Few things in the world are more frustrating than gaslighting in a relationship. It’s when you start doubting your memory, sanity, your own perception, and perception of reality. It’s when you keep repeating in your head: “I don’t know who I am anymore.”
If you’re a victim of gaslighting, you probably aren’t even aware of it because you subconsciously think that you’re the one to blame for every problem in your relationship.
Well, that’s how gaslighting works. It’s when one partner does everything in their power to maintain control over another person and make her question EVERYTHING.
To help you learn more about gaslighting and how to protect yourself from it, you’ll find all you need to know about gaslighting, warning signs, examples, types of gaslighters and their tactics, and, of course, how to stop gaslighting in a relationship below.
The Origin Of The Term ‘Gaslighting’
The origin of the term gaslighting can be linked to a British play in which an abusive husband manipulates the surroundings and events only to make his wife question her reality.
This play was made into a popular film Gaslight in 1944, starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. The film was really popular, so the term was accepted by the clinical psychiatry community shortly after.
What Is Gaslighting In A Relationship?
Gaslighting in a relationship is a form of manipulation in which the gaslighter makes their victim begin to doubt their memory, mental health, observations, and perception of reality. It is a form of psychological abuse.
This form of manipulation can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. During the long-term gaslighting, the victim’s self-confidence is destroyed. After that, the victim becomes addicted to the gaslighter.
Narcissism is self-love. It is almost synonymous with self-centeredness or self-preoccupation, where the gaslighter prioritizes their needs over their partner’s and uses various narcissistic abuse tactics to control their victims.
Gaslighting is a psychological war. If there is gaslighting in a relationship, it will lead to a dependent and unhealthy relationship. This type of relationship is toxic because the victim begins to believe that there’s something wrong with her.
Is Gaslighting Abusive?
Gaslighting is a type of abusive relationship, and the consequences it leaves on the victim are severe. At the beginning of such a relationship, the victim is not aware of what is happening.
Everything happens slowly, and the victim cannot notice the changes in her life. After a while, the victim begins to reconsider her decisions, feelings, and perception.
When gaslighting happens, we’re talking about an unequal power dynamic. The bait used by many manipulators is love and intimacy.
The victim fears losing her abusive partner in such situations, so she becomes accustomed to doing whatever her abuser wants. She agrees to things she would not otherwise agree to.
Gaslighting in a relationship can damage our faith in ourselves and the world, self-esteem, self-confidence, but also the future. Yes, the future, because the past with the manipulator will not allow us to easily forget what happened.
Manipulators intimidate their victims into staying with them by creating fear and the need for dependency. Victims think that they are not good enough and that they cannot live without their manipulators.
Victims do not know what to do next when they get out of an unhealthy relationship, and because of that, they often indulge in vices.
When a person discovers that they are a victim of psychological manipulation, they are not able to see their abusive partner only as a gaslighter. The victim needs some time to get rid of the gaslighter’s toxic influence.
10 Warning Signs Of Gaslighting In A Relationship
According to the book The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life by Robin Stern, Ph.D., the signs that you are a victim of gaslighting are the following:
You are constantly reviewing your actions
“Did I insult them? Was I too needy or ungrateful? Why did I do that?” Do you often ask yourself the above and similar questions?
If you are in a relationship with a partner who constantly leads you to believe that you and all your actions are wrong, it’s time to re-examine the whole situation.
It’s normal for both partners to make mistakes from time to time, but constantly feeling like you’re doing everything wrong is a red flag that screams gaslighting.
You constantly apologize
Who would enjoy a relationship where they have to apologize after every sentence? Is such a relationship even considered normal?
When gaslighting is present in a relationship, the victim, after a while, begins to apologize for everything in an attempt to calm their partner down. We’re talking about an abusive pattern that can seriously damage the victim’s self-esteem.
You keep repeating to yourself, “They will change” or “I’ll give them another chance”
How many times have you said that to yourself? Five times, ten times, multiple times?
If you keep repeating to yourself that your partner will change, then you know something’s off with them and your relationship in general.
Convincing yourself that things will get better (when you know they won’t) results in being trapped in ‘gaslighting limbo.’
You are often confused
You have no idea how exactly you are feeling, and you don’t understand what changed in your relationship, but you know for sure that something.
