knows what would have happened…).

      All it takes is one significant flaw to create no end of trouble with someone…and its so easy to get sucked in (especially when looks are very distracting & used as weapons/bait). On-line communication is also very poor as other subtle indicators aren’t there & we read-into what input we do get–we help delude ourselves.

      The best advice I ever got was: NEVER get involved with someone that has more problems than you do.

      While their friends may be a good indicator, often they’re just as messed up or worse and putting on a good facade and/or aren’t really “friends” just temporary co-conspirators manipulated, unwittingly, into a sort of ad-hoc character reference.

      • tallwheel says

        Yeah. We guys are influenced by looks way too much. And it seems to me that good-looking girls are more likely to be demanding/have a sense of entitlement. This could be because she is used to being treated well by men, or maybe it’s just that all the good looking girls with nice personalities are already taken. It’s sad to think about all the nice seeming girls I haven’t given a chance because I didn’t find their appearance particularly attractive.

        You brought up some more things for me to consider, Ken. Looking at her friends as an indicator is an excellent idea. You’re right that one significant flaw is enough to ruin the whole thing. In the case of the woman I described in my post above, I have a feeling that all of these issues are caused by one root flaw – probably a general laziness/immaturity maybe including a personality disorder. But maybe I am getting ahead of myself. I haven’t actually met this girl yet.

  9. charlies says

    Appreciate your blog and website. I am not sure it is comforting, but it certainly is helpful to know there are other people that have gone through the same issues with a former partner.

  10. RedRabbit says

    Oh goodness gracious. This description of Damsel In Distress fits my Husband’s ex quite well. She comes across as this broken little sparrow of a woman. All frail and helpless. Everything is a bit too hard and daunting for her so naturally, one wants to help her. In doing so, you end up doing everything yourself. When they were still married he stopped working for a year to help her manage their children when they were about 3 and 4. But before that, prior to having children he was cooking and cleaning after a 12 hour work day. And no, she wasn’t working or contributing financially.
    For the first few months my husband and I lived together, he was doing everything for me.. To the point of ridiculousness. I wasn’t used to a personal slave! He was constantly amazed I would share the housework load with him. It was like he was unteaching himself, if that makes sense.
    Even I have been suckered into her helpless facade with her and my step children and other things. It is so easy to step in and try to ‘fix and make better’ her situation. I refuse to do that now.
    I was struck by the diaper comment, my Husband did the lion share of nappy changing and other care of their children. They were at an outdoors event. My Husband was chatting to some fellow hobbyists and she was in the vicinity. She started shouting at him, demanding he get over to their car and change their child’s nappy as it was full. He was so embarrassed by her behaviour he never returned to that hobby group after that event.

  11. witeshoos says

    Trying really, really, hard to maintain no contact with my damsel in distress. It’s the only defense I have. I know that yelling at her and calling her names won’t make me feel any better. In fact, it will make me feel worse in the long run.

    Just a few thoughts on this, so I can come back to it later and remember.

    The damsel in distress is an archetype on which many fairy tales are based.

    Here’s the thing about fairy tales:

    They’re not real. They are fictional stories meant to entertain and sometimes teach us a lesson.

    Fairy tales are really only entertaining the first time you hear them. They become much less interesting the second, third, tenth and hundredth time around. The characters are one dimensional and shallow, they always do the same thing, and NEVER change.

    Improvise, adapt and overcome. Relationships are supposed to be based on teamwork, and expecting reciprocation from someone you care about isn’t “keeping score”. You can only carry all the weight for so long until it becomes a burden that drags you under.

    Thanks for this article, I keep it bookmarked, and read it at least 5 times a day.

  12. TI85 says

    witeshoos, your comment serendipitously coincides with part of my subway reading this morning. Or, at least I see a connection.

    From Proud Highway (the compilation of Hunter S. Thompson’s correspondence from his youth and early career):

    June 8, 1959
    To: Ann Frick

    [note: Thompson had been pursuing Frick for some time, and had long thought of her as the one girl among his many casual girlfriends as the one he wanted to marry. However, by the time of this letter, they were drifting apart, mainly because she wanted to settle down and he wanted to keep trying to make it as a writer. At the time, she lived in Tallahassee, and he lived in a shack in upstate New York.]

    Dear Ann,

    I don’t know why I bother to answer your letters so promptly, in view of your recent failures. Perhaps it’s just to set a good example. At any rate, here it is.

    I find it interesting that you say in the same breath that you don’t want to come up here, but that you “would like very much to be near me.” It typifies, I’d say, your present outlook on life. Something about having your cake and . . . . You finish it. What I think you really mean to say — perhaps without realizing it — is that you wish I could fit in with the pattern of life you’ve tentatively laid out for yourself. You say you “don’t really know what you want to make [your life],” but I’m inclined to think you’re wrong. Not knowing what you want out of life is a pattern in itself, perhaps the most rigid pattern of all. As a matter of fact it’s probably the most predominant pattern in the country today, and just another name, in the long run, for what we call the “American way of life.” You are in a large and very crowded boat, floating around aimlessly and complacently in a very treacherous sea.

    At times I seriously regret that I’ve divorced myself so completely from that pattern. Life is much simpler that way, and very often much more pleasant. I’m sorry, in a way, that I wasn’t brought up to believe in it. I regret, also, that I no longer have a taste for cotton-candy.

    I don’t think much good would come of another visit to Tallahassee, for I don’t think you’re going to make much progress toward my point of view. Not for a few years, anyway. (And by the way: did you ever read Lie Down in Darkness by William Styron?) I’m in the unfortunate position, however, of being enough in love with a part of you that I can overlook the rest. This is doubly unfortunate because of the fact that I realize it. I don’t even have any illusions, and sometimes I miss those more than anything else.

    As for your point of view, I don’t really know what it is about me that attracts (or attracted) you, but I’m not foolish enough to think it’s based on anything but illusion. It pleases me, now and then, to think that you understand yourself better than I think you do. And every time I think that, one of your letters comes along to convince me I’m wrong.

    Perhaps, in spite of all this, I will get down that way sometime this summer. I don’t know exactly how, or why, but anything can happen if you push hard enough, and I may decide to push. It would be useless, but pleasant. We shall see.

    If you think I’ve been wrong in some of the things I’ve said here, by all means let me know. This is one case where it doesn’t make me happy to be right.

    Love, Hunter

  13. killswitch says

    My CB side swiped me with her bills when I moved to [identifying info removed]. I too spent quite a bit of money trying to get her bills squared away. Her house was in foreclosure, so I called good friend of mine who is one of the best real estate lawyers in [identifying info removed], for help. Of course, she called and spoke to CB at length, giving CB free information on how to neutralize the foreclosure. Afterwards, I invited CB to sit with me and do the bills, she refused.

    Once I left [identifying info removed], I did an extensive background check on CB… good God Almighty, what a mess! There isn’t enough room on this page to list her debtors. We’re talking six figure debt.

    This expensive lesson cost me $6000 USD. Lesson learned. I fell for it, trusting her mask. I should have known better. Now that I think about it, she asked me for MY financial report before we got married. I didn’t give it to her. I protect my credit rating like it was my only child. I shiver when I imagine what could have been… hundreds of thousands of dollars in that money pit called… Crazy Bitch.

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