Are you wondering if you’re going crazy in your relationship?
Is your partner isolating you from your friends and family?
Is your partner making you doubt your perception of what is going on by telling you, “It’s all in your head?”
Your spouse may be belittling you, making you feel confused, depressed, or worthless in your relationship. You may be second-guessing yourself all the time and wondering what on Earth is going on.
Gaslighting is a form of emotional and psychological manipulation in which the offender gradually breaks down the victim’s sense of self and their perception of reality in order to gain control of their life. In this post, I’m going to tell you how to know if you’re being gaslighted and what to do about it.
Relationship abuse can be much more subtle than you might think. Learn the signs of gaslighting and how to break free!
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of relationship abuse in which the offender gains power over their victim by psychologically manipulating them. This causes the victim to question their thoughts, feelings, sanity, value, and perception of reality.
The term gaslighting came from a 1938 play by Patrick Hamilton called “Gas Light.” This play was later made into a movie several times, including the 1944 version with Ingrid Bergman.
In short, here’s the story of the play:
A man murders a woman and then gets romantically involved with the woman’s niece. The two of them get married and end up living in the murdered woman’s house, where the man tries to steal the murdered woman’s jewels that are hidden in the attic.
In order to go up into the attic and search for the jewels, he needs to turn the lights on up there, which means he has to dim the lights in the rest of the house. Back then, they used gas for lighting. His wife keeps noticing that the lights are getting dimmer and dimmer in the evenings.
When she mentions this to her husband, he replies, “No, the lights are the same as they’ve always been, honey. I don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s all in your head.”
She starts to think she’s losing her mind.
Other strange things start happening. Pictures disappear off the walls and some of the wife’s own jewelry disappears. When she confronts her husband about these things, he just says that she’s the one who’s going insane.
What the wife doesn’t know is that her husband is planning to have her declared insane and sent to an asylum so he can get power of attorney over her and continue to steal even more stuff from the house.
In the end, the guy’s evil intentions are found out and the woman is able to stop questioning her sanity and break free from their toxic relationship.
Psychological Manipulation and Emotional Abuse
This story is a compelling example of the kind of psychological manipulation that can happen in relationships.
What makes gaslighting different from other forms of abuse is that it’s done under the table. Unlike overt forms of physical or sexual abuse, gaslighting by definition is covert emotional abuse.
We don’t use gas for lighting anymore, but here’s what psychological gaslighting means in the modern world: Gradually breaking down the victim by making them feel that their ideas, thoughts, feelings, and perceptions have no value. The offender isolates the victim, cutting them off from external sources of information that could cause the victim to call the offender’s perspective into question.
By denying the victim’s experience of actual events and withholding information that would counter the offender’s position, the offender makes the victims feel that their perspective and opinions are worthless.
Part of why gaslighting is so powerful is because it tends to happen gradually over time, making it much harder to detect. For instance, it could start with the offending partner making jokes that put the victim down, criticizing their intelligence or their sanity. Over time, this could develop into more severe forms of belittling the victim and separating them from anyone who disagrees with the offender.
For example, maybe you notice that there’s been a big withdrawal from your mutual checking account. Then your husband comes home with a brand new motorcycle and says to you, “Well, we talked about that. We talked about me getting that motorcycle. Don’t you remember?” Actually you never had any kind of conversation about it at all.
That’s how gaslighting can start: The offender questions your recollection of something.
Studies show that over time, gaslighting can lead to other forms of abuse, including physical abuse. Gaslighting is an offender behavior that is often associated with domestic violence. It’s also connected to offenders who have personality disorders like narcissistic personality disorder and psychopathic personality disorder.
How to Know If You’re Being Gaslighted
Here are five signs that you might be experiencing gaslighting:
- Frequently apologizing to your partner: You may find yourself constantly saying sorry to them when you haven’t done anything wrong.
- Defending your partner’s destructive behaviors: You might frequently try to protect your partner by downplaying their negative actions, even when your friends and family are sounding the alarm.
- Withdrawing from other people: You may be spending more and more time away from the company of others. You may find that when your partner is not available, you simply prefer to be alone.
- Second-guessing yourself: You find yourself doubting your perceptions, your memory, and your mental health as a whole. You might find that you’re going over events repeatedly in your head and asking yourself, “Did I really remember that? Is that really what happened?”
- Your mood suffers: You might be feeling depressed, worthless, and anxious a lot of the time. You may be feeling just bewildered and having difficulty making even the simplest of decisions.
Even when you know the signs of gaslighting, you may still be wondering, “Am I being gaslighted? After all, the things that I experienced in my relationship aren’t as extreme as all that.”
Gaslighting can be much more subtle. It can be as subtle as telling someone that they’re losing their mind as they’re getting older or that they become overly emotional and don’t see straight when they have their period, when really the offender is having an affair and concealing the evidence.
Studies show that many people who have affairs continue to lie to their partners, even when their partner confronts them with undeniable evidence of the affair.
The first reaction of many offending partners in the case of an affair is to accuse the victim of being crazy and making up the affair in their head, which is a form of gaslighting.
Maybe everything I’m saying is really starting to ring a bell for you.
This post may be bringing up a lot of questions in your mind. It can be very anxiety-provoking to reflect on the fact that you might be the victim of gaslighting.
So it’s important to know how to get free.
Here are three steps you can take to liberate yourself from gaslighting.
Step 1: Don’t Participate in the Abuse
It’s a choice to believe the offender, to put your trust in them, and give them power over your life. The abuser is looking for control over your life. They can only function when you allow these destructive behaviors to occur. You may have been too trusting and too willing to sweep all of the evidence against them under the rug.
If your partner constantly calls into question what you see and remember; If they’re belittling you, calling you crazy and making you think that you don’t know what you’re talking about, you are most likely in a gaslighting situation. Don’t allow them to have power over you. Take responsibility for not participating in the abuse.
Step 2: Collect Proof of What’s Happening
You may find it useful to collect proof of events so that you have some kind of record of what’s actually happened. When your partner challenges your version of reality, having physical evidence will help you confirm that you’re not losing your mind.
Taking photographs, making recordings, or talking to a trusted friend are all ways that you can reassure yourself that you’re not imagining things.
Step 3: Consider Whether It’s Time To End Your Relationship
If you’ve only had one or two dates with this person, then it’s time to run for the hills.
But if you’re married and you think you’re being gaslighted, you’re going to have to make a more elaborate plan. That means talking to friends or trusted resources who can give you a third-party perspective on what’s going on. It might mean talking to a financial advisor or an attorney to figure out how you’re going to be able to remove yourself from this situation.
The best thing is if you and your partner can go to couples therapy and a third-party can actually look at the situation and weigh in on whether they think you are being gaslighted or not.
But many partners who are offenders are obviously not going to be willing to go to couple’s therapy because they don’t want to be found out. If your partner is unwilling to seek therapy with you, it’s time to realize that you are in a no-win situation and plan your departure.
Remember: Because partners who gaslight are manipulative and think strategically, it’s important that you leave your relationship in a safe way. Have a safety plan that protects you, your children, if you have any, and your financial situation.
Don’t be naive.
Get competent professional help and figure out what it is that you need to do to move forward safely.
Now, I’d like to hear from you.
Please leave me your comment below if you have been able to liberate yourself from gaslighting and what you did to break free.