Crazymaking throws you off-balance mentally or emotionally making you easier to control. Abusers carry out crazymaking in many ways. For example, they may say one thing and then swear they said the opposite or didn’t say it at all and claim that you are crazy, unbalanced, forgetful, out to get them, etc.
If you’re a victim of crazymaking, you often feel lost, disconnected, and unsure of yourself and your standing in the relationship. You learn to doubt your perceptions because every time you say “The sky is blue” your abuser says, “The sky is green.” Over time, you become brainwashed enough to accept green skies! Crazymaking makes you feel like you are the crazy one.
Crazymaking Behavior in Abusive Relationships
Both women and men could be abusers or victims, so please do not take my pronoun choices as an implication that one gender abuses and the other is victimized.
Crazymaking occurs when your partner tells you what they want, but when you do it,
- they claim that you didn’t do as asked, or
- they ask why you wasted your time doing that (the thing they asked you to do), or
- pretends they didn’t ask you to do anything at all.
These same reactions apply to relationship requests. Maybe they ask you to meet them at the door after work so they feel welcomed home, but when you do, they say that you didn’t do it right or push you away mumbling “Get off me! What got into you?” And then, of course, they deny asking you to meet them at the door.
Crazymakers have two sets of rules. One set for you, the second set for them, and both sets of rules change on their whim. No matter what you do, there is no guarantee your abuser will react the same way twice.
Crazymaking people disrupt the peace with physical violence or intimidating behavior designed to scare you to the core. You never know for sure when they’ll erupt so anxiety becomes a big issue. Afterward, their story does not match yours, but they insist their version is the truth so convincingly that you begin to think the events weren’t as bad as you remember.
Crazymakers use your moments of weakness to enact major relationship changes. After they’ve made the decision, they tell you that it was your idea in the first place so you have no reason to be upset. For example, my abuser went to get a vasectomy during the last of a series of miscarriages I experienced. He said that he thought I wanted him to do it so I wouldn’t have to go through the pain of losing more children.
Along those same lines, crazymaking people will make decisions that completely change your life together without your knowledge, and then pretend like they care about your feelings after the fact. My abuser re-joined the military (uprooting us and throwing us back into the military experience) without asking what I thought until after he’d made up his mind.
Crazymakers secretly collect evidence, eavesdrop, and spy on you. They interpret your actions in a way that paints you in the worst possible light. You partly believe them because they’ve got the facts right (i.e. you did talk to the produce guy at the grocery store). You question yourself because the abuser is so convinced of your immorality (i.e. if it looked like I was flirting then I’d better stop acting that way).
Crazymakers point to an event in your personal history and tell you, repeatedly, that it has something to do with your current relationship problems with them. If you were raped when you were younger, your crazymaker may insist you hate men (therefore, all of the problems in the relationship are your fault).
Crazymakers may twist your family’s past behavior into odd versions of the truth. For example, if your parents divorced and your father remarried the next year, your crazymaker says you’re just like your dad and will cheat on him in the end. It doesn’t matter that your father did not cheat on your mom during their marriage, the crazymaker will put the story together in their own way.
Crazymaking people never give you the straight truth. They run their words through a filter that ensures they can say you misunderstood them when you call them on their bullshit. Excuse me, when you call them on their lies.
In the same way, a crazymaker will behave in one way but insist they feel another. They may act very angry but smile at you sweetly and say they’re not angry. Or, worse, in my opinion, they act happy and carefree but glare at you and make you feel two inches tall without knowing why or receiving an acknowledgment that they glared at you.
Crazymakers give you plenty of reasons to be upset, stressed out and angry, but tell you that you imagine drama where there is none and have no excuse to feel angry. The crazymaker may say you make mountains of molehills or are a drama queen, for example.
Crazymakers attempt to define who you are, what you’re doing, what you’re feeling, and what you’re thinking without asking you any questions. They assume to know you when the only person they know is their own selfish selves.
When you attempt to explain what you’re really doing, feeling or thinking, crazymaking people say you’re lying.
Crazymakers flip their mood on a whim. One second they’re sweet and kind, the next second they’re in a boiling rage. They blame you for their ugliness and credit themselves for their good behavior. Crazymaking people insist that you make them feel the way they’re feeling (usually when they’re feeling angry, sad, or another unpleasant emotion).
Crazymakers will rape you and then pretend they didn’t. Because of your intimate sexual relationship, you question your perception and think that maybe you misinterpreted the rape.
Crazymakers blame you for every bad thing in your relationship or their life. They rarely if ever take responsibility for their hurtful actions and words, and if they do take responsibility for something it’s because they’re trying to convince you that they love you.
When a crazymaking person is angry or embarrassed, they want you to be ashamed, cowering, or somehow accepting the blame for how they feel.
Crazymaking people will pretend they didn’t agree to something they did. They will change the plans without telling you and then pretend the plans didn’t change. They blame you for items they misplace and say you’re out to get them, sabotage them, make them mad, etc.
Crazymakers use your intimate confessions against you, turning you inward on yourself and making you your own worst enemy. Self-doubt robs you of confidence. You may wonder if you are the abuser and the crazymaker is but a victim.
Crazymakers withdraw emotionally and/or physically from you by refusing to talk and offering no explanation for their abrupt shutdown.
Crazymaking people twist your words and use your confusion to wear you down during arguments.
Verbal Abuse and Crazymaking
The types of verbal abuse, taken together or even one or two at a time, constitute not only crazymaking but the basis for every abusive relationship.
But you can stop the cycle. Abusers rely on you being in the dark about what they’re doing to you. So, if you can recognize abuse as it’s happening to you, you cannot be abused. Your feelings could be hurt (or your body could be hurt), but you’re no longer a victim. You’re a survivor.
Remember, recognizing crazymaking, verbal abuse, and domestic abuse is one of the most valuable skills you can develop. If you don’t recognize abuse when it happens, you cannot control your reaction to it. Download this worksheet to help you figure out how abuse happens to you.