Most people have heard of “baby-proofing” a home to make it safe for newborns and toddlers. This article will discuss a similar concept: Crazy-proofing.
Face it. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been involved with a high-conflict, abusive personality-disordered or just plain crazy woman at least once already. This puts you at risk to become involved with this type of woman again. Knowing you’re attracted to Crazy isn’t enough to end your unhealthy relationship pattern. You need to combine what you know with action.
Group psychotherapy pioneer, Dr Irvin D. Yalom, MD, explains that insight alone is not sufficient to create change. Insight only gets you into the “vestibule” of change. In order to break your unhealthy attractions and relationship patterns, you need to combine your new found insight with real life action, gain more self-awareness about your own relationship beliefs, fears and behaviors and start making different choices.
What is Crazy-Proofing?
Crazy-proofing is what every man or woman should do after ending a relationship with an abusive partner. Crazy-proofing involves taking proactive steps to break your pattern of abusive relationships, learning to recognize the warning signs of an abusive personality before you’re in too deep and making the conscious decision to walk away instead of becoming a moth to the flame of Crazy yet again.
10 Steps to Crazy-Proofing your Romantic Life
1. Identify and understand what attracts you to abusive women and what makes you an easy target. Are you a “nice guy?” Are you non-confrontational and eager to please? Were you raised to respect women no matter what? Do you believe it’s your job to cater to a woman’s every need? Do you believe love is supposed to hurt? Do you believe it’s your job to make your partner happy? Do you believe it’s “bad” to put your needs first? Do you believe it’s important to keep the peace at all costs?
If you answered “yes” to these questions, you probably have some thinking errors regarding what constitutes healthy adult relationships. You may not even be aware of what your relationship beliefs are until you take the time to think about them. Identify your faulty relationship beliefs or thinking errors and then replace them with healthy ones like, “I deserve to be treated with the same kindness and respect with which I treat my loved ones.”
2. Learn to spot high-conflict, crazy and abusive personality traits. Sometimes, abusive types will give you red flags that you can spot from outer space and other times the red flags will be more subtle. Nevertheless, most abusers will give you early warning signs of their true nature very early on, but you need to be paying attention.
3. Stop discounting the obvious. When Crazy is staring you in the face, don’t minimize, rationalize or justify her hurtful, irrational and abusive behavior. It doesn’t matter how hot she is, how sweet she can be when she wants something from you or if she claims to have an abuse history. Abuse is abuse and there’s just no excuse.
4. Don’t get involved with women who show abusive traits. Not even just for sex. You’ve got to go cold turkey. No, you can’t even “just be friends” with them. They’re poison and you’re deluding yourself if you think this type of woman is capable of being a friend in the true sense of the word. The impulse to be with these women will seem irresistible at times. If you give into it, you are sowing the seeds of your own emotional, physical and financial ruin. It’s like playing catch with a live grenade. Don’t do it.
5. Set the boundary and make it fast and firm. Taking abusive, crazy nonsense from this kind of individual, even once, is like being sprayed by a cat. If she gets away with it the first time, she’ll assume treating you like garbage is her god-given right. The first time she pushes you; push back (not physically—otherwise you’ll go to jail if you’re a man and Crazy is a woman). Set the boundary. Tell her that her behavior is unacceptable. If she persists, end contact.
When you let this type of woman set a precedent for bad behavior early on in a relationship, she will go ballistic if you dare assert your rights to be treated decently later on. Tolerating one abusive act doesn’t make you a nice guy; it opens the floodgates for more and more abusive behaviors.
6. Challenge your fears that allow you to tolerate abusive behaviors in women. Common fears include the myth that she’s the only fish in the sea, that you won’t do any better, that all women are crazy, that no one else will find you attractive or love you or that you’ve done something to deserve her abuse.
