Gaslighting is very common in the 21st century.
It can occur in all manner of relationships, including those with friends, colleagues, or family members. However, it’s especially challenging to deal with gaslighting in romantic relationships.
What is Gaslighting in Relationships?
Gaslighting is a term that comes from a 1938 play called “Gas Light.”
In this play, a husband eventually convinces his wife that she’s insane by dimming their gas-powered lights and then denying that he did so.
Gaslighting in relationships is when your partner tries to convince you that you’re wrong about something even though this is not the case.
It involves lying, exaggerating, and manipulating the victim so they can essentially be controlled.
As a result, gaslighting can be classed as a form of emotional abuse.
The 7 Stages of Gaslighting in a Relationship
According to Psychology Today, there are 7 stages of gaslighting in relationships.
#7 — Lie and Exaggerate
Firstly, if your partner is gaslighting you, he’ll create a negative narrative about you based on false presumptions and accusations.
He’ll then continue to suggest that there’s something wrong with you or you’re never good enough—even if he can see that it’s visibly upsetting you.
Here are just a couple of examples of this:
- “Your job just seems boring and unimportant. How do you justify working at that company?”
- “I hate it when you choose to go out with your friends instead of hanging around with me. I told you before that I hate it.”
Why do gaslighters behave the way that they do? Well, fundamentally, they’re narcissists, dictators, and control freaks.
In other words, they often see themselves as superior to and better than “ordinary” people.
Related: 65 Signs of Emotional Abuse
#6 — Rinse and Repeat
A gaslighter will keep repeating the negative narrative that he originally created so that he can feel powerful.
He truly believes that if he stays on the offensive and controls the conversation, he can ultimately dominate the relationship.
#5 — Escalation When Called Out
If you ever manage to summon up the courage to call out your gaslighting partner, it may not end well.
After all, a gaslighter will rarely back down and apologize. Instead, he may escalate the situation with denial, blame, and more false claims.
This is known as misdirection.
A good example of this is if you catch your boyfriend sexting with someone and he tells you that you imagined it. He may even call you “crazy” or a “psycho” for good measure.
The bottom line is that he wants to be seen as “right” and you to be seen as “wrong”—in every situation.
#4 — Wear Down the Gaslightee
When you’ve experienced gaslighting over a significant period of time, you naturally start to feel defeated.
You become plagued with self-doubt, pessimism, and fear.
You may even begin to question your identity, perception, and reality.
#3 — Develop Codependency
Imagine yourself as a puppet on a string. That’s how your gaslighter wants to see you—and he wants to be the one pulling the strings.
If he instills constant insecurity and anxiety, he can call the shots.
He can grant acceptance, respect, safety, approval, and security. And he can also take them away.
(Hey, he might even threaten this from time to time.)
Also called a codependent relationship, gaslighting encourages fear, vulnerability, and feelings of inadequacy.
Related: 10 Activities for Self-Care
#2 — Provide False Hope
Some gaslighting partners like to primarily put their partners down. That said, others like to occasionally treat them with kindness or remorse.
How come? Well, they want to give you false hope.
As a result, you may end up thinking the following things:
- “Oh, perhaps he’s not that bad”
- “Maybe I’ve been a little too harsh on him”
- “It seems like things are going to get better now”
However, this is a manipulation tactic. He wants you to let your guard down before he proceeds with the next act of gaslighting.
#1 — Ultimate Dominance
In severe cases, your partner will want to control, dominate, and take advantage of you at all times.
The gaslighting will become a part of your daily life and you’ll struggle to break free of your partner’s hold over you.
In fact, every time you try, you’ll be belittled and made to feel like you’re nothing without your partner. This will allow him to exploit you as and when he sees fit.
Related: Will I Ever Find Love?
How to Know if You’re Being Gaslighted
It’s not unusual to experience gaslighting in relationships without even realizing it.
After all, some of the signs can be rather subtle.
25 Questions to Ask Yourself If You Think You’re Being Gaslighted
Not sure if you’ve ever experienced gaslighting? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you struggling to recognize the person you’ve become?
- Do you feel scared in your relationship?
- Do you feel alone in your relationship?
- Would you ever speak up if your partner accuses you of something and you think that they’re wrong?
- Do you feel uneasy around your other half?
- Do you feel like you can’t do anything right?
- Does your partner make you feel like you’re always to blame?
- Does your partner expect you to apologize for your behavior but never apologize for his?
- Do you regularly second-guess yourself?
- Does your partner boast about himself?
- Does your partner make you feel like you’re inferior to him?
- Are you constantly lied to by your partner?
- Does your partner demand respect but doesn’t seem to respect you?
- Does your partner get jealous and possessive easily?
- Do you get called names frequently in your relationship?
- Are you ever told by your partner that you’re “too sensitive” and “always take things personally”?
- Are you made to feel like your feelings are invalid in your relationship?
- Do you often think that there’s something wrong with you?
- Do you feel stressed on a daily basis?
- Does your partner make you doubt the things you’ve said and done?
- Were you once really happy and confident and now you can’t say that you’re either of those things?
- Do you feel intimidated by your partner?
