My husband gaslights me
What Is Gaslighting? 11 Signs, Examples & How To Stop It
Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that involves making someone question their own reality, feelings, and experiences of events, in order to maintain control over that person.
The origin of the term can be traced to a British play in which an abusive husband manipulates the surroundings and events with the goal of making his wife question her reality.
People use gaslighting to "gain an upper hand and avoid accountability," according to Andrea Papin, RTC, and Jess Jackson, LMT, therapists at Trauma Aware Care.
"Gaslighting at its core is always about self-preservation and the maintenance of power/control—namely, the power/control to construct a narrative that keeps the gaslighter in the 'right' and their partner in the 'wrong,'" therapist Aki Rosenberg, LMFT, tells mbg.
Gaslighting can happen in romantic relationships, families, friendships, and even in workplaces, and it's often a sign of an abusive relationship.
Definition of gaslighting
The term "gaslighting" is a form of psychological manipulation that involves making someone question their own reality, feelings, and experiences of events, in order to maintain control over that person.
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Gaslighting involves the covert use of mind games that make it difficult to know if you are even experiencing gaslighting, and that is the point.
According to licensed therapist Alyssa "Lia" Mancao, LCSW, common examples of gaslighting phrases include:
- "You're making things up."
- "That never happened."
- "You're being dramatic."
- "You're blowing things out of proportion."
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What you'll notice in every situation of gaslighting is the gaslighter avoiding taking responsibility for their own role in the relationship.
Here's a real-life gaslighting example: Lupe and Sam are a couple whose friendship blossomed into dating. Soon after they started their romantic relationship, Lupe noticed Sam wasn't actually spending a lot of time with her one-on-one.
When they were out together, Sam would also treat Lupe as if they were still platonic friends and flirt with other people. This made Lupe confused and prompted her to initiate a conversation about their developing relationship.
When Lupe brought up her concerns, Sam became upset. His reaction was, "You're acting like I don't care about you at all," and "Am I a bad person for trying to make new friends?" Sam deflected his behavior and spun their fight into a narrative that Lupe was in fact the one causing problems in the relationship by bringing any of this up in the first place.
Lupe left the conversation confused, wondering why she was so sensitive and if she really was just self-sabotaging her own relationship.
Examples of gaslighting are phrases like, “You’re making things up,” and “You’re being dramatic.” Gaslighters usually avoid taking responsibility for their own actions.
You find yourself doubting your reality
Every relationship has its challenges, and sometimes that means confronting your own behaviors. However, when you second-guess yourself to the point where you feel like you're "losing it," that's a major sign of gaslighting.
"The most destructive thing about gaslighting is that it makes it difficult to trust yourself," Rosenberg explains. This can happen over time, so it's not easy to detect immediately, but if you constantly find yourself asking "Am I losing it?" or saying "I'm not sure if what I'm feeling is valid," that's a big indicator of being gaslighted.
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Your partner is dismissive of your feelings
When you bring up a concern or share your feelings with your partner, they may convince you that you're the one mistaken or that you're overthinking. In the context of a healthy relationship, your partner will listen to your concerns and address them.
Clinical therapist Alexis Sutton tells mbg that partners who gaslight will sometimes say, "You're too sensitive" or "You don't have a right to feel that way." Some partners will even deny events that happened.
They never let you talk during a conflict
When you're in the middle of an argument with them, you might feel like they're constantly cutting you off and not letting you explain your point of view. "If you find yourself recording your conversations or writing long emails to get your point across because you can never get a word in when you speak to a person, you're probably experiencing gaslighting," Sutton adds.
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Your partner doesn't apologize when you express hurt
If you share with your partner that you are hurt and they lack empathy, that is a red flag. "If your partner doesn't apologize when you express hurt but convinces you that you shouldn't think what you are thinking or feel how you are feeling," that's a telltale sign of gaslighting, says Rosenberg.
She explains that if a partner is never willing to take accountability for their actions and "you exhaust yourself, trying to justify your feelings in order for your partner to determine whether or not they are valid," you are being gaslit by your partner.
