I didn’t know what gaslighting in relationships meant until recently. Gaslighting is something that I’ve experienced many times in romantic relationships, friendships, familial relationships, and in business.
I’ve touched on aspects of gaslighting before but was unfamiliar with the terminology until a few weeks ago when I couldn’t sleep and starting watching the classic film, Gaslight on tv. The film is based on the play Gas Light, which centers around a husband who attempts to drive his wife crazy by dimming the lights (the lights were powered by gas at the time), in their home.
When the wife notices and points out the dimmed lights, her husband denies that the lights have changed. In the film adaption, Ingrid Bergman’s character, Paula, meets the charming and handsome Gregory (played by Charles Boyer), while in Italy. They fall in love and when they return to London, the same crazy-making ensues.
When it comes to defining what gaslighting in relationships is, gaslighting is something that is so much more subtle, effective and, ultimately destructive than you could ever imagine.
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting in relationships is all about gaining power. It’s a form of manipulation in which the perpetrator – very slowly, methodically, and passively – breaks down the victim to the point that the victim starts to question their reality and sanity.
Gaslighting can happen to ANYONE – It doesn’t discriminate against age, wisdom, orientation or gender. It is obviously, more prevalent and easier to detect in cults, some religions, and dictatorships, but it occurs in relationships every day… and is nearly undetectable.
Gaslighting in relationships is very gradual and s l o w.
It can’t survive in any environment other than slow, steady, and subtle.
And because it’s so gradual, the person being gaslight not only doesn’t realize what’s going on, but they also can’t fully detect the extent to which they’ve been brainwashed.
It’s the equivalent of finding yourself all alone in an empty room on top of the cold, hard marble floor. You’re so cold and uncomfortable, but no one ever notices. Then one day, someone comes along and seems to understand and empathize with your situation on a level that no one has ever before.
And, as if this person could sense with crystal-ball-ability, exactly what you needed at that exact moment… they place the most perfect warm and fluffy rug right underneath you.
You didn’t realize just how cold and uncomfortable you were until you had the warmth, comfort, and SECURITY that this rug provides.
You’re so grateful for the warmth, you don’t realize that every day, inch by inch, the rug is being pulled out from under you until one day…
You’re all alone. Shivering on the cold floor.
You ask your partner, “Where’s the rug that was here? I’m freezing!”
& you’re answered with…
“What rug? You’re crazy!… Are you sure?… You don’t have the best memory. There was never a rug! You’re sitting on MARBLE and marble is obviously COLD. You don’t know what you’re talking about. If you’re cold, you should go find a rug instead of being crazy and accusing ME of stealing one that was NEVER there! This is all in your head.”
You start to question whether there even was a rug (but you KNOW that there was; you’re sure of it) and you feel awful for upsetting your partner. So, you defeatedly return to apologize for something that your gut knows isn’t so.
Why do we do this?
We prefer the certainty of our self-imposed-prison misery to the uncertainty of happiness and unfiltered joy.
Every time we have believed in happiness, the other shoe always dropped. Our hearts just can’t handle the unpredictable humiliation anymore.
Here are the 7 signs of gaslighting in relationships and how to deal with gaslighting…
Before I go into the 7 signs of gaslighting in relationships, I want to first touch on how to know if you’re a victim of gaslighting abuse.
If you think you’re being gaslighted, here are some signs to look for:
- You’re always wondering if you’re “good enough” for your partner because you never know.
- You think (& are told) that you’re too sensitive.
- It’s hard to pinpoint why you’re so unhappy, but you are never happy like you used to be.
- You always feel like you or your relationship is “in trouble.”
- You have a codependent relationship with your fears and insecurities.
- You’ve lost the ability to trust yourself and need others to affirm what your gut already knows.
- You feel confused and crazy, which brings up a great deal of shame. The shame puts your in a state of fear-based, “must-apologize-for-having-a-human-reaction/observation,” PARALYSIS. Before you know it, you’re apologizing to your partner for identifying something that your eyes, ears, and gut have consistently seen, heard, and identified in REAL TIME.
