Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse, where someone makes their partner question their own mind. They make other people feel like they are going crazy or losing their memory. It’s a really destructive type of abuse that can make someone question their own sanity and self-worth.
It might be really hard to figure out if gaslighting is your relationship because if it is happening to you, you might genuinely think you are the problem. Even if you have worked out that gaslighting exists in your relationship, it can be difficult to deal with and to stop.
Therefore, I have decided to put this article together to not only explain what gaslighting is and how you can spot it, but also how you can deal with it and stop it.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline organization define gaslighting very simply and can even tell us where the term came from, so let’s have a look at what they say:
“This term comes from the 1938 stage play Gas Light, in which a husband attempts to drive his wife crazy by dimming the lights (which were powered by gas) in their home. When his wife points it out, he denies that the light changed. Gaslighting is an extremely effective form of emotional abuse that causes a victim to question their own feelings, instincts, and sanity, which gives the abusive partner a lot of power.”
Gaslighting within a relationship is a much more common occurrence than you might expect, but it’s rarely spoken about. It allows the person to degrade their partner to such a state where they will essentially think they are crazy. Then, that person has all the control to manipulate their partner further – they have all of the power. Because the partner has been abused into not trusting themselves, they will probably stay in the relationship.
Gaslighting normally starts pretty lightly, so it might be hard to pin down if that is what’s happening. People can disagree and get confused from time to time and we wouldn’t call it gaslighting.
Gaslighting is much more serious than having a few disagreements with your partner and there are a few signs that can be big red flags when it comes to this form of emotional abuse. If you are reading this article, it is probably because you are worried that gaslighting might be occurring in your relationship. But I’m going to ask you a few questions anyway. Have a proper think about them and answer them honestly.
If you answered yes to even one of these questions, it could be a sign that your partner is gaslighting you in your relationship.
There can be many reasons behind why they are emotionally abusing you like this, which we will look at next. However, it’s crucial for me to say that no matter what the reason is that your partner is gaslighting you, it is not fair, and you do not deserve it. Just because you are not getting beaten up, it is still a form of abuse and you do not have to stand for it.
There are many reasons that people will gaslight other people, and the scary thing is that sometimes people don’t even realize that they are doing it. People can gaslight others because of their own insecurities. They will put someone else down because they feel uncomfortable with something that they see in themselves.
They might also feel less powerful in comparison to their partner, so they might feel the need to subconsciously demean and degrade their partner so that they can feel more powerful. This is more likely a reason that men gaslight their wives. Even though the majority of men will be completely supportive of their partners having equal rights and being successful, they can feel like they aren’t acting like the man in the relationship if their partner is more successful than they are, or they are just very independent. Women are less concerned with the power struggle in a relationship.
A large majority of the people who gaslight others will suffer from a personality disorder, such as Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or Borderline Personality Disorder. It can be difficult for these people to not gaslight others. You will be able to tell if your partner is suffering from one of these disorders because it won't just be you that they are abusing – they will be doing it in all aspects of their life.
Of course, people that don’t have any disorders can also intentionally take part in gaslighting their partner. People will do this so that they have control over their partners. They need to feel better than their partners and will do anything to achieve this. There isn’t really any explanation as to why these people abuse others, unfortunately.
The first thing that you need to do in order to conquer your partner’s abuse towards you is to start and recognize it. Gaslighting relies on the person being abused to not wake up to the fact that they are being manipulated and controlled. Once you can confirm that your partner is gaslighting you, you will pay less attention to it and you will regain control over your emotions and thoughts.
After you have acknowledged the fact that your partner is gaslighting you, you need to take control. If you are thinking of confronting them straight away, I would advise you not to do this. You need to regain your strength and courage again. Ignore them. Do not let them know that you know they are gaslighting you. If you confront them too soon, you might not be strong enough to stay away from their attempts to get you back with gaslighting.
It’s time to focus on yourself. Do not put yourself down about the fact that you let this happen to you. It can happen to anyone. You need to be your biggest support now though, and you’re going to have to start showing yourself the strength you know you have. It takes different people different amounts of time to get over any form, so don’t rush it. You just need to start being confident within yourself and your mind.
It might be really useful to speak to someone about the situation you are going through. They might have had experience with gaslighting before and will be able to pass on some advice that worked for them. Even if they don’t have any advice to give you, it can feel really good to open up to someone else and see what their opinion is on the situation. You need to speak with someone that you really trust, like a parent or a very close friend.
If you feel like you don’t want to speak to someone that knows your partner, you can always go and visit and therapist or counselor. Sometimes things feel easier to talk about with someone who doesn’t know you. A trained professional might also be able to give you some good advice on how best you can move forward.
After you realize that you have been a victim of abuse in your relationship, you might start to feel confused as to how you let it all happen, when it all started and why it had to happen to you. Even if you are trying your best to stay positive and get your self-confidence, your mental health could have taken a toll. A lot of victims of abuse need help to get their mental health back on track.
It can be really useful to ask yourself every day how you are feeling and making sure that you don’t go into any depressive states. You might need to try and take care of yourself and in particular your mind for a little while.
If you have noticed that you are feeling depressed or hopeless, it might be a good idea to go and see a therapist or your doctor. Don’t suffer in silence.
