Sunday, November 20, 2005

What is Causing My Ex's to Go Insane?

I am sure many of my readers have never heard of the “Three S’s” but they are a widely used barometer to judge the “marriage viability” of women. They are, in order, Smart – Sexy, and Sane. It is extremely rare to find all three in the same woman but if one does, so the saying goes, you should marry her. I have been looking for quite some time and have found a few who I thought met that high bar but, thus far, have found myself disappointed in the end. It seems that I am very good at picking out the smart/sexy women but, for some strange reason, sanity has eluded me. I have begun to think that as they all seemed fairly sane at the beginning of our relationship perhaps it is me who is precipitating their irrational behavior. Could that be? Is it possible that somehow, via my own actions, I am driving the people I date to act completely and utterly without reason? It is a topic worth addressing as it could have major implications for my relationships in the future.

I have taken the time to construct a small graph of the relative sanity of my previous girlfriends versus the % progress of the total time we were together. A disturbing trend is evident. In all of the cases, save for J, the women I date end up dramatically less sane after spending a significant amount of time with me.

At first glance, one might assume a causal relationship between the amount of time a woman spends with me and her progress towards insanity. Fortunately, I have been schooled in the intricacies of data analysis so I am not likely to make such a superficial assumption. Let’s address the possible relationships between these factors point by point.

#1 I am Driving My Girlfriends Totally Insane.

I put this first to avoid any appearance of bias in this article. I take seriously the possibility that I could be somehow pushing the people I date to the brink. Upon addressing the facts though, it seems somewhat unlikely. First, none of my actions are of the type which normally elicit bizarre behavior on the part of significant others. I don’t drink excessively, I don’t verbally or emotionally abuse anyone I date. I am considerate, kind, and caring and always supportive of my partner’s dreams and aspirations. I have never cheated on a girlfriend and am, whenever possible, upfront about my intentions. I can think of some idiosyncricies which might be considered annoying such as bizarre humor, tendency towards being aloof in light of my partner’s interaction with members of the opposite sex, and love of subjects not usually discussed at dinner (i.e. political philosophy, sociology etc..). I may be biased but I just can’t seem to glean from any of these qualities what exactly would be causing my girlfriends to go insane. Thus it seems unlikely that my actions directly are somehow the cause of the mental instability I have observed in my ex’s and so we must move on to other possibilities.

#2 My Girlfriends Aren’t Going Insane, I Am.

This is a distinct possibility. Reality is, of course, perception and as such it may be the case that as the world stays the same around me (i.e. my mate’s sanity) and I change everything just seems off kilter. I will admit to being somewhat insane in my day. I would go so far to state the vast majority of my college years were spent in some form of abnormal mental state or another. As I have gotten older though, I feel that I have developed a much more objective view of myself, and my actions, than I had in the past (Thank you Karl, P, and Tim). In addition one might expect that as I slowly (or precipitously depending on mate – see graph) lost my sanity other people in my life might recognize this and comment on it. The fact that this has never happened may indicate the unwillingness of my friends and family to comment on my mental state but that is unlikely. Why? First, because my Mother alone has no problem in pointing out mistakes that I may be making. This isn’t a negative, it is a positive. She doesn’t do it in a mean or demeaning way, she is the rock of a moral/philosophical arbiter which we should all have in our life. So it would seem that at the very least my family would comment on my progressive loss of sanity. This has not happened although they have in the past delicately questioned the sanity of my girlfriends (Very delicately. My family is loathe to intrude on my feelings when it comes to women although in retrospect I wish that they had sometimes been more active in their objections).

#3 My Girlfriends Were Always Insane and the Graph Just Reflects My Slow Realization of that Fact.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that I consider this to be the most likely possibility. I am somewhat of an optimist. I tend to believe the best about people and, more importantly, see in them the things I want to see rather than what is actually there. Does this mean that all women are insane (absolutely not) or, does this study somehow suffer from a selection bias (Not likely as the four relationships on the graph represent the totality of the serious relationships I have had over the past 10 years). Perhaps I somehow seek out unstable women? Superficially I would have to say no. The qualities I find most attractive; wit, intelligence, ambition, and aesthetics seem to be incompatible with mental instability but, the fact remains that most women that I have dated have had at least a majority of those qualities but have nonetheless often acted in truly bizarre ways. The vast majority of women with these qualities aren’t irrational. In fact, I would go so far to say that the portion of the female population which possesses these attributes are less likely to suffer from insecurity, depression, or maladaptive behavior than the population as a whole. So, as much as I do not like saying it perhaps there is something in women who have “a little bit of interest” that I find attractive. My most recent girlfriend was so high-maintenance she made the space shuttle look like a huffy tricycle but I think it just made me that much more intrigued. If this is the case it is indicative of some pathology of which I must rid myself. Looking for a challenge is one thing, dating Delilah with trust issues as deep as the Marianas trench is quite another.