Your partner blames you or outside circumstances
If you notice that your partner often blames you when conflict arises or blames their own actions on outside factors, that is a sign of gaslighting.
Sutton explains that people who gaslight might "change the topic to something you have done instead of addressing what they have done." Papin and Jackson add that some partners may take it as far as belittling you, calling you "too sensitive" as a way to avoid taking accountability for themselves.
You start believing that you're just not working hard enough in your relationship
At some point in your relationship, you may begin to believe that you are not doing enough. Your partner has denied, minimized, or placed the blame on you when you've tried to voice your concerns. Over time this can cause you to internalize those messages to the point where you believe that it is your fault.
"This is objectively impossible," Rosenberg reminds. "In a healthy relationship, both partners will make mistakes, and both partners will apologize when they are in the wrong. If it's one-sided all the time, it's an indication that the relationship dynamic is organized around themes of power and control."
Using your voice brings about feelings of guilt
Your relationship may get to the point where sharing any of your feelings becomes incredibly difficult to do. If the thought of bringing up a concern or sharing your true feelings starts making you feel guilty, therapist Mariel Buquè, Ph. D., says that's a sign that "there is control at the center of your relationship, which is a key marker of gaslighting." She recommends paying attention to if you are feeling suppressed or "if you are feeling voiceless in your relationship," as that is a sign of being gaslit.
Kristina Hallett, Ph.D., ABPP, is a board-certified clinical psychologist with a background in neuroscience. She is the Director of Clinical Training at Bay Path University, and an associate professor in graduate psychology. Hallett has a private practice in Suffield, Connecticut, and over 25 years of experience providing psychotherapy, consultation, and supervision to medical and mental health professionals in addressing relationship and major life issues with a specialty in complex trauma and dissociative disorders.
"Gaslighting can make the perpetrator feel more powerful and in control," Papin and Jackson explain.
A person who gaslights might not have the capacity to sit with their emotions or self-reflect and may even have feelings of low self-worth that they are uncomfortable dealing with.
In some cases, gaslighting is used by someone psychologists would identify as a narcissist, where the person has no sense of remorse for their actions or empathy for their partner.
Gaslighting can be done either consciously or unconsciously, they add. Although gaslighting is never justified, there are some people who may not realize they are even doing it.
Some people consistently rely on gaslighting as a tactic to maintain control in relationships, so they might not realize how harmful it is. "Some folks have been gaslighting those around them for so long that it's a second-nature survival strategy," Papin and Jackson explain.
Rosenberg also drew parallels between gaslighting in relationships and larger social issues. Papin and Jackson note that gaslighting "can often intersect with misogyny and white supremacy. These intersections have often excused and encouraged gaslighting behavior to maintain positions of power. Gaslighting is a common method to keep power structures in place and oppress folks who have less access to support and resources. "
These power dynamics can show up within intimate relationships as well. "The more privilege one has, the more their experience gets centralized as 'normal' or 'correct,'" Rosenberg explains. "Gaslighting can show up in relationships as the more privileged partner discounting the experiences of the less privileged partner."
A person who gaslights might not realize they're doing it and does not have the capacity to sit with their emotions or self-reflect and may even have feelings of low self-worth that they are uncomfortable dealing with. Someone who gaslights may do it as a way to maintain control in relationships.
Seek support to affirm your experience
The therapists agreed that seeking support from trusted people outside of your relationship is crucial to helping you feel validated and affirmed in your experience. "Because gaslighting is so invalidating and manipulative, reminders and empathy can feel deeply supportive," Papin and Jackson explain. "You might turn to a trusted friend, or a therapist, if you have access to one."
You can choose to confront your partner about their gaslighting
There is a chance that your partner does not realize they are gaslighting you. In this case, Buquè suggests it may be worthwhile to help them understand what gaslighting is, how they are enacting it, and how it makes you feel. "It, unfortunately, places the burden of proof and teaching on the person that's being hurt by gaslighting, but it can actually make a difference in them deciding to shift their ways in the service of removing toxic patterns from the relationship," she explains.
