Emotional Wellbeing


Mental Health




Self Improvement

Mandy Kloppers

Crazy making in relationships

unhappy photo

Crazy making in relationships takes many forms.  Have you ever felt as if you were going crazy in a relationship? Sometimes in relationships, we begin to doubt our perceptions of what is going on. We ask ourselves whether we are just being ridiculous and over sensitive to the treatment from our partners. If you have to ask yourself this question, there is probably something underfoot.

This is especially true if the relationship was good to start with and you got on well. Things may have changed and you now find that you are bickering more often. You say “white”, they say “black”. It can feel as if there is a subtle but constant onslaught to affect your mood. Of course, it is done furtively, possibly even below the consciousness of the person doing it.

Crazy making in relationships often stems from childhood. When a child has had to succumb to forceful parents or felt weak and disempowered in some way, the child learns manipulative and underhanded ways to feel back in control. They may withhold information or engage in acts ‘behind the scenes’ at the expense of others. For example – spitting in someone’s drink or stealing money and denying they have done so. It may seem relatively harmless behaviour and it probably is if it does not occur regularly. All children are entitled to some mischief in life. When there has been a pattern of misuse of power by parents however, this can cause dysfunctional thinking in children to have to adapt to survive. Older siblings who bully their younger brother/sister on a regular basis can lead to crazy making behaviour in their younger sibling when they become adults. There are many possible causes, too many to mention in this blog post. What I will do is give you examples of types of crazy making in relationships for you to look out for.

Examples of crazy making in relationships

1) Your partner sets you up to fail. For example – you have to be somewhere and they are giving you a lift. Despite them knowing that you need to be there on time, they will dawdle and seem to take their time, thereby stressing you out. It is done in a subtle way so that there can be no direct blame on them. You will no doubt feel stressed by this but will wonder whether you are overreacting.

2) Engaging in non verbal body language such as : sighing (at something you have said/done), shaking head, rolling eyes. This non verbal behaviour implies condemnation that is open to interpretation. If you ask why they have sighed, rolled their eyes etc. they will no doubt come up with another explanation. Non verbal communication is a very powerful way of communicating. It conveys a message that is open to interpretation. When you interpret it as most people would, you might be accused of being paranoid or “too sensitive”.

3) Insisting they have told you something that you are sure they haven’t shared.Self doubt reigns when your version of reality does not correspond with your partner’s version. Of course, this can happen now and the but when it becomes a regular occurrence, there may be more to it. Crazy makers are masters of manipulation, always trying to get one over on you – to win. They do this either by withholding information or engaging in passive aggressive behaviour – setting you up to fail.

4) Nothing is ever their fault – the problem or issue is always due to someone or something else. Crazy makers are masters at turning the tables back on you and making out that they are somehow the victim. For example -when you finally snap after too much crazy making behaviour and perhaps swear at your partner or react angrily, the focus will then become about how you reacted. What preceded your angry outburst will suddenly fade into insignificance and your behaviour will be on trial.

5) Crazy making in relationships is often motivated by a person who is very insecure. People who feel powerless tend to play games to feel powerful. Often these games will be emotional in nature. As children they will have honed their skills in passive-aggressive behaviour. They will be adept at knowing other people’s soft spots and weaknesses. They learn how to push buttons to feel more in control of their environment. This does not work well in adult relationships. The minute you go into “child mode” (see transactional analysis for more info), the relationship suffers. It is highly unlikely that any resolution can take place nor meaningful communication when one or both partners have gone into “child mode”.  Common types of child mode behaviours: sulking, silent treatment, tit-for-tat behaviour, avoidance, withdrawal.

6) Crazy making in relationships is often played out by people who are judgemental and opinionated. They tend to have rigid rules about life and this, again, may develop from parents who were rigid in their parenting style. No elbows on the table at dinner, bed time at 8pm (no later!!), many chores that must be completed by the children, etc. There is very little personal freedom and these children grow up learning that the world is inflexible and that rigid rules are good for structure and meaning. Research shows that authoritarian parenting can be damaging. Passive parenting is not ideal either and if parents don’t want to screw up their kids, they should aim for authoritative parenting (freedom within limits). See parenting styles for more info.

7) Subtle brain washing can also exist when crazy making in relationships develops. Again, this is done subtly as crazy makers try to get you to come around to their way of thinking. You may have put the washing in the washing machine for many years in a way that works perfectly well for you, when suddenly, this method will be challenged. “Why have you done that?” or “Why are you doing it that way?” You begin to question your way of doing things and the process of confidence erosion and self doubt commences. This is a form of control and links in with rigid thinking. Things have to be done in a certain way and if they aren’t, you can be made to feel that you are lacking in some way.

8) What makes life with a crazy maker particularly tough is that they aren’t all bad. They can be loving, thoughtful and charismatic. In fact, they can often be very well liked. This is because they know how to ingratiate themselves with others. They know what to do to gain trust. This is part of their offensive. You have to be well versed in reading people and their moods to be a crazy maker.

9) Crazy making in relationships is often carried out by those who are good at feigning empathy, but more often than not, they are more interested in control and they can be rather selfish in nature. They suit themselves and often prioritise activities and actions that further their own ideals and goals ahead of those around them.

10) Crazy makers can be very good at emotional compartmentalisation. They have learned to shut off emotions to survive and stop life hurting them. This is partly why they lack empathy as this cognitive process has been bypassed. Emotions can be seen as weak. No need for them unless you are using them to manipulate others or understand others in order to gain the upper hand.

11) Crazy making in relationships can involve hypocritical actions. There is a different set of rules for them and for others. This can lead to others feeling anxious and on edge around them. Never knowing when they may breach a rule. It can be exhausting emotionally for anyone at the receiving end. Moody behaviour is also quite common and adds to the tension. Get used to it – you will rarely be able to please a crazy maker. As soon as you have learned one set of rules, new ones will be created.


There are ways to improve your situation if you are in a relationship with a crazy maker. Be sure to stay in adult-mode. Try not to react to their behaviour by matching it. The ideal balance is adult-adult mode. Take the higher ground and don’t get sucked in to playing games. If you feel that your crazy making partner is trying to get a reaction out of you, ignore it and remove yourself from the situation temporarily. Don’t allow their manipulation to get the better of you. Much of their behaviour will be subtle, so instead of reading between the lines and getting upset, act stupid. Really – pretend you haven’t even picked up on the innuendo. Works a treat!

Mandy X


Photo by schnappischnap