#4 My Definition of Insane is “Whoever Doesn’t Agree With Me”

This is possible. We are all liable to characterize actions with which we can neither empathize nor sympathize as "bizarre" or "irrational". In this case, it is useful to solicit outside opinions about the behavior of your ex. I have to say at this point that there were times when I characterized someone's behavior as insane simply because I didn't agree with it (particularly in the case of A) but, I can also name a number of incomprehensible actions performed by each of these women (I am using the term “insane” loosely in this blog) that any reasonable person would say were not only irrational but also unwarranted.

It’s quite possible that the trend observed in the “Insanity Index Graph” is due to a confluence of all of these factors. In fact, it’s likely. I certainly hope my next relationship bucks the trend though and heads north as we progress towards the 100% mark rather than the sharp drops south observed thus far. If not, I may be making a graph of my own sanity with a zero slope, right at “0” the whole time.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

think scenarios #3 is the most likely. First of all, have you ever met a sane woman? It is a contradiction of terms. There are many women who hide their insanity quite well but it is always just a matter of time before it seeps out. Now that being said, I still do think that you are contributing to your own problem. By seeking women who are "witty, intelligent, ambitious..." but also have some type of social normality and beauty - you are putting yourself into a category of women who have a litany of issues. Women who have probably always struggled with issues of who they are and their intelligence in contrast with their social acceptance. This internal struggle leads to mental difficulties and many insane quirky behaviors and attitudes. So what is the answer then? You must either take the insanity in your hands and love it (as I hope that the man of my dreams will do for me as I am clearly as insane as the rest of my female cohorts if not more so) or you must lower your standards and pursue mediocrity.

12:07 PM  
Blogger theyellowwallpaper said...

Oh, Gold,

I hate to admit it, but I had a big belly laugh at your sanity analysis. I just couldn’t resist.

Most striking, I noticed that nowhere in your post did you define sanity. I point this out only because one man’s neat freak, emotional rollercoaster of a girlfriend is another man’s organized, passionate wife. Each person has certain traits they are willing to overlook and others that are like nails on a chalkboard. For instance, I could never marry someone who was either controlling or the jealous type, while my friend is married to such a man. She finds it comforting somehow that he is that interested in her daily activites and friendships. I have another friend, married to an English professor, who regularly loses his keys, glasses, wallet, you name it. She overlooks his perpetual distraction because she loves the intellectual stimulation he offers. Are these healthy relationships? Who am I to say?

“Does this mean that all women are insane (absolutely not).”

It’s good that you haven’t succumbed to massive generalizations. I agree with this one. While I do think there are plenty of women who have issues to work out (much like men), most of us by far lead sane lives.

“The qualities I find most attractive; wit, intelligence, ambition, and aesthetics seem to be incompatible with mental instability…I would go so far to say that the portion of the female population which possesses these attributes are less likely to suffer from insecurity, depression, or maladaptive behavior than the population as a whole.”

I do disagree with you on this one, even if I’m unsure what you mean by aesthetics. If you look at some of the top women in the humanities alone for instance, Virginia Woolfe, Sylvia Plath, etc, instability ruled their lives. I tend to believe that people who live an unanalyzed life, a day to day existence, would probably be less likely to be defined as insane. But, cripes would they be boring. Even Karl Popper battled depression at times during his life.

As for the answer to your question, my hunch is #3. Why? Because I don’t believe that people change much in life. Yes, we “tweek” aspects of our personality, perhaps we mellow, become more confident and mature through the years. But, by far, most people don’t change their essential being, their personality. It’s just that once you are in a relationship with someone, you are then purvey to all their faults, including “insecurity, depression, or maladaptive behavior.”

