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35 Disturbing Signs of Gaslighting In A Relationship

Have you ever been in a relationship where you often question your feelings, instincts, or sanity?

For example, let's say you found an email that your partner wrote to someone else, and you thought was inappropriate since you're in a committed relationship.

You approach your partner about it, but he or she insists you misinterpreted the email or that you're overreacting.

Your instincts are telling you otherwise, but you may second guess yourself enough to give in and go along with the story your partner is telling you.

This is a classic example of gaslighting in relationships, where one partner is using a tactic to gain power over another and making them question reality.

This form of persistent manipulation causes the victim to doubt their beliefs and to eventually lose their sense of perception.

This term originates from the 1944 movie, Gaslight, in which a husband slowly manipulates his wife into believing she is crazy. This movie depicts an extreme form of this type of emotional abuse that people use to control and manipulate others.

Being in a relationship with a gaslighter is a form of abuse, and you need to recognize it when it is happening so you don't fall for it.

While you may not be experiencing the level of abuse shown in the movie, it is important to know how to deal with gaslighting as it tends to get worse with time.

If you can identify the gaslighting tactics that your partner implements, you'll be able to get out of an unhealthy relationship before it does too much emotional damage.

Here are 35 disturbing signs of gaslighting in a relationship.

1. You're often reminded of your shortcomings.

One of the clearest signs of this abuse is when your partner regularly reminds you of your weaknesses or flaws. This makes you feel like you’re never doing anything right or you are not good enough.

In this circumstance, the gaslighter does not make these statements to solve a problem but rather to make you defensive. By causing you to feel vulnerable, the gaslighter has created a power differential in the relationship.

2. You feel insecure.

If you are in a relationship with a partner who gaslights you, you are probably often unsure of yourself.

You may be insecure about your behaviors,  uncertain about your partner's motives, and nervous about your partner's response to you at any given time.

3. You question your worth.

You might even start to question your worth as a person in your relationship. You may wonder if you are not a good partner, or you don't measure up to the people around you.

Because your partner makes you feel as though your perceptions are wrong, you wonder about your own judgment.

4. You are constantly walking on eggshells.

People who are being gaslighted also often feel like they can't speak freely in front of their partner without being criticized.

They feel tense and anxious as they anticipate their partner ridiculing or contradicting them. On the other hand, they feel more confident and free when they are away from their partner.

angry couple, gaslighting

5. Your partner does not admit their own flaws.

Because a gaslighter is frequently in attack mode, they rarely, if ever, own up to their own flaws or shortcomings. If they are criticized, they are quick to blame others or make excuses.

Even when the truth seems crystal clear to you, a gaslighter will refuse to admit that he or she is wrong.

6. Your partner acts like a victim when criticized.

If you criticize a partner who's a gaslighter, he or she will revert to victimhood to disguise inadequacies, and try to divert blame to you by creating a new round of accusations and untrue claims.

 

By doing this, the gaslighter can take the focus off himself and get away with his denials and deflections.

7. You make negative comments about yourself.

Since your partner's goal is to twist your perceptions, after some time has passed, you may start to question yourself and believe some of the gaslighter’s accusations about you.
Read Related:13 Warning Signs of a Self-Absorbed Partner

You may even begin to reject your own qualities and values and say things like, “I'm just an idiot. I'm not good at decisions.”

8. You say “I'm sorry” a lot.

One of the most common signs of being a victim of gaslighting is finding yourself frequently saying, “I’m sorry,” even when there is obviously nothing to be sorry about.

If your default response to anything is to apologize, this is a red flag that you don't feel safe to speak your truth.

9. You keep seeking acceptance from the gaslighter.

Despite being treated poorly, you are constantly working to gain your gaslighter's acceptance.

Often hoping to avoid tension and receive better treatment, a gaslighting victim may become increasingly compliant.

Because the gaslighter has the power to give acceptance to their partner, they can also take the acceptance away.

