Abuse comes in many forms and it doesn’t always leave marks and bruises.
Emotional abuse is not an overt form of abuse – you don’t have to be constantly insulted or belittled to suffer its effects. Emotional abusers and manipulators use subtle tactics to break down your psychological strength and gain power and control over you.
One such instance of emotional manipulation is known as “gaslighting” and is a term used to describe an abuse tactic in which one person makes the other person in the relationship doubt their own memory, perception of events and sense of reality.
What Gaslighting Looks Like
People who gaslight do whatever they can to avoid and deflect any sort of blame or responsibility for their actions and become the victim in the situation.
They do this is many ways, mostly by pushing blame back onto the other person in an effort to transfer culpability.
For example, my narcissistic ex didn’t work and would never do anything around the house. It came up in discussion one day and I expressed how I was never in the mood for intimacy because I was too tired from working all day and then cooking and cleaning when I got home.
Instead of accepting responsibility for not lifting a finger throughout the day, he told me that the reason he didn’t do any housework was because he wasn’t getting any sex – he needed regular intercourse to feel motivated enough to take care of our home.
It was like this during many arguments – every concern I had was turned around and blamed on me.
Signs of Gaslighting
None of us are innocent of deflecting blame to self-preserve and avoid guilt, but intentional gaslighting is a phenomenon that occurs on a regular basis.
If you notice your partner engaging in any of these behaviors consistently, you may be dealing with gaslighting in your relationship:
- Your partner denies things you have proof of.
- Your partner tells deliberate lies.
- Your partner projects their behavior onto you.
- Your partner’s actions do not match their words.
- Your partner manipulates your relationships with other people.
- Your partner makes you question your sanity.
- Your partner makes you believe only they can be trusted.
- Your partner displaces blame and makes things your fault.
These actions can have a negative impact your own mental health and can cause you to question who you are. You may find that you are blaming yourself for everything and over-apologizing even if it’s not your fault.
Eventually, you may feel isolated from your friends and family or constantly defending your partner to them.
How to Deal With Gaslighting
Remember that intentional gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse. The thing about abuse is that the person receiving it is NEVER deserving of it or responsible for it.
Don’t take responsibility for the way your partner treats you. You are not provoking this treatment in any way. This is a ploy by your partner to gain control over you – there is nothing you have done to create this need.
You don’t have to sacrifice yourself to spare your partner’s feelings. It may be tempting to simply give in and agree to their lies or manipulations to avoid a conflict, but in doing so you are weakening your own sense of truth.
Remember who you are. Write it down in a journal if you have to. Document incidents as they occur. Do what you can to maintain your own sense of reality.
Ultimately, trust your intuition. If you feel you are in danger, leave the relationship. Seek help from friends, family members or mental health professionals.
Have you ever experienced gaslighting in a relationship? How did you deal with it? Let us know in the comments below!