Are you being gaslighted?
-7 different ways to tell if you are being gaslighted.
We talked about gaslighting briefly in my last blog post (5 ways to set healthy boundaries in romantic relationships). I wanted to dive in a little deeper with the topic in this blog post to raise some awareness as I frequently counsel clients, who are victims of their partners’ gaslighting.
The term, gaslighting originated from a movie called Gas Light (1944), in which a husband manipulates his wife into believing that she was going insane. This is achieved through a persistent brainwashing and lying that cause the wife to question her own reality and identity. You can find a full length movie on Youtube if you want to watch it. If you don’t have time, not to worry, you have been exposed to many different examples of gaslighting in the recent years by the courtesy of one of the politicians (guess who). Just revisit some of the comments/responses he has made when he felt challenged by others.
What is so fascinating to me about gaslighting is that, unlike the husband in the movie, one can gaslit someone/their partners unknowingly. And due to this reason, I see couples with this issue (gaslighing and being gaslighted) far more than you could probably imagine. It can become an emotional abuse in its severe form. And in its milder form, it might look like just a power struggle. But even in its mildest form, it can be incredibly toxic for a relationship.
So I here are some helpful tips to spot any gaslighting in your relationships.
1. Always apologizing
You didn’t do anything wrong but you keep finding yourself saying “Sorry” to your partner. Your partner is always able to prove it to you that you didn’t remember things correctly, you were too sensitive or simply just crazy (or emotionally unstable), and that you overreacted again.
2. Constantly feeling bad about self
When you’ve been gaslighted for a while in your relationship, it’s likely that your self-worth has been plummeted. How can you feel good about yourself when your partner’s been consistently reminding you of things you did wrong or of your character flaws? Right, you can’t.
And even if you are not being gaslighted, if you are always feeling bad about yourself in any relationship, that’s probably a good marker that your relationship is not healthy. Your partner and that relationship you create with him/her should make you feel great about yourself and bout being with each other, not the opposite.
3. Things escalate quickly when you are trying to address your needs/wants to your partner
When gaslighters are challenged, they quickly escalate the situation with denials, attacks, blames, and lies.
i.e. “Lately, you seem to be always on your phone. Can you not use your phone so much when we are spending time together?” “There you go again with your nagging! I can’t take this anymore!”
4. Questioning/denying the reality
Gaslighters constantly invalidate your thoughts and emotions by denying or questioning the reality.
i.e. “You are blowing it out of proportion. Don’t be so sensitive.”
Again, I think this can be done by the gaslighting partner due to having a distorted reality to justify their actions. And this gives us a better understanding but of course it still doesn’t make it okay for your partner to treat you this way.
5. Blames everything on you
As we talked about in the previous blog post, gaslighters extremely good at blaming their partners for their own actions. Possibly because they can’t live with themselves if they were to acknowledge/admit their responsibilities.
i.e. “Yes, I cheated on you. But can you blame me? You are so insecure and unhappy! Of course I had to look elsewhere!”
6. Lies, lies, lies
Gaslighter can lie to your face without any guilt. They might be doing this consciously to achieve their goal (to deceive you). Or this can be done unconsciously for them to “avoid the conflicts,” because they can justify their reasons of being dishonest to not feel as guilty for lying.
i.e. “Being honest will make her get all upset for no reason. It’s better not to tell her the truth.”
7. Actions speak louder than words
Finally, gaslighters can be extremely charming and great with words. They will promise the world to you without any action to show for. Pay attention to their actions. See if they follow up their words with actions.
As these examples show, gaslighters will also make you compromise your needs, wants, and values to make themselves happy and to stay in power. If you identify with any of these, it’s possible that you have been gaslighted in your relationship. Reach out to a couples therapist near you who can help you learn/establish healthy boundaries with your partner. It might take you leaving the toxic relationship or bringing your partner in to a couples therapy treatment with you. Either way, it will help you create healthier and happier relationship with yourself everyone around you.
Liz Wee, LMFT, ATR
Do you want to learn more about how you can improve your relationship with your partner? Or are you an individual, who's working on self right now to have better relationships in the future? I would love to assist you!
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