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How to Spot (and Avoid) Mr. Wrong

First, the basics: What exactly is a crazy-making man, a.k.a. Mr. Wrong? This is the guy who manages to keep you constantly off-balance and confused about what is really going on in your relationship. Perhaps he means well, but his attitudes and behaviors inevitably leave you running faster and faster just to stay in place. As Julia Cameron wrote in The Artist’s Way, “Crazy-makers are those personalities that create storm centers … You know the type: charismatic but out of control, long on problems and short on solutions.”

Assuming you’ve been around the dating block more than once, you have probably already come face-to-face with this particular species. If you were lucky, you managed to back away and go about your business unharmed. If not, that means he’s still hanging around — and the following information will empower you to see the situation clearly and take steps to deal with it. If you are really lucky, you’ve avoided the crazy-making type altogether; but don’t let that fool you. He’s out there, and it’s wise to know him when you see him.

Here are five characteristic clues that can help:

1. Mr. Wrong is always right. It doesn’t seem to matter what the topic of discussion is — how you rate the restaurant you are in, the merits of the movie you just saw, or the news of the day — all of his pronouncements are the truth. He believes everything he thinks, period, get over it. Naturally, people are entitled to their opinions, and conversation is about the freedom to express them. But watch out if you never hear any words of concession from him, “You may be right. I never thought of it that way. I see your point.” Mr. Wrong may just be Mr. “Too Right.”

2. This crazy-making guy will not stop talking about himself. In general, men have a reputation for their reluctance (some would say inability) to talk about their thoughts and feelings concerning their relationships. But the crazy-maker is a master of deflection and diversion. He somehow manages to say almost nothing that is truly revealing while blabbing non-stop about things he’s done, places he’s been, victories he’s won. You are with a crazy-maker if you rarely get a word in edgewise, and yet still have no idea who he really is or what your relationship means to him.

3. He harbors every known stereotype about women. The key word here is “harbors.” Men and women both sometimes slip into clichéd views of the opposite gender but are usually willing to see reason when someone points out the error. Not so much this guy. His attitudes about women and the resulting roles he assigns you in the relationship are unassailable behind a firewall of maddening certainty and conviction.

4. He has a gift for sabotaging things that are important to you. If you’ve arranged a lunch with your parents, he shows up late and texts through the meal. He drinks too much at your sister’s wedding. At the reception honoring you with a work award, he manages to steal the spotlight while making mildly disparaging jokes at your expense. And chances are, you are the one left to make excuses and defend his disappointing behavior.

5. The crazy-making man leaves you feeling you are the crazy one. Through it all, this man is eerily adept at projecting a convincing aura of innocence. It is as if he is a crazy-making Jedi, able to wave his hand and say the relationship equivalent of “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for” — and the room suddenly fills with fog.

Try taking him to task for any of his crazy-making ways. If within minutes you find yourself wondering how you could have been so wrong and so unfair, take a deep breath and start looking for the exit. That’s right — the exit. You will always deserve better than he has to offer.

If you have encountered this type, leave a comment and add to the list above. Your hard-earned wisdom may help others avoid trouble and go on to find lasting love.