You are often confused about your own actions and how your partner treats you, but they keep convincing you that the problem is only you.
They make you feel like everything you do is WRONG
You seldom receive praise from your partner even when you go out of your way to do things for them. They constantly diminish your actions and make you feel like everything you do is simply wrong.
Because of that, you keep trying hard to meet their unrealistic expectations only to feel like you’re worthy of being with them.
You feel like you are not good enough
Feelings of guilt are constantly present. To be more exact, your partner makes you feel like you’re not good enough no matter what you do.
You can’t help but contemplate what you’re doing wrong and how to improve your behavior. You’re only focused on your actions, and you never think of questioning your partner’s actions.
Your partner constantly makes excuses
Your partner has an excuse for everything, right? They had a bad day, they’re tired, and so on, indefinitely.
You can’t remember the last time they did something nice for you. When you need help with something, they just ignore you. They never run out of excuses to justify their selfish behavior.
You don’t understand why you are unhappy
You definitely notice that you’re no longer happy, but you don’t see the real reason behind it. You feel like you’re missing something in a relationship, but you can’t figure out what exactly.
It’s because the victims don’t see the gaslighter as their enemy and the source of their unhappiness.
Your partner silences you
When you want to say something to your partner, they will interrupt you because they think what they have to say is much more important.
This is their manipulation tactic to maintain control in a relationship. The less confidence the victim has, the more dependent she is on her abuser.
You have difficulties making decisions, even simple ones
Losing self-confidence means losing yourself. When you’re not in touch with yourself, you have difficulties making decisions, both simple and big ones.
You solely rely on your gaslighter to decide for you, and that’s why you’re no longer capable of making decisions for yourself.
Examples Of Gaslighting In A Relationship
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse because it damages the victim’s mental health and wellness in various ways. Here are some examples of gaslighting and emotional abuse:
• “I never said that.”
This sentence is often used in gaslighting to bring the victim into a state of questioning their memory. The gaslighter will do or say something offensive and then deny that it ever happened.
• “You’re exaggerating!”
If the victim tries to express hurt or disappointment, the gaslighter will tell her not to overthink it and that it isn’t a big deal.
• “That never happened.”
After telling lies for a long time, the manipulator begins to believe in them himself and wants his victim to believe in them as well.
• “You’re imagining things.”
The victim begins to question her instincts and increasingly relies on the “reality” created and manipulated by the gaslighter. This reinforces the feeling of dependence on the gaslighter.
• “Are you sure you’re alright?”
Gaslighter tries to drive the victim crazy by asking her such a question. This lets her know that the abuser thinks something is wrong with her. Because the victim listens and respects the words of the gaslighter, she begins to doubt herself.
• “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
The gaslighter pretends not to know what the victim is talking about. He knows very well what she is saying, but he wants to avoid facing the facts. At no point does he want to give the victim hope that she is right.
• “I don’t want to hear it again.”
A gaslighter intends to make you feel subordinate even if you try to stand up for yourself. Once the abusive partner collapses the victim’s ability to trust their perception, the victim is more likely to endure the abusive behavior and stay in the relationship.
• “No one will love you like me.”
A typical gaslighter sentence that convinces the victim to be grateful that he “loves” her too. By manipulating the victim, he turns her into a person who blindly listens to his statements and believes in them.
• “No one but me would tolerate you.”
A gaslighter wants to convince the victim that no one would love her or suffer for her except him. Since the gaslighter has restricted the victim’s movement (like seeing other people), he knows she will trust him because she has no other option.
• “I’m the best thing that ever happened to you.”
A gaslighter wants the victim to be happy that he is a part of her life. He represents himself as the best thing that can happen to someone. The victim is blinded by the perpetrator, and she does not see a red flag.
3 Main Types Of Gaslighters
There are different types of gaslighters, and each one of them uses “a special set of skills” to control their victims. To help you target them and understand their personality, below, you’ll find the three main types of gaslighters:
This type of abuser is a bully. He controls, wants to dominate, and is aggressive in every aspect of the victim’s life.
He is even capable of using his own children as a threat to the victim. Intimidators use all kinds of gaslighting tactics to maintain control in a relationship.
