Learn How to Deal With Gaslighting in Relationships
Gaslighting is a form of psychological violence in romantic relationships. Surreptitiously, the abusive partner hurts the victim’s emotions through manipulation and lies to aggrandize himself or get out of unfavorable situations for him.
It is dangerous because it creates a toxic and unbearable dynamic in the relationship, destroying the self-confidence of the spouse targeted for manipulation. So, as unhappy as he is, he can’t get rid of the abusive relationship.
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of manipulation committed by one partner to create insecurities and fears in the other. Information is omitted, distorted, or created to support psychological abuse.
In this way, the victim doubts himself and transfers the responsibility for conflicts and problems in the relationship to himself. She can even doubt her sanity in extreme cases. For example, a very common scenario is when one partner suspects cheating and the other swears nothing is happening, accusing him of “seeing things” or being dramatic.
The abusive partner does everything to debunk suspicions, accusing the spouse of creating unnecessary conflicts. Soon, the person momentarily forgets the distrust and starts to blame himself for having caused an uncomfortable situation.
Both men and women can practice gaslighting in affective relationships. However, this behavior tends to be more prevalent among the male population. This reality is due to the machismo that is still intrinsic in our society.
The Danger of Gaslighting
Considered a form of psychological violence, gaslighting hurts the psyche of the partner who is the victim of constant manipulation. People who are unable to end unhealthy relationships often have low self-esteem as a result of abuse.
It starts subtly, with small accusations and manipulations to shake self-confidence. The victim slowly begins to believe more in the other than in himself, questioning himself all the time. “Am I not being crazy? Am I not exaggerating?” are common reflections.
As the abusive partner becomes confident the practices increase and may involve direct attacks. He may attribute to the victim’s suspicions and emotional demands his inability to be satisfied with the relationship, insecurity, lack of self-esteem, inferior intellect, uncontrolled emotions, and so on.
The intention of those who practice gaslighting is precisely this: to mistreat and disrespect others for their benefit. Even when confronted with exhibiting such behavior, the abusive partner denies having bad intentions.
Recurrent manipulations destabilize the victim psychologically. She is at the mercy of her spouse’s opinions, always seeking to know what he thinks or if he approves of his choices. Friends and family notice the significant reduction in her happiness and try to warn her, but she fails to understand that the other person is the problem.
This form of violence is very powerful in destroying victims’ self-esteem and mental health, making them prisoners of abusive relationships.
How to Identify Gaslighting
Because the manipulations are subtle, people find it difficult to identify gaslighting in romantic relationships. The victim is eventually affected by psychological exhaustion and depression, being unable to perceive the seriousness of the abusive partner’s attitudes.
It is common for men and women to vent about their relationship with a psychologist without being aware that they are being psychologically manipulated. The realization can be shocking, but necessary to react to manipulations.
Feeling for the partner can also get in the way of judgment. The victim may be tempted to make excuses for the spouse’s questionable behavior by harboring affection for him or her. Therefore, it is worth taking into account the observations of close friends and family. Their opinions can help you realize the toxic reality of the relationship.
The main way to identify gaslighting is through reflection. The victim must analyze the partner’s behavior rationally, asking what emotions are aroused by the partner’s postures and words, as well as by the moments shared with him. Are they good or do they cause anxiety? Are they comfortable or stressful?
Then it is time to reflect on the occasions when the partner has lied or made false claims. If the number is high, the victim is likely suffering from this form of violence without realizing it.
The verdict usually happens when the person tries to clarify their doubts through dialogue. The abusive partner seeks to show the victim that he or she is wrong, misguided, or confused, thereby relieving themselves of responsibility for their questionable behavior. He also says how she must feel about the events exposed during the conversation.
Typical Phrases of Those Who Practice Gaslighting
To help with reflection, check out some phrases typically repeated by those who practice this psychological violence:
- “You are crazy”;
- “You are imagining things”;
- “That’s not how it happened”;
- “Stop being dramatic”;
- “Your problem is that… (criticism of the spouse’s personality)”;
- “I don’t know what you’re talking about”;
- “You are very insecure”;
- “Can’t you see I’m joking?”;
- “You imply everything”;
- “It’s your fault”;
- “You are too sensitive”;
- “You get everything wrong”.
It is necessary to pay attention to one issue: although there are people who enjoy causing discomfort to the other, there are also those who cannot admit their own mistakes because they are insecure. Such individuals lie to try to cover up unfavorable personality traits or insecurities that only they see.
Unlike the abusive partner, the insecure individual may admit his or her faults in couples therapy or intimate conversations. He is also able to ask for forgiveness as he allows his emotional wounds to heal. However, it is necessary to insist that the person stop being afraid to talk about the subject.
What to Do if I am a Victim?
The first thing is to seek support from loved ones and psychological help to rebuild your self-esteem and strengthen your self-esteem. Because victims of manipulation feel diminished, confronting the abusive partner without having a source of support can lead them to fall into his trap again.
Understand that your partner’s attitude, no matter how much love and affection you have for them, is wrong and deserves to be questioned.
In a healthy love relationship, partners constantly lift themselves through praise and encouragement. The relationship is light and pleasant, in addition to making him feel good. If your relationship is not like that, it needs to be reevaluated.
Then, talk to your partner about their behavior and express your feelings. You can even suggest that they go to couples therapy to improve their relationship.
If your spouse tries to make you feel guilty about your unhappiness, point out the times you believe he or she has lied or withheld information. Manipulative behavior is likely not readily recognized or never admitted.
From there, it is necessary to assess the feelings regarding your relationship and your desires for the future. Do you want to live well with a pleasant partner or remain unhappy to sustain a saturated bond?
The answer to this question may seem obvious, but this reflection is necessary to awaken victims of psychological violence from the trance they are in. It’s common for them not to remember what it’s like to be happy in a relationship.
Therapy can help you let go of an abusive partner and restore self-esteem. The process of moving away from an abusive relationship is not usually easy or quick. Surrounding yourself with support alleviates negative emotions and prevents relapses, which are very common in situations like this.