How to Deal With (And Stop) Gaslighting In A Relationship

Gaslighting is a form
of emotional abuse, where someone makes their partner question their own mind.
They make other people feel like they are going crazy or losing their memory.
It’s a really destructive type of abuse that can make someone question their
own sanity and self-worth.

It might be really
hard to figure out if gaslighting is your relationship because if it is
happening to you, you might genuinely think you are the problem. Even if you
have worked out that gaslighting exists in your relationship, it can be
difficult to deal with and to stop.

Therefore, I have
decided to put this article together to not only explain what gaslighting is
and how you can spot it, but also how you can deal with it and stop it.

What is
gaslighting? 

The National Domestic
Violence Hotline organization define gaslighting very simply and can even tell
us where the term came from, so let’s have a look at what they say:

This term comes from the 1938 stage play Gas Light, in which a husband attempts to drive his wife crazy by dimming the lights (which were powered by gas) in their home. When his wife points it out, he denies that the light changed. Gaslighting is an extremely effective form of emotional abuse that causes a victim to question their own feelings, instincts, and sanity, which gives the abusive partner a lot of power.”

Gaslighting within a relationship
is a much more common occurrence than you might expect, but it’s rarely spoken
about. It allows the person to degrade their partner to such a state where they
will essentially think they are crazy. Then, that person has all the control to
manipulate their partner further – they have all of the power. Because the
partner has been abused into not trusting themselves, they will probably stay
in the relationship.

So, how can you spot
gaslighting?

Gaslighting normally
starts pretty lightly, so it might be hard to pin down if that is what’s
happening. People can disagree and get confused from time to time and we
wouldn’t call it gaslighting. 

Gaslighting is much more serious than having a few disagreements with your partner and there are a few signs that can be big red flags when it comes to this form of emotional abuse. If you are reading this article, it is probably because you are worried that gaslighting might be occurring in your relationship. But I’m going to ask you a few questions anyway. Have a proper think about them and answer them honestly. 

  • Has your partner ever continuously told you that you’re going crazy?
  • Has your partner ever continuously told you that you’re losing you’re mind and forgetting things?
  • Has your partner ever told you that your friends and family have said negative things about you that aren’t true?
  • Has your partner ever told you that you are a bad person or a bad girlfriend/wife?
  • Has your partner ever consciously moved or hidden your belongings and then told you that you were going crazy when you complained about it?
  • Has your partner ever denied something that you know they did? Did they make it out like you were going mad?
  • Do you ever question your own sanity because of something your partner has said to you?

If you answered yes to
even one of these questions, it could be a sign that your partner is
gaslighting you in your relationship. 

There can be many
reasons behind why they are emotionally abusing you like this, which we will
look at next. However, it’s crucial for me to say that no matter what the
reason is that your partner is gaslighting you, it is not fair, and you do not
deserve it. Just because you are not getting beaten up, it is still a form of
abuse and you do not have to stand for it.

Why do people gaslight
others?

There are many reasons
that people will gaslight other people, and the scary thing is that sometimes
people don’t even realize that they are doing it. People can gaslight others
because of their own insecurities. They will put someone else down because they
feel uncomfortable with something that they see in themselves.

They might also feel
less powerful in comparison to their partner, so they might feel the need to
subconsciously demean and degrade their partner so that they can feel more
powerful. This is more likely a reason that men gaslight their wives. Even
though the majority of men will be completely supportive of their partners
having equal rights and being successful, they can feel like they aren’t acting
like the man in the relationship if their partner is more successful than they
are, or they are just very independent. Women are less concerned with the power
struggle in a relationship.

 A large majority
of the people who gaslight others will suffer from a personality disorder, such
as Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or Borderline Personality Disorder. It
can be difficult for these people to not gaslight others. You will be able to
tell if your partner is suffering from one of these disorders because it won’t
just be you that they are abusing – they will be doing it in all aspects of
their life.

Of course, people that
don’t have any disorders can also intentionally take part in gaslighting their
partner. People will do this so that they have control over their partners.
They need to feel better than their partners and will do anything to achieve
this. There isn’t really any explanation as to why these people abuse others,
unfortunately. 

