Signs Of Gaslighting In A Relationship


Signs Of Gaslighting In A Relationship

As we all know relationship is a close connection between two people or a group of people, this could involve romantic and sexual feelings or could simply be the way people behave and feel towards each other.  

What people often forget is that our mental health and emotional well-being is tied up to the quality of our relationships. Forming and maintaining healthy relationships can make us feel happier and provide personal satisfaction. A healthy and co-independent relationship can help us cope with multiple problems including mental illnesses like depression or anxiety. It can give us a sense of belonging, take away our loneliness, allow us to be vulnerable and help us grow and learn about ourselves. 

However, creating and maintaining a healthy relationship is not easy and comes with a lot of issues. It requires both the partners to put in equal amounts of effort, respect for each other and understanding that they can have different likings but still co-exist together by supporting each other to manifest their nature. 

Gaslighting is one of the most common and harmful problems that comes up in a relationship. 

A lot of us must have heard the term ‘Gaslighting’, but what exactly does it mean and how do we recognize it in a relationship? 

Gaslighting is a form of psychological and emotional abuse where the abuser or the gaslighter creates a false narrative making the victim question their perception of reality, sanity or memories. 

Simply put, it is having your reality and emotions denied. 

If this kind of abuse continues for a long time, the victim starts to feel unsure of their perception of reality, it wears down their self- esteem and self-confidence. They often feel anxious, depressed, confused and are unable to trust themselves. 

It’s possible that the gaslighter may have an undiagnosed mental illness such as narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) or borderline personality disorder (BPD). 

If you see the signs of gaslighting in your relationship, it is advisable that you leave the relationship and/or go for counseling or a therapist for mental health, instead of forcing your abuser to go to one as that might lead to more manipulative behaviors and abuse. So let’s look into the signs of gaslighting: 

Signs of gaslighting 

Some techniques and common phrases a gaslighter uses includes: 

  1. Countering: This is when the gaslighter questions the victims memories. They may use phrases like “Are you sure this happened?” or “That never happened, you know you don’t remember things clearly”. 
  2. Denial: This is when the abuser pretends like they have forgotten what has actually occurred or denies making any promises to the victim. They may say things like “You are making things up, I don’t know what you are talking about”. 
  3. Withholding: This is when the abuser pretends not to understand and refuses to communicate. They pretend not to understand so that they don’t have to respond to it. Common phrases that they use are: “You are trying to confuse me” or “I don’t understand what you’re saying.”
  4. Diverting/Blocking: In this technique, the abuser changes the subject and sometimes questions the victims thoughts and credibility of their memories. They may say: “Is this another crazy idea you got from your friend/family?” or “There is no pattern, you are seeing a pattern that is not there.” or “You are hysterical”. 
  5. Trivializing: This is a very common technique that a gaslighter uses. Here, they belittle the victims feelings and needs and make them seem unimportant. For example , they may say “You are too sensitive” or “You are just paranoid” or “It is no big deal so why are you making it one?” or “You are always too dramatic”. 
  6. Blame-shifting: In this technique the gaslighter blames you for everything that occurs, even though it is their mistake in the first place. For example, they may say “You’re the one who made me lose control.” or “If you would have listened to me in the first place none of this would have happened.”

Some other phrases that you may hear as a victim of gaslighting are: 

  • You know that’s just because you are so insecure.
  • Stop acting crazy. Or: You sound crazy, you know that, don’t you?
  • You just love trying to throw me off track.
  • I was just joking!
  • You’re overreacting.
  • Don’t get so worked up.
  • There you go again, you are so ungrateful.
  • Nobody believes you, why should I?

Gaslighting usually occurs very gradually in a relationship. At first the gaslighters actions and words may feel harmless but soon the victim gets engulfed by it and starts to rely on the abuser to define their reality, making it difficult to escape. 

Here are some signs of being a victim of gaslighting

  • You constantly second-guess yourself.
  • You ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” many times a day.
  • You feel confused and doubt your memories 
  • You feel like you are going crazy.
  • You feel like you should apologize to your partner and that you are always wrong.
  • In order to not explain or make excuses to your friends and family, you withhold information. 
  • You have a hard time expressing what you are feeling, even to yourself. 
  • You have the sense that you used to be a very different person – more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed.
  • You feel hopeless, dejected and unhappy.
  • You feel that you will spoil anything that you do, and can never do anything right.
  • You wonder if you are “good enough”.
  • You can’t understand why you aren’t happier, especially when a lot of good things have been happening to you.
  • You are aware that something is wrong but you are not sure what that is.

Typical situations that you might hear these phrases in a relationship could be sex, money, the family you come from, or habits you came into the relationship with.

With all this you may start seeing signs of depression or other mental illnesses like anxiety, insomnia or low self-esteem. It is important to note that if you don’t typically feel these emotions with other people, but you do so with one particular person, then they may be gaslighting you. If any of these signs feel true to you, speaking to a counselor can help you. We at AtEase have a team of highly qualified experts who can help you navigate such a relationship. 

It can be very difficult to get out of a relationship with a gaslighter, but it is possible. Counseling and psychotherapy, along with social support, usually helps a victim achieve greater emotional awareness and self-regulation. This makes them realize that they do not require anyone to validate their reality, thereby building confidence in themselves. Here are some steps that might help you if you are getting gaslighted in a relationship: 

  • Give yourself permission to accept and acknowledge your feelings. 
  • Ask your close friends if they find you behaving differently and do a reality check on your partner’s behavior. Ask them to be honest. 
  • Focus on what you are feeling instead of right and wrong as your partner will try to convince you that you are in the wrong which may lead you to second guess yourself. So focus on what you are feeling in the moment and realize that how you feel is more important than who is right or wrong. 
  • Have compassion for yourself. Gaslighting can lead to you showing signs of depression and during those days it is important to be compassionate with yourself and to show kindness to yourself. 
  • Journal your conversations so that you can take an objective look at it and sort out not only the problem but also the truth from distortion. Identify patterns in your conversations to recognise the problem between you and your partner.

Gaslighting is usually used to gain an upper hand and to avoid accountability in a relationship. At its core it is about maintenance of power and control. It is a way for the person to deflect all responsibilities and to tear down the self-esteem of someone else while keeping them hooked on to the relationship and create a desperate need to please the gaslighter. 

It is important that you separate gaslighting from a genuine disagreement which are common and even important in relationships. Remember that not all conflict involves gaslighting and conflicts can be solved in a healthy way. 

But, if you feel that your perception of reality is being denied or if someone is continuously blaming you and calling you over sensitive, crazy or dysfunctional you are probably being gaslighted. It won’t be easy, but seek help from your friends and family and reach out to a AtEase therapist for mental health and well-being.


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