Although the name itself seems good, the reality is different. It is a form of gaslighter that is a good, smiling, and cheerful person towards everyone.
Well, he/she is like that for everyone except their partner. The victim’s friends and family don’t even suspect that he/she is a legit abuser.
This kind of gaslighter adores his partner, spoils them, and is very generous towards them. Suddenly, the gaslighter is furious, bitter, angry, and upset. The victim does not know what she did wrong.
11 Gaslighting Tactics
Gaslighters use different manipulation tactics to make their victims doubt their own sanity, confuse them, and put them in a subordinate position. Below you’ll find all you need to know about gaslighting tactics:
Distortion of reality
This is the most common tactic used by gaslighters. This tactic makes you doubt your own sanity.
For example, when the gaslighter and the victim are in a relationship, the gaslighter may try to convince the victim that they have agreed to go to dinner on Friday, not Saturday. When such tactics are frequently applied, the victim starts to re-examine her memory.
Projection is the transfer of unwanted or unacceptable thoughts to another person. For example, a gaslighter accuses his victim of psychological harassment.
In this way, he projects onto his victim everything HE does. With this tactic, the gaslighter is placed in the position of the victim and the victim in the role of the gaslighter.
The Gaslighter convinces you that you’re overreacting to everything and decreases the importance of your emotions.
If you’re upset about something, some of the first things the gaslighter will tell you are the following: “You’re exaggerating things.” or “I never said that.”
The inability of the victim to oppose
Once the victim’s self-esteem is destroyed, the gaslighter easily declares her a liar or an unstable person.
The victim does not want to oppose because she knows that the more she defends herself, the more the gaslighter convinces her that she exaggerates.
When a gaslighter uses this manipulative tactic, he will treat his victim in confusing ways. He will occasionally treat her with superficial kindness, gentleness, and fake appreciation.
This tactic makes the victim think, “Maybe they’re not bad” or “Let’s give them a chance.”
When you confront a gaslighter with his lies, he will react violently. The gaslighter will keep trying to confuse the victim so that the victim begins to create self-doubt.
Although he is guilty and cornered, he continues to fight, convincing the victim that she is crazy and wrong. These are people who want you to believe them, not your eyes.
Domination and control
The goal of the gaslighter is to dominate, control, and abuse their victim. Your partner’s behavior keeps you in a constant state of insecurity, doubt, and fear. By maintaining the uncomfortable feelings in the victim, the gaslighter increases its power.
Gaslighter targets weak spots
The gaslighter will use the victim’s weak spots for his benefit and power. For example, they will use children, parents, and other things/people to blackmail the victim.
He doesn’t care about a fair fight. The gaslighter’s main concern is his ego. He will do anything to fulfill his ambitions.
Words and deeds do not match
The first red flag of a gaslighter is the gap between what they say and what they do. What they do is what is on their mind. What they say is usually what the other party wants to hear.
As gaslighters have learned to lie to the victim continually, after a while, they begin to lose track of their lies. They realize that even if they think one thing and do another, the victim does not protest.
They keep you in constant confusion
Manipulators are very inconsistent because at one point, they will shout, and the next moment, they will apologize.
They will especially confuse you when they approach you first after an argument or show you their positive side. Such tactics make the victim think, “Well, maybe they’re not so bad after all.”
They say everyone around you is lying
Using this tactic, they try to convince you that everyone is lying to you except them. Everyone is lying, even your family, friends, and they alone are always telling the truth, which is certainly NOT true.
“Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others.” – Paramahansa Yogananda
How To Stop Gaslighting In A Relationship
Learning how to stop gaslighting in a relationship is a prerequisite for protecting yourself from abuse. If you’re the victim of gaslighting at the moment, consider doing the following:
Trust your intuition
If you feel something is wrong, do yourself a favor and trust your intuition.
If you can’t find the reason why you feel off, confused, and unhappy, maybe the problem isn’t you but your partner who is a potential gaslighter in disguise. Once you target the real problem, you’ll be able to protect yourself.
Resist the need to get approval from a gaslighter. Instead, seek support from your friends, family, or a therapist.
Tell them how you’re feeling and what exactly is happening in your relationship, and they’ll be able to notice any red flags related to toxic relationships.
Be aware of your values
Protect yourself by making a list of your values. Remind yourself how much you are worth. Don’t let the gaslighter treat you with less than you deserve.