10. You make excuses for the gaslighter's behavior.

Some victims feel ashamed about being powerless in a relationship.

They either go into denial and pretend everything is fine, or they come up with excuses for their partner's behavior, telling other people, “It is my fault” or “I'm acting too sensitive.”

Victims of this abuse have a hard time admitting or understanding what's really going on.

11. Your partner tells clear lies.

You know what your partner is saying is a lie, but she is saying it with a straight face.

A gaslighter is simply setting a precedent for their future behavior by doing this. The goal is to make their partner unsteady and feel crazy.

12. They deny something that you have proof of.

You are positive your partner said he would do something — you know without a doubt how the conversation went because your friend was in the room. However, he firmly denies it.

This makes you start questioning what you know to be true and wondering if your reality is different from your partner's.

The more this happens, the more you question your own thoughts and start to blindly accept his.

13. They attack your foundation.

Gaslighters know the things that are near and dear to their partners and use these things in their attack.

For example, your partner may know how important your child is to you, so your parenting may be one of the first aspects of your life they attack.

He or she may tell you that you should have never had a child and that you're a terrible parent, even though you know it's not true.

14. They gradually wear you down.

A gaslighter does their work gradually. A lie here, a rude comment there — and then it hits a slippery slope.

Even the most self-aware people can be slowly sucked into a gaslighter's abuse without realizing it because it is so insidious.

15. They are all talk.

When you are dealing with a partner who gaslights, their actions and their words often do not match up. What they say means nothing, as their actions often don't reflect their words.

They can be bullies, full of bluff and bluster, but unable to follow through on threats or grandiose statements.

16. They confuse you with morsels of positive reinforcement.

This person who is always cutting you down sometimes praises you for something.

This makes you feel confused because you start to question if your partner really is as bad as you think.

This is a calculated attempt to keep you on edge, to control you, and to question your reality.

17. When you do receive praise, it's for something that benefited your partner.

Think about what you did to earn the few moments of praise. Is it always something that benefits your partner in some way? Does praise only come along when you do what your partner wants?

If so, this is just another variation of abusive gaslighting since you don't get praised for the things that really matter to you.

18. They try to confuse you.

Gaslighters are aware that people prefer to have a sense of stability. Their goal is to disrupt this and make you question everything.

During this time of instability, you are likely to turn to the person that will help you feel a sense of stability, which unfortunately is often the gaslighter. It becomes a vicious cycle of pain and confusion.

19. They project their wrongdoings.

They are cheating on you, but they are constantly accusing you of being the cheater. They lie consistently but blame you for being a liar.

This is done so much that as you try to defend yourself, and you are distracted from your partner's behavior. That's exactly what your partner wants.

20. They use people against you.

Gaslighters know who will defend them no matter what, and they try to make you feel these people don't like you.

The abuser will say things like, “My mom knows you're stupid,” or “Even my best friends don't like you.”

It is important to remember that these things may not have been actually said. As a constant liar, the gaslighter uses this tactic to make you feel like you have no one to trust.

Stressed man, gaslighting

21. They isolate you.

By making you question who you can trust, a gaslighter is putting you in isolation to only trust him or her. This isolation gives them the control over you they desire.

It becomes a twisted dynamic where you can only turn to the person who is mentally tormenting you.

22. They call you crazy.

This is an effective tool of a gaslighter because if he or she makes other people question your sanity, these other people won't believe you if you say the gaslighter is abusive.

23. They claim everyone else is lying.

By telling you that everyone else is lying, it makes you question your truth.

This is a manipulation technique that makes people turn to their abusive partner for the “true” information, which isn't correct at all.

24. You start to wonder if you are too sensitive.

You have never felt like you were too sensitive in this past, but now that you are constantly being told that this is an issue, you start to wonder if it is true, which it's not.

The gaslighter's behaviors still wound you, but you feel you can't say anything because you're overreacting.