Thanks for the great post. I do wish you the best in finding a sane girlfriend in the future, whatever that may be.

2:47 PM  
Anonymous Felicity said...

Gold, gotta tell ya, we're ALL f-ing nuts. As a female, twice married, more or less bisexual, and on anti depressants for years, really, we ARE all nuts. But that's what keeps things interesting. Just look at this month's Men's something magazine where Angelina Jolie is profiled as the reader's choice for most perfect woman ever. Because she's unpredictable,exciting, and NUTS.

5:58 PM  
Blogger Goldie Spice said...

Gold - overall, I would say that you make some valid and definitively justifiable points regarding attractive, seemingly ideal women and the ensuing insanity that develops over time.

However, I would counter that attractive, witty, intelligent, ambitious women are MORE likely to suffer from insecurity and depression than the general population. I argue this for one main reason - a woman with these qualities is held to a much higher standard and feels much greater pressure than other women. She's stereotyped by society for being beautiful - criticized by other beautiful women for actually being able to converse intelligently - and seen as flirtatious because she is both attractive AND witty (a deadly and most threatening combination). Funny & attractive women are rare!!

People are threatened by the power that they feel a woman like this has. They ASSUME she is confident as she has no reason not to be, but on the contrary, this is the woman who is most conflicted. Yes, a woman who has these qualities may appear to be the ideal overall package, but I guarantee you that this is the woman who has the most insecurities and fears. Obviously, her intelligence allows her to pick up on other's feelings. She spends so much time reflecting on her negative qualities and her weaknesses, that she begins to doubt her own strengths. Undoubtedly, she holds herself to a standard that is nearly impossible. She is constantly questioning her ability to live up to other's expectations. Seriously, the pressure alone is enough to cause mild insanity.

So what's the solution here? There really isn't one. There is a balance that must be found - but there's a fine grey line between accepting this woman's insecurities and allowing her insecurities to give you (her boyfriend) some of your own. I'm not defending any insanity - but I would just ask you to consider the possibility that a woman who possesses all of these qualities may be more prone to insecurities and self doubt than others.

Sometimes blending in is much easier than standing out. It's the very reason that many choose to remain in the audience and avoid taking center stage. We fear our strengths and how others will view them - and we end up battling insecurities that we can't even explain.

All in all, we can't really love someone else until we learn to love ourselves. It's a process and a journey that we have to go through - and along the way, we probably do ruin a few good relationships in our search for self-acceptance.

1:30 AM  
Blogger Girl With An Alibi said...

I know I'm crazy. My husband has always known I'm "nuts" as in (cute in a sort of wacky funny way) but now he's beginning to see that I am insane. So far he loves me anyway. The trick with us sanity-challenged women is to learn what our "crazy-buttons" are and then avoid them. Being late to important events, airline travel and criticizing me for being a slob (which I am at times) are just a few of the buttons that turn on the crazy. I'm planning to do a post later this week detailing my crazy episode on our honeymoon. Consider it a case study.

11:29 AM  
Blogger Clovergirl said...

Women are not nuts - I will defend to the death any such sweeping generalisations, and especially these ones left in the comments by women!

Gold I randomly stumbled across your blog, and to support your theory I would have to say that out of the 4 relationships that *I've* had in the last 10 years, the guys got progressively weirder and weirder. The only way I've been able to undestand this, is that 'the honeymoon was over' and they felt like they could stop behaving 'normally' and do whatever they wanted.

Possibly also though, I have some kind of internal subconscious radar that hones in on nutcases, that's a favourite theory of my friends anyway.

11:43 PM  
Anonymous ShackMon said...

You said "Perhaps I somehow seek out unstable women?", while that might not be aim, it could very well be part of your subconscious behavior. If you truly consider yourself Prince Charming, well that would be rare and you might be insane. If like the vast majority of the population you know you have faults, you may be looking to compromise your faults for theirs and finding women you deem not only suitable, but obtainable because you imagine a give and take in the fault department, which is where I'd say you are doomed to lose. The premise is entirely reasonable, which is where it breaks down. It is a mistake to assume the woman is going to be reasonable / logical or be willing to compromise, usually a very dirty word to women. There may be some reasonable women out there... like the astronaut, yeh rite.

1:15 PM  

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