How to Stop Gaslighting in a Relationship

In some of our other articles, we discussed the idea of gaslighting (making a partner feel insane or weak, to justify the abuser’s opposing perspective) and how narcissists and sociopaths use these techniques to dominate their partners. However, this does not mean that only these antisocial personalities will ever use these techniques! Sometimes even “nice guys” will resort to this behavior, if they have the desire to gain the “upper hand” in a relationship and keep you “obedient” to them at all costs. Learning how to recognize the signs, and then STOP the behavior once and for all is essential to protecting yourself against a serious threat.

Remember first of all that men who gaslight have a pattern that they go through in relationships. Identifying their patterns, and proving to yourself they are actually gaslighting you and it’s not just everyday “white lies”, is important. Not necessarily to prove to HIM (because most gaslighters won’t admit it anyway) but you yourself, so you can gain back your confidence

Psychology Today reviews these seven stages of gaslighting:

A. Lies and exaggerations
B. Repetition
C. Escalation when challenged
D. Wearing out the victim with arguments
E. Creating codependency
F. Giving false hope of changing
G. Dominating and controlling

So as you can see, if you’re with a man who’s so far gone that he can’t see what he’s doing, or if he does see it but doesn’t care, there is no way to win. He will stop at nothing until you accept this form of emotional abuse and let him dictate all terms of the relationship.

Let’s review the best ways to stop gaslighting permanently rather than continue to cling to false hope.

1. Determine if he’s lying because he’s scared to admit the truth or if he’s really just gaslighting because he wants the power.

It’s not unthinkable that a man would resort to lying behavior to avoid telling the truth. If he’s embarrassed to admit the truth, then it may be possible to work with him and get him the help he needs to change. However, this so-called “light gaslighting behavior” is really not that common COMPARED to the actual severe gaslighting technique which is emotionally abusive.

A man lying to protect his independence has an entirely different motivation than a man lying in order to completely control you. Determine early on why the man is lying. If he is unwilling to get help with this problem, or unwilling to admit the truth after you call him on it, then just know it’s very unlikely he will ever change.

2. Work on your self-confidence and learn to trust your intuition again.

Since the power of the gaslighter lies in his ability to destroy your self-confidence, and second guess every instinct you have, obviously the answer is to work on boosting your self-confidence. Learn to love yourself and to trust yourself, even if you fear your partner disagreeing with you. Research the facts and evidence that support your decisions and thinking, and learn to take these more seriously than the opinion of your partner. While, of course, many people would argue that leaving the gaslighter behind should be the first step, keep in mind you may have to boost your self-confidence first. Since he will probably try to talk you out of leaving, you must be strong and believe in your own survival instincts.

3. Either limit time with the gaslighter or eliminate it altogether.

Ideally, the most drastic and effective way to deal with this type of man is to leave him. Understandably, this may be the hardest part for you. You may still love him, or at least, love the way he makes you feel when he’s in a good mood. You may be afraid to leave because you have no other means of support. Or you may even fear him becoming violent towards you. If this is the case, jump to Step #4.

However, if you’ve come to realize the truth about who he is and how he treats you, and you do feel confident enough to leave, then just do it. Leave and don’t bother telling him why, at least not in person. If you want to tell him why you’re leaving via email or letter, go ahead. But the truth is, breaking up with him in person—if he’s emotionally unstable—might be a huge risk.

If you need a little more time to break up with him permanently, then just limit your time with him to “absolute must” for now. Don’t try to win arguments with him. Just let him be and cooperate with him on minor issues as you work up the courage to leave for good. Which brings us to the point…

4. Do not quit him “cold turkey”. Make sure you have a support system in place when you leave, or else he will try to come and take you back.

Leaving without having anywhere else to go is one of the reasons why women go back to abusive relationships in the first place. You may feel intimated at the prospect of living alone, surviving on your own, or surviving without some form of emotional attachment with somebody. This is why it’s important to lean on family, friends, or any organization that makes you feel safe. (For example, shelters for women, churches, local communities, etc.) Don’t feel like you’re a burden to other people if this is all about your survival.

If you can’t think of a place to stay right now, spend a few days researching where to go, or making contact with friends you can count on. Use the private browsing feature on your Chrome/Firefox/Edge/IOS window, so that the gaslighter won’t find evidence of your plans to leave.

Once you find a place to stay just go and don’t risk falling back into his arms, by telling him you’re leaving. Just do it and mean it.

Remember, leaving him doesn’t mean you don’t love him. You may still love him and theoretically (even if it’s very unlikely) he may decide he wants to change his negative behavior. But one thing’s for sure, he will NEVER change if you keep falling for his tactics and living with him even though you’re unhappy. You have to take back control of your own life because you do deserve to be happy and emotionally healthy!

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Talk soon,

Matthew Coast

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Matthew Coast

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