25. You wonder why you aren't happy anymore.

You have so many good things going on in your life, so why are you not happy?

Why have you gone from feeling relaxed to constantly feeling on edge ever since you became involved in this new relationship? This may be due to your partner's abuse.

26. You start to lie to your partner to avoid being put down.

You begin to learn when the insults or put-downs are about to come.

When you know this is imminent, you make up a lie or avoid having a conversation just to dodge the bullet of verbal abuse.

27. You start to question simple decisions in your relationship.

Perhaps you and your partner are going out to dinner and you are picking the place.

You may put way too much effort into this decision with the fear of making a “wrong” choice that isn't exactly what your partner wanted.

28. You feel defeated.

You may start to feel like there is nothing you can do right, so you are completely defeated.

This would likely result in complying with anything your partner says, which is ultimately their goal.

29. Your partner corrects everything you say.

Do you often find yourself saying, “Oh, I thought you said …” just to have your partner insist that you are wrong?

If they are always causing you to question your memory of certain things that have happened in the past, it is a big red flag.

This tactic is often used to cause confusion to cover up things that they know are wrong.

30. You trust other people's judgment more than your own.

Your partner has you questioning what is or isn’t normal in a relationship. He may say things like, “Every couple fights like we do,” or “You don’t know what a healthy relationship looks like.”

So you often doubt your own judgment and think that other people are more logical than you are.

31. You stop trusting yourself.

Not only do you no longer trust yourself, but you also have trouble making your own decisions.

You assume that whatever decision you make will be wrong, even if it does not regard your partner.

32. You feel like something is “off.”

You may not be able to put your finger on it, but your gut is telling you that something is wrong. You may even be afraid to admit it or speak up to other people about it.

33. You become insecure.

It is common to become insecure if you are in an abusive relationship like this.

Both partners are insecure, but the person who is being manipulated has a lack of security that goes beyond their abuser's lack of security.
Read Related: 61 Devastating Signs of Emotional Abuse

The victim loses their security and takes on the identity given to them by their significant other.

34. Your energy is drained.

Being in this type of relationship will drain you of your energy because you will spend so much time thinking about what you should do or say next that won't be critiqued.

You will constantly feel drained of energy after spending time with your partner.

35. Your partner doesn't practice what they preach.

When you have a relationship with someone who gaslights, it may be difficult to understand their motives.

You may have a conversation with them where they sound intelligent and caring. However, when you live with them, they act in a different way.

They tell you they love you but they do things that hurt you. It is important to know that gaslighters are best understood by observing their actions.

How to Deal with Gaslighting in a Relationship

If you want to turn off the gas, there are several things you can do.

First, you need to pay attention to the 35 signs identified in this article to know that you have a problem.

Identify specific situations that can help you understand the situation and why you feel dissatisfied with your relationship.

Make sure that you do not blame yourself for this relationship that has gone wrong. Instead, set a goal to improve your situation.

Be kind to yourself during this time and be aware that you deserve better. Give yourself permission to leave the relationship, no matter what it will cost you in the end.

The only hope for ultimate change is to act differently and move on. To do this, you have to be able to recognize your strengths and abilities. This will give you the courage you need to improve your situation.

One of the most important things to do if you are in a relationship with a gaslighter and want to move on is to be able to reclaim yourself.

You have to learn how to tell the difference between truth and lies and be able to acknowledge when someone is trying to manipulate you.

In conclusion, you will not be able to get out of a gaslight situation if you cannot accept that your abusive partner is going to see things how they want to see them no matter what you do.

However, as soon as you are able to understand that only your partner can control their thoughts and that will never change, you may be able to take a step towards being free.

