You may not be sure what gaslighting is, but that doesn’t mean you’re not a victim of this insidious form of emotional and psychological abuse. Narcissists use gaslighting regularly as a way to control and undermine their partners, keeping them unbalanced, unsure of themselves, and struggling to tell reality from fiction. Because a victim who’s perpetually confused about what’s actually happening, is a victim who’s afraid to speak out in case they’re wrong and no one believes them. That is a narcissist’s favorite kind of victim.
So what exactly is gaslighting? According to Psychology Today, gas lighting is “a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment.” In other words, if your spouse is gaslighting you, they’re intentionally making you feel crazy and uncertain about what you think. So how can you tell if gaslighting is happening to you?
10 signs you’re a victim of gaslighting in your marriage:
1. Deny, deny deny!
If your spouse tells you things and then later claims they never said that, or does certain things and then flatly denies ever having done what you’re asserting, even if you have proof of it, then they’re gaslighting you. For example, asking you to pick up AA batteries at a Lansing grocery store, but when you come home and hand over those AA batteries, they look confused and claim they never asked for them. “You must be losing your mind!”
2. Lies and more lies.
If they lie to your face about things that simply don’t make sense. Especially if the lies are huge whoppers, or there is evidence that they’re being deceitful. Once they set a precedent for being dishonest and you don’t leave immediately, you’ve allowed them to get away with it and they will continue to be dishonest with you, forcing you to question everything they say and do, and wondering about the truthfulness of every situation. (We’ve seen this countless times with people struggling through high conflict divorces in Dewitt, Charlotte, Holt and Okemos!)
3. Subtle tricks and game play.
Another gaslighting technique is to alter or rearrange items in your regular environment and then claim they have no idea how that happened. When you question something, they claim it must have been you that did it, but your memory is slipping and you don’t remember. (In other words: you’re losing your mind!). Adjusting the settings on an appliance and saying they have no idea how that could be happening, or hiding items you left in specific places, just to keep you confused and unsure, are examples of this tactic.
4. It happens slowly over time…
Gaslighting isn’t a sudden change in the relationship – it happens slowly. A little deceit here, a passing comment about your sanity there. Slowly, like a poisoning that makes you sicker and sicker over time, your narcissistic spouse undermines your perception of reality and everything you thought you were sure of. And just like the proverbial frog in hot water, pretty soon your whole world is consumed with lies and confusion and uncertainty.
5. Occasional praise
And just to keep you completely off balance and off-kilter, they throw in the occasional word of encouragement or praise. Telling you that you’re wonderful one minute, and then snidely disparaging you for being forgetful and misremembering something the next. This tactic of tossing in occasional praise, just to reel you in again and make sure you feel somewhat loved in the midst of your confusion and fear over losing your mind.
Divorcing a narcissist is a long, hard (and legitimately scary) journey! We know.
Join us next time for the rest of this list, so you know what to look out for if you suspect your spouse is gaslighting you. Until then, keep in mind that divorcing a narcissistic person is an uphill battle, and you should expect the process to be long and full of conflict. Our experienced and trained family law attorneys here at The Kronzek Firm have helped countless folks from Ingham, Eaton and Clinton Counties through contentious divorces from toxic spouses over the years, and we know exactly what you’re up against. So if you realize your spouse is gaslighting you, and you’re ready to be done with that nonsense, call 517 866 1000 to get our expert help with every aspect of your divorce.