Being The Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Recently a friend was dumped by her boyfriend after two years together, after discussions of marriage and moving in together, after a lot of promises for the future…all over text.

Ouch.

After this breakup the ex-boyfriend went on his standard “my ex is crazy” tour, and if you didn’t know the intimate details, the subtle abuses, and the nuanced arguments, you might be inclined to believe him. No one leaves a relationship believing they’re in the wrong, especially if they’re the one ending that relationship. But, as someone who has been dumped my fair share of times, I can tell you with absolute certainty that men who claim their ex-girlfriends are crazy are absolutely not to be trusted.

The claim of “she’s crazy” is a clichΓ© proclamation that a lot of men make because it sets the tone and doesn’t always require further examination or explanation. No one asks why she was behaving as she did or why she said what she said. No one pushes for those details, unless you have also been the “crazy ex-girlfriend” and you know there is more to this claim than meets the eye.

There always is more than meets the eye, but because we live in a culture that automatically distrusts women and automatically assumes women in relationships are to blame, all a man has to do is pull the “crazy” card and his job is done. He is believed and beyond reproach without having to present evidence. And beyond that, the “crazy ex-girlfriend” is now at an automatic disadvantage. Everything she says or explains about their relationship is questioned because, again, she’s “crazy”, so she can’t possibly be honest or mentally well.

There are two things happening here when a man says his ex is crazy:

1. He’s playing upon the stigma surrounding mental illness to defend the end of his relationship.

2. He is using the cultural violence against women and the fervent doubt of women’s stories against the ex.

Both of these things give him the automatic benefit of the doubt. He utters those words and suddenly he is blameless. She is crazy. End of story.

But, that’s not the end of the story. It’s not the start of it and it isn’t even the half of it. It’s a cop-out because having to actually answer questions and do some self-examination is far too painful and exposing for the men who use this argument, most of whom are blatant narcissists.

I have been the crazy ex-girlfriend. And here are four stories from my life where an ex called me crazy, but in reality, I very much wasn’t. (Also included, four photos of me during those dating experiences. Baby Tamara!)

1. I made out with someone else while we were together.

Except, we weren’t together. In that relationship my ex refused to call me his girlfriend, but still expected all the girlfriend perks: emotional labor, physical intimacy, and my constant attention. During the course of our short relationship I stayed in a constant place of not knowing if we were together or not. He would say he loved me and then refuse to let me meet many of his friends AND his parents. He’d suddenly tell me he needed space and I wouldn’t hear from him for weeks, wondering if I’d been dumped or if we were still together.

When I “cheated” on him, he’d just told me he was planning to go away to college again and “we both” needed to think about this relationship and what we wanted out of it, and “we both” needed to let each other go so “we both” could make the right decisions for us as individuals.

After the experience I’d had as his girlfriend-but-not-girlfriend, I thought (and literally everyone else thought) I had been dumped. So, about a week later I did something young and foolish and made out with someone I was friends with who made me feel good about myself.

And then, my ex popped back up into my life again. He called me up, missing my body and my love. Apparently it was his understanding that I was supposed to wait for him. While he was off finding himself, I was supposed to just sit around at home like a good little girl and wait patiently for him to decide if we were together or not.

He pulled a Rachael on me. Remember when Rachael dumped Ross (because he was being super insecure and paranoid) so he hooked up with someone and then when she missed him she suddenly decided that they totally weren’t broken up even though she had in fact broken up with him? (Don’t at me, she had broken up with him, I’m not saying what he did was right or wise, but RACHAEL ENDED THE RELATIONSHIP. NOT ROSS. AND I WILL DIE ON THAT HILL.)

That was me and my ex. I was Ross in this situation saying, “But he had dumped me!” Or as Ross said, “WE WERE ON A BREAK!!” However, he pulled the crazy card. And I lost almost every single mutual friend we had except for two people who had already seen him do this before and knew he was a narcissist.

2. I called him over and over again for hours then locked him outside my apartment.

This ex was an alcoholic at just 22 years old. He actually went to AA for a season because his drinking was so out of control. Like the other ex, this guy wanted the girlfriend perks without the girlfriend responsibilities. He wanted my attention, my emotion, and my physical affection, but he didn’t want to make us “Myspace official” (yes, I’m showing my age here), he didn’t want to talk about our problems, and he didn’t want me expressing my insecurities.

But, why was I so insecure in our relationship? Well, because he refused to take me out on dates or be seen with me in public. We were together off and on for over a year and only went on one actual, in public date. Additionally, it was not uncommon for him to promise to call me after work or come to my apartment when he got off and just not show up, not call, not text. By the time I would hear from him he’d be drunk and hanging out with his loser buddies from high school. (None of whom I ever met, except for one he dragged over to my apartment one time because he was wasted and needed a ride.)