Now you have realized that your partner is gaslighting you, you need to try and maintain the peace until you confront them. Like I said earlier, gaslighting only works if you are unaware of it. When you were unaware that what was happening was gaslighting, I’m sure that you probably went on the defense every time your partner tried to tell you that you were wrong, or that you were going crazy.
However, know that you know that your partner is abusing you in this way, there is no need for you to react like this. You can very simply say something like, “let’s agree to disagree” when he tries to accuse you of doing something you didn’t do, or vice versa.
Your partner might latch on to the fact that you have found out what he was doing if he was emotionally abusing you intentionally. However, if your man was subconsciously gaslighting you, he might actually realize that it’s not acceptable to speak to you like that when you are handling everything so calmly. If you’re lucky, the gaslighting might actually stop.
Unfortunately, this is not normally the case and you might have to grasp at all your confidence to finally confront him.
After you have worked on yourself and you feel like you are reading to confront your partner, you can start to figure out why they are abusing you. Depending on the severity of the gaslighting, you may or may not choose to confront them.
If you do confront them to tell them you know what they are doing, you need to make sure you are in an environment that feels safe for both of you.
It might be a good idea to go into the conversation with some positive statements such as, “You know I love you so much” or “you mean the world to me”. This will make them hopefully feel your love and care towards them.
Then, you need to tell them that you have caught on and you know that they are gaslighting you. Tell them how it makes you feel. Be honest with them and tell them that you’re not sure why they are abusing you in this way.
If you do want to try and help them, offer them support. However, you need to make it very clear that you will not stand for this level of emotional manipulation and abuse anymore.
Depending on their response, you can take it from there. However, the next step is a really good idea to take.
Of course, you should only offer this is you really do want to work on things between the two of you. If you are past the point of this, that is completely understandable.
However, if you do choose to offer couples therapy as a choice to your partner, it can make them feel a little bit more at ease. Men don’t like to be blamed, so rather than you pushing the blame on to him and telling him to get help, you have shared the problem and said that you will go together. Don’t get me wrong, it is definitely not your problem that your partner has been gaslighting you, but he will feel less blamed if he feels this is what you think.
Couples therapy can be really useful for you both to share your points of view with each other in a way that you couldn’t without a mediator there to make sure that nothing turns in to an argument.
The only issue that you will have when suggesting to your partner that you should go to couples therapy is if they don’t want to go. This could be the case, especially if they are still trying to manipulate you and make you feel crazy. If your partner point blank refuses to go and see a therapist together, you could give them an ultimatum – either you go to therapy and try and work it out together or you leave. See how your partner reacts to that.
Even though it might be a good idea to use an ultimatum to get your partner into therapy, it is probably a good idea to ask yourself why you really had to force him into working in your relationship. He should feel lucky that you didn’t leave as soon as you realized that he was abusing you.
If your partner is unwilling to work on your relationship, then it is best for you to get out. Abusive relationships can be notoriously difficult to get out of, so if you have the chance, do it. You do not deserve to be abused by the one person who should be caring for you and protecting you.
The best thing to do is prepare for the breakup before you decide to do it, to avoid more gaslighting. For example, if you live together or you have belongings at their house, it might be a good idea to subtly start moving your things out without them realizing.
It might also be a good idea to tell your friends and family the truth about your relationship with him and prepare them for the fact you are about to break up. This way, they are ready to help comfort you, and they will also be less shocked.
If you have a child with this person, it is a really good idea to try and move them out of the situation as soon as possible. If your child can go and stay at your parent’s house, then this provides a safe space for them to be while the breakup happens. Depending on their age and the strength of your relationship with them, you can be as open or as discreet with them about what you are going through. Do not try to manipulate your child to disapprove of his father though, as this can damage your child emotionally and start a whole new cycle of trauma.
When you go to end the relationship, you need to speak at the gaslighter, not with them. If you try to have a conversation with them, this is an ideal time for them to throw some more emotional abuse your way. You need to tell them, plain and simply that “the relationship is over”. You do not have to say anything else to them, and you don’t owe them anything.
After you have broken up, it is a good idea to not speak with them, because they could lure you back in with their emotionally abusive techniques. Block their number and stop associating with people that are connected to that person if possible.
Finally, you need to celebrate the fact that you got yourself out of an emotionally abusive relationship. Only a small percentage of people that are in abusive relationships actually ever leave, so you need to be proud of yourself that you got out.
The abuse has probably affected you more than you realize, so it might be a good idea to constantly surround yourself with a strong support network that can be made up of friends and family. It might also be useful to see a professional that deals with abuse victims after they have left the relationship. You can now move forward in life, with self-confidence and self-esteem.
Firstly, I want to say that I am so sorry if you are or have been in an emotionally abusive relationship. I completely understand and empathize with you from things I have been through in the past. You need to stay strong and have self-belief. Whatever you decide to do with this information I have given you, do it because you want to and not because anyone is manipulating you.
Your life is your own, and you have a right to not be abused or belittled by anyone else. You should know that you are so deserving of true, kind and faithful love and you will find that. After all, one bonus that you can take out of it is that you will be able to spot any gaslighting red flags in the future.
Did this article help you at all? If it did and you liked what you read, please let us know in the comments. We would love to hear from you.
Reference from National Domestic Violence Hotline - https://www.thehotline.org/what-is-gaslighting/