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How to Spot (and Avoid) Ms. Wrong

If you are a man venturing out in the dating world, here is a subject certainly near and dear to your heart: How to steer clear of the woman who is likely to grab your life and shake it upside down by the ankles. A romantic thrill ride is one thing — to be desired is part of the appeal of falling in love. But most men secretly live in fear of the woman who seems normal enough after a couple of dates, then turns out to be a crazy-maker. Even with the best of intentions, she sets you spinning and struggling to keep your balance.

You’d think it would be easy to see a partner like that coming a mile away, but it isn’t always so. That’s because Ms. Wrong can also be energetic, charismatic, charming, creative, and very persuasive. There is a disorienting hum of activity around her that draws you in to her emotional power grid — usually a one-way arrangement working almost exclusively to her benefit. The best defense is to know what a crazy-maker looks like and be alert for early warning signs that you have found one.

Here are five “tells” that will give you a heads-up:

1. Ms. Wrong thrives on drama. She derives a sense of power from being at the center of a good storm — and frequently whips one up when things get too quiet. She is known to orchestrate conflicts between people she knows — including you — or insert herself into ready-made ones. Here’s the tip: If you spend a lot of time listening to her side of endless “dramas” and have the feeling it might be dangerous to offer a dissenting opinion — beware! You could be stepping between a crazy-maker and her power source.

2. Her life is engulfed in chaos. These women often mistake motion for meaningful activity. She is involved in multiple causes and activities and never does just one thing at a time. Even on a date, you must compete with other priorities while she answers an important text, or takes the call of a girlfriend having a crisis. She is consistently late, fails to follow through on promises, and can’t keep up with commonplace demands. Remember, the payoff for her is a sense of power derived from being at the center of the frenzy — a potent and habit-forming emotional drug. Competing with that is a fight you are likely to lose more often than not.

3. She assumes her needs come first. Because her causes are “important” and the crises she’s involved with are “real,” she expects others to take up the slack in her life. Never mind that you are working on a killer deadline at the office, she asks you to pick up her visiting cousin at the airport while she finishes decorating a friend’s wedding cake. Or you are at the game with the guys when she calls to vent about a conflict with her boss that day. All relationships involve healthy give and take. But if you are with a crazy-maker, that is a one-way street where you’re doing most of the giving.

4. She is hypersensitive to criticism or rejection. Ms. Wrong is always right and will react strongly to any suggestion otherwise. If you ask her to be more reliable, she says you should be more supportive of the demands on her time. Request that she respect your boundaries, and she accuses you of putting up walls to keep her out. Rarely will she say “I’m sorry” or “I will try to do better.”

5. You find yourself feeling drained and depleted. The surest sign that you’re entangled with someone wrong for you is how you feel at the end of an evening together. This requires subtle self-diagnosis, because your time together is never completely frustrating. But if you pay attention to your mind and body after being with her, you’ll notice which are the dominant feelings — energized and alive, or drained and a little depressed.

The sad fact is, most crazy-makers are unlikely to reform for your sake, and you deserve better than they are able to give. If these characteristics describe someone you are with, take the hint and pull the plug.