crazy partnerHow to tell the difference between a woman who has made genuine mistakes, and one who is just cray-cray…

When I first came out I thought that my biggest challenge in dating was fine-tuning my gaydar. There were the universal signals of course – the subtle chin jut, the just-a-little-too-long eye contact, and that certain swagger that gives away even the most closeted lesbian. But these days when it comes to dating, I’m less inclined to worry about who is or isn’t a lesbian and am more prone to activating my craydar or weeding out the cray-cray from everyone else.

If you’re a lesbian over a certain age, chances are you’ve made some mistakes. Maybe you’ve lied. Cheated. Stopped calling. Shut down. Something. If we looked at past behaviours alone when thinking about who a person is now we would probably never date again. And no one would date us. What really matters when it comes to past behaviours, particularly past bad behaviours, is how capable and willing we are to take responsibility for them. To differentiate the cray-cray lesbian from the lesbian who has made mistakes listen for two details in how she talks about her life.

  1. Listen to the way she talks about her exes. Does she own her part in past relationships? Can she acknowledge her own mistakes? Is she always the victim? Listen for signs that she has used mistakes to make herself a better person. Listen for secret justifications for bad behaviours. These are red flags.
  2. Listen for where she places responsibility. For example, you meet a woman who tells you she cheated on a girlfriend in the past. How do you decide if this is a pattern and red flag, or if it’s a mistake that won’t happen again? We can each decide that cheating is a deal-breaker and choose not to go there. But if we do go there, the best approach is to listen. Listen for where the owners go. Does she own the decision to cheat, no matter what the circumstances? Or does she let herself off the hook? Here are 2 scenarios, in her words, that illustrate the difference.

Scenario 1:

I cheated on my ex-girlfriend. I made a terrible decision and it hurt my girlfriend. To make sure it doesn’t ever happen again, I had to look back at everything going on that played a part in my decision to cheat. We were in a relationship that wasn’t working. I didn’t know how to communicate or know what to do. Even though there is no excuse, I know that it led me to cheat because I didn’t communicate. I am very sorry I did it.

Scenario 2:

I cheated on my ex-girlfriend. I made a terrible decision and it hurt us both. It was a horrible situation – being in a relationship that was on its way out, we had been fighting a lot, and I think she was talking to another girl. She completely pushed me away. My friend was in town and we got too drunk and slept together. It was a mistake that won’t ever happen again because I never should have dated that girl that long or gotten that drunk. I am very sorry it happened.

In scenario 1, she uses personal references a lot. “I had to look back…”, “…in my decision”, “I didn’t know how to communicate”, “..led me to cheat”. Personal responsibility is implied here.

In scenario 2, the responsibility gets deflected to the other person or to the circumstances. “It (rather than my decision) was a horrible situation”, “hurt us both” (rather than the power to decide was hers), “we had been fighting a lot” “…she was talking to another girl”, “She pushed me away”. This scenario is full of excuses that try to justify cheating.

The truth is that when it comes to infidelity there is no excuse. But understanding the context of a situation and learning from it is very different from understanding the context of a situation to justify it. In choosing not to write someone off because of their past, listen to who they tell you they are. Think of it as information to include when looking at the whole picture of who someone is.

When it comes to dating, you truly don’t know someone’s character until you know. The main thing to do when you feel hints of warning that something isn’t right is to notice it and watch it over time. Weeding out the cray-cray from the normal is all about patterns – behaviour patterns over time, over different circumstances, patterns during conflict and stress, and patterns in personal growth. In my experience, people don’t change much, but we can each learn and evolve and become better versions of ourselves and keep our craydar in check.