If you're dealing with a narcissist, confronting them is futile
It's unlikely that a toxic person will admit to manipulating the relationship in order to have a sense of control. If you are experiencing gaslighting in the moment, Sutton recommends removing yourself from the situation: "Don't engage. If possible, end the conversation. Gaslighters aren't interested in your perspective or feelings," and it would take you more energy and suffering to try to convince them otherwise.
Leave the relationship if gaslighting persists
If the gaslighting is pervasive and confronting your partner is not an option, do consider leaving the relationship. Sutton urges that if your partner becomes enraged while they are gaslighting you or puts you in danger, it is even more imperative that you consider ending the relationship altogether. This may not be easy, but it may be a necessary step toward feeling safe.
Notice the patterns
"Regardless of if you choose to stay or go, develop an understanding of your own attachment patterns," Rosenberg recommends. "Sometimes we legitimately can't see this behavior coming, but often, when we look back on a bad relationship, we recognize all the red flags and gut instincts we overrode in the hopes of receiving love and connection."
Recognize it is not up to you to stop the gaslighting
The experts all shared this sentiment: Gaslighting is never your fault. Even though your partner may have convinced you that the toxic pattern is because of you, it is never your responsibility to stop the gaslighting from happening. In a healthy relationship, both partners are accountable to their own behaviors, and when it comes to gaslighting, the person doing it must have a willingness to change.
Gaslighting is almost never your fault and is often the result of a toxic partner.
If you or someone you know may be experiencing gaslighting, talk with a therapist or other mental health professional to help cope with the situation and develop the best course of action.
RELATED: 28 Gaslighting Examples + Phrases To Look Out For
I Think My Spouse Is Gaslighting Me. What Do I Do?
Relationships can be tough at any stage. Sometimes you’re lucky and realize you’re in a fantastic relationship with a great person right off the bat. You go on to have years of enjoyment together. Then there are the times when you took the plunge, maybe with a little doubt you wrote off as the jitters, only to realize that little voice inside you was right. You married an individual who causes you nothing but emotional and psychological distress as a form of entertainment.
There are different forms of abuse that can invade a relationship and set the scene for a contested divorce. One of them is called gaslighting. Below we’ll explain what gaslighting is, what the tell-tale signs are, and what you might be able to do about it.
What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a classic form of manipulation and brainwashing. It doesn’t mean victims are weak. It means the abusive spouse is a master at the skill of making you doubt yourself and everything you know to be true. It causes you to lose your sense of perception, identity, and self-worth. The term was coined from a 1944 film called “Gaslight,” that depicted a husband working hard to make his wife believe that she was insane by making her constantly question herself.
In a marriage, this behavior can be more devastating because you have chosen to spend your lives together as equals but the effect of gaslighting creates a power imbalance in the relationship. The abusive spouse often winds up with complete control if the victim spouse doesn’t realize what’s happening early enough to put a stop to it.
What are the signs of gaslighting?
Recognizing the stages of gaslighting can help you to either avoid becoming the victim in your marriage, or to realize you may need to seek some assistance to combat the treatment you’re being subjected to. Understanding the stages will also give you the ammunition you need to prove your husband or wife has behaved improperly when it comes to showing fault in a divorce should you choose to end your marriage.
Stages of gaslighting include:
- Lying and exaggerating in a negative way about your capabilities or any other characteristic
- Repeating the same misinformation regularly to ingrain it into your psyche
- Escalating the behavior when you push back and try to correct the narrative
- Wearing you down until you cave in and begin to submit to your spouse’s psychological attacks
- Becoming co-dependent on your gaslighting spouse because you feel insecure and need acceptance
- Offering false hope that you are pleasing your spouse by letting up on the abuse and treating you with kindness
- Domination and control through repeated coercion and lying
There are also signs that you have become a victim of a spouse who has gaslighted you, such as you:
- Don’t feel like yourself anymore
- Are more anxious and lack the confidence you used to have
- Often wonder if you’re just being overly sensitive
- Feel like nothing you do is good enough
- Always accept fault for things that go wrong
- Frequently find yourself apologizing
- Sense that something is off but can’t put your finger on the problem
- Often feel like your reaction to your partner might not be appropriate
- Make excuses to minimize your partner’s behavior
- Avoid giving information to friends or family members to avoid confrontation about your partner
- Feel isolated from friends and family
- Have increasing difficulty making decisions
- Begin to feel hopeless or depressed
What can I do to stop my spouse’s gaslighting behavior?
