“Crazy” is a loaded word with a history of being used to discredit and undermine women’s feelings and experiences. It’s not uncommon to hear people, particularly men, refer to their exes with this sexist descriptor.
“Stop the rhetoric that a woman is crazy or difficult,” Natalie Portman said earlier this month during an acceptance speech at Variety’s Power of Women Event. “If a man says to you that a woman is crazy or difficult, ask him, ‘What bad thing did you do to her?’”
Yes, it’s possible for people of any gender to behave in toxic or otherwise erratic ways that others might deem “crazy.” But repeatedly using the term to describe women ― especially in the context of a romantic relationship ― probably says more about that person than it does about the ex.
We asked women to tell us what they think when they hear a guy speak about an ex this way. Here’s what they told us:
You can’t take responsibility.
“Whenever I hear a guy I’m dating enter into a rant about how crazy his ex was, I immediately interrupt and ask for examples. Why? How? How did you handle it? I want to know what part they played in dealing with the person, helping them get back down to reality, and working on the relationship to make them feel safe and comforted. If they place the entire blame on the other person, I see that as a gigantic red flag.” ― Jen Glantz
You’re probably not very mature.
“‘Crazy’ is an inflammatory term that implies a person is irrational and has no basis for their behavior. In my experience, people rarely act ‘crazy’ without provocation. It’s one thing to have had a crazy date or relationship as an outlier, but when there’s a trail of crazy exes behind a guy, it’s not them — it’s him.
I have a nagging ‘stand by your man’ mentality and used to date guys who called their exes crazy, but now I’m more attracted to the type who will calmly say, ‘We had our differences but I respect her as a person.’ Maturity is a sexy quality.” ― Jen Ruiz
You sound insensitive if your ex actually was dealing with mental health issues.
“I consider it a red flag whenever someone labels another person as ‘crazy.’ It’s in poor taste to divulge someone’s private problems or mental health challenges as a form of entertainment. And really, I don’t want to hear anyone ramble on about their ex. We all have hang-ups and baggage; I’d be more interested in hearing my date open up about their issues and what steps they’re taking to proactively address them.” ― Marzi Wilson
It makes me wonder: What did you do to her?
“When someone I am dating refers to their ex as ‘crazy,’ it sets off alarm bells in my head. Not normal fire-type bells ― more like the siren that goes off when a tornado is coming. I once dated this guy who told me that all his exes were crazy. Even told me that one threw a brick through his car window and another keyed his car. My first thought when he said this was, ‘What did you do to make these women feel such pain and insecurity that they resorted to this behavior?’ This says to me that the person I am dating has caused women to feel ‘less than’ somehow within their relationship and he is not someone I want to continue to date.” ― Valencia Morton
It’s probably a weak attempt to make yourself look good.
“I used to date a guy who insisted his ex was ‘crazy.’ At the time, I took him at his word because I was on his side. I later realized that his ex was just a human being who was going through a stressful time. And I’m pretty sure he wanted to protect his image by avoiding any possibility of the two of us comparing notes on him.” ― Tara Eisenhard
You might be someone who enjoys drama.
“I think we’ve all dated someone at one point or another who has claimed to have a crazy ex, and when I hear that, I can’t help but wonder which one of them is actually the crazy one. Is there some stalker ex lurking around that I need to be afraid of? Or is my date actually the crazy one, and just calls his ex crazy because she wouldn’t put up with his garbage anymore? Either way, for me it’s a big red flag, because I don’t have time to deal with the drama.” ― Eden Strong
You could be be deflecting.
“From my experience, when a guy labels a girl ‘crazy,’ it’s because he did her dirty and he doesn’t want anyone thinking he was in the wrong. For example, my ex-boyfriend called this girl I knew crazy and I was very suspicious. A couple of days later, we broke up and I asked her if she knew him and so on ― and it turns out he was the crazy one and she almost had to get a restraining order against him.” ― Ciara K.
It sounds like you need to do some self-reflection.
“When I hear it, two questions go through my mind: ‘Do you have compassion?’ and ‘Are you self-reflective?’ I first wonder about compassion because if an ex truly does have mental health issues that precipitate a breakup, casually calling them ‘crazy’ is unkind and dismissive to those battling mental illness. Secondly, I wonder about someone’s capacity for self-reflection, because in most relationships, both parties bear at least partial responsibility for it not working out, so I question whether my date is able to engage in honest self-assessment.” ― Holly Martyn
I will probably keep you at arm’s length.
“I was the crazy ex-girlfriend. I know this because after we broke up we hung out a few times (I know, bad idea) and I went through his phone (again, bad idea). My number was saved in his phone as ‘Evil Crazy Bitch.’ Can’t get much more straightforward than that.
It took me a long time to realize a girl he labels as crazy was just someone he had slept with and/or dated. At first, I believed him. Why else had they broken up? She probably cheated or was controlling or something. After about a year and a half, I realized that was not the case. He was the one who cheated or was controlling or something. I often wonder if he did the same thing to those girls as he did to me.” ― Aliyah Mallak
Responses have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity and length.