by Gina B.
This is a truncated version of an oldie but goodie. I wrote this several years ago, but it still applies. Enjoy . . . .
When two people are attracted to each other, it’s inevitable that they will discuss past relationships. Who was the last person you dated? How long did you date? Why did you break up? The answer to the last question is very telling. Enter the “C” word.
Crazy is one of the most widely overused adjectives to describe an ex (with insecure as a close runner-up). This word is usually given as the reason for a relationship gone sour. I wish I had a pair of shoes for every time I heard a man or woman berate the mental stability of a former squeeze.
Me: “So … what happened with you and Susie?”
Man X: “Susie? She was crazy! I had to break up with her.”
This is where the conversation usually ends. The crazy comment is often met with nodding heads and utterances of understanding, as though the listeners can relate because they’ve been there.
I used to take people at their word about their psychotic exes, imagining them to be the sort of deranged knife-toting stalkers that are often portrayed in Lifetime movies, or a character similar to Crazy Eyes from Orange Is The New Black. However, after hearing literally hundreds of stories of alleged insanity, I wondered if there could be that much unbridled lunacy in the world.
It’s understandable to stumble across one person who’s legitimately cuckoo for coco puffs, but when people speak of multiple crazy exes? The radar goes off.
There are only two conclusions to draw – either that person makes terrible decisions in relationships and there’s something about him/her that continues to attract crazy people, or he/she had a hand in driving their exes crazy. Neither option bodes well.
To get to the bottom of it, I began questioning the crazy-callers by picking up where the last conversation left off:
Me: “What do you mean ‘she was crazy?’ What did she do?”
Man X: “She was just crazy!”
Me: “Well . . . let’s define crazy. Was she on psychotropic drugs? Has she been admitted to a psych ward?”
Man X: “She wasn’t that crazy! She was really insecure. She didn’t appreciate me hanging out with my friends and she always accused me of dating other people.”
Me: “Were you?”
Man X: “Was I what?”
Me: “Dating other people.”
Man X: “Not really.”
Me: “Not really? You either were or you weren’t.”
Man X: “Well, I was . . . but that was a long time ago . . . and that doesn’t justify throwing things at me or going through my stuff!”
Me: “So, what you’re telling me is that you were busted and she was upset. That makes her crazy? Was she crazy when you started dating?”
Man X: “Nope. Not at all. I don’t know how she got that way.”
Women can be equally guilty. If a man pursues a woman aggressively and she likes him, he’s described as “persistent,” and a man who knows how to go for what he wants. If she doesn’t care for him, he’s a stalker.
After challenging many allegations of insanity, I’ve learned that crazy has many meanings, and is often synonymous with:
- Perceptive, with a temper
- Doesn’t have a good reaction to something that I did
- Busted me cheating
- Is suspicious and accusatory of my infidelities
- Wants more of a commitment than I’m willing to give
- Can’t get his/her life together
- Doesn’t agree with my life ambitions
- Wants to spend a lot of time with me
- Doesn’t want to spend any time with me
- Doesn’t like my friends
- Doesn’t like my family
- Doesn’t want to spend money on me
- Stays with me even when I treat him/her with disrespect
The list goes on and on, and none of those qualities have to do with true psychosis. Or, perhaps a person honestly committed acts that might make one believe than an asylum is required. But I contend that there’s always another side of the story.
For some, it’s easier to accuse a person of being a psycho than to take responsibility for their own actions. I refer to those people as Crazy Catalysts, because they cause and perpetuate insane behavior while steadily pointing the finger of blame elsewhere. Crazy Catalysts might not realize their effects on other people, and it’s likely that they’re not intentionally causing insanity. Regardless, psychiatrists and psychologists everywhere should thank Crazy Catalysts for at least 10% of their patients. Sometimes it takes years to figure out that they’re not the ones with problems.
I’ve dated men who have had exes who are truly batshit crazy, but those are few and far between. I’ve also dated a few men who have referred to their exes as crazy, and over time found myself siding with the exes after taking an honest look at the guys’ bad behaviors and having a firsthand view of how they would drive anyone completely insane. After my relationships with those men were over, I felt like taking the exes out for cocktails and commiseration.
We’ve all had moments in relationships where we’ve staged irrational acts that were completely out of character in response to a significant other. Personally, anytime I've done something that was a bit off-kilter, it was an indication that I shouldn't have been in that relationship. It's important to be with someone who brings out the good in you, not the crazy.
I liken crazy behavior to an allergy. If orange juice causes hives, I don’t drink it. If someone makes me crazy and causes me to behave in ways that are counter to my personality, I stay away.
With that in mind, I’ve successfully avoided the Crazy Catalysts. I suggest asking a lot of questions about past relationships, and every time you hear a potential significant other refer to an ex as crazy, it might be best to determine how he/she got that way.