The first thing you need to recognize when faced with gaslighting in your marriage is that you did nothing to cause it. Your husband or wife was wounded before you entered the picture and you simply became a means to them feeling better about themselves by emotionally beating up on you. It’s their way of trying to regain control from the person who actually hurt them in the past.
When you see the signs discussed above and realize you’re being gaslighted, you have a few options:
- Instantly react to the false statements your spouse makes by calmly explaining that you see the situation another way. Reacting in an argumentative manner will only cause your partner to escalate.
- Remain confident in what you know to be true and don’t allow your partner to wear you down and alter that belief. If you need a second opinion to confirm your thoughts, ask a trusted friend to weigh in on the issue.
- Look for solutions by way of individual or couples counseling to see if there is a way to resolve the behavior you’re being subjected to. You can learn tools to handle these attacks, your partner may be able to overcome it and your marriage may be able to be salvaged if you’re both willing to put in the effort.
- If all else fails, leave. Your sanity is not worth saving a marriage that can’t be saved if your spouse has no interest in changing. You deserve someone supportive who doesn’t take you for granted as an outlet for his or her abusive tendencies.
If you or a loved one is married to an individual who engages in gaslighting, it may be time to seek the advice the dedicated Maryville divorce attorneys at Shepherd & Long, P.C. We help abused clients across East Tennessee who need a smooth and expedient end to their marriages. To schedule your free consultation, we invite you to call a member of our legal team at 865-982-8060, or feel free to complete our contact form and someone will reach out to you shortly.
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Psychologist's blog: what is gaslighting and how to resist it?
- Elena Savinova
Author photo, Ayo Ogunseinde/UNSPLASH
Despite the romantic film "Gas Light" - Gazlawing's phenomenon is not connected with the pester sympathy or love.
Light, which does not heat
This is a kind of subtle psychological violence used intentionally for a long time.
Its purpose is to make a person doubt either the adequacy of his own perception of reality, or the objectivity of the surrounding world in general.
As a result - lose touch with reality, lose confidence in yourself, suspect insanity, fall into despair.
Thus, the hero of George Cukor's film steals jewelry from his wife. But to reassure her that it is only her imagination, she simultaneously makes various manipulations with home lighting.
- Psychologist's blog: is it necessary to get into the soul and phone of a loved one?
The wife, of course, notices that something is wrong, but he claims that it seems the same to her. A puzzled woman who sincerely trusts her husband begins to believe that she is hallucinating.
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GOLD ISTORIA TIZHNYA, Yaku explain our journalism
is possible to do it that it is anxious, with such anxious man. - also make excuses that everything is done for his own good.
Manipulative denial of reality can be related to facts: I have never done such a thing, I never said it, again you are making everything up. So are emotions.
For example, parents who are prone to excessive control, trying to accustom a child to the "right" emotions and feelings, often tell him: in fact, you don't think so. You only think that you want it, but you want something completely different.
A gres s ora also cry
Also often parents deny physical abuse of children.
A man considers his wife's tears, which are a normal reaction to his insulting words or actions, to be a manifestation of her depression and advises her to go for treatment.
A girl who claims to be harassed is accused of provoking them or even declared crazy.
Nonconfirmation is another name for this manipulative behavior.
- Psychologist's blog: how to get rid of "fake" emotions?
It belongs to the Scottish psychiatrist Ronald Laing. Given that a person is a social being, he needs others to "confirm" the adequacy of his own actions and views.
The essence of gaslighting is the deliberate refusal to provide such confirmation, the false denial of someone's actions and thoughts.
This phenomenon is often observed where people stay together for a long time - at work, in the family, in groups of children or teenagers.