How you should try to
deal with gaslighting at first before you confront your partner.

1. Start to recognize
the behavior that your partner is showing towards you.

The first thing that
you need to do in order to conquer your partner’s abuse towards you is to start
and recognize it. Gaslighting relies on the person being abused to not wake up
to the fact that they are being manipulated and controlled. Once you can
confirm that your partner is gaslighting you, you will pay less attention to it
and you will regain control over your emotions and thoughts.

2. Start to work on
getting your self-confidence and self-control back.

After you have
acknowledged the fact that your partner is gaslighting you, you need to take
control. If you are thinking of confronting them straight away, I would advise
you not to do this. You need to regain your strength and courage again. Ignore
them. Do not let them know that you know they are gaslighting you. If you
confront them too soon, you might not be strong enough to stay away from their
attempts to get you back with gaslighting.

It’s time to focus on
yourself. Do not put yourself down about the fact that you let this happen to
you. It can happen to anyone. You need to be your biggest support now though,
and you’re going to have to start showing yourself the strength you know you
have. It takes different people different amounts of time to get over any form,
so don’t rush it. You just need to start being confident within yourself and
your mind.

3. Talk to someone
else about it.

It might be really
useful to speak to someone about the situation you are going through. They
might have had experience with gaslighting before and will be able to pass on
some advice that worked for them. Even if they don’t have any advice to give
you, it can feel really good to open up to someone else and see what their
opinion is on the situation. You need to speak with someone that you really
trust, like a parent or a very close friend.

If you feel like you
don’t want to speak to someone that knows your partner, you can always go and
visit and therapist or counselor. Sometimes things feel easier to talk about
with someone who doesn’t know you. A trained professional might also be able to
give you some good advice on how best you can move forward.

4. Keep a good check
on your mental health.

After you realize that you have been a victim of abuse in your relationship, you might start to feel confused as to how you let it all happen, when it all started and why it had to happen to you. Even if you are trying your best to stay positive and get your self-confidence, your mental health could have taken a toll. A lot of victims of abuse need help to get their mental health back on track. 

It can be really
useful to ask yourself every day how you are feeling and making sure that you
don’t go into any depressive states. You might need to try and take care of
yourself and in particular your mind for a little while.

If you have noticed
that you are feeling depressed or hopeless, it might be a good idea to go and
see a therapist or your doctor. Don’t suffer in silence.

How you should deal
with the person that is gaslighting you.

1. Make sure that when
they try to gaslight you, you react in a way that won’t allow them to heighten
the abuse.

Now you have realized
that your partner is gaslighting you, you need to try and maintain the peace
until you confront them. Like I said earlier, gaslighting only works if you are
unaware of it. When you were unaware that what was happening was gaslighting,
I’m sure that you probably went on the defense every time your partner tried to
tell you that you were wrong, or that you were going crazy.

However, know that you
know that your partner is abusing you in this way, there is no need for you to
react like this. You can very simply say something like, “let’s agree to
disagree” when he tries to accuse you of doing something you didn’t do, or vice
versa. 

Your partner might
latch on to the fact that you have found out what he was doing if he was
emotionally abusing you intentionally. However, if your man was subconsciously
gaslighting you, he might actually realize that it’s not acceptable to speak to
you like that when you are handling everything so calmly. If you’re lucky, the
gaslighting might actually stop. 

Unfortunately, this is
not normally the case and you might have to grasp at all your confidence to
finally confront him.

2. Confront the
abuser.

After you have worked
on yourself and you feel like you are reading to confront your partner, you can
start to figure out why they are abusing you. Depending on the severity of the
gaslighting, you may or may not choose to confront them.

If you do confront
them to tell them you know what they are doing, you need to make sure you are
in an environment that feels safe for both of you.

It might be a good
idea to go into the conversation with some positive statements such as, “You
know I love you so much” or “you mean the world to me”. This will make them
hopefully feel your love and care towards them.

Then, you need to tell
them that you have caught on and you know that they are gaslighting you. Tell
them how it makes you feel. Be honest with them and tell them that you’re not
sure why they are abusing you in this way.

If you do want to try
and help them, offer them support. However, you need to make it very clear that
you will not stand for this level of emotional manipulation and abuse
anymore. 

