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How to Spot Gaslighting in Your Relationships

7 Warning Signs of Gaslighting in a Relationship

Gaslighting is a common type of emotional abuse, but what is it exactly? Here's how to spot gaslighting in your relationships, along with some tips for what to do if you're being gaslighted.

What Is it?

Gaslighting is a manipulation tactic in which a person or entity—in an attempt to gain power or control—makes a victim question their reality. In a relationship, gaslighting can develop over time in very small, discreet ways or in the form of brazen, outright dishonesty.

Signs of Gaslighting

Since gaslighters are often clever, it's not always easy to spot the signs. In many cases, however, you should suspect that you are being gaslighted if your partner exhibits any of these behaviors:

They tell obvious lies. If your partner tells blatant lies with a straight face, it's a bad sign. Many times, they will do this to set a precedent. Because you're not sure if anything they say is true or false, they can keep you unsure and off-kilter during future interactions.

They deny reality. If you know your partner said something, but he or she continues to deny it, this is a huge red flag. These sorts of denials are intended to make you doubt your memory. The more it happens, the more you start to question your reality and start to accept theirs.

Their words and actions don't match. When determining whether or not you are a victim of gaslighting, you want to focus more on what the person does and less on what they say. If they tend to say one thing and then completely contradict their words with troubling actions, it could be a sign of gaslighting.

They try to confuse you. Gaslighters understand that people like to have a sense of normality and stability. They also know they can uproot this by making a person question things. By using confusion to weaken a partner, the gaslighter positions him or herself as a person who offers stability, giving them more power and control in the relationship.

They turn people against you. Gaslighters will often leverage others to bolster their positions. They may make comments such as "So and so agrees with me." They may also try to tell you that people have said things behind your back. Sometimes this will occur because the gaslighter has poisoned their perspectives; other times, it will be a flat-out lie. When a gaslighter employs this tactic, it can make you feel like you don't know who to trust, leading you right back into the arms of the gaslighter. For these people, isolation is a desirable goal that gives them more control.

They turn you against others. Gaslighters will often tell you that others are lying to get you to side with them. By telling you that your family, friends and even the media are dishonest, they can make you question your reality. This can make you disregard warnings about your partner. It can also alienate you from others, which is all part of the gaslighter's plan.

They project. Whether they are alcoholics, abusers, drug users or cheaters, gaslighters love to project their flaws onto their partners. When done often, this type of manipulation can leave you so busy defending yourself, you become distracted from the gaslighter's behavior.

Getting Help

In most instances, a gaslighter will be resistant to relationship counseling and will attempt to paint the therapist as a liar or manipulator. That said, there may be hope if your partner isn't aware of their harmful actions. If you suspect your partner is intentionally gaslighting you, on the other hand,  it's generally best to leave the relationship.

Leaving a harmful or dysfunction behavior can be difficult, especially if you feel reliant on your partner. With support from your friends, family and/or therapy, it is possible to regain the self-worth and confidence you may have lost at the hands of the abuser.

Our caring therapists can help you overcome life's greatest challenges. Contact us today!