I recently saw a man in my office who asked me why all the women he dated turned out to be "crazy." He had experienced a string of unsuccessful relationships with women who were (in his words) needy, controlling and emotional. To some extent, I had to agree -- there are some lipsticked loonies out there. Then again, the male gender has its share of jerks and mama's boys.
Perhaps it's time to stop pointing fingers at the opposite sex and start engaging in a little self-reflection, especially if you're re-living the same dysfunctional relationship over and over again. What if you drove every car you ever owned into the ditch? At some point you'd need to stop blaming the car or the roads, and start looking at your driving habits.
Let's stay with that male-friendly metaphor for a moment. Imagine that your dream car hasn't been running well so you take it to the garage. You ask the mechanic, "What could be wrong with it? When will I get it back? How much will this cost?" He shrugs and walks away without saying a word. You call the garage later that day, but no one picks up the phone. Would that frustrate you? Might you leave an irate message? Might you raise your voice or swear? When people do not feel acknowledged, validated or valued, their behaviour can become ugly and reactionary. It's emotional arithmetic: Anger + Confusion + Insecurity + Fear = Crazy.
The same formula applies to relationships. When a woman feels unheard, unappreciated or unimportant, her behaviour may look crazy to a man. If she's worried you've been Facebooking an old flame, she might hack into your computer. If she's been bagging her own groceries to save a nickel while you buy a $15,000 ATV on a whim, she might nag you about your spending. If she's nursed your three young kids through a nasty bout of the stomach flu but you forgot Mother's Day, her sweet nature may sour.
I'm certainly not placing all the blame on men. Many of today's women are spoiled, snarly, self-focused and thankless. They don't know how to spot or appreciate a decent, hardworking man and I understand why some men think so little of the fairer sex. But not all women are like that. Which begs the question: If all the women you date eventually go off the deep end, perhaps it's time to tune-up your relationship skills.
Most importantly, be smartly selective and choose the right person. If you're looking for a conventional woman with whom to start a family and share a life, avoid the bankrupt stripper who has lost custody of her three kids and already dated two of your buddies. If you're looking for a skydiver with an entrepreneurial spirit, stay away from the nine-to-fiver who is scared to drive after dark. If you're looking for someone with an energetic, easygoing disposition, avoid the sleepy shift-worker who pops anti-depressants like they're breath mints.
When you do find a woman who has potential, treat her like gold. Don't text your ex-girlfriends or offer your unsolicited advice or opinion regarding her life choices. Don't send mixed messages, string her along or stare at the waitress's butt. Don't wear white sunglasses and a backwards ball-cap if you're over 40. Don't give her any reason to suspect that she's dating anything other than a total gentleman.
As the relationship gets more serious, learn how to fight fair, with self-restraint and open-minded humility.
Share your expectations in terms of managing time, finances, parenting, socializing, alcohol use and so forth. This will mitigate the damage of assumption and silent resentment. Master the art of the heart-to-heart conversation. Be your woman's greatest advocate and dish out healthy helpings of affection and reassurance -- it's nourishment that will return to you as love, devotion and intimacy. As pedantic as all this sounds, these habits offer a sure path to a sunny relationship.
So whether you have a crazy girlfriend or a crazy wife, look in the mirror and reflect -- honestly -- on your own behaviour. If it would drive you nuts, try to introduce some of the above ideas into your relationship. It's never too late to start. You may be pleasantly surprised by how quickly your woman returns to sanity.
Visit Debra's website at debramacleod.com