Gaslighting In Relationships: Clear Signs & Ways To Stop It

Don’t put up with their manipulation, and never doubt yourself anymore.

Reviewed by Ellen J.W. Gigliotti, LMFT Ellen J.W. Gigliotti Ellen J.W. GigliottiLMFT facebook_icontwitter_iconlinkedin_iconyoutube_iconinsta_icon Specialty: Marriage and sex therapyExperience: 20 years
Written by Pallavi Lakhotia
Last Updated on

Gaslighting in a relationship is a subtle way of manipulating your partner and victimizing them. For example, you are a strong and determined person with definite goals. You think logically and make a decision only after analyzing various perspectives. You have always been successful in your life and are happy with your decisions.

However, you become doubtful if your partner starts finding fault with your decisions and criticizing them. You lose your confidence and become fearful. Keep reading to learn if your partner is gaslighting you, recognize its signs, and ways to stop it.

What Is Gaslighting In A Relationship? 

The word ‘gaslight’ was taken from a play called Gas Light (1938) by Patrick Hamilton and was also made into a feature film starring Ingrid Bergman. The story revolves around a man who manipulates, tricks, and compels his wife to believe that she is becoming insane.

Gaslighting is psychologically manipulating your partner and making them doubt their judgments. It is a form of emotional abuse as the gaslighter uses words to exploit the partner, who eventually believes them and becomes a victim. Gaslighting is a subtle form of abuse, so you might not be able to identify the warning signs easily.

However, your partner’s actions and words make you second-guess yourself and make you wonder if you are crazy or paranoid. Psychopaths, sociopaths, and narcissists often use this form of abuse. Gaslighting is done to dominate and control the partner and build the relationship as per the gaslighter’s desires.

Let’s check some examples of gaslighting.

  • Your significant other has never told you about their ex. And you come across that ex at a party. When asked, your partner says they have already told you, and that you do not remember about it.
  • You ask your partner to lend their credit card. They do not give it and lose it. But later they complain that you lost it and make it seem like your fault.
  • Your partner had cheated on you once, and you have agreed to pardon and reconcile. But they start it all over again. And when you question them, they say it’s your assumption and not the truth.

 If you’ve experienced such instances, then look further for the signs of gaslighting by your partner.

Signs Of Gaslighting In A Relationship 

There are several signs to indicate that your partner is gaslighting you. Some of them are explained here.

1. They lie a lot 

Your partner lies so strategically that anyone would believe them. They make false stories that are convincing, and you think they are right, and you are wrong.

They lie openly and have no guilt. This is one of the major signs of a gaslighter.

2. They manipulate you 

Gaslighting is done slowly and smoothly. It starts with a lie, then there are a couple of lies, and then it reaches the level of manipulation. Even if you doubt your partner, you could be blamed for having trust issues. This kind of behavior might exhaust you, and your identity might slowly diminish.

3. They often blame you 

Start a discussion about your partner’s mistakes, and the next thing they do is quickly blame you and make you the center of the discussion. They twist their sentences and highlight your acts. They also use emotional tactics and justify that it was your actions that brought out the reactions. They can do anything to protect themselves.

4. They give false hope

Everything would be fine,’ ‘One chance more, and things will get better,’ ‘I’m not bad.’

Do you get to listen to these statements often, even when there is something wrong? If yes, then it means they are making you a victim of gaslighting. They often use sweet words to give you false hope and to make you trust them. They don’t allow you to be independent and keep trying to make you dependent on them.

5. Their actions are different from their words 

Usually, the words and actions of the gaslighter do not match. You should keep an eye on their actions and ignore what they say. For instance, they may say they are working at the office. But when you check, you may find them playing or having coffee with someone elsewhere. What they say may not be entirely true or entirely false, but be careful and take what they say with a pinch of salt.

6. They twist conversations 

A person who gaslights may twist and turn words and conversations for their benefit. They do not accept their mistakes, and to avoid such conversations, they deflect the topic or change the story. They say things and don’t care about your feelings. When they constantly keep twisting the stories, you may start believing think they are right and you are wrong.

7. They flatter you 

You are the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen,’ ‘I’m lucky to have you,’ ‘You look so great.’

Sometimes, they may flatter you so much that you end up trusting them blindly. They are polite and kind to you. They know your weak points and try to use them to gain control over you. They take advantage of your trust.

