“I think if I hadn’t kept a journal, I might have gone a little mad. Does Jim know what he’s doing when he keeps changing his story?”
This quote from one of my journals says so much more than I understood at the time I wrote it. Several years later, one of my last counselors during my twenty-five marriage identified the dysfunction I was experiencing. “What you’re describing is called crazymaking," she explained.
Another term used for this type of behavior is “gaslighting.” Wickipedia describes gaslighting as “persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying. It attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target's belief.”
1. try to convince their partners that they are defective in some way, making their partner more emotional, more needy or dependent. For instance, in helping me with my income tax, my husband often sighed heavily, making it clear my need for his help was an awful burden. As a result, I felt guilty for asking so much of him, and did whatever I could to make it up to him, giving him power over my feelings and actions.
2. commit to doing something when they really don’t want to do it and then find a way out at the last minute. Or they’ll conveniently forget. Or as my husband did, put on completely inappropriate attire for the occasion. This is all passive-aggressive behavior.
3. force their partner to make an important decision, then blame their partner for any perceived negative outcomes as a result of that decision. This particular behavior was especially evident when we were building our home.
4. “over-tease” their partners. If their partners object, they accuse the partner of being “too sensitive.” Yes, I was told I was too sensitive and lacked a sense of humor.
5. provoke their partner to anger, then accuse the partner of being an angry, difficult person. I discovered that this is what my husband was telling his friends about me.
6. change their minds, but deny they have done so. When I began keeping a journal of my husband’s habit of telling me one thing one day, and the opposite the next, I realized I was not the crazy one.
7. pretend to be supportive, but then sabotage their partner. My husband was “fine” with me taking interior design classes, but partway through the program, he began asking when I was going to start making money, even though we had no immediate need. Unfortunately, I fell for it and dropped out.
8. demonstrate little concern for the partner’s physical or emotional well-being. My husband frequently expected me to do household chores that strained my physical abilities and left me in pain. I finally got wise after hurting myself re-finishing our front door.
These are but a few of the techniques crazymakers use to gain control over their close relations. Please note that my references here are all about men, but women can be crazymakers, too. Google “crazymakers” or “crazy makers” and you will find more information. Psychology Today’s article, “How to Handle a Crazymaker,” looks helpful. There are also a few books on the subject. If you suspect you are dealing with a crazymaker, I suggest you get counseling with a professional who understands this personality type.
I advocate for healing of divorced people within the church by gathering stories of Christians who chose divorce because of abuse, and the response of their churches to that decision. (I'm interested in both helpful and hurtful experiences.) I also include those who have divorced because of their spouse's infidelity but have nevertheless been blamed by their church for the divorce.
If you’re interested in having your voice heard by contributing your divorce story in relationship to the church, please email me at LindaMKurthBlog@gmail.com for guidelines. I’ll be happy to help you share your story.
Know that I encourage respectful comments, keeping the blog a safe place to dialog about this subject.
Linda M. Kurth is a writer and a divorced and remarried Christian. In going through the divorce, she experienced a dichotomy of responses from the Christian community. After sharing some of those experiences in her upcoming memoir, God, the Devil, and Divorce, she's heard many stories of divorced Christians who have struggled with the same issue. This blog invites divorced Christians to tell their stories with the goal of encouraging churches to resist condemnation and become a source of healing and grace.