Depending on their
response, you can take it from there. However, the next step is a really good
idea to take.

3. Offer to do couples
therapy with your partner.

Of course, you should
only offer this is you really do want to work on things between the two of you.
If you are past the point of this, that is completely understandable. 

However, if you do
choose to offer couples therapy as a choice to your partner, it can make them
feel a little bit more at ease. Men don’t like to be blamed, so rather than you
pushing the blame on to him and telling him to get help, you have shared the
problem and said that you will go together. Don’t get me wrong, it is
definitely not your problem that your partner has been gaslighting you, but he
will feel less blamed if he feels this is what you think.

Couples therapy can be
really useful for you both to share your points of view with each other in a
way that you couldn’t without a mediator there to make sure that nothing turns
in to an argument. 

The only issue that
you will have when suggesting to your partner that you should go to couples
therapy is if they don’t want to go. This could be the case, especially if they
are still trying to manipulate you and make you feel crazy. If your partner
point blank refuses to go and see a therapist together, you could give them an
ultimatum – either you go to therapy and try and work it out together or you
leave. See how your partner reacts to that.

Even though it might
be a good idea to use an ultimatum to get your partner into therapy, it is
probably a good idea to ask yourself why you really had to force him into
working in your relationship. He should feel lucky that you didn’t leave as
soon as you realized that he was abusing you.

4. Leave the
relationship and the abuse behind.

If your partner is
unwilling to work on your relationship, then it is best for you to get out.
Abusive relationships can be notoriously difficult to get out of, so if you
have the chance, do it. You do not deserve to be abused by the one person who
should be caring for you and protecting you.

The best thing to do
is prepare for the breakup before you decide to do it, to avoid more
gaslighting. For example, if you live together or you have belongings at their
house, it might be a good idea to subtly start moving your things out without
them realizing. 

It might also be a
good idea to tell your friends and family the truth about your relationship
with him and prepare them for the fact you are about to break up. This way,
they are ready to help comfort you, and they will also be less shocked.

If you have a child
with this person, it is a really good idea to try and move them out of the
situation as soon as possible. If your child can go and stay at your parent’s
house, then this provides a safe space for them to be while the breakup
happens. Depending on their age and the strength of your relationship with
them, you can be as open or as discreet with them about what you are going
through. Do not try to manipulate your child to disapprove of his father
though, as this can damage your child emotionally and start a whole new cycle
of trauma.

When you go to end the
relationship, you need to speak at the gaslighter, not with them. If you try to
have a conversation with them, this is an ideal time for them to throw some
more emotional abuse your way. You need to tell them, plain and simply that
“the relationship is over”. You do not have to say anything else to them, and
you don’t owe them anything.

After you have broken
up, it is a good idea to not speak with them, because they could lure you back
in with their emotionally abusive techniques. Block their number and stop
associating with people that are connected to that person if possible.

5. Be proud of
yourself that you got out.

Finally, you need to
celebrate the fact that you got yourself out of an emotionally abusive relationship.
Only a small percentage of people that are in abusive relationships actually
ever leave, so you need to be proud of yourself that you got out. 

The abuse has probably
affected you more than you realize, so it might be a good idea to constantly
surround yourself with a strong support network that can be made up of friends
and family. It might also be useful to see a professional that deals with abuse
victims after they have left the relationship. You can now move forward in
life, with self-confidence and self-esteem. 

Conclusion 

Firstly, I want to say
that I am so sorry if you are or have been in an emotionally abusive
relationship. I completely understand and empathize with you from things I have
been through in the past. You need to stay strong and have self-belief.
Whatever you decide to do with this information I have given you, do it because
you want to and not because anyone is manipulating you.

Your life is your own,
and you have a right to not be abused or belittled by anyone else. You should
know that you are so deserving of true, kind and faithful love and you will
find that. After all, one bonus that you can take out of it is that you will be
able to spot any gaslighting red flags in the future.

Did this article help
you at all? If it did and you liked what you read, please let us know in the
comments. We would love to hear from you. 

Reference from National Domestic Violence Hotline – https://www.thehotline.org/what-is-gaslighting/

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