  • Simon

    My Dear Wife exhibits many if not all of the points. The question I have is this not all driven by fear? How can I help her? I know she has trust issues from her Dad’s affaires, her parents subsequent divorce and her first husband dying in bed from a sudden heart failure, followed by the most awful and unfair will from which got barely anything. Please help me to understand and not provide me the above points with which I could so easily be able to attack back someone so vulnerable. Thank you

      Alexandra

      Get a good counseling professional. I am not saying she is crazy. But a professional in emotional health or thinking process will be able to give her more clarity so she can understand her feelings and reactions to it. I say good because you have to find someone that truly cares about your case. If she is an emotional abuser is not your job to help her, she has to want to be helped. If it is a trauma because of her past experiences, then she needs to get the guidance to heal. But in any case, that does not give her the right to treat you with any of the 35 signs of gaslighting. Remember if it hurts is not love!

      I wish you wisdom and clarity to see the things you need to see and help you not stay in a relationship that will damage you.

      With love Alexandra

  • Christine Knight

    I have been in a relationship for 3 months. It seemed perfect. Then he met my grown up sons and I let them tease me and rose to the bait as ever – its silly and fun and jest what we do.after we left he said he found my behaviour disturbing and that he thought the argument my sons andi had had was stupid and pointless -which it was as its part of the fun. His reaction alarmed me. A week or so later on the royal wedding day I was expressing my opinion about the royals in what I thought was an ok way when he suddenly went on about my behaviour again and said he wanted to do what we’d planned to do that day without me. I talked him round but spent the day baffled by how he’d reacted to something that seemed so trivial. In the evening he asked me why is been quiet all day and i tried to explain but in moments he told me to go away and that he no longer wanted me in his house. He put all of my belongings in his car and told me to get in. He drove me to my house and dropped me off. We saw each other a few days later and behaved as if nothing had happened. He was lovely again and I played along for a bit but as soon as I asked if we could talk about what had happened the same thing happened -He said it was all caused by my behavior- and I was out again. I am so puzzled by this. He was so lovely. I can’t understand what happened
    Chris

  • Catherine Klus8

    I am in a relationship such as this. 9 yrs I would say. Want to leave, have found it to be very hard. After reading this starting Today!! Thank you.

      Dallas

      Same. 9 yrs. I can’t even remember the last time I was looked at like there was joy to see me. Oh well time to start building up that confidence

  • Dallas

    And here I just thought it was a revolting amount of narcissism and being a stuck up. This woman lied to my face for 2 years about being with someone else even though I knew the whole time she was lying, and when the truth finally came out, she still treated me like I was a piece of shit!! I stuck around just to show forgiveness and love knowing that there’s got to be a good person in there, but the behavior has not changed. every time I do something wrong it is blown up into the largest problem and it takes weeks if not months sometimes for that problem to fizzle out and every time she does something wrong it’s 3 days max before she finds a way out of it. I am constantly told everything I do wrong everything is brought up I can never mention something that I didn’t like without being accused of criticizing her or trying to turn anything around on her and ignore anything I’ve done and make it her fault I’m hung up on cussed out and the only person that she talks to the way she does it’s like I’m just somebody that served her papers and she’s losing all of her money except for the little parts that they’re small praise there’s small understanding but every day it is pretty much the same thing I am so glad I read this and I think I’m going to start documenting and recording until I can find a way out. And I don’t know if anyone else has experienced it but I’m constantly told that she doesn’t want to be with me and she’s done with this never speak to her again and then when I comply because my energy is drained and I just have no hope left I’m the bad guy I’m the one who doesn’t care I’m the piece of shit it’s like she’s holding on just to get satisfaction 2 receive what she thinks she deserves while the whole time I just can’t help but feel that there’s something going on and the second time if there is one…..I don’t want to think about if there’s a second time, I got a big heart and I forgive once, it happens twice I will turn into the nightmare and I won’t care because only a piece of shit would or could do that to another person. so there might just be some permanent things that happen because as far as I’m concerned my heart will always be scarred and remember so I will tattoo the most disturbing small picture in the most obvious place so they have no choice but to remember. who’s with me? Who else is a fucking awesome terrific person until that part of you is violated violently with emotion and lies?

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