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.
“Confusion and shame is exactly what crazymakers want their victims to feel. All these things you’ve told me about Jim—saying one thing and then later, the opposite without acknowledging the difference, his lack of empathy for your physical and emotional state, trying to make you seem the bad one in the relationship, encouraging you to doubt your feelings—they convince me he’s a crazymaker.”
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.”
My counselor warned me that crazymakers are not likely to change. I did not have the tools to try to effect that change, and, after twenty-five years, I finally left. It wasn’t until I began writing my up-coming memoir, God, the Devil, and Divorce, that I understood the extent of my husband’s crazymaking. Here are eight of several types of crazymaking behaviors and examples from my own marriage.
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.
Do you have a divorce experience to share? Have you been shamed by a church because of your divorce? There are hurting people who need to hear your story, who need to know they are not alone, and who need to be encouraged. If you are interested in sharing your story, email Linda for guidelines: Linda@LindaMKurth.com
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.
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