Gaslighting in a relationship is no easy feat. Imagine questioning your every move because your partner might dismiss a situation, label you ‘petty,’ or question your sanity. Inarguably, being gaslighted over and over again may damage your emotional welfare.
You’re probably familiar with the term ‘gaslighting,’ but what does it mean exactly?
What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting—a hot topic in modern dating—is a malicious form of emotional abuse. Gaslighting in a relationship occurs when a partner bullies or deludes the other by creating false narratives and making them question their own reality.
This type of manipulation can wear down someone’s self-esteem and self-confidence. Eventually, a victim becomes dependent on the abuser, which in reality, would feel like living with a gaslighter is like being in a mental hell.
Where ‘gaslighting’ got its name
The term ‘gaslighting’ stems from the 1938 British psychological thriller play Gas Light—which became a more widely known movie in 1940 and 1944.
The story follows a husband who alienates and exploits his wife with the end goal of stealing her inheritance. He made her lose her sense of reality so he could commit her to a mental institution and thereafter steal her money.
He accuses his wife of hiding missing pictures. He also scares her by making strange footsteps at night and questions her reality by insisting that the gas light flickers just fine—even when it’s not.
In 2007, Dr. Robin Stern, co-founder and associate director for the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, aided in carrying the term ‘gaslighting’ into public consciousness with her book “The Gaslight Effect.”
Seven Red Flags of Gaslighting in a Relationship
No one deserves to experience gaslighting in a relationship. While these abuses appear subtly and gradually, they substantially damage you, affecting your mental and emotional health.
Whether you’re here to spot early signs of gaslighting in your relationship or just want to be proactive, we’re here to help. Below are the seven warning cues of gaslighting in a relationship you should know. We also added some things to do to keep your sanity intact:
1. Second guess your reality
The primary indication of gaslighting in a relationship is that your partner challenges your sense of reality or behavior. They might revert your question whenever you inquire about what they said or did or change the subject altogether. As such, when you realize they don’t feel the need to respond, you somehow question the necessity of this inquisition.
Most often than not, this leads to you thinking about whether or not you’re hallucinating. When it comes to this, acknowledge your intuitions. Bank on your thoughts and feelings and take whatever you need to feel better.
2. Consistent and blatant lying
Gaslighting in a relationship also comes in the form of lying. A gaslighter of a partner will deny anything you say against them and paints you crazy instead.
They might say things like, “Perhaps that’s your understanding of what happened, but it’s not what I said.” This lie denies your truth and becomes a potent weapon to hold control over you. By saying this, they distort your reality and make you believe you’re just making things up.
If your partner discounts you or twists the truth, evaluate the scenario and hold on to you the facts no matter what.
3. Uses loving words as weapons
Sometimes, when called out or questioned, a gaslighter uses kind words to fool you yet again. They might say, “I would never hurt you on purpose,” or “I’m only doing it for your sake.”
Heart-felt, compassionate words are meant to make us feel good about each other. It’s supposed to be warm and reassuring. But, when your gut lurches each time your partner attempts to appease you, listen to it—it almost always tells the truth.
4. Trivializes your thoughts and emotions
If your partner keeps telling you to calm down or stop overreacting, they’re gaslighting you. They might say things like, “It’s only a joke,” or “You are just jealous.” When they successfully make you believe your thoughts and feelings are unimportant, they gain control over you.
Like anything, trivializing your emotions allows your partner to gain total power over you. When you get to this point, remind yourself that your feelings are valid.
Remember that it’s not up to anyone to label the degree of your sentiments or minimize them when they find it too extreme. Only you can hold power over what you feel, so be careful who you invite into your life.
5. Guilt trips you for expressing your thoughts and feelings
When you’re faced with consistent lying and trivializing of emotions, you get to a point where you find it difficult to share any of your feelings. Undoubtedly, your gaslighter partner holds more control in your relationship.
When you feel guilty just by bringing up a concern or voiceless overall, learn to hear yourself once more. Assess what feels right, find clarity, and remove the noise around you.
6. Shifts the blame to your direction
Blame-shifting is another setup of gaslighting in a relationship. In this case, even when they clearly did something wrong, they somehow manage to point all the blame at you. They’re able to twist the scenario in that you’re to blame for their bad behavior.
They’ll tell you, “You’re the problem here, not me,” or “If you didn’t make me angry, I would’ve not done that to you.” If they’re successful, you’ll blame yourself for messing things up for the both of you.
Abusive partners call their victims narcissists and toss their behaviors onto the other party. You know what you did, so don’t allow your mean partner to brainwash you and paint you wrong.
7. Crushes your energy and self-esteem
Another sign of being gaslighted on is when your energy and self-esteem drop by your partner’s relentless criticism. While it shows in many forms, a partner’s gaslighting you when they incessantly put you down by pointing out your insecurities. Or, by harping you on your ‘improper’ behavior and pressing you to change.
Over time, you begin to believe that you are not doing enough for yourself or the relationship.
Love shouldn’t make you feel bad about yourself. In a healthy and loving relationship, both partners apologize and compromise to appease each other.
If you’re making all the effort while your partner always gets the reign, it’s an indication that your relationship circles around power and control. You can still get out of this toxic scene and find someone who can genuinely make you happy.
Take care of your mind and heart
Abusive partners can only hold so much against you if you let them. Remember that you’re not accountable for their mistakes. Everyone is responsible for their actions, and they behave that way because they chose to do so.
When you find your partner turning things and people against you, reclaim your truth and rewrite the narrative. Don’t let anyone gain so much power over you that they think they can destroy you however they like. Finally, learn to set healthy choices and boundaries to protect your mind and heart.