Have you ever had a disagreement with your partner that left you questioning your sanity?
Perhaps you had proof that your partner did something, but they still lied to your face about it.
Or maybe they got angry about a text they found in your phone. When you got upset that they violated your privacy, they said you had no right to be angry, and expected you to defend yourself anyway.
If these situations ring true for you, you may have experienced one of the most subtle forms of abuse: gaslighting. Gaslighting is a form of mental and emotional abuse that aims to make you question your reality. It’s a tactic many abusers use to gain power by confusing, guilting, and manipulating their partners.
Since gaslighting can be hard to spot due to its sneaky nature, we’ve put together a list of warning signs to watch out for.
- They tell obvious lies. It doesn’t matter if you saw it with your own eyes. A gaslighter will lie to you with a straight face, even when you have evidence on your side. What they say and what they do often won’t match up.
- They use what you love to hurt you. A gaslighter knows what matters most to you, and will use it to tear you down. If they know your career means the world to you, they might say you’re unqualified for your job, that they could do it better than you, or that your boss thinks you’re lazy, even though none of that is true.
- Sometimes they sing your praises. In an effort to confuse you, a gaslighter will sneak an occasional compliment in between criticisms. This tactic is meant to make you think that maybe they really are a good partner after all.
- They project their flaws onto you. If they cheat, look through your text messages, or spread rumors about you, they may accuse you of doing the same to them. That way you’ll get be too busy defending yourself to call them out on their mistakes.
- They turn people against you. They’ll tell anyone who will listen that you’re crazy, violent, angry, etc. Gaslighters are skilled at playing the victim, and know that if they get people to believe you are crazy, no one will believe you when you speak up about abuse.
- They tell you you’re crazy. Confusion is a key component of gaslighting. A gaslighter may try so hard to convince you that you are crazy, you may start to believe it.
- They’ll tell you not to trust anyone else. They may tell you your family is lying to you, or that your best friend said you’re selfish. By breaking your trust in your support network, the gaslighter aims to become the only person you still believe.
- It’ll happen slowly. None of this will happen overnight. That’s what makes gaslighting so hard to spot. Often by the time you realize something is wrong, the gaslighting has been going on for months or even years.
If any of this is happening to you, remember that you are not alone, it’s not your fault, and you are not crazy.
Trust your instincts- they’re stronger than you think! If you have questions about gaslighting, or would like a safe space to talk things out, our advocates are here for you 24 hours a day.
List adapted from Gaslighting: Recognize Manipulative and Emotionally Abusive People–and Break Free by Stephanie A. Sarkis Ph.D.