What does gaslighting mean in a relationship?
There is a good chance you have heard of the term “gaslighting” before, but you might still be wondering what exactly the term “gaslighting” means. Well, take these statements for example: “you are too emotional, you need help”, “that’s not what happened, I never said that”, “you are imagining things”, “you sound irrational”, “you are overly sensitive”, “you are remembering it wrong”, or “it shouldn’t be a big deal”. Notice the pattern?
These are what gaslighting sounds like – it’s a form of emotional abuse that convinces the person that they are misinterpreting events or remembering things wrong. But what does gaslighting mean? And why is it considered abuse in the first place?
Gaslighting, to put it simply, is a sneaky psychological manipulation tactic that makes the victim question their own reality; their own thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of things. This makes the victim feel confused as they doubt their memories, their own judgment, and sanity.
Gaslighting can happen everywhere, whether at home (from one family member to another, parent to children), at school (teacher to students), at the workplace (boss to employee, between coworkers), and of course, even in romantic relationships.
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Gaslighting: The Etymology
The term came from the 1944 American psychological thriller film (and 1938 British play) Gaslight, in which the husband (antagonist) manipulates his wife into believing she has a mental health condition. He slowly tricks his wife to doubt her perception of reality and coming to believe she has lost her mind, as he wants her to be committed to a mental institution so he can have power of attorney over her.
To put simply, to gas light is to deflect responsibility, cast self-doubt, affect someone’s self-esteem, and exert power.
What Does Gaslighting Mean in a Relationship?
In an abusive relationship, the gaslighter manipulates the other as a form of power struggle to make the victim continually apologize and feel guilty by presenting their own interpretation of things, thoughts, and truths. It aims to gain the power to get complete control. This makes it a common form of abuse in toxic relationships.
The tricky thing about gaslighting in relationships though is that the warning signs can be difficult to recognize.
Also, gaslighting may not even happen at the start of a relationship. The gas lighter may start by building trust, which is what makes this form of abuse extremely difficult to recognize for a long time.
In most cases, the abuse is usually centered on gender-based stereotypes, which then regress to other inequalities between the abuser and the victim, where the former manipulates the reality of the latter.
The most common example of gaslighting in relationships is when the abuser convinces the other person that their accomplishments and other relationships are not important, making them feel insecure. The goal of this is to make the abuser the center and the most important part of the victim’s life.
Signs of Gaslighting in a Relationship
1. They Alienate You to Maintain Control
An abuser will pull you away from people who care about you. They may try to stir conflict to separate you from these people. They do this because they want to have full control over you.
2. They Gain Power by Breaking You
To gain power, the abuser will highlight the victim’s insecurities, to make the other person feel bad. The pervasive criticisms are what help them break their victim.
3. Psychological Manipulation
Gaslighting undermines the victim’s sense of reality as a way to manipulate them. They play on the victim’s insecurities, self-doubt, and worst fears.
4. They Make You Feel Confused About Your Reality
This is probably the biggest warning sign of gaslighting in a relationship. The abuser challenges the victim’s perception of reality, from their memories, and thoughts, to their feelings. They make their victim question their experiences.
5. Emotional Abuse
To be able to manipulate and control you, abusers will demean and insult you, even in front of other people. They might disguise their verbal assaults as jokes, but they are all the same type of abuse that makes you question your memory and perception of reality.
6. They Blatantly Lie to You
The lies are used to control and manipulate. The lies can be as small as white lies or so big that it makes the victim question his or her sanity.
In arguments, they may deny facts that you know are true, or even justify an insensitive and abusive behavior when you are upset to make you believe they have done nothing wrong and undermine your feelings.
Examples of Gaslighting in Relationships
Love as Defense
“You may not like it, but this is for your best”, “I only did it because I love you”. These are classic examples of manipulative gas lighters using love as a defense for their actions.
Gas lighters use love to justify their actions and suggest that you feel the same. They will sabotage your relationship with other people (family members, coworkers, etc.) to make themselves the center of your life and get full control over you.
They accuse you of paranoia
Another classic example of gaslighting in relationships is when abusers accuse their victims of paranoia. This often happens when their partner accuses them of cheating; they would say something like “you are just being insecure” or “you are being so paranoid”. They use this tactic in hopes of deflecting the problem onto their partner, instead of taking full responsibility for their bad behavior.
While criticism between partners is completely normal (so long as it is constructive, and aims to improve their relationship), criticism in an abusive relationship revolves around disparagement and vilification.
Gas lighters use verbal abuse to keep their victim down and stuck in their relationship. They would say something like “I am the best you will ever have, you will never get anyone better than me” or something like, “I will handle finances since you are terrible with money”. Statements like this will lead you to believe you are incapable of finding someone better or being better.
They may also use other insults like “you are being hysterical”, “overly dramatic”, or “being crazy” as a way to make you question your sanity.
Effects of Experiencing Gaslighting
Gaslighting is one of the most damaging things in a relationship. Aside from harming the victim’s emotional stability and self-esteem, it detracts the person from the “shared reality”. In a romantic relationship, having shared realities, experiences, beliefs, and feelings is not just crucial for the bond of two individuals, it also reaffirms their connection and commitment when they face potential challenges. Hence, this reality contributes to the satisfaction of both parties in their relationship.
