Love, as they say, is a many splendid thing. While the process of finding a suitable mate can often require a lot of trial-and-error dating (complete with all the uncomfortable silences, falsely-raised hopes and awkward kisses it entails), every once and a while we luck out and stumble upon someone who truly takes our breath away. These mystery men and women seemingly fall out of the sky, immediately establishing an intense connection and bringing enough unexpected joy into our lives to make all those boring dinner dates a distant, hazy memory.
Now, occasionally these 'infatuation at first sight' stories have magical, movie story endings where you and your star-crossed lover come together, stay together and live happily ever after. It's the exception rather than the rule, but I'm still pretty optimistic it can happen to real, everyday people (and not just over-emoting actors).
Case in point: A few months ago, I discovered a young woman who I thought, for all intents and purposes, was perfect. Soon after meeting, we were talking on the phone until 6am, writing each other poetry, and sending care packages across the country. Despite my best attempts to retain a modicum of restraint and objectivity, I quickly fell for this girl and came to briefly believe that she might even be "the one," as clich? as that sounds. In my mind, I was already planning an article describing the fairytale romance I'd been fortunate enough to fall ass backwards into.
You can probably imagine my disappointment, then, when this seemingly infallible girl turned out to be absolutely insane.
Quick aside: I admit that I used to throw words like 'insane' and 'crazy' around pretty casually, to describe everything from my friend's delightful shenanigans to the price of gasoline. This is not one of those instances, however, and in light of my recent misadventures, I've since reconsidered using these powerful terms in such a careless manner. Crazy is as crazy does, but some things just shouldn't be joked about. Back to the story:
Detailing the emotional gong show my love life devolved into would take even more time and effort to type out than it would for you to read it. Suffice to say that while I believed this young woman (hereafter affectionately referred to as 'Crazy Girl') and I were destined to either be together forever or kill one another, things eventually blew up in somewhat epic proportions. While I've claimed this before, it's now safe to say that things are "over" between us and that this experience can fade gracelessly into another one of those 'amusing anecdotes' that pepper my romantic past.
For what it's worth, I genuinely cared for Crazy Girl and hoped she would somehow revert back into the sweet, caring individual I had originally met, even as evidence continually mounted to the contrary. While that obviously didn't happen, the trials and tribulations I endured as a result have not been in vain, and the lessons I paid such a high price to learn may come in handy to some of you out there in the form of this little guide I like to call Crazy in Love: A Guide for Dating the Mentally Insane. After all, if you're involved with someone who's nuts, they aren't the only one who needs help.
Step 1. Be on the Lookout
Sometimes, spotting a crazy boyfriend/girlfriend is not as easy as it might seem. Unless you manage to get yourself entangled with a borderline psychotic (the girl I was talking to when I was 13 who set her kitchen on fire and threatened her parents with an axe comes to mind), most crazies are pretty good about hiding their madness from others in social situations. Depending on how much time you spend together and the level of intimacy in your relationship, your significant other might be able to pull off the fa?ade of being sane for a considerable period of time.
While Crazy Girl showed her true colours quickly (allowing me to move on relatively unscathed), some poor unsuspecting lovers get duped for years before the roof comes crashing down. For this reason, it pays to be extremely sensitive to any erratic behavior changes or mood swings your partner may display, especially if said changes are negatively affecting the relationship. While it's true that everyone goes through trying times, women who act like it's 'that time of the month' 24/7 should be a definite red flag- and it should go without saying that if you're dating a man who has PMS, run for the hills.
Step 2. Letting the Cat out of the Bag
So, your partner has started to behave unreasonably, treat you unfairly, or just generally disrupt the inner harmony you strive so tirelessly to achieve. While, as Step 1 notes, it's wise to consider mental insanity as an explanation, to jump to conclusions would be foolhardy. There could be other plausible reasons for these unwanted changes (one of which, as unbelievable as it may sound, is the possibility you're treating them poorly yourself).
For this reason, I've engineered a sure-fire litmus test to determine if, in fact, your lover is loony tunes: Simply wait until the next time they blow up without reason (at you or otherwise) and call them crazy. Their reaction should tell you everything you need to know.
This conveniently leads me to the next step, which is:
Step 3. Beware Calling a Crazy Person Crazy
Who are the only people that get upset when you call them crazy? Crazy people, of course. Tell a normal individual they're insane and they won't care, either because they a) know it's often used as a meaningless insult; or b) reject the criticism outright because they're confident in their mental health. Question the sanity of a crazy person, however, and you might finally see just how crazy they can be.
