How to Recognize & Shut Down Gaslighting in Relationships
Gaslighting is one of those horrible things that is easy to spot for an outsider but not easy for the victim.
Firstly, it is important to define what gaslighting is. In simple terms, it is denying or undermining another person’s reality by disregarding their thoughts, feelings, concerns, and who they generally are as a person.
Some examples of gaslighting include:
If a wife tells her husband that he is repeatedly putting her down and calling her names, and he denies he is doing this, or he says he is doing it for her own good and helping her improve somehow, this is a form of gaslighting.
If a student feels that a teacher is specifically picking on him in class and raises this issue with the teacher, and the teacher denies it and says he treats everyone the same, this is a form of gaslighting.
If a friend is being mocked in public by another friend, and the first friend raises it with the second friend, the second friend may turn around to them and say they are simply having some harmless fun, regardless if it hurts the first friend’s feelings. This is gaslighting.
In short, it is a very unpleasant form of manipulation that often convinces the victim that the reality they are experiencing isn’t real at all.
Today, we’re talking about gaslighting in relationships, the signs you need to watch out for, and what to do if you are experiencing this.
Gaslighting in Relationships
In relationships, gaslighting is a very real problem and can have a devastating effect on a person’s emotions and sense of individuality.
It occurs when there is a power struggle between the two partners. A power struggle is often common in relationships in some form of another, but gaslighting takes it to a whole other level.
An example of relationship gaslighting is when one suspects the other of having an affair. The signs are there; the intuition is there; there is the distance between them. One accuses the other of having an affair, but the other denies it and then proceeds to point out all the accuser’s flaws, stating they are suffocating and it is their fault there is the distance between them.
This then makes the accuser feel everything is their fault.
They stop with the accusations, feeling they have no right to ask because, after all, everything is their fault. Meanwhile, the other partner is having an affair but continues to make their partner feel stupid and guilty, so they can continue to get away with it.
This is very damaging to the person’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth.
Once a person has been involved in this type of relationship long enough, they begin to view it as normal. It does not matter how much friends or family urge them to see things in a different light and how much they validate their reality. It is as though the individual is under a spell.
This type of emotional manipulation is a prevalent part of gaslighting.
You might also be interested in reading: Are You Gaslighting Yourself?
How to Spot Relationship Gaslighting
If you are being gaslighted, you must step outside of yourself for a moment and analyze what is happening. The powerful emotional bond we share with others can do strange things to us.
They say love is blind, and this can also ring true with gaslighting.
But when a person invalidates your feelings, makes you feel like you are crazy, and dismisses your opinion and emotions as if they are nothing – is that love?
Gaslighting can be spotted in the following steps:
- You feel something is wrong, and you confront your partner. Your partner tells you that you imagine things.
- If you insist you do not imagine things, your partner then starts pointing out negatives or flaws that they think will help them win their argument. “You know you have problems with mental health – you are delusional now too.” or “Do you remember the time you thought so-and-so was real and you were wrong? It’s the same now.” or “We both know you’re not the smart one in the relationship. Don’t forget who makes the decisions around here.”
- Your partner may then invalidate your reality through guilt-tripping. “Look at everything I do for you, and you accuse me of this!” or “Remember when you did so-and-so to me? Do you remember how much that hurt me?”
- You then start to question your own reality. Your partner is effectively reminding you that you are a “terrible person” who makes “constant mistakes,” and you must therefore be wrong.
- So even though you know in your heart you are right and that your feelings and thoughts are worth something, you start to believe exactly what your partner says.
5 Ways to Stop Gaslighting in Relationships
As pointed out, relationship gaslighting and other forms of gaslighting are a horrible form of emotional manipulation. It is an indication that a power struggle has become wildly out of control.
Often, the one who is being gaslighted is so convinced that they really are this deluded or stupid person they are being told they are, that there is little friends or family can do to help them.
The only one who can truly help them is themselves. The more dependant they are on their partner, friend or family, the harder it is, but here are five ways to stop relationship gaslighting and prevent it from happening in the future.
1. Write Down Your Feelings & Evidence of Your Concerns
When you write your feelings down, you are validating them on paper so that when you raise it as an issue, you can calmly and rationally highlight why you have these concerns. The more emotional you are when you confront the issue, the easier it is for others to manipulate you emotionally.
2. Validate Your Reality Through Discussions With Others
Talk to friends and family and explain your concerns to them.
Most likely, your friend or family will be able to spot that you are being gaslighted. Talk to an impartial counselor and explain your concerns to them. You may find it easier to listen to them because they don’t know you, and they can view your situation from an outsider’s perspective.
You will also want to read: 6 Boundaries Crucial for Relationships in 2021
3. Take Time Away for Yourself
Go on a retreat, spend some time away, take some time among nature.
Nature can be healing and therapeutic and also enable you to see things from a new perspective. This can help you reconnect with yourself at a deeper or spiritual level, and with a sense of refreshment, you may begin to see that you are being gaslighted.
4. Believe in Yourself
This is probably the most important prevention method when dealing with gaslighting.
Remember, gaslighting is all about playing on your emotions and thoughts, manipulating them so that you no longer trust yourself and you trust the other person instead. It is a tactic designed to transfer the power of one person over to another. Every day you must tell yourself that what you feel and think is valuable and real, no matter what anybody says.
Gaslighting can happen to anyone, even the strongest of people. Still, it is important to remember that no matter how much you love someone or how attached to them you are, it doesn’t mean that you should love yourself any less by agreeing with them that your thoughts and feelings don’t matter.
High self-esteem and strong confidence in oneself will not allow itself to be gaslighted; this can be challenging to maintain in relationships because we naturally transfer our own power over to others, but holding onto our own personal power is essential.
Nobody wins if one person has all the power and the other has none.
When you believe in yourself, your convictions, and your opinion truly matters, you cannot be emotionally manipulated to think that you are not worthy.
5. Embrace Positive Affirmations
Positive affirmations can help you build your own self-esteem and confidence. A good example would be, “I am confident and my opinion matters” or “What I say is real, and no one can convince me it isn’t.”
Repeating these to yourself morning and night, and indeed whenever you feel you are being gaslighted or manipulated, can send a message to your subconscious mind, and eventually, you will believe it.
You may feel in the long-term that your partner’s refusal to accept your new-found confidence is not worth losing your sense of pride and independence, and you may feel compelled to leave the relationship or friendship.
Shut Down Gaslighting in Your Relationships Today
Whether in a relationship or otherwise, gaslighting is very common, but spotting the signs and tackling them is entirely possible. The important thing with gaslighting is to value yourself and hold on to that value because it is one of the most important things you own.
Eventually, someone may try to erode that value in a relationship or friendship and take it from you. Recognize that this is a tactic that is part of a power struggle.
So when someone invalidates your opinion or your feelings, or tries to make you feel guilty or stupid, or attempts to deny what you know is real, remember that this is a power play and what they are doing is not real, for they are attempting to convince you to believe an untrue reality.
Remember to always believe in yourself and remind yourself that your feelings, thoughts, and sense of self are precious and to be protected at all costs.
Related article: 3 Ways to Improve Low Self-Worth