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What is Gaslighting? Signs and Tips for Seeking Help

Gaslighting in marriage or a bad relationship can take a toll on your mental wellness. Perhaps a friend pointed it out, or your therapist has seen signs of gaslighting. Perhaps, you heard the term on the news when Donald Trump was the President of the US. 

Either way, gaslighting is a serious issue that many victims do not even realise they are going through. Gaslighting is essentially a form of abuse, but there are many layers. Understanding what it is, how it works, and its signs can help you find help just in time. 

If you’re a victim of gaslighting in your marriage and seek help, you can contact Austin Kemp Solicitors via email at mail@austinkemp.co.uk or call at 0333 311 0925. 

What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a kind of emotional abuse where the victim questions their perceptions and reality. It results from manipulative behaviour from a partner where they create false narratives that sound true to the victim, so much so that they begin to question their judgement. 

It can build up slowly and may not even be highly visible to the victim or those around them. However, gaslighting leads to other issues in victims, and they can even begin to feel like they have gone insane. The victim can also become dependent on their emotional abuser over time. 

Whilst gaslighting is most common in romantic relationships, it can also occur in other types of relationships, such as friendship, or with family members like a parent or sibling. 

It can even happen at a workplace, as according to one poll, 58 per cent of respondents in the UK said they had experienced gaslighting at their work. 

On the other end of the relationship, the person gaslighting can have mental disorders that may be pushing them to manipulate others. For example, people with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) can exhibit behaviour that resembles gaslighting. 

Learn more about toxic relationships and coercive control, and see how Austin Kemp can help when you want to divorce due to domestic abuse and harassment.

Gaslighting in Marriage: How a Partner Can Gaslight You

Gaslighting has likely been happening in close relationships, marriage and friendships for centuries, but has only come to light more recently. However, today, we have a better understanding of how gaslighting works and what techniques emotional abusers use to gaslight their victims. 

Dr Robin Stern brought the term to the masses with her book ‘The Gaslight Effect.’ Even more so, the term became common knowledge when TV hosts and political analysts started using it for politicians. 

So how can someone gaslight you? There are many ways gaslighting works. Here’s how your partner may be gaslighting you:

Lying Blatantly

Your partner may lie habitually and do so with confidence. For instance, it’s typical of gaslighters to lie frequently and never accept that they are lying even when you point out or present facts. They can turn on you instead and say things like “you’re lying”, or “that never happened”, or “you’re mental”.

This is one of the primary ways abusers gaslight: by lying with such confidence so that the other person starts to wonder if what they are saying is the truth. 

Creating Distractions

A partner who gaslights knows how to change the subject when their lies or stories are questioned. They may either change the subject entirely or respond with questions rather than answers. 

Their aim is to distract their partner, distorting their thoughts. This can be very problematic for the victim. 

Creating Rumours and Gossip About You

A partner who is gaslighting you may spread rumours about you to friends, family, co-workers, and so on. For instance, they may tell them that you’re unstable emotionally or that you have a mental disorder. 

The aim is to turn other people against you, so they side with them without necessarily knowing the truth. 

They don’t just tell rumours about you to people, but to you too. For instance, they may tell lies about what people think about you to manipulate you. They can create elaborate stories to make you believe that someone said something bad about you, causing you pain and making you feel more dependent on your abuser. 

Blaming You for Everything

A common way for a partner to gaslight you is to shift the blame on you for everything, including things you are clearly not responsible for. 

Gaslighters can manipulate a situation and create a narrative that ultimately pins the blame on you. Even if you voice your concerns and deny that you’re the one to blame, they will come up with twisted logic that renders you culpable.

They can even blame you for their own behaviour. This is one reason many domestic violence victims don’t end up reporting physical or emotional abuse – they are made to believe their partner’s actions are a result of their behaviour. 

A partner gaslighting you would never accept they did something wrong. That’s a common theme with narcissistic individuals, who are more likely to be gaslighters. 

They will never take responsibility for anything wrong they themselves have clearly done. This constant denial can make victims question themselves and feel like they have no value. As a victim, you may not get closure and may begin to dwell on things. 

Changing History

Another common behaviour of gaslighting partners is that they rewrite history in a way that benefits them. You would be surprised how they can change and manipulate a story and make it sound true. 

This is all the more common with gaslighters, who are also physical abusers. They create confusion for the victim when revisiting events. 

If any of the tactics above describe your partner’s behaviour, you need help. Contact Austin Kemp Solicitors to find your options out of abusive relationships or marriages. 

What are the Signs of Gaslighting?

Besides the tell-tale signs in your partner’s behaviour, you may show signs that you’re a victim of gaslighting. 

Gaslighting can even lead to other mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and even suicidal thoughts. 

