Gaslighting is a form of manipulative emotional and psychological abuse in relationships. The name stems from an early 20th century play and movie called Gas Light, in which a man convinces his wife that she’s going insane by intentionally dimming the lights in the house and convincing her that they aren’t dimmed at all. Scary and more common than you’d think. If your guy does these things, he might be gaslighting you:
He straight up lies to you. Bold face lying is Gaslighting 101. Gaslighters lie about the mundane stuff just to drive you crazy. You might catch him in a lie and he’ll still maintain that he’s telling the truth.
If you confront him about something that you know he did, he denies it. Along the same lines as lying, gaslighters notoriously deny everything, even when presented with proof. Think Bill Clinton saying that he didn’t have sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky when everyone knows that he absolutely did. You might have pages and pages of text messages, screenshots, and other forms of evidence when you confront him and he’ll simply deny that it’s real. If he does that, get out fast.
He changes the subject. Gaslighters aim to control you, so they’ll often try control what the two of you talk about. If you notice that your guy doesn’t really listen to what you have to say or often completely changes the conversation to a different topic, he might be manipulating you.
He makes you feel guilty about the things that make you feel good. In addition to control and power, gaslighters want you to feel like you need them. Think about how your boyfriend responds to the things that you enjoy. Does he make you feel guilty about going to the gym and not spending time with him or does he tell you that something like meditation practice or eating healthy is a waste of time even though, obviously, those things are healthy habits? These are just examples, but pay close attention to whether he supports you or attacks the things that are important to you. That’s a big red flag.
He preys on your vulnerabilities and insecurities. Similarly, gaslighters will emphasize your insecurities and make them feel more significant to you than they actually are. So, if you’re insecure about something like your weight or height, they’ll latch onto it, amplify it and remind you of it constantly. They might mask their comments as concern for you (like telling you that one outfit looks better for your body type than another outfit and suggesting that you change before you go out) when really they’re intentionally aiming to break you down.
He tells you that you’re crazy in addition to making you feel that way. First of all, if you’re going through this list and some of these things resonate with you, I just want you to know that you’re not crazy. Gaslighters will tell you that you’re crazy in addition to doing all of these other things because they want to break down your self-esteem and make you feel helpless. If your guy tells you that you’re crazy when you express how he makes you feel, then he’s totally trying to gaslight you and it’s definitely time to let him go.
He doesn’t respect your feelings. In addition to telling you that you’re crazy, he might just shirk off your attempts to talk to him about how you feel. He might tell you that he doesn’t have time to talk or that he can’t handle a fight right now whenever you try to have a talk with him. This is scary behavior. Gaslighters want to make you feel powerless and they do that by shirking off your feelings.
He tells you that you’re trying to ruin the relationship. If, when you confront him, he flips the issue and says that all of the things you’re bringing up are due to your actions because you’re trying to ruin your relationship, he’s gaslighting you. Period. Gaslighters purposefully deflect so that everything you confront them about somehow becomes a problem that you created. Don’t let him do this to you!
He discourages you from spending time with your friends and family. Like I said, control is their aim, so keeping you away from other people is one way that they establish control. If you notice yourself shrinking away from your loved ones because your boyfriend doesn’t like them, doesn’t want you to spend time with them, or claims that he never gets to spend time with you (when he definitely does), then he might be gaslighting you.
He finds a way to make you feel special even if he tells you that you aren’t. If he does this, he wants to completely throw you off. He might give you gifts and other positive reinforcements while simultaneously criticizing you or lying to you. He’s manipulating your feelings by pairing positive things with negative things so that you don’t know how to really feel about it. Maybe, you’ve said to yourself, “Yeah, he lied but he did buy me this bag or take me on this trip…” If you’ve said that, please leave him. That’s gaslighting.
He diminishes your purpose in life. If he’s making you feel like you don’t know who you are anymore, then maybe it’s time to reconsider your relationship. Emotional and psychological abuse is real, calculated and deliberate. I know it can be hard to leave a relationship with someone that you love, but if he’s treating you like this, it’s probably not healthy for you in the long run. You deserve to be with someone who’s going to be honest, loving, supportive and encouraging because you’re worth so much more.
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