Gaslighting, however, makes one question this so-called shared reality, if not destroys it. This leads to a wide range of problems, from discomfort in relation to loss of trust. Clinical psychologist and lecturer from the Harvard Medical School, and author of Rethinking Narcissism, Craig Malkin, Ph.D., said “There’s a fundamental core experience of togetherness and connection in a romantic relationship, and when there’s a split or fragmentation between shared realities, there’s such an undermining of intimacy, connection, and safety in the relationship.”
Here are some bad effects of gaslighting in a relationship.
1. Affects the Victim’s Mental Health
Since it can make you doubt your perception of reality and your emotional intelligence. It can make you question your sanity. Being gaslighted is never good for one’s mental health, and as a result, it makes recognizing the truth from the lies extremely difficult. This makes an unhealthy codependent relationship that feels difficult, if not impossible to leave behind.
2. Loss of Trust
Recovering from being gaslighted for a long time can be extremely difficult. This form of abuse can easily cause someone to be distrustful and cynical in love and life in general.
3. Victim Feels Guilty
Victims of gaslighting in romantic relationships are often crippled with their guilt, as they question their memories, feelings, and sense of reality.
Since victims question their memories, perception, and sanity, they end up always questioning themselves. This makes them always anxious about their thoughts.
5. Loss of Self Esteem
Abusers keep their victims down to maintain their grip on control. This leaves the victim with a very low sense of confidence,emotional intelligence, and self-esteem, as their life is centered on their abuser.
Why Does Gaslighting in a Relationship Happen?
As said earlier, people generally use gaslighting to gain power and maintain control over another person. Different cases and circumstances may have different reasons, some of these reasons are:
It makes them feel better about themselves
Abusers feel good when they keep their tight grip on their victims. They yearn to keep that sense of control over someone, and this power struggle makes them feel better about themselves.
It’s their way of keeping the relationship
They use emotional sabotage to keep and love to gaslight their bad behavior to try to keep somebody they want to be with them.
They love the feeling of having power and control
As said earlier, gas lighter abusers find genuine pleasure in having power and control over their victims.
What Should a Victim of Gaslighting Do?
The very first thing you need to do as soon as you recognize the problem is to end the cycle by breaking the grip of your abuser over you. Be ready though, as abusers will ramp up their manipulations when they recognize your intent to break free and end the relationship. Disassociate yourself from your abuser as soon as possible.
One of the best things you can do is to seek outside help. Turn to a family member, a friend, or someone you trust and share your experience and thoughts. You can also consult with mental health professionals to discuss our partner’s behavior. This can help you validate your feelings and your sense of reality. Allow yourself to feel what you feel and start making small decisions.
How to talk to a partner who is gaslighting you?
It is also important to note that gaslighters don’t necessarily act with ill intent. And oftentimes, people don’t realize that what they are doing is already gaslighting. It may come from their past experiences, or a result of how they were raised. Maybe their parents and past relationships did the same to them, and they are subconsciously doing the same thing. Many parents, for example, are overprotective to their kids. They may or may not consciously want to control their decisions, but by being overly protective they are doing so.
When trying to raise the problem with your partner, choose a time when you two are neither rushed nor stressed. And instead of telling your partner what they are doing is wrong, try to describe the problem and how you feel about it. Also, describe the pattern of your interactions that you may feel you are being gaslit. From here you can share your thoughts and ask your partner to change.
Now and always, listen to yourself and follow your instincts. Make it a commitment to not question yourself, your thoughts, memories, and your perception of reality. Understand and believe that these things should never be subject to debate. Breaking free from an abusive relationship is a choice.
Truly understanding What Does Gaslighting Mean In A Relationship? could mean the difference between great happiness and misery down the line. Find a psychic medium near you today, whether you’re in New York City, Chicago, Utah, Seattle in the US, or somewhere completely different, you can get the expert guidance you deserve. Don’t forget you can also get a psychic email reading at low cost, or try the best online psychic reading sites such as Kasamba, Oranum, PsychicOz, Bitwine, Everclear Psychic and more.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is an example of gaslighting?
A. “It was just a joke, why are you defensive”, “you get easily upset over small things”, “calm down, you are too emotional”, “don’t be so sensitive”, “you had it wrong, that’s not what I said”, “I didn’t mean it like that”, “you are imagining things”, etc. Basically, gaslighting is statements used to manipulate one’s feelings, interpretation of things, thoughts, sense of reality, and memory. Things that make one question their sanity.
Q. What are gaslighting examples in relationships?
A. Gaslighting in a relationship is a way to manipulate the other person’s thoughts, feelings, and perception of reality. This results in taking full advantage and control of the other person, making the victim feel insecure. They use love as a defense for their bad behaviors and actions, they accuse the other of paranoia, and they constantly criticize their victim to gain and maintain control and power over that other person.
Q. What kind of person does gaslighting?
A. Since gaslighting is a form of emotional and psychological abuse, you can call someone who does gaslight as a manipulative, narcissistic and even abusive person. Gaslighting, in its extreme form, is often used by criminals, cult leaders, and even dictators.