Here are some of the signs of gaslighting:

  • You doubt or disregard your feelings and believe that your partner’s behaviour is not that bad. 
  • You think, believe, or your partner has told you that you’re too sensitive and sentimental. 
  • You often question your judgement or assessments of situations, especially with something to do with your partner. 
  • You have trouble expressing your opinions or emotions. 
  • You apologise all the time, even for trivial things. 
  • You feel isolated, weak, and even strange, believing that people around you think you are unstable or mental. 
  • You tend to believe what your partner or other people say about you and accept it. 
  • You feel disappointed in yourself and think you don’t deserve love or are not good enough. 
  • You doubt your memory of events and shy away from sharing recollections of events thinking you don’t remember them correctly. 
  • You’re confused by your partner’s behaviour, thinking what is supposed to be bad is good. 
  • You feel anxious most of the time, like something bad is about to happen. 
  • You get nervous around your partner. 
  • You have a hard time making decisions. 

You may not show most of the signs above. However, if even some of these signs apply to you, it’s worth talking to a professional like a therapist or solicitor who can provide the support you need. 

Taking that next step can be very difficult. When you’re being gaslit or suspect you’re being gaslit you may feel like you’re overacting. The vast majority of gaslit people do feel that way, trust your gut instinct and speak to someone you trust. 

Finding Help When You’re Being Gaslit

It can be extremely painful, emotionally and mentally, to live with someone who constantly gaslights you. However, you can take steps to address the situation, including all necessary options such as getting a divorce. 

Spend Some Time Away

Distancing yourself from your abusive partner who gaslights you may help get a grip on your emotions and thoughts. 

Typically, gaslighters know how to manipulate their partner into continuing to live with them and stand the abuse. However, spending some time away from them will help you regain your senses and look at the situation more closely. 

You can also spend this time doing activities that make you happy and elevate your self-esteem, so you can reverse some of the damage. 

Talk to a Counsellor

As mentioned before, gaslighting can be difficult to identify for victims and their loved ones. Talking to a counsellor who specialises in relationships may help you further solidify your assumptions that you’re in a relationship with a gaslighter. 

If you don’t already see a therapist, contact one and book a session to explain your partner’s behaviour as well as your feelings. A licensed couple’s counsellor will help you understand the dynamics of gaslighting even better. 

More importantly, they will give you resources for seeking help and the tools to address the mental issues you may be facing as a result of gaslighting. 

Note that anything you discuss with a therapist is completely confidential, so you can be at ease discussing intimate details of your partner’s behaviour. Chances are there might even be more issues than just gaslighting. 

Couples therapy is also an option. However, it can only work if both partners are willing to work with a therapist. Since a gaslighter never accepts that they are in the wrong, they are not likely to go to therapy with you. 

Talk to a Loved One

If you think your partner or spouse is gaslighting you, it may also help to talk to a loved one who values you and supports you. You can describe the behaviour and how they make you feel to a third party and gain their perspective of the situation. 

If anything, they might provide you with the emotional support that you may so deeply need in such a situation. Gaslight victims often feel unloved and unwanted, which exacerbates their situation. The emotional support and love from a close friend or family member can give you the push you need to change your situation. 

Keep in mind that talking to a friend or relative is not the same as talking with a professional. They can only provide their perspective and give you some encouragement to get help. 

Gather Proof and Write Notes

As gaslighters lie frequently and distort reality, you should maintain evidence of conversations and events to remind yourself of the truth. The proof can also come in handy should you decide to end the relationship and file for divorce. 

You can save conversations between you and your partner or spouse in messages, voice notes, or emails. You can also keep notes of their actions exactly how they occur. Do not let them know that you’re keeping any evidence. We’d suggest using notes on your phone or sending yourself emails in a long, continuous thread. 

This will not only be helpful for legal action, including divorce if applicable but also for yourself. When you doubt your recollection of events or conversations, you can go back to the notes to assure yourself of the facts. 

Consult a Solicitor to End the Relationship

The truth is that living with a gaslighter can negatively impact your mental health. You may want to work on your relationship and make your partner realise their gaslighting actions, but that may not work if they don’t want to change, which is often the case. 

In many cases, their actions originate from a mental disorder, which may require professional help.

Therefore, it may be in your best interest to end the relationship/marriage. 

Your first step should be to consult a solicitor specialising in separation and divorce. They can guide you on what grounds you can file for divorce and help you get some form of compensation for the abuse you have already suffered at the hands of your gaslighting partner. 

Someone who is a gaslighter may not make the divorce process so smooth. That’s why you need legal help and guidance every step of the way to ensure you get out of the abusive relationship and turn over a new leaf. 

Cutting ties with someone you love is difficult, even if they’re emotionally abusive. Learn more about how to end a relationship with Austin Kemp.

Bottom Line

Gaslighting is a serious issue that we need to talk about more. Unfortunately, despite the term becoming more common lately, many people still don’t understand what it is and what damage it can inflict on the victim. 

Gaslighting in marriage is a recipe for lifelong misery, self-doubt, anxiety, and depression. No one should have to live with someone who emotionally abuses them into losing their very self. If you suspect you’re a victim of gaslighting, seek help today. 

Contact Austin Kemp Solicitors via email at mail@austinkemp.co.uk or call at 0333 311 0925 for a free initial consultation regarding divorce. 

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28th April 2022

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