Was It Gaslighting? Signs of Abuse in a Relationship

For every Disney Prince you dream of meeting in real life, there’s also a Gaston or a Hans, or in other words, some anti-prince who just ruins your happily ever after romance. It’s even worse when these villains, these bad guys, PRETEND to be the hero. Your Evil Prince may even pretend to be your Prince Charming and try to convince you that he is the nicest, most amazing man in the entire world.

You may not even realize until YEARS LATER, that you’ve been had. You’ve been played. Yes, you’ve been abused. And when you realize that a man you loved so much has been treating you so terribly, it really can be a major punch to the heart.

The problem is that most forms of abuse are fairly obvious. You probably would never tolerate a man who beat you, right? Well, what if the man scolded you all the time and verbally abused you? You would still probably see what he was doing and tell him to take a hike.

The problem is that gaslighting is such a clever and subtle form of abuse that sometimes you really don’t understand what’s happening until it’s too late. Gaslighting is a relatively new term and has only recently been studied in clinical psychology. While manipulation and abuse are obviously as old as human communication, the term gaslighting has been used since the 1960s to refer specifically to a technique depicted in the 1944 film Gas Light. (Yes go ahead and watch it…it may actually help people to understand what it is and how it feels in a relationship)

The technique is to sow seeds of doubt in the victim’s mind, by making them question their memory, sanity, and perception of reality. While this form of manipulation has been observed in group mentality (such as cults), it’s actually quite common in relationships with men who have narcissistic personality disorder or antisocial personality disorder.

Now maybe you’re asking how in the world could you convince a person that they’re crazy? To people like you and I, it’s hard to fathom. But to a sociopath or narcissist, (who has a lifelong history of manipulating other people for their own selfish gain) it comes very easy.

Gaslighting involves these six signs of abuse, which destabilize the victim, making her doubt what she thinks she knows.

1. Lying

If you see something that proves something happened, and yet your partner lies about it, insisting that you never saw such evidence, this is a form of gaslighting. Lying behavior, in general, is abusive because once a person lies, he tries to live according to the lie—even if that means forcing his wife or girlfriend to accept an untruth.

2. Complete Denial

Complete denial of what has obviously happened is another common tactic of the Gaslighter Prince. This involves not only someone lying but living the lie so completely and denying the truth so completely, that he basically forces his victim to think she’s going crazy. He may even come across as sympathetic or laugh at you as if you’re the crazy one and he feels sorry for you. A more subtle tactic would be to conveniently “forget” that he said something, making you appear to be the one who’s wrong or crazy.

3. Contradiction

Contradiction involves the gaslighter not simply lying, but also making new statements that contradict past statements. He has completely taken back his previous statements in order to justify his current perspective. So it’s not just that he says, “No that didn’t happen!” Now he’s actually saying, “I couldn’t have done that because I never left the house!” (Even though he previously said, “Well yes I left the house to go pay a bill)

4. Misdirection

Misdirection involves blocking your line of questioning by diverting the conversation away from his guilt. He may change the subject, or blame someone else (like your mother, sister or friend) for putting these “crazy ideas” into your head.

5. Trivializing

Trivializing involves attacking your character, and making you think there may be something wrong with your perception or mind. He may say, you’re imagining things, or that you never remember things accurately, or that you seem to be having a nervous breakdown. In other words, he’s trivializing your feelings, suggesting that you’re the only one with the problem.

6. Withholding

Lastly, the Gaslighter Prince’s tactic of “withholding” involves passively resisting your line of questioning, and refusing to talk to you when you come close to discovering his secret. He may accuse you of being temperamental or too sensitive to talk to…but in actuality, he’s just avoiding this conversation before he gets busted.

Remember why gaslighters do this in the first place. These are techniques designed to empower HIM, allowing him the freedom to break laws or violate your trust, at the expense of your feelings and your sanity.

Of course, if a narcissistic guy were an ugly and socially inept troll, then you’d definitely see it coming! But when that guy is charming, good-looking, and very confident with women, it’s much harder to see it coming. The sad fact is, some women really don’t know what hit them until years later.

The theory is that an emotional abuser wants to lower the victim’s standards for affection and loyalty; so he then attends to, ignores, attends to and ignores, creating a cycle of abusive behavior that lowers the victim’s self-esteem.

The key to avoiding this emotional abuse is to avoid getting mixed up with a narcissistic or sociopathic personality in the first place. Learning the characteristics of these types of men and how to identify them during dating, would be a way to protect yourself from an abusive relationship.

The best protection for you is to develop higher standards and higher self-esteem and to resist “love bombing” dates who seem a little too perfect—as they’re hiding something. In many cases they usually are! The best defense is simply to take your time and get to know a person.

We’ll continue this discussion in a related article, “How to Deal with Gaslighting Abuse in Your Relationship”.

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About The Author

Matthew Coast

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