All the girls I've ever dated were insane. Why are crazy women drawn to me?
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Dear Miss Information,
My relationship past is muddled and full of complications. Half of the girls I've ever dated were insane, possessive, controlling, or a volatile combination of the three. The other half turned out to be pretty uninteresting and devoid of adventure ("I was going to go out tonight, but I just don't feel like it"). None of these relationships ended on any sort of reasonable terms. I've been cheated on and walked out on. I am deeply attracted to intelligent, independent women, but it seems like I'm magnetized to the wrong ones.
This sort of a past creates a certain reflex in a man like me. I recognize the Red Flags of Craziness and know what to do when I see them. This has helped me survive a great deal, and I feel I've avoided a lot of terrible mistakes because of it. But I think I may have been out in the 'wilderness' for too long, as it were. Now, when any girl begins to show a certain pattern, I immediately start freaking out and thinking the absolute worst — even if I'm not courting her. This has led to a lot of awkward interactions and has made me look even more dodgy and insecure than (hopefully) I really am.
It should go without saying that I plan on staying single for a very long time. An indefinite amount of time, even. But that doesn't mean that I wouldn't mind a casual encounter or two — and who knows? Maybe I'll meet that perfect person at some point. The problem is that I just can't seem to suspend this survival reflex in me. At the slightest irregularity, I feel the need to correct my behavior and please whoever I'm with however possible. It's causing a hell of an identity crisis for me, and it makes me want to stop associating with women for awhile, just to get away from the emotional ups and downs that I'm creating.
I seem to have become conditioned to being ensnared by frighteningly intelligent, mentally unstable women. I know that if I don't figure out how to correct this behavior, I'll just be locked in a cycle of either loneliness or entrapment.
So what do I do to get my mind back on the right track?
— Forever Alone At Best
Dear Forever Alone,
Years ago, I was summarizing a romantic misadventure for a friend. "Broken boys love me," I shrugged.
"Broken boys love anyone who will listen," he corrected.
Eureka moment, courtesy of Jeff. It's not that I somehow emitted a dog whistle that only heartbroken martyrs could hear; it's that, on some level, I welcomed those martyrs. I patted their heads and dried their tears when my more-evolved sisters gave them a wide berth. My point here, FAAB, is that patterns of people don't just "happen" to us; one way or another, we manifest them.
You say you want to stay single, but you treat every encounter like a potential conquest. Nothing kills a connection faster than looking at a girl through heat-sensitive goggles. Put away the Kevlar, friend; it's a real turn-off.
What could you be projecting that turns you into Catnip for Crazies? Watch that self-pitying tone, for starters: misery loves company. And lay off the our do-or-die, war-hardened vocabulary: despite the strong case made by this choreography, love shouldn't be a battlefield. Combined, you come off like a cynic who deeply distrusts girls, yet still wants to sleep with them. Huge red flag. This conflict makes you a magnet for wild-eyed knife-wielders, while stable girls see it and politely close out their bar tabs.
If you're going to break this cycle, you've got to treat every girl as a human first and foremost. Not a human with sweet tits. Not a human who could reduce you to a pile of smoldering ash. A regular human with thoughts, opinions, and potentially a gift for Mario Kart. Ask yourself, "Is this a person I find engaging? Do I care about this person's perspective? Does this person excite me?" Once you've established that you think she's a grade-A badass, then you can start to stir in the sexual-attraction factor.
You've got to be able to separate "person I respect and like" from "person I could bang." Your ideal girl will be both of these things! But right now, you're so focused on the latter that it clouds your judgment of the former.
Dear Miss Information,
I think I might be heartbroken! I'm a college student and last week I met a guy at the lab I work in. I've never felt this strongly about a guy, or fallen this fast before. He's mature, smart, laid-back, funny, passionate, the list goes on and on. We got to talking when we were in the lab together and for me it just clicked.
I found out yesterday he has a girlfriend and it crushed me. I have all the symptoms of heartbreak: I feel like crying frequently, I'm depressed when I think about it, I'm angry, and my appetite's changed: either I don't feel like eating at all, or I binge. I can't even focus on work anymore. My friends keep asking me what's wrong but I don't know what to say. It seems ridiculous — could I really have had my heart broken by a guy I just met? How do I get past this guy and on to actually available men?
Oh, honey, put down that petri dish and get the hell out of the lab.
You're not suffering from heartbreak; you're suffering from lack of perspective. He's a crush who's currently unavailable, not the sole survivor of the zombie apocalypse. So. Many. Fish. In. The. Sea. But there's an easy fix: expand your social circle. The minute you meet a new guy, memories of the old one will boil away like liquid nitrogen at standard temperature and pressure.
While we're at it, don't write off your lab partner; having a girlfriend shouldn't make him dead to you. If he's such a stellar guy, he'll make a stellar friend. Just know that he is by no means the be-all, end-all of collegiate babes. Work on getting out more, fall in love as many times as you want, and lighten up a bit. Infatuation, heartbreak, despair, moving on: look at all the ground you've covered in a week. Apply that same can-do attitude to your social life, and you'll be golden.