Relationships can be tough at any stage. Sometimes you’re lucky and realize you’re in a fantastic relationship with a great person right off the bat. You go on to have years of enjoyment together. Then there are the times when you took the plunge, maybe with a little doubt you wrote off as the jitters, only to realize that little voice inside you was right. You married an individual who causes you nothing but emotional and psychological distress as a form of entertainment.
There are different forms of abuse that can invade a relationship and set the scene for a contested divorce. One of them is called gaslighting. Below we’ll explain what gaslighting is, what the tell-tale signs are, and what you might be able to do about it.
What is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a classic form of manipulation and brainwashing. It doesn’t mean victims are weak. It means the abusive spouse is a master at the skill of making you doubt yourself and everything you know to be true. It causes you to lose your sense of perception, identity, and self-worth. The term was coined from a 1944 film called “Gaslight,” that depicted a husband working hard to make his wife believe that she was insane by making her constantly question herself.
In a marriage, this behavior can be more devastating because you have chosen to spend your lives together as equals but the effect of gaslighting creates a power imbalance in the relationship. The abusive spouse often winds up with complete control if the victim spouse doesn’t realize what’s happening early enough to put a stop to it.
What are the signs of gaslighting?
Recognizing the stages of gaslighting can help you to either avoid becoming the victim in your marriage, or to realize you may need to seek some assistance to combat the treatment you’re being subjected to. Understanding the stages will also give you the ammunition you need to prove your husband or wife has behaved improperly when it comes to showing fault in a divorce should you choose to end your marriage.
Stages of gaslighting include:
- Lying and exaggerating in a negative way about your capabilities or any other characteristic
- Repeating the same misinformation regularly to ingrain it into your psyche
- Escalating the behavior when you push back and try to correct the narrative
- Wearing you down until you cave in and begin to submit to your spouse’s psychological attacks
- Becoming co-dependent on your gaslighting spouse because you feel insecure and need acceptance
- Offering false hope that you are pleasing your spouse by letting up on the abuse and treating you with kindness
- Domination and control through repeated coercion and lying
There are also signs that you have become a victim of a spouse who has gaslighted you, such as you:
- Don’t feel like yourself anymore
- Are more anxious and lack the confidence you used to have
- Often wonder if you’re just being overly sensitive
- Feel like nothing you do is good enough
- Always accept fault for things that go wrong
- Frequently find yourself apologizing
- Sense that something is off but can’t put your finger on the problem
- Often feel like your reaction to your partner might not be appropriate
- Make excuses to minimize your partner’s behavior
- Avoid giving information to friends or family members to avoid confrontation about your partner
- Feel isolated from friends and family
- Have increasing difficulty making decisions
- Begin to feel hopeless or depressed
What can I do to stop my spouse’s gaslighting behavior?
The first thing you need to recognize when faced with gaslighting in your marriage is that you did nothing to cause it. Your husband or wife was wounded before you entered the picture and you simply became a means to them feeling better about themselves by emotionally beating up on you. It’s their way of trying to regain control from the person who actually hurt them in the past.
When you see the signs discussed above and realize you’re being gaslighted, you have a few options:
- Instantly react to the false statements your spouse makes by calmly explaining that you see the situation another way. Reacting in an argumentative manner will only cause your partner to escalate.
- Remain confident in what you know to be true and don’t allow your partner to wear you down and alter that belief. If you need a second opinion to confirm your thoughts, ask a trusted friend to weigh in on the issue.
- Look for solutions by way of individual or couples counseling to see if there is a way to resolve the behavior you’re being subjected to. You can learn tools to handle these attacks, your partner may be able to overcome it and your marriage may be able to be salvaged if you’re both willing to put in the effort.
- If all else fails, leave. Your sanity is not worth saving a marriage that can’t be saved if your spouse has no interest in changing. You deserve someone supportive who doesn’t take you for granted as an outlet for his or her abusive tendencies.
If you or a loved one is married to an individual who engages in gaslighting, it may be time to seek the advice the dedicated Maryville divorce attorneys at Shepherd & Long, P.C. We help abused clients across East Tennessee who need a smooth and expedient end to their marriages. To schedule your free consultation, we invite you to call a member of our legal team at 865-982-8060, or feel free to complete our contact form and someone will reach out to you shortly.