- You’re always making excuses for your partner’s decisions, actions, inactions and words to your friends and family.
- You find yourself apologizing to your partner more than ever being heard and empathized with.
- Decision making becomes increasingly difficult for you.
- Avoidance has now become a way of life.
- You mourn the death of the person you used to be – the one who had a backbone. The person who was confident, resilient, strong, and able to speak up. You feel like a walking corpse; a shell of your former self.
- You have an inability to implement boundaries because your self-esteem is nonexistent.
- You feel hopeless.
- Emotional dependency is at an all-time high.
7 signs of gaslighting in relationships:
No matter what – even if you have proof (!) – your partner lies and denies.
When a gaslighter lies, the lies are obvious and blatant.
Your partner is bankrupt when it comes to character and integrity. They can’t match their words with their actions (and subsequent patterns). EVER.
Because of this, it’s imperative that you judge them solely on what they DO. Always listen to their actions. It’s their words that they rely so heavily on to manipulate and wear you down over time.
Gaslighters project everything onto you. Everything that they accuse you (and others) of, they embody. The level of hypocrisy and contradiction is through the roof.
They do this because they know that you will get so defensive and involved in “proving them wrong,” they will have a much easier time propelling their agenda. They want you to be distracted and preoccupied with “trying to be better.”
Gaslighters live for an “us against them” mentality. And that mentality is like candy to people with low self-esteem. They’ll convince you that they are all you need and that you don’t need your friends or loved ones. They’ll also align people against you that can come in at any time and act as “expert/key witnesses,” to your insanity/incorrectness if need be. They LOVE having credible yes people in their back pocket.
This is done to isolate you so that no one who is not emotionally bias can tell you what they’re seeing. And if for some reason they do, you’ll get defensive, recoil even more, and the shame will break you down every further.
The gaslighter tells you that you are crazy and a liar (and everyone else that you’re close with/agrees with you is a crazy liar as well).
Everyone else has to be crazy. The gaslighter is the ambassador of sanity along with anyone else he/she “appoints.” Gaslighters will study what and who matter most to you and then use the love that you have for these things/people to attack your integrity, sanity, and make you question your value in their environment/lives.
You are constantly accused of lying and “talking out of your ass.” You may have even been told to “go get checked,” or “get on pills.”
This is nothing more than projection. Replace “you” with “I” and you have the truth.
They’ll selectively connect, praise and “empathize,” just to f*ck with you.
One day out of the blue, they’ll start (pretend) to connect with you, praise you and empathize with you for the very things that they broke you down for and accused you of. This is done to give you just enough hope to remain invested.
Gaslighting is a dynamic that seems impossible to ever exit because you get to the point where you’re so unsure of everything, you can’t make a move.
How to Deal with Gaslighting in a Relationship for GOOD:
Narcissism and gaslighting in relationships go hand in hand.
Having the kind of relationship that YOU KNOW you deserve is impossible with a narcissist. Narcissists have an all-about-me agenda with the emotional span of Peter Pan. Gaslighters take the manipulation to a level that attacks the very foundation of your being.
Gaslighting in relationships can seem like an impossible flame to extinguish because as the manipulation deepens, the sole source of your happiness and identity becomes the connection that you have with them. There is no one left.
The key to putting an end to gaslighting abuse once and for all lies in the realization that at the root of your fleeting happiness and pseudo identity, lies abusive and painful MANIPULATION. This is manipulation that you will be saying goodbye to (not what you’ve convinced yourself is your happiness and identity).
How do you stop gaslighting and say goodbye?
By doing the ONE THING that a gaslighter will NEVER be able to do – speaking with your actions and riding off into the sunset on your own white horse.
You are so much more than a toxic person’s agenda.
If you’re experiencing gaslighting in a relationship and psychological abuse: Make the decision to get out NOW.
Take back the pen to write your OWN story before someone else wastes all of your emotional ink.
+ If you need further and more personalized help with your relationship, please look into working with me here.