5 Indicators Your Partner is Gaslighting You
Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash Woman sitting in bed against a wall with coffee in hand
Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where one person in a relationship attempts to manipulate and control the other person by distorting the truth and eroding their sense of reality. It is typically done through a pattern of behaviors that are manipulative, deceitful, and controlling.
Gaslighting behavior can be very damaging in a relationship. It can lead to feelings of confusion, anxiety, and self-doubt by the person on the receiving end of such behavior.
It’s vital to recognize signs of gaslighting and take action to protect yourself from this type of abuse.
5 Indicators of Gaslighting Behavior
Gaslighting behavior can be overt or subtle. Here are five behavior patterns of gaslighting abuse:
Discrediting your feelings;
Manipulating your memory;
Controlling your actions;
Isolating you from others; and,
Projecting their own actions onto you.
Discrediting Your Feelings
One of the most common indicators that your partner is gaslighting you is if he or she consistently invalidates your feelings. Your partner may ignore or make light of your feelings or act as though you don’t have a right to feel what you're feeling. You may be told that you’re “too sensitive” or “overreacting”, or you may be made to feel guilty for feeling the way you do.
For example, if you express concern about something your partner said or did, you may be told that you’re “being dramatic” or “seeing things that aren’t there”. If you express sadness, you may told you’re “being too emotional” or “not thinking logically”. And if you express anger your partner may say you’re “being irrational” or “not being reasonable”. Photo from Pixabay.com asian-ga7a4a5113_640.jpg. Woman looking up.
A key question is how frequently is this behavior occurring? If it’s rare, it may not be problematic. If it’s an ongoing regular pattern, it could be gaslighting behavior by your partner.
Manipulating Your Memory
Another common indicator of gaslighting behavior is attempting manipulate your memory. This can mean actively trying to change your perception of events or conversations, or deny that something happened when it clearly did. This can be done through subtle tactics, such as minimizing the importance of something or changing the details of what happened.
For example, if you express concern about something your partner said or did, your partner may try to downplay the incident or claim that it didn’t happen the way you remember it. He or she may also try to discredit your version of events by claiming that you “must have imagined it” or “are confused”.
Controlling Your Actions
One serious indicator of psychological abuse is attempt to control your actions. This can mean your partner actively tries to dictate what you do, say, think, or otherwise attempt to limit your freedom and autonomy.
Examples of controlling behavior include attempts to manipulate you into doing something you don’t want to do, or punishing you for not following their orders. If you express a desire to do something different other than what your partner wants, he or she may try to convince you that you “need” to do it their way. Your partner may try to punish you for not following “orders” by withholding affection, money, or becoming angry and hostile.
Isolating You from Others
If your partner attempts to isolate you from other people, this can be a major red flag. Examples include attempting to limit your contact with family and friends or aggressively discouraging you from participating in activities outside of the relationship.
Your partner may try to discredit others by claiming they don’t understand or support you. For example, if you express a desire to spend time with family or friends, a controlling partner may try to convince you that you “shouldn’t” or that you “don’t need” to. He or she may also play the guilt card, claiming whenever you’re not home and available they experience anxiety and fear for your “safety”.
Projecting Their Own Negative Motivations and Actions Onto You
Another common indicator your partner is gaslighting you is he or she regularly projects their own negative motivations and actions onto you. Your partner accuses you of doing the very things he or she is actually doing, or your partner may try to shift the blame for his or her own behavior onto you.
This can be done through subtle tactics such as minimizing the importance of something or claiming you are the one who is actually in the wrong. For example, if you express a concern or disagreement with your partner's behavior, he or she will claim you are actually the one who is in the wrong. They may also try to discredit your feelings or minimize the importance of the situation.
Why Gaslighting is So Harmful
This type of behavior can have long-term effects on your sense of self-worth and well-being. Over time, it can lead to feelings of helplessness and insecurity, as well as increased anxiety and depression.
If you shut yourself off from friends and family, you may not receive needed independent perspectives to help you recognize the effects of your partner’s gaslighting behavior. You may also find yourself lacking the confidence to stand up for yourself or express your feelings.
It is important to recognize this type of behavior and take steps to protect yourself if your partner is engaging in gaslighting behavior.
Here are actions to consider:
Recognize the behavior: The first step is to recognize the behavior for what it is and understand that you are not to blame for the way your partner is treating you.
Set boundaries: Set clear boundaries with your partner and let them know that their behavior is not acceptable.
Seek support: Reach out to trusted friends and family members for support.
Seek professional help: If the situation does not improve, consider seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor.
Consider ending the relationship: If the situation does not improve and the cycle of abuse continues, it may be time to end the relationship. Leaving a relationship can be traumatic and may involve significant financial and family implications. Seek professional help if needed as you consider this option.
It is important to remember that gaslighting is a form of abuse and is never acceptable. If you’re experiencing gaslighting behavior from your partner, don’t assume things will change on their own.
If you can do so safely, have an open and frank conversation with your partner about how his or her behavior is affecting you. For many people experiencing gaslighting behavior from a partner, it can be beneficial to seek counseling with an appropriate therapist.
How to Get Help
If you have experienced physical abuse or serious threats of violence, it’s vital to enlist outside help to include police intervention if necessary. If physical abuse or threats of violence are not part of your situation, seeking help from a therapist individually or as a couple may be a viable option.
To speak confidentially with a trained support representative from the Domestic Violence Hotline in the U.S., visit https://www.thehotline.org. You can chat online at that website, call the Hotline directly at 1-800-799-7233, (hearing impaired TTY 1-800-787-3224), or text “Start” to 88788.
If you are outside of the United States, use a search service such as Google.com to identify resources in your country and region.
Whether in or outside of the U.S., you’ll find multiple organizations dedicated to helping abuse survivors on this FREA site at https://www.frea.support/sister-orgs.
Stephen Carter is a longtime FREA volunteer. He's a former Chief of Police, a former Security Director for one of the world's largest financial services company, and founder of Stress Solutions, LLC, now Stress Solutions USA. He hosts the "EFT Tapping Junction" and other stress releasing podcasts, all available at https://StressReliefRadio.com. He can be reached by email at CarterMethod@, gmail.com.