4 Things You'll Notice If Your Partner Is Gaslighting You, According To Experts
Have you ever been in a argument with someone you were dating and started to genuinely wonder if you were losing your grip on your sanity, because the reality they presented and the one you experienced were completely out of sync? If so, there is a very good chance that you were being gaslighted, because beginning to doubt your own reality is one of the main things you’ll notice if your partner is gaslighting you. If you aren't familiar with gaslighting, it is a form of manipulation that toxic partners use to control others.
"To 'gaslight' someone is to make them doubt that their thoughts, feelings, and actions [and that they] are so unfounded, unintelligible, and unsupportable that the person thinks that... they cannot trust their judgment [or are] losing their mind," Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, licensed clinical psychotherapist, relationship expert, and author of the new book Training Your Love Intuition, tells Elite Daily.
NYC relationship expert and love coach Susan Winter previously told Elite Daily that gaslighters employ this tactic to try and control their partners. "The systematic manipulation of gaslighting makes you doubt yourself, your intuition, and your reality,” Winter explained. “This is the perfect foundation for anyone who wants control over your thoughts, and actions. The moment you no longer trust yourself... they have you where they want you. Throwing you off your 'center' is a necessity in order to have complete control."
This is why it's so essential to know how to spot the signs of gaslighting, even through all of the intentional confusion that comes with it. Here's what experts say you'll notice if someone you're dating is gaslighting you.
1. They Deny Doing And Saying Things You Saw Or Heard Them Say
One of the ways a gaslighter will seek to undermine your confidence and connection to reality is by denying things that are right in front of your eyes. “You just saw them do what they claim they didn't. You just heard them say what they claim they never said. This is how gaslighting feels to the victim who begins to doubt their assessment of reality,” said Winter. Basically, it’s the “who are you going to believe" tactic. While that sounds like it wouldn’t work, over time it’s dangerously effective at eroding your confidence to the point where you may stop trusting your own perception.
2. They Constantly Criticize And Undermine You
Since control is the end goal of a gaslighter, a major component of this tactic is to also undermine your self-confidence and self-worth, and they do it through a steady stream of criticism. “No matter what you do, you didn't do it properly. No matter what choice you made, it was faulty. No matter what situation has occurred, you're to blame,” Winter explained. “Every comment from your partner goes back to your being 'less than,' faulty, ineffective, and wrong.”
Dr. Wish agrees, adding that it’s also common for them to criticize you in front of other people. “His or her feedback, in the beginning, might have just enough ‘truth’ in it that you doubt yourself. Over time, your partner will lie and tell you that so and so said negative things about your appearance or conversation. Now you have 'proof' from another person that you are too stupid, too silly, too shallow, too wrong or too much or too little of something in your behavior or appearance. Your partner's goals are always to whittle away at your confidence, inner strength, and sense of reality,” she warns.
3. They Involve Your Friends And Family In The Gaslighting
Along with putting you down in front of others, they may even enlist well-meaning friends and family members into the manipulation. “An even more evil effort of your partner is to tell your family members and friends that he or she is ‘worried’ about your forgetfulness, emotional outbursts, moods, or anything else negative and worrisome about you,” warns Dr. Wish. “Soon, he or she has commandeered all these previously trusted people to his or her side. Now no one can contradict or challenge your partner's assessment of you.” So, if you notice that your friends and family seem to be “sharing” the same concerns about you as your partner, that could be a sign that your partner is recruiting unwitting accomplices in their manipulation.
4. They Blame You For Their Bad Behavior
When you argue with your partner, does it always eventually come back around to why you are actually the root cause of your partner’s bad behavior? Do you find yourself apologizing when they actually started the fight? If so, Winter said this is a sign you are the victim of gaslighting. “When you have a reaction to your partner's blatant lies or bad behavior, you suddenly become the one at fault for noticing it. They insist you're overreacting, and overly sensitive. Now, you're made to feel bad and wrong for communicating your feelings. This tactic is designed to make you mute and placid,” she explained. “Following the gaslighter's mission to erode your sanity, they employ 'the turnaround.' Their 'bad' behavior was caused by you. They are the victim. This second step of the equation renders you completely impotent in the relationship. Any move you make to defend yourself becomes the sword upon which you will fall.”
What To Do If You Notice These Signs
If your partner is gaslighting you, the first thing you need to do is recognize the seriousness of the behavior. “Understand that your partner is extremely unhealthy and this relationship is toxic for you,” said Winter. “Gaslighters don't give up their control with ease. Needing control is essential to their day-to-day functioning, so denial reigns supreme. They'll never admit they're gaslighting you, so give up hope for that realization.”
Her advice is to get out of the relationship as quickly and safely as you can — and start putting your health and well being first. “You cannot save them or fix them. You can however save yourself. Get into therapy. Get support. Each day you remain with your toxic partner is another day you'll need to repair your diminishing self-confidence and self-worth. Exit the relationship for your own sanity,” she said.
Dr. Wish puts it even more plainly: “Think of gaslighting as a slow, undetectable poison that kills one's soul.” Needless to say, that is unacceptable in a relationship. Most issues in a relationship can be worked through if both parties are willing to make changes, but in the case of gaslighting, or any form of emotional and mental abuse, it’s a deal breaker. So, if you sense that your partner is gaslighting you, it's time to take the steps to get out of that relationship ASAP — safely.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800) 799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.