8. They act like a victim 

When you blame your partner for something or try to talk to them when you catch them red-handed, then they may act like a victim. They act innocent and victimize themselves to the extent that you might feel sorry for them.

9. They use triangulation 

When your partner brings a third party into the conversation to back what they say about you, it is called triangulation. It is a tactic that a gaslighter uses to convince you. For instance, you ask your partner about their last week’s whereabouts. When you doubt their answer, they bring in their friends or colleagues to justify. This is a red flag but leaves you trusting them without thinking about other scenarios.

10. They make you doubt yourself 

They lie, they are wrong, but when you try to confront them, they make you believe that it’s your fault. They try to confuse you through statements like ‘You may have forgotten, that’s okay,’ ‘I told you about it, you may not remember it.’

11. They make everyone think you are wrong 

If you are a victim of gaslighting, you would know that your partner is turning everyone against you. They manipulate not just you but also others. They show you in a bad light and then act as if nobody but only they can understand you or care about you.

12. They dismiss your emotions 

You are over-thinking,’ ‘Why are you so negative?’ ‘Don’t overreact.’

 These statements might be used for dismissing your feelings. Every time you try to express yourself, your partner makes you think something is wrong with your thought-process. Your partner curbs your feelings and expressions to such an extent that you stop showing who you truly are.

Gaslighting could turn out to be a big issue if it is not dealt with soon.

How To Stop Gaslighting In A Relationship? 

Here are some ways you may try to deal with your partner when they are making you a victim of gaslighting.

1. Identify their behavioral patterns 

Usually, gaslighting victims don’t know that they are being manipulated. But when you identify something is wrong, try to recognize your partner’s behavioral pattern.

2. Know the possibilities 

There could be psychological issues with your partner. Observe and identify if they have any. Even if you identify, your partner may not accept that something is wrong with them. However, this will at least keep you alert about their gaslighting behavior.

3. Try to support them 

If your partner loves you, accepts the fault and regrets, then you could provide some help. If you believe that your relationship can work, and you can trust your partner, then give them a chance by supporting and helping them come out of the negative zone.

4. Think from a different perspective 

There might be several reasons why your partner might be gaslighting you. Some people might be insecure or might have attachment issues. These could be the reason for their urge to control their partner. So, try to know if your partner has had a bad past and see if you can help them break the pattern.

5. Reconsider your relationship 

Pause and think if you want to stay in the relationship or move out. If you think that you are rowing your boat alone and your partner is doing nothing, then you should re-evaluate the options. But if you think your partner will stop gaslighting and cooperate with you, then you may want to give it a try. Make a careful decision either way.

6. Talk to your loved ones 

If you think you are being gaslighted, talk to someone about it – family or friends. Let them know what’s happening with you and ask for their suggestions. Think carefully and then make a call.

7. Seek professional help 

Sometimes, coming out of such a manipulative environment may not be easy, and you might need professional help. Do not hesitate to seek help when you feel things are going out of your control.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the difference between gaslighting and narcissism?

Gaslighting is a form of continuous brainwashing or manipulation that may lead the victim to self-doubt. In comparison, a narcissist lies and boasts of giving a boost to their fragile self-worth. While a gaslighter does things silently without making anyone doubt them, the narcissist is open about their intentions.

2. What mental illnesses can lead to gaslighting?

Antisocial personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder are some mental illnesses that may lead to a gaslighting mentality in some people.

Gaslighting in a relationship refers to manipulating the spouse to the extent that they start doubting themselves. It is a form of emotional abuse, and the gaslighter uses lies, plays the blame game, and is seldom accurate in their words. They may use occasional flattery to win your trust. However, if the person realizes what is happening and is willing to change, there is hope for the relationship to work smoothly. Try supporting them to overcome their behavior and talk to a professional if things seem to go out of your control.

Key Pointers

  • Gaslighting refers to making a person delusional by manipulating and dominating them.
  • Your partner may be gaslighting you if they frequently lie and blame you, express false hope, or fail to acknowledge your emotions.
  • Try to observe and reason out their behavior or share your issues with a professional to seek help.

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Ellen J.W. Gigliotti is a licensed marriage and family therapist with over 20 years of experience and the owner of a private practice therapy group in Pennsylvania, US. She is a former journalist and is currently finalizing her first book.

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