Adobe Stock Photo
A few years ago I was in a relationship that caused me to doubt my thoughts, feelings, and reality. It turned out that I was being manipulated by my partner who was using a psychological tactic as a means of control.
He was gaslighting me, slowly at first, but a few months later, it was full-swing and I was anxious, frustrated, and extremely confused. I began writing things down so that I had something to look back on when he told me I was wrong, imagining things, etc.
Once, he told me that he paid for everything and I began reading back all the times I had actually paid for everything. Even though I had my bank statement in front of me, he said I was exaggerating and twisting the charges.
No matter what I did, no matter what I said, and no matter how obvious the lie was, he would never admit to any fault.
Gaslighting is a term from a play in 1938 called “Gaslight” (the movie versions came after) which was about a man who psychologically tortures his wife and convinces her that she is going mad.
“On the surface it’s a Victorian melodrama, a real potboiler, but it is uncannily insightful and accurate in its depiction of an abusive relationship.” — The Guardian
In the past few years, the term has become somewhat embedded in our language.
Gaslighting appears to be the most present when someone is in a relationship with someone who has a narcissistic personality disorder or is a sociopath. However, it can happen with absolutely anyone that has a partner that continually invalidates and denies their feelings and perceptions.
Recently, I posted a video to my network about gaslighting and I asked everyone to write back with examples of how they had been gaslighted before in a relationship.
The following are just a few of the responses that I received and I believe that they depict what Gaslighting sounds like in a relationship.
“You’re remembering it wrong.”
“Why do you always scream when I’m just trying to have the talk you wanted?”
“I’m just trying to help you, I don’t remember saying/doing that.”
“It was just a joke.”
“You took it the wrong way.”
“It’s your own fault for looking.”
“I didn’t say I didn’t do it. I said I don’t remember doing it.”
“You always jump to ridiculous conclusions.”
“That didn’t happen.”
“I didn’t hit you.”
In my opinion, gaslighting is the most terrifying and most dangerous form of emotional abuse.
It starts out so subtle that it’s almost impossible to notice it. Perhaps you are telling a story about what happened and your partner changes a tiny detail. You agree with them that you must have remembered it wrong.
As time goes on, you begin to doubt your memories and thoughts because a normal healthy person would never lie to you about such trivial things. After all, you look to your partner as someone you trust to validate you and naturally don’t assume they are lying and manipulating you.
They use the love and trust you have in them as a means of power and a way to control you completely.
The effects of being gaslighted are not something to take lightly and the longer that it takes place in a relationship, the more likely that the victim will suffer long-term aftereffects.
“Gaslighting may lead a person to develop mental health concerns. The constant self-doubt and confusion can contribute to anxiety. A person’s hopelessness and low self-esteem may lead to depression. Posttraumatic stress and codependency are also common developments.” — GoodTherapy
Staying in a situation where gaslighting is taking place is going to take a tremendous toll on your emotions, health, well-being, and sense of self.
There is one question you can ask yourself that will really showcase if your partner is gaslighting you.
Are they invalidating and denying your experiences and feelings?
If the answer is yes, it’s time to reevaluate your relationship.
You have two options. You can either talk to your partner, explain that they are hurting you, and give them a chance to correct their behavior.
Or… you leave.
Remember, someone that truly loves you won’t invalidate your feelings, control you, manipulate you, or lie. Instead, they will listen to you, support you, tell you the truth, and most importantly, not try to gaslight you.