“Gaslighting” is a type of emotional abuse. The term comes from the play (1938) and then later the movie Gaslight (1944) in which a husband slowly begins to convince his wife and others that she is crazy. Gaslighting happens slowly over time leaving the victim feeling confused, anxious, depressed and often isolated. Listed below are 7 red flags that may indicate that you are being gaslighted by your partner:
- They lie. Blatantly, and a lot: Gaslighters will lie even when they know that you know they are lying. That is part of their game. They will insist that they are right, leaving you feeling confused and doubting your ability to discern truth from fiction.
- They dismiss your concerns: Gaslighters will dismiss any concerns you may present to them. They will often insist that you are “too dramatic” or “crazy.” You will be left feeling invalidated and as if you are not allowed to have any needs in the relationship.
- They use children or pets as a pawn to gain control: Gaslighters will often use your children or pets as a way to manipulate you, especially if they know how important the role of parenting (or pet parenting) is to you. They may threaten to take the children or pets away from you, often citing a list of flaws they perceive you have as justification. This leaves you feeling terrified, but also guessing your self-worth.
- They tell others you are “crazy:” Gaslighters will attempt to turn those close to you against you, often telling them you are crazy. Sometimes this will be done without your knowledge and you may simply notice neighbors, friends or family members distancing themselves from you. Other times Gaslighters will make false police reports or file legal documents with the court system in an attempt to have you charged with a crime you did not commit based on fabrications. Remember, anyone can file anything with the courts or police. Legally the police and court system must accept the reports or documents. Even if the charges and claims are dismissed against you, the Gaslighter will still use these documents against you. Even if the charges are dismissed, they will then use these documents to share with others and attempt to convince them that you are crazy, and that they are the victim.
- They put their baggage on you: They will accuse you of behaviors that they are actually engaging in, “You’re abusive!” “You’re controlling!” “You’re a toxic person!” This puts you on the defensive and distracts you from being able to see the gaslighter’s behavior. The Gaslighter is essentially projecting their issues on to you.
- You find yourself looking back: You will find yourself unhappy in the relationship but may be confused as to why (your needs will be dismissed, you are being told you are crazy). You soon begin to look back into your past, including at past relationships and realize you were happier and more confident. Pay attention to evidence from the past that you are not the person the gaslighter is accusing you of being!
- You cannot do anything right: No matter what you do, you find it is not good enough for the Gaslighter. Even if you adjust to the Gaslighters requests and expectations you will find yourself falling short. Occasionally the Gaslighter will throw in a compliment or praise simply to keep you confused.
Remember, anyone is susceptible to gaslighting. Gaslighters are master manipulators and abuse their victims slowly over time. If you find yourself experiencing some of these red flags, it may be helpful to go to counseling to determine what you would like to do next.