It is based on the victim-aggressor behavior model. That is, someone alone has predominantly unconscious sadistic inclinations. At the other end of the rope is a partner with a victim complex.
"Nedoprintz" and "T s -Z E E
Author, Freestocks.org/unsplahh - consent to participate in this "game" of another, submission to the manipulator.
For example, a wife prefers to silently endure yet another attack of her husband's moral bullying - because she depends on him financially, for the sake of her children, because of the fear of being abandoned.
But that only cheers up the gaslighter. He seeks to unbalance his partner at any cost, and then shift the blame to him for throwing a tantrum again. And thus once again prove their supposedly right - that a woman has mental problems.
- Psychologist's blog: when should you get a divorce?
The need to manipulate, to humiliate arises from the unwillingness to admit oneself guilty of worsening relations. Because of low self-esteem, fear of losing a beautiful and smart wife, envy of her success. The cause is often childhood trauma, emotional unavailability of parents.
In their reproaches, in order to annoy more painfully, the aggressors, as a rule, appeal to what a person is not able to change - to age, gender, origin, physiological characteristics.
"How can you behave like that, you're a woman!", "Don't swear in front of children, you're a mother!", "Look at yourself - I'm a prince too!", "With your complexion, you can go without eating for three days" . Familiar after all arguments?
But gaslighting is not even loud quarrels or streetcar abuse.
It is said that people who are not indifferent to each other quarrel because of the lack of sharp emotions. But owing to their low culture, they do not know how to experience them in any other way.
Yes, and reconciliation after a storm can be sweet. A healthy "showdown" is when a husband and wife on an equal footing can express to each other everything that has boiled over.
In our case, we are dealing with oppression, an attempt by the psychologically stronger to subdue the weaker. Also pass him off as a fool.
This ability to say something disgusting with a smile, an open mockery to pass off as caring. Here, insults are not used, but, for example, eloquent silence when the victim enters the classroom or office.
This may be laughter behind one's back and assurances that everything was just heard. Or a fake sympathetic question, why does he or she look so bad, maybe something happened.
Gaslighters are not only spouses or colleagues in relation to each other.
This is how adult children sometimes behave with elderly parents. For example, a daughter says to an old father who wants to help: now our dad will break or burn something again. Or he throws it ironically and condescendingly at his mother: "Mom, have you forgotten how old you are that you put on this dress? The main thing is not to forget now where you are going."
Darkness at the end of the tunnel
Image copyright Cassidy Kelley/Unsplash
Stopping the tug of war is enough to counter gaslighting.
It is not necessary to check whether you or your partner did not really say or do what they are trying to convince you. It will only sow unnecessary doubts in the mind.
You need to trust yourself more, develop confidence in your own convictions, the correctness of your actions.
If such unhealthy relationships have developed at work, it is better to change the team. The same applies to children. If a child is bullied at school, it is better to transfer him to another educational institution.
If the gaslighter is your husband, don't make excuses or prove that you're not crazy. Calmly but firmly tell him that his attitude offends you and in the future you will not put up with him. If nothing changes - pack your things and leave without hesitation.
After all, manipulation cannot be the basis of a healthy relationship. And the longer you live under the same roof with a gaslighter, the longer you will have to "reassemble" your personality piece by piece.
How to Protect Yourself from Relationship Gaslighting: 7 Proven Ways
Man and Woman Practices how to
Psychologists define gaslighting as a form of manipulation used by a person to influence, deceive, and control another . The main task is to confuse the victim, to make him doubt himself. In other words, it is deliberate deception in order to gain superiority.
When this tactic is used in close relationships, without witnesses, and therefore without evidence, gaslighting becomes an extremely powerful weapon that allows the abuser to subjugate a partner and sooner or later question the reality in which he lives. But it can be prevented if you know what to look out for.
“I was a successful entrepreneur, wife, mother of two wonderful children, and we had a wonderful suburban home,” recalls Carol A. Lambert, a psychotherapist patient. “Slowly, however, I was seized with uncertainty. I began to doubt my own competence. When I was completely mired in doubt, I had no choice but to quit my thriving business. I no longer had the strength to lead him. Even now I can't explain what happened to me. I just know I'm not who I used to be anymore."
