Ask Dr. Tracy

For Both: Spotting The Crazies

Crazies can wind up hurting or killing you. Some Crazies, like the female character in "Fatal Attraction," and Bob in my true case history of "The Nosebiter", are very seductive at first, because they love you so obsessively.

Some crazies are the opposite of Bob. They can't love at all because of something in their past, and that makes them even more potentially dangerous. Some are harmless-crazy, which still doesn't make them marriage material.

"How on earth can you tell if someone is crazy before you get involved with them? They always seem sane in the beginning," asked Barbara, one of my clients who had a track record of picking crazy men. Two of her husbands needed serious psychological care in institutions, and one of them still lives the life of a recluse somewhere in the concrete canyons of LA.

Even if a crazy person seems sane when you meet him or her, there are usually early warning signals. Here are some guidelines for spotting the Crazies:

Do they love their mother, father and siblings? Someone who doesn't love their closest blood relatives isn't necessarily crazy, but this is a warning flag.

Are they still on speaking terms with their ex's? Someone who isn't may have done something so terrible that the ex never wants to see him or her again.

Do they have lots of old friends? Someone who has no old friends may not be capable of nourishing and maintaining long-term relationships.

Do they harbor serious hatreds?

Do they seem really quirky? (Weird behaviour, uncontrollable hostility, hearing voices, constant depression and an inability to be happy are all signs of a crazy person.)

There's a fine line between quirky and interesting and downright crazy. Sometimes someone who only seems quirky and interesting turns out to be mad as a loon. The first time someone does something bizarre, refuse to go along with it. He or she could be just a normal person seeing how much you'll put up with, or they could be genuinely crazy. Crazy people make unreasonable demands. Normal people also make unreasonable demands, but they're not likely to throw fits if their demands aren't granted.

"I guess there were some signs," Barbara finally admitted to me. "Harry couldn't sit anywhere but the very last row in the back of a theater, on the aisle, so that he could get out in a hurry. If we went to a movie and there were no seats in the back row on the aisle, we'd have to leave."

Men and women like Barbara actually attract nutsy characters. For example, instead of telling Harry he was acting crazy and to cut it out, Barbara actually encouraged him in his craziness by leaving the theater with him as if it were perfectly normal to leave if you couldn't sit on the aisle in the back row.

By pandering to his irrational behavior, Barbara unintentionally encouraged him to act ever more irrationally (which he did). An excess of compassion can cause men and women like Barbara to get stuck with the nuts. A compassionate person will try to find an excuse for bizarre behaviour. Long after crazy Harry was gone, Barbara would tell the theatre phobia story and then feel compelled to add, "Of course, lots of people don't like crowded movie theaters..."

Never make excuses for craziness. If someone has fits of weirdness, meanness or tantrums, or acts psychotic or has lots of phobias, drop him or her. Whatever you do, don't try to play shrink. Leave the person for a professional to cure, and get on with your life.

This is not to say that crazy, irrational-acting people don't go into therapy, change and get better. Sometimes they do. But the process takes years, and you don't have years to wait. Besides, even if the person does go into therapy and change, you may not like who he or she becomes, or the "new him" or "new her" may not like you. Waiting for someone to get well is a losing proposition.

Related Keywords: Qualifying Someone, Bad Prospects

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