“You’re one crazy, girl,” your boyfriend may say affectionately, kissing you on your forehead after you tell him something you think you saw *like, you thought you saw him in a restaurant with another girl when he told you that he had a long day at a work*.
Then, throughout your relationship, you often hear him things like:
“That’s not what I said.”
“You’re too sensitive.”
“You’re just imagining things.”
“You’re making things up. It’s insane!”
And when things get really serious, he’ll blow up and say, “I think you need some help.”
These are just some of the things that your partner may say to you so you start to question yourself, and maybe even your sanity.
But don’t believe him just yet, because he may just be gaslighting you.
What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse instilled by the abuser onto the victim in order to evoke confusion that eventually turns into an extreme form of anxiety. As a result, the victim starts to doubt their own perception, memory, judgment, and sense of reality.
This term came from a classic 1944 Hollywood movie called Gaslight. In the movie, the husband resorts to manipulative tactics to drive his wife insane. One such tactic is dimming the gas-powered lights in their home, but denies that the lights are changing when his wife asks about them. So the wife starts to believe she is just seeing things.
The abuser commonly uses gaslighting to target the victim’s mental balance, self-esteem, and sanity so that they will be dependent to their abuser. This involves a frequent, systematic, and calculated way of withholding and twisting information from the victim, so that abuser can manipulate them and turn things in their favor. [Read: Big signs of abuse that you may be overlooking]
Gaslighting is a dangerous form of abuse. Anyone can be an abuser, and anyone can be a victim—regardless of age, gender, intelligence, or any other status in life.
Signs that you partner is gaslighting you
So how do you know if you are being gaslighted by someone close to you, such as your partner? Well, it’s not always easy for everyone. But here are 16 telltale signs.
#1 You’re being led to believe that you are something that you’re not. Calling names can have a harmful effect on a person over time. So if your partner starts to call you “cuckoo” or is telling you that you might be manic-depressive or bipolar *like he’s an authority in diagnosing clinical disorders, right?*, be wary of that. Anyone who seems keen on putting a psychiatric label on you might have something up their sleeves.
#2 You think, “It’s just in my head.” And you start to believe it. When you talk about your feelings or observations, your partner dismisses them like you’re the only one thinking those thoughts or seeing those things. [Read: Abusive signs of an devious lover]
#3 Everything you say is used against you. Especially when it comes to your fears. Have you ever had moments when you confide in your partner, and after a while, your partner brings those things up at their own convenience – like to win an argument or get their way?
#4 They question everything. Does your partner make you feel incapable by questioning your decisions? Do you feel frustrated by always having to explain your choices and your values? By second-guessing your decisions and abilities, you may eventually start to question if you can accomplish anything. And that makes you feel inadequate.
#5 You start to doubt your perception. Manipulative people will not acknowledge your perceptions, but instead, they will twist things around just to make you doubt yourself. For example, if you’re going out with friends that she openly disapproves of, she will tell you they’re not who you think they are – and she’ll eventually make you believe the same. [Read: Subtle signs you’re being manipulated by your lover]
#6 Your needs and feelings are trivialized. So you had a rough day at work, and at the end of the day, you plop down to tell your partner all about it. Your partner brushes it off as something insignificant *when you almost saved your company from doom*. In fact, he’s made it a habit to minimize your triumphs as well as your feelings like they don’t really matter.
#7 You feel small. Compared to your partner, you feel small. She has downplayed your ideas as well as your needs so much that it seems like the only thing that matters *or person who matters in the relationship* is your partner — and you start to blindly follow her because you see no other way.
#8 He says that he knows you better than you know yourself. So you tell him you don’t like Chinese food, and he’s like, “What do you mean? It’s delicious! You like it!” And he acts like that with you all the time, imposing his own wants and whims on you, like you’re into the same things as he is. And after a while, you don’t know what your real preferences are anymore.
#9 She conveniently forgets things. You partner is also highly convincing of her version of things. She forgets or denies that something ever happened, like her promises to you. She’ll say things like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about…” or “That didn’t happen. I have no recollection of it.” [Read: How to stop being manipulated in a relationship]
#10 You can’t trust your instincts anymore. So, even if you think that you’re about to do something right out of instinct and common sense, your partner flips it 180. Then suddenly, what you’re doing is all wrong. You believe your partner instead of your instincts, and this can start a pattern of submission to their will.
#11 Even your memories are all wrong. The only thing that is right and true is what your partner remembers. Even if you tell them otherwise, because you remembered some detail they conveniently left out, you’re still in the wrong and so you think it was all really in your head.
#12 You’re starting to give up expressing yourself. Going nowhere in an argument – or even a mere conversation with your partner – is pointless. You only end up upset, confused, exhausted, and even ridiculed at times. And so you give up. [Read: Am I in an abusive relationship?]
#13 You settle to keep the peace. You lie. Worst of all, you lie to yourself — all just to keep the peace because your partner will not stop insisting on their version of things to the point that you’ll end up in a nasty fight, and they’ll make it all your fault.
#14 You’re always saying, “Sorry.” It seems that nothing you do is right. When it comes to your relationship, it feels like you’re walking on eggshells — one wrong move and there’s an outburst, and you’re in the wrong again. You’ve been saying “sorry” so much that you start to believe that it really is all your fault. [Read: Signs you’re walking on eggshells in your love life]
#15 You’re unhappy and miserable. When it feels like you’re so emotionally gagged that you can’t even hear your own voice, you end up depressed. Everything you do is magnified, and you’re constantly criticized *and in the most awful ways*, and you have no say with regard to your own feelings because your partner won’t validate them – not even with a simple acknowledgment.
#16 You’re starting to believe that you’re the crazy one. Intense manipulation can really get to you, especially when it’s done to you constantly – especially by someone you share intimacy with. At first, you may think that your partner’s wrong. But then their words start to sink in so much, and all too often, that you start to wonder if there really is something wrong with you.
A gaslighting abuser will withhold information, ignore you, minimize their own mistakes, question everything you say, trivialize your values and feelings, divert the blame and conversation, and deny their own words and deeds. They will do all these just to manipulate you so that they have power and control over you. [Read: Emotions you just shouldn’t feel in your relationship]
Be wary, though, because these gaslighting tactics happen gradually. It can start off so subtly that you don’t even notice it. Your partner’s words may seem so harmless, and they might be so charming and affectionate that you won’t even believe they’re capable of such manipulation.
Over time, though, you will start to notice the signs we listed above. Eventually, you will feel confused, powerless, incapable, anxious, and so depressed that you actually begin to lose sense of what reality actually is.
[Read: How to handle controlling behavior in a relationship]
Gaslighting is a form of psychological and emotional abuse. No one deserves to be deprived of their own sense of reality or their right to express their thoughts without being constantly questioned, downplayed, ridiculed, and disrespected. If the signs above check out in your relationship, then you better get out fast.
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