7. Identify non-abusive women you already know or whom you pushed away in the past. You’ve probably already had the opportunity to date a non-abusive, kind, mature and loving woman, but found reasons to discount her as a mate. Try to understand why healthy women, especially the ones who are physically attractive, don’t appeal to you. Odds are it’s because you recognize, on some level, that they won’t abuse you. Seems crazy, right? However, it makes sense once you understand what’s occurring on an unconscious level.
What childhood or adolescent relationship dynamic are you trying to recreate with Crazy? What old childhood wound, trauma or rejection are you trying to heal? Understanding this is essential when trying to break your attraction to unhealthy and abusive women.
8. Recognize that what’s familiar isn’t necessarily good and that anxiety about what’s unfamiliar isn’t necessarily bad. Do you equate the conflict, crisis, chaos, abuse, conditional or transactional love/acceptance, and the tension of trying to please a high-conflict and/or abusive personality disordered woman with chemistry? If so, when you have the opportunity to date a kind and stable woman, the dynamic probably feels “off” to you. A former client described it as “missing that old crazy chemistry;” he had the crazy part right.
If you don’t have a mental roadmap of what a good relationship is, healthy women will seem “strange” in comparison, which you then misattribute as a lack of chemistry. You’re attracted to abusive women because they’re familiar and, therefore, comfortable, but familiarity isn’t a good thing in this case.
Many individuals get stuck here. You want to be in a healthy relationship, but miss the adrenaline rush from the drama and conflict. The rush or chemistry is really about the desire to have an emotionally corrective experience (i.e., being accepted and loved for who you are without being abused). Don’t interpret the anxiety or discomfort caused by the unfamiliarity of emotional health with a lack of romantic potential and don’t confuse that queasy, heady, heart pounding in your ears sensation when thinking about abuser du jour with chemistry. The “crazy chemistry” is just your unconscious recognizing the opportunity to have yet another go on the Crazy scary-go-round.
Part of the healing process does involve having an emotionally corrective experience, but you’re not going to get it with a woman who has the same or similar traits as the last abusive one. The only way to have an emotionally corrective experience is with a kind, healthy and stable woman who is capable of love.
9. Be open to meeting a non-abusive and kind woman. When you meet a woman you find physically attractive and smart and don’t feel an initial flush of excitement, give her a chance. Don’t start looking for excuses why you shouldn’t date her. Instead, ask yourself why you wouldn’t want to date her. If the best you can come up with is, “I’m just not feeling it” or “It’s not a good time for me” or “Work is busy” or “I don’t know—I’m just not interested;” dig a little deeper.
If you can’t come up with concrete reasons, your lack of interest may very well be because she’s not crazy and abusive. It may also be that you are afraid of intimacy and are self-sabotaging yourself by choosing abusive women. On some level, you may recognize that these women are incapable of being in a relationship, therefore, they’re “safe.” Safe in that there’s no chance that a relationship with them will work out and then you can blame her for being crazy and abusive, which, even if it’s true, doesn’t absolve you of the responsibility of willingly entering into a relationship with her.
10. Tolerate the discomfort of not being abused. When you meet a woman you find attractive and who seems stable and kind, don’t reflexively push her away or come up with reasons why she’s not the right one for you. Try to catch yourself in the act, give yourself a reality check and begin an ongoing dialogue with yourself. Remind yourself that you want to be with a nice woman. Remind yourself that healthy women who want to be in relationships don’t play games, jerk you around and create obstacles to being with them nor do they pressure you to let them move in with you after the first date.
Remind yourself you feel uncomfortable because you’re not used to women with healthy boundaries, not because there’s something wrong with her or that she’s not a good match. Be emotionally present on dates with her instead of comparing her to the over-the-top way your exes behaved.
If you don’t feel “it” right away, ask yourself, “What’s the problem?” If the only problem is that she’s stable and kind, get out out of your own way and let the relationship happen until feeling good in a relationship becomes the norm and feeling bad becomes the rare exception.
Shrink4Men Coaching and Consulting Services:
Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.