Since 1993, she has been leading psychological groups for women who have been in destructive relationships, according to a psychotherapist. After analyzing hundreds of stories and profiles of clients, Lambert came to the conclusion that gaslighting is perhaps the most common tactic used by abusers. The consequences of a traumatic experience - embarrassment, self-doubt, anxiety - prevent women from trusting their thoughts, judgments and perceptions, and therefore do not allow them to defend themselves.
How to spot a gaslighter
The partner who uses this method to gain control over you constantly shifts the focus to their needs, doubts and feelings. Everything else he avoids, discounts your feelings, ignores your words, or simply changes the subject. Gaslighting is a set of tactics that can seriously affect the victim's perception of reality. Gaslighter usually:
- Humiliates. When a conflict or disagreement begins, he categorically declares: "You are wrong." Or: "You're stupid, you don't understand."
- Hides information, withholds facts that do not suit him.
- Blames. Everything that went wrong is always your fault - it is important for him to remain impeccable.
- Rewrites history, denies, lies, distorts facts and manipulates you. For example, it can remind you of an event from the past, changing the details, and claim that everything was exactly the way it was.
- Denies partner's feelings and doubts. If you say that you feel bad in a relationship, he will answer that you are too sensitive and take everything to heart. No matter what is discussed, the gaslighter will not listen, much less admit that you are right.
- Accuses unfairly. Quite often he says: “you never listen to me”, “you always think that you are right”, “everything should always be your way”. Convincing a gaslighter that these allegations are unfair is unrealistic. These attacks capture the essence of what the gaslighter himself does.
- Isolates the partner. This way, the gaslighter does not have to worry that someone from the environment will undermine his authority by supporting his partner.
- Claims that the partner has gone crazy. He repeats those words again.
He distorts events and denies the real course of things so that his point of view remains the only true one.
7 Ways to Protect Yourself
The main goal of a partner who resorts to any kind of violence is to make you doubt your own perception of the world, which, in turn, will allow you to control. The following techniques can help when interacting with a gaslighter:
- Stick to the facts. When you are being lied to and the meaning of your words is distorted in order to accuse you, determine what you think is the truth and stick to it. This will help you overcome your doubts and keep your feet on the ground, even when the gaslighter attacks.
- Pause and think. This will help you resist attempts to influence you. When you live with someone who constantly tries to subdue you, before answering him, say: "I'll think about it." This way you can regain self-control.
- Don't say he's lying. If you really want to speak out, just explain that you have a different point of view and you do not agree with it. Or emphasize that you remember what happened a little differently and trust your memory.
- Don't let yourself be blamed. When faced with twisting the truth to make you feel guilty, declare that you will not allow yourself to be blamed. Once you say it out loud, it will become easier for you to stick to your own point of view.
- State your doubts directly. If he responds defensively, talking about you, or diverting the subject, say that you can discuss it later, but now it's time to talk about what's bothering you. Remind yourself again what interests you. If more attacks follow or the gaslighter tries to evade, say that in this case the conversation is over.
- Let the gaslighter know you recognize his tactics. Please indicate what makes communication difficult. You can also say that you have decided not to engage in such dialogues anymore.
- Surrender to avoid attacks. It's okay to choose this path, the main thing is to remain your own opinion and be clear that you do not agree with the abuser and just want to avoid confrontations.
Carol A. Lambert believes that the more you respond to a gaslighter in this way, the sooner you'll be able to signal that you can't be influenced. This will give you strength. If you stick to your own point of view and trust your perception of reality, you will be in a strong position from which you can observe how your partner behaves.
Some eventually stop defending and attacking and start listening to you. When you are confident in yourself, you can not only stand up for yourself, but also allow your partner to develop, of course, only if he is really capable of it.
About the Author
Carol A. Lambert is a psychotherapist and social worker, author of Women and Their Controlling Partners and Abusive Relationships.