10 Signs You Have A 'Cinderella Complex' & Need A Man To Save You

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woman laying on man's chest

There are two types of women in this world: the strong independent ones who make their own way, and the women who dream of Prince Charming showing up to save the day.

The latter group of women are considered codependent and unofficially diagnosed with a Cinderella complex.

What is a Cinderella complex?

A Cinderella complex is a condition where a woman has a hidden fear of independence and a strong desire to be taken care of by a man.

Cinderella complex and Cinderella syndrome are used interchangeably when describing a woman who prefers to depend on a man for stability and wellbeing.

Agatha Christie first coined the term "Cinderella complex" in her 1955 mystery novel, "Hickory Dickory Dock." But in 1981, Colette Dowling brought the affliction to the mainstream in her book, "The Cinderella Complex: Women’s Hidden Fear of Independence."

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Additionally, the New York Times did a write up of Dowling’s book that provides some insight into women with dependence issues.

Some women’s inner need to be rescued develops in childhood where they feel like they have been mistreated or unprotected. They want someone to show them they care.

Other women may see themselves as independent, but the moment a man offers to lighten their loads, they eagerly hand over control of their lives.

Psychologically, women are conditioned from birth to rely on men for their safety and security, so we all have a little bit of Cinderella in us. But the dysfunctional relationships and dependence issues this condition creates between men and women is no fairy tale.

10 Signs You or Someone You Know Has a Cinderella Complex

The Cinderella complex can be detrimental to your individuality in life, but how do you know if you have it? Here are 10 signs to look for.

1. You defer your decision to your man.

If you find it difficult to make decisions that impact your life, you may have a Cinderella complex. Grown people should be autonomous and have say-so in their own life choices.

2. You feel anxious about going it alone.

Being alone can be scary, but how do we expect others to want to be around us if we can’t tolerate our own company? A need to always have a man with you is a clear sign you have a Cinderella complex.

3. You can’t support yourself.

Most women understand that you need to have financial stability in your life. Over time, you should be laying the groundwork to sustain yourself in the future. If, instead, you are waiting for a man with money, you are definitely a Cinderella.

4. You prefer the traditional roles of mom and homemaker.

There is nothing wrong with taking care of the kids and the household. Unfortunately, this automatically says that you have a Cinderella complex because you do need a man to take care of you and your family, at least financially.

5. You like ‘strong’ men.

Because you have an inherent desire to be protected, you value men you view as physically strong. Attributes like intellect, emotional intelligence, and authenticity take a back seat to men who know how to get physical when necessary.

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6. You expect him to make you happy.

Emotional wellness is partially dependent on your ability to self-analyze, recognize your issues, and fix them. If you place the onus on your partner to meet all of your emotional needs, you have a Cinderella complex.

7. Pleasing your partner is your top priority.

They say a person should put on their mask before helping others in the event of an airplane emergency. Life is no different. You should fill your glass before pouring into others.

If you take care of your partner and place your own needs on the back burner, you are dependent. Your fear of losing the security and stability they provide prompts you to do anything to keep them happy.

8. You stay in rocky relationships.

Women with a Cinderella complex stay in clearly toxic relationships in hopes that, one day, it will match the romantic story they have invented in their heads. If you are tolerant of dysfunction because you don’t believe you can make it on your own, you have a Cinderella complex.

9. You don’t have any outside hobbies or interests.

Cinderellas put all of their hopes and desires aside, and build their lives around the needs and wishes of their partner. Their identity is so wrapped up in whether they are loved and accepted, they have lost touch with who they are.

10. You believe weakness is attractive.

You are afraid to exhibit any semblance of strength and independence because you are scared your love interest will be turned off. So, you hide your true self and go along to get along, careful not to make any waves that rock the boat.

How to Overcome a Cinderella Complex

Simply exhibiting a couple of the signs does not mean you have a Cinderella complex, but if you meet most of the criteria, it’s time to take a good, hard look at your circumstances and ask yourself if you really feel good about your life.

If you find you are not living the life you imagined, find out what makes you happy. Take up a new hobby. Embark on a career that leads to financial stability. Spend time alone until you begin to enjoy being with yourself.

Psychologists believe that women who have Cinderella complex really do want to be independent, but are overwhelmed by fear, anxiety, lack of confidence, and depression.

If this is you, it’s important to see your mental health provider for tools and resources.

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NyRee Ausler is a writer from Seattle, Washington, and the author of seven books. She covers lifestyle and entertainment and news, as well as navigating workplace and social issues.