He was sober maybe 20% of our relationship. I never knew which version of him would walk in my door. So, I was paranoid. He partied with mixed company he never introduced me to. He never kept his promises to call or text or come by. And one day I snapped.

It was our anniversary and I’d planned to cook his favorite meal, wear something sexy, and rock his world. He got off work at 5 and told me he’d be at my place by 6. He was gonna go home, shower, and come right over. I planned everything out, cooked his meal, dressed up, and waited.

And waited. He did not show up at my place until nearly 9 that evening. During this period I called him, left messages, texted. I was worried. What if he was in a car wreck? What if they needed him to work late? I didn’t know anything. And then finally he answers his phone. And he’s drunk, at a party, surrounded by his stupid friends.

One of his friends dropped him off at my apartment complex and I locked him out. He stood outside trying to sober up, begging me to let him in and talk to him, and I refused. We ended up breaking up and I know for a fact he told people I was crazy. He showed them the dozens of phone calls and voicemails and text messages. And that’s all the info they needed. They didn’t need to know the emotional hell dating an alcoholic put me through and the severe trust issues I had after that because of him.

3. I broke off our engagement and then hooked up with my ex.

I was briefly engaged before meeting my partner. The person I was engaged to didn’t immediately appear to be unwell, but what did I know? I was 20 years old and practically an infant, whereas he was 25 and made me feel like he knew what was best.

There were red flags, of course. He was 25, raised with a silver spoon, had been kicked out of college, was an only child who still lived at home, drove a Jaguar but only worked retail, and slept on the floor in his second bedroom because he and his family were such hoarders, despite their wealth, that he literally could not get to his bed to sleep on it.

His parents spent thousands of dollars on him every month, supporting his childish desires and spending habits. And I was blind to it because I had never in my life been exposed to something like that. It was foreign to me but I did not realize how freaking abnormal and weird it was.

Beyond that, he started threatening me. He would say he had people drive by my apartment to make sure I wasn’t cheating on him and if I ever did cheat on him, they would never find my body. He was manipulative and controlling. Downright terrifying. After I ended our relationship he stalked me for nearly two years after it.

But, yes, I did in fact hook up with an ex after we broke up. I called up an ex I was close to and we briefly reconnected. I needed to remember what normal looked and felt like and needed to be reminded that how my ex-fiance behaved was absolutely not okay.

However, all most people heard was I had suddenly broken off our engagement and slept with my ex. I was crazy. How dare I. These people had absolutely no idea that my ex-fiance was a monster behind closed doors.

4. I Acted Like A Child.

This one is probably the most infuriating for me because I am disgusted that this person pursued someone my age. I met this ex when I was 17 and he was 25. We began dating when I was 18 and he was 26. This entire grown ass man was controlling, dismissive, manipulative, and downright creepy. He expected me to be fun and cute and quirky like a teenager (BECAUSE I WAS), but also be independent and mature like someone his own age.

He constantly treated me like I was an insolent child and chided me for it, but also preyed upon my youth and inexperience to get his way and convince me to always submit to his commands. This sicko was grooming me.

Thank goodness I woke up from that little spell before we ever got engaged or pregnant, but he went on to tell all of our mutuals that I was crazy and most took his side and believed him. He then began dating a teenager even younger than me and married her when she was 19 and he was 30. (Spoiler alert: he left her with three kids not long ago. That was almost my fate.)

But, before all this he played the crazy card and he was believed. Afterall, I was just a 19 year old. Surely it was ME who was crazy, and not the nearly 30 year old who had pursued me.

Light at the end of the tunnel: my partner and I when we started dating (above) and celebrating 10 years together (below).

What I hope you take away from this is not only did I have exceptionally bad taste in romantic partners, but there are also many different sides to the story. My partner has dated some really, truly damaged people, but has never once played the “crazy” card or referred to their ex-girlfriends as crazy. They’ve never felt the need to because they understand that it’s a bullshit move and that it takes two to tango.

Men who refer to their ex-girlfriends as “crazy” and refuse to acknowledge any wrongdoing are not to be trusted. These are almost always narcissistic, controlling, manipulative people. And you won’t see that until you’ve been the crazy ex-girlfriend and you’ve experienced the way people treat you because of it.

Be careful around “my ex is crazy” men, especially if you’re romantically interested in them. Ask questions. Listen to how they talk about the relationship. If they never admit any form of wrongdoing and instead lean heavily onto the “she’s crazy” argument, run away. Because you’re next. You will be his next crazy ex-girlfriend and sadly, few people will believe you.

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