If your significant other constantly makes you question yourself or feel crazy, they may be gaslighting you. While this is a relatively new term, this is hardly a new practice. It refers to the act of undermining a person’s reality or denying facts and feelings. It’s a form of manipulation used by abusers to gain control and paint themselves as the victim. It can break down your confidence and make you believe you’re the problem, even though you’re not. Below, we review the main signs of gaslighting so you can identify it before being manipulated.
- They Lie To Your Face. People who gaslight often have a habit of lying – it may even be pathological and can be a sign of narcissism. They may deny something has happened, even if you show them proof. Or they’ll change their story or distort facts in their favor. If you call them out, not only will they become defensive, but they’ll start shifting the blame on you by accusing you of making things up or calling you crazy and confused.
- They’ll Twist Facts. Even if a gaslighter isn’t straight-up lying to you, they’ll twist facts not only to make themselves look a certain way but to make you confused. When you start to question yourself, you’ll be more likely to agree with their version of events, thus allowing them to successfully manipulate you and gain the upper hand. For example, if your significant pushed you, they may claim you lost balance and they just tried to brace you as you fell. Trust your gut and don’t believe their lies.
- They’ll Minimize What Happened. This is one of the biggest signs of gaslighting. One of the ways a gaslighter tries to control the situation is by downplaying what happened or minimizing your feelings. They may accuse you of being too sensitive or blowing things out