By re-establishing your worth, you’ll be able to differentiate between toxic patterns and healthy ones.
If the other person exceeds your limit, tell them right away. If a person abuses you, let them know that you will not tolerate it.
Confrontation is not always the best tool, but you need to let the abuser know that they no longer have power over. That will confuse them for sure.
Consider leaving the relationship
If nothing bears fruit, and they continue abusing you, consider leaving the relationship. After all, is it really worth being with someone who makes you utterly unhappy?
Know your worth. Fight for your beliefs. If the only way to protect yourself is by leaving the relationship, then do it.
Remember that gaslighting is never your fault
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t blame yourself for what happened to you. You didn’t deserve to be manipulated in the first place, and you haven’t done anything wrong.
If you leave the relationship, resist the temptation to think about too many What ifs and similar. Your health and happiness should always be your number one priority.
To whom and how does gaslighting happen?
Gaslighting, like any form of violence, can happen to anyone. Gaslighting can occur both at the beginning of your relationship and in the middle of a romantic relationship. If you continue the relationship with an abusive partner, it turns into a serious problem.
There are plenty of gaslighting manipulation tactics, and the most popular ones are a distortion of reality, projection, domination, and control.
For example, a woman attacks her husband’s masculinity and downplays him by calling him incompetent. Also, the husband can aggressively criticize the wife for her appearance, ability, and the like.
What should I do if I suspect I am a gaslighter?
The first step, which is actually self-recognition, is very important. This is not easy to do. Gaslighters have often been victims of gaslighting themselves.
Another thing you should consider as well is going to a therapist. Accept responsibility for your actions. Understand that abuse is a choice. Also, remember that change starts within yourself.
Develop respect and kindness. Change the way you react to anger and your partner’s complaints. Accept the consequences of your actions. Stay persistent in treatment.
What if I am a victim of gaslighting?
If you or someone you know is a victim of gaslighting, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself. The first thing you need to do is recognize the gaslighting behavior.
Another important step is to seek help. People you trust and who trust you can help you.
The third step is to detach from the gaslighter both physically and emotionally. After leaving such a relationship, the victim often becomes self-critical.
Her thoughts were overwhelmed by the search for an answer as to why this happened to her. The best treatment is to believe in yourself and your abilities.
Spend time with your loved ones, go for a walk, do things you enjoy, eat tons of ice cream (if you have to), and take care of your well-being. Promise yourself that you’ll never lose your sense of self-worth.
How can you help a gaslighting victim?
Actively listen and support the victim. Knowing that they have someone they can turn to at any time is very important to them and can help them make the final decision to detach from the gaslighter.
Help them and their loved ones recognize and understand that abuse is not normal and that no one deserves it.
If the person is willing to leave the relationship and the abusive person, devise a plan together and prepare for the consequences and ways to protect the person against further toxic attacks. Be prepared and open to ask for help from experts in this field.
When your relationship is toxic, we can closely connect it with domestic violence because you are a victim of an unhealthy gaslighting relationship, and you transmit your bad mood to other family members.
Although you may not have recognized how bad you feel in this relationship and that you’ve been gaslighted this whole time, you need to consult a professional such as a psychotherapist to help you get through this difficult period.
Did your partner, in fact, the abuser, ever hurt you physically or threatened you or your family members? Have the threats worsened in the last year?
If the answer is yes, you are unfortunately a victim of domestic violence, which is also related to gaslighting. In those very difficult, stressful, and painful moments, you feel like you have no one and that you are helpless and lonely.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone, and don’t blame yourself for the abuse. There is no justification for such violent behavior, and leaving such a relationship is the only reasonable thing to do. Choosing to be in a healthy relationship is not something you should think twice about.
Gaslighting in a relationship is a type of emotional abuse in which the gaslighter manipulates the situation to get the victim to start questioning themselves, their own reality, and their memory.
Gaslighters use different manipulation tactics to establish control over their victims.
If you’re a victim of that vicious cycle, the best thing you can do for yourself is to detach from the abuser and seek help from your loved ones or professional help.
After that, prepare to go through the stages of healing: 8 Stages Of Healing After Escaping Gaslighting. And remember, you’re not alone.