Dear Miss Information,

My relationship past is muddled and full of complications. Half of the girls I've ever dated were insane, possessive, controlling, or a volatile combination of the three. The other half turned out to be pretty uninteresting and devoid of adventure ("I was going to go out tonight, but I just don't feel like it"). None of these relationships ended on any sort of reasonable terms. I've been cheated on and walked out on. I am deeply attracted to intelligent, independent women, but it seems like I'm magnetized to the wrong ones.

This sort of a past creates a certain reflex in a man like me. I recognize the Red Flags of Craziness and know what to do when I see them. This has helped me survive a great deal, and I feel I've avoided a lot of terrible mistakes because of it. But I think I may have been out in the 'wilderness' for too long, as it were. Now, when any girl begins to show a certain pattern, I immediately start freaking out and thinking the absolute worst — even if I'm not courting her. This has led to a lot of awkward interactions and has made me look even more dodgy and insecure than (hopefully) I really am.

It should go without saying that I plan on staying single for a very long time. An indefinite amount of time, even. But that doesn't mean that I wouldn't mind a casual encounter or two — and who knows? Maybe I'll meet that perfect person at some point. The problem is that I just can't seem to suspend this survival reflex in me. At the slightest irregularity, I feel the need to correct my behavior and please whoever I'm with however possible. It's causing a hell of an identity crisis for me, and it makes me want to stop associating with women for awhile, just to get away from the emotional ups and downs that I'm creating.

I seem to have become conditioned to being ensnared by frighteningly intelligent, mentally unstable women. I know that if I don't figure out how to correct this behavior, I'll just be locked in a cycle of either loneliness or entrapment.

So what do I do to get my mind back on the right track?

— Forever Alone At Best

Dear Forever Alone,

Years ago, I was summarizing a romantic misadventure for a friend. "Broken boys love me," I shrugged.

"Broken boys love anyone who will listen," he corrected.

Eureka moment, courtesy of Jeff. It's not that I somehow emitted a dog whistle that only heartbroken martyrs could hear; it's that, on some level, I welcomed those martyrs. I patted their heads and dried their tears when my more-evolved sisters gave them a wide berth. My point here, FAAB, is that patterns of people don't just "happen" to us; one way or another, we manifest them.

You say you want to stay single, but you treat every encounter like a potential conquest. Nothing kills a connection faster than looking at a girl through heat-sensitive goggles. Put away the Kevlar, friend; it's a real turn-off.

What could you be projecting that turns you into Catnip for Crazies? Watch that self-pitying tone, for starters: misery loves company. And lay off the our do-or-die, war-hardened vocabulary: despite the strong case made by this choreography, love shouldn't be a battlefield. Combined, you come off like a cynic who deeply distrusts girls, yet still wants to sleep with them. Huge red flag. This conflict makes you a magnet for wild-eyed knife-wielders, while stable girls see it and politely close out their bar tabs.

If you're going to break this cycle, you've got to treat every girl as a human first and foremost. Not a human with sweet tits. Not a human who could reduce you to a pile of smoldering ash. A regular human with thoughts, opinions, and potentially a gift for Mario Kart. Ask yourself, "Is this a person I find engaging? Do I care about this person's perspective? Does this person excite me?" Once you've established that you think she's a grade-A badass, then you can start to stir in the sexual-attraction factor.

You've got to be able to separate "person I respect and like" from "person I could bang." Your ideal girl will be both of these things! But right now, you're so focused on the latter that it clouds your judgment of the former.