I'd argue that most crazy people, in an attempt to preserve some semblance of normalcy, will go to great lengths to hide the truth about their insanity, even to themselves. One can only imagine the time, energy and complicated repertoire of defense mechanisms, rationalization and denial that must be required to delude themselves into believing they are, in fact, fine. (Were this article written by Crazy Girl, for example, it would probably be a guide for dating self-righteous, controlling jerks).
When confronted with honest, accurate portrayals of their behavior and personality traits, free of any colorful sugar-coating, it's understandable that crazy people will feel extremely threatened and react with entertainingly strong resistance. While I'm certainly not one to sensationalize or exaggerate, you might want to consider making such a serious accusation after retrieving your favorite cds and while safely out of biting range. In her defense, although Crazy Girl wasn't too thrilled when I called her nuts, it didn't make her noticeably worse. I don't think the charge came as much of a shock though; I apparently wasn't the first person to tell her so.
Step 4. Delaying the Inevitable
Even after determining that your significant other is crazy, you might not be ready to call it quits just yet. Unfortunately, attempting to be with someone who's insane is reminiscent of the 'pink elephant in the corner' scenario; the more you try to avoid it, the more you'll end up focusing on the fact you're dating a nut. Regardless, if you're hell-bent on prolonging the charade (as I was), you might as well do yourself a couple of favors.
While socializing, one normally behaves in a sane, reasonable manner and expects those they interact with to do likewise. In regards to your boyfriend/girlfriend, however, the sooner you stop laboring under these false pretenses, the better. First off, try to keep a record of all interactions with your 'crazier half'. Tape phone calls, set up cameras in your home (there should already be one in the bedroom) and save emails because hard evidence is one of your only effective methods when dealing with an insane lover. At one point, for example, when Crazy Girl tried to claim that we had never broken up, it was much easier to 'cc' her on the email she'd sent not two days earlier (referring specifically to that fact) instead of asking her to take my word for it.
Also, try to avoid any topics of conversation (no matter how benign) which have caused blowouts in the past. In my case, this meant carefully phrasing or swallowing anything that could be even remotely misconstrued as being either 1) controlling, or 2) critical of Crazy Girl's behavior (regardless of my intentions or the validity of my point). While it goes without saying that this will limit what you can 'safely' talk about and forces you to censor everything you say, it should keep things peaceful. Maybe.
Finally, as clich?d as it sounds, try to expect the unexpected. Crazy people are called 'crazy' for a reason. The following is an excerpt from an actual phone call:
Me: "I wanted to tell you how happy I was when [my friend whom she had spoken with earlier] told me that you loved me. It made me feel really good... I wish you had told me yourself [a few days earlier]; maybe we could have avoided all this [fighting stemming from an apparent miscommunication over our commitment and feelings for each other, specifically hers to and for me]."
CG: "You see how you always try to twist things around and blame me for everything?!"
...Doesn't make much sense, does it? As I stared, slightly bemused, into a dead receiver that night (a scene reminiscent of too many other evenings), I realized something: No matter how careful you are, if you choose to deal with a crazy person, crazy things are going to happen. You can't always prepare for them, but a little common sense and foresight can at least help minimize the surprise factor. This, conveniently, brings me to my last point, which is:
Step 5. Just Walk Away
No matter how much you care, no matter how pure (though misplaced) your intentions may be, one can only ignore the sound advice of concerned friends and their own common sense for so long. Sooner or later, we all reach our breaking points and realize things are never going to work with our crazy partners. As one of my associates so eloquently put it, this is the time where we must cut our losses and "just walk away".
Even though your boyfriend/girlfriend is insane and has probably caused you significant mental and emotional (though hopefully not physical) abuse, you may still find it every bit as difficult to leave as you would in a normal, healthy relationship. While I can certainly sympathize, this little tidbit might help speed up the decision-making process: If someone you care about spends the evening avoiding you and fooling around with anyone they can get their hands on (less than 24 hours after talking about excited they were to see you), you're perfectly correct to question their sanity. Stay with that person, however, and the rest of the world is perfectly correct to question yours. While dating a crazy person can be exciting (at times) and (certainly) unpredictable, if you stick around too long you're no longer in on the joke- you are the joke.
That's all she wrote, folks. To those of you out there currently in love with a crazy person, my heart goes out to you. To those of you who read this purely for entertainment value, enjoy- but remember: be careful because there's someone (crazy) out there for all of us.
...Now, it's time to get back to writing my essay. The topic, you might ask? An exploration of the stigma in our society of being labeled mentally insane :)