- Has your partner ever made threats to you before?
- Has your partner ever pushed, squared up to you, or even hit you?
- Do you often find yourself making excuses for your partner?
Related: 65 Signs of Emotional Abuse
Common Examples of Gaslighting
Here are some common examples of gaslighting:
- When you arrange plans on his Mom’s birthday even though she’s supposed to be having a party and you’re expected to be there and he didn’t tell you—even though he swears he did and you just “forgot”
- When he tells you he’s available to hang out on a Saturday, but then backtracks when Saturday arrives and claims that he said Sunday all along because he’s actually busy on Saturday
- When you book a Chinese restaurant for Valentine’s Day because he once told you that he loved Chinese food, but he tells you during the big reveal that he hates Chinese food and you should “know him better than that”
- When you tell him that you’re not ready to meet his family, but he drives you to their house for dinner as a surprise and makes you feel like you’ll disappoint them if you don’t go ahead with it
- When he buys something for himself with a joint credit card and claims that you said he could, even though you were talking about your credit card debt the other day and you never said that
- When he upsets you and dismisses your emotions by saying he “doesn’t know why you’re crying” and “he’s the one that should be sad” based on your actions
- When he tells you that your friends don’t really like you and they only invite you to hang out with them because they feel sorry for you
In my personal and professional experience, mild gaslighting in relationships can occur unintentionally.
Like, for example, you might have said something to upset your partner when drunk. Maybe he tells you the next morning and you genuinely can’t remember saying it. Then you end up telling him you didn’t say it and this upsets him further.
Having said that, intentional gaslighting is something else entirely.
And believe me, experienced gaslighters know exactly what they’re doing.
It just sucks if you’re the gaslightee and you want nothing but an equal, loving relationship.
Long-Term Effects of Gaslighting
According to Medical News Today, being a victim of gaslighting in a relationship has long-term effects, such as:
- Psychological trauma
Each of these can severely affect your mental health and self-esteem.
Emotional abuse can also lead to coercive control and eventually physical abuse. This can then make it feel practically impossible to leave the relationship.
Some examples of coercive control include your partner:
- Having access to your phone and monitoring everything that you’re doing on it
- Using insults and threats to scare you
- Manipulating you into unwanted sexual activity
Therefore, it’s important to seek help if you’re concerned that you might be experiencing gaslighting on an extreme level.
How to Put an End to Gaslighting in Your Relationship
Even though preventing gaslighting in relationships is easier said than done, there are a few proactive steps you can take.
#5 — Recognize the Warning Signs
First things first, according to Positive Psychology, it’s possible to see the early signs of gaslighting in relationships. These include:
- Being repeatedly lied to
- Criticism and name-calling, i.e. “sensitive,” “weak,” or “stupid”
- Him attempting to turn others against you
- Being isolated from your friends and family
- Being ignored when you try to voice your concerns to him
You may end up feeling lost and confused without knowing how you got there.
#4 — Keep Your Cool
The truth is, bullies rarely respond well to retaliation.
Instead of getting angry at the gaslighter (which might make the situation worse), try not to react.
Avoid acting afraid or upset.
Why? Well, if a gaslighter sees you doing so, it will only spur him on to gaslight further. Sad but true.
#3 — Listen to Your Gut
Is your gut telling you that there’s something not right with your relationship? Well, in this case, don’t ignore it.
Only you know yourself, your past relationships, and your current relationships 100%.
And if your gaslighting partner is trying to tell you that you’re something you’re not or you’re doing something you’re not, stay strong.
Refuse to accept his assertions when it comes to your mental or emotional wellness.
Instead, try to remember that you’re an amazing person worthy of love. You don’t deserve what’s happening to you.
And don’t let him tell you otherwise.
Listening to your gut is part of your feminine intuition. You can learn more about how your feminine intuition can help you in relationships here.
#2 — Get Help
If you ever start to second-guess yourself, don’t hesitate to confide in and lean on your support system.
After all, they know you better than anyone. They’ll be able to tell you the reality of the situation.
If they know your partner well, they may have even noticed him gaslighting you first-hand.
There’s also no shame in talking to a therapist about your worries. They’re not there to judge—only listen. If you let them, they can help you move forward.
Related: How To Let Go Of Someone You Love
#1 — Leave the Relationship
The truth is, relationships with a gaslighter can become real toxic real fast.
And if you’re head over heels in love with your partner—it can be difficult to accept this.
That said, he’s never going to change.
It’s best to get out now and leave the relationship before he does any further damage to your self-esteem.
In the meantime, try to reduce your exposure to him as much as possible.
Attract High-Quality Men
I know you’re wondering if you’ll ever find love, but it does you no good if you’re not attracting High-Quality men.
If you’re a confident and successful woman, you need a confident and successful man.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that we’ve all experienced gaslighting in a romantic relationship at one time or another. But this doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable.
It can also feel rather alarming when it first happens to you.
The trick is to keep an eye on the situation. If it seems intentional and is getting progressively worse, don’t stick around.
There’s no positive future on the horizon with a gaslighter—only psychological despair that can take years to recover from.
Love, your favorite dating coach.