Gaslighting and Relationships

Cindy Best

If you go to a party and say something funny and everyone laughs and then your partner says something like: “ha ha, she never knows what she is talking about.” And, then everyone laughs again. When you talk to your partner about it later and how it hurt your feelings, he tells you that everyone thought it was funny and you take yourself too seriously.

Let’s say you have a family dinner and when you reach to pass the gravy, you accidentally spill your glass of water. Your partner gives you a glare and says something like that was a stupid thing to do. When you bring up the subject later to him about how he hurt your feelings, he denies calling you stupid. “I did not call you stupid.” You try and explain that you didn’t say he called you stupid, you said that he used the word stupid. He walks off in a huff saying something like you should have your head examined because you can’t remember things.

These are examples of gaslighting. There is even a definition for it in psychology. And, it is used in abusive relationships. It is sometimes very subtle and makes the victim doubt themselves. After a long history of gaslighting, the victim begins to feel like something is wrong with them but it is quite the opposite. If this starts sounding familiar, please know that you do not have to tolerate it. You will probably not change the abuser but you can end the relationship. Gaslighting has been defined as

a specific type of manipulation where the manipulator is trying to get someone else (or a group of people) to question their own reality, memory or perceptions.

Here is how one publication explained it:

What Is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that occurs in abusive relationships. It is an insidious and sometimes covert type of emotional abuse where the bully or abuser makes the target question their judgments and reality.Ultimately, the victim of gaslighting starts to wonder if they are losing their sanity.

Gaslighting primarily occurs in romantic relationships, but it’s not uncommon for it to occur in controlling friendships or among family members as well. Toxic people use this type of emotional abuse to exert power over others in order to manipulate friends, family members, and sometimes even co-workers.

How Gaslighting Works
Gaslighting is a technique that undermines a person’s perception of reality. When someone is gaslighting you, you may second-guess yourself, your memories, and your perceptions. After communicating with the person gaslighting you, you may be left feeling dazed and wondering if there is something wrong with you.1

Gaslighting can confuse you and cause you to question your judgment and overall mental health. It may help to know more about the tactics a person who is gaslighting someone might use.

Lying to You
People who engage in gaslighting are habitual and pathological liars. They will blatantly lie and never back down or change their stories, even when you call them out or provide proof of their deception. They may say something like: “You’re making things up. That never happened.”

Lying is the cornerstone of a gaslighter’s destructive behavior. Even when you know they are lying, they can be very convincing. In the end, you start to second-guess yourself.

Minimizing Your Thoughts and Feelings
Trivializing your emotions allows the gaslighter to gain power over you. They might make statements like: “Calm down,” “You’re overreacting,” or “Why are you so sensitive?” All of these statements minimize how you’re feeling or what you’re thinking and communicate that you’re wrong.

When you deal with someone who never acknowledges your thoughts, feelings, or beliefs, you may begin to question them yourself. What’s more, you may never feel validated or understood, which can be extremely difficult to cope with.

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