How to Deal With Gaslighting In a Relationship, According to Experts
Learn how to spot the signs you're being gaslit—and how to stop it.
Has your partner ever made you doubt your self-worth? Have they made you feel like you’re losing touch with reality or had you questioning your own sanity? If you answered yes to either of those questions, chances are, you’ve been subjected to gaslighting. Gaslighting is an isolating and abusive experience that no one should go through. It can be tricky to spot the signs you're being gaslit, so, we talked to experts to help you learn how to deal with gaslighting in a relationship.
Okay, but first, what is gaslighting?
In order to notice gaslighting, you need to know exactly what this phrase means. The definition of “gaslighting” comes from the 1944 thriller Gaslight, in which a husband slowly manipulates his wife into thinking she’s going insane. The scary thing is, gaslighting isn’t just a movie trope—it happens in real-life relationships too. Gaslighting is a form of emotional and psychological abuse that can lead to long-lasting negative mental effects.
The signs of gaslighting in a relationship are most likely subtle, but this tactic can quickly grow into deep-rooted issues, so here are the things you should look out for.
Signs of gaslighting in a relationship:
1. They tell you you’re wrong often.
Does your partner often tell you that you’re wrong, you have a bad memory, or that you’re not thinking straight? If so, you’re probably dealing with gaslighting abuse, according to clinical psychologist and marriage counselor, Dr. Wyatt Fisher. These repetitive accusations manipulate you into thinking that maybe you really are losing your mind.
2. They make all of the decisions.
If your partner is constantly making the decisions in your relationship, or even for you individually, they’re probably manipulating you. This technique strips you of your independence and gets you in the habit of not thinking for yourself, giving them all of the control.
3. They overreact.
If you tell your partner that you feel like they’re gaslighting you and they become extremely defensive, you’re probably dealing with a gaslighting narcissist, according to Grapevine relationship expert Holly Zink. The gaslighter will flip the situation and place the blame on you, making you question the situation entirely.
4. You apologize often.
Do you find yourself constantly apologizing and wondering why? If your partner twists the discussion to make you feel at fault and like you need to apologize, take a step back and remember how the conversation started. Do you really have something to apologize for? If not, don’t.
After spotting the signs of gaslighting in a relationship and feeling validated that you know what your partner is doing, take a step back. Is the relationship worth sticking around for? Do you feel like your partner could actually change and you could have a healthy relationship? If not, get out of there. If you do think the chances of recovery are attainable, here are some ways to stop gaslighting in a relationship for good.
How to stop gaslighting in a relationship:
1. Trust your gut.
If you’re dealing with gaslighting in a relationship, you’ll likely know it deep in your gut. Trust your own instincts and know that if you feel like something isn’t right, it probably isn’t. That’s the whole goal of the gaslighting partner: to make you feel like you can’t trust yourself. Don’t allow this to happen.
2. Keep a journal.
Conversations can get blurry when you’re dealing with gaslighting abuse. Your partner can easily twist what happened to make you believe you’re not remembering the situation accurately. Zink suggests you start writing your daily conversations down. Over time, you’ll be able to see a trend forming of your partner manipulating you. If the gaslighter tries to convince you that you said something that you know you didn’t, you’ll have written proof to back it up.
2. Seek advice.
Mental health counseling is super helpful when it comes to figuring out what’s going on in your relationship—and how to make improvements. Couple's therapy is a great option because when a person outside of the relationship sees the gaslighter’s tendencies and addresses them, it steals their power. Relationship expert at Instant Checkmate, Anna Feister, explains how beneficial a therapist can be for this type of dysfunctional relationship.
Seek a therapist to discuss your issues and back up your feelings so that the gaslighter can’t deny them.
3. Lean on your support system.
According to Feister, one of the main tactics of gaslighters is to separate you from friends and family. Their main goal is to gain control of you, and they try to do this by making you dependent on them. Keep your outside relationships strong, and most likely, your friends and family will notice the situation and give you the help you need.
4. Confront them.
Call your abuser out when they are gaslighting you. When confronting a gaslighter, they’ll likely hold their ground, but as long as you hold yours, you’ll see them become desperate and unable to dodge blame.
Remember, no one should make you question your self-worth. If you’ve tried these techniques for how to stop gaslighting in a relationship and your partner isn’t changing, don’t stick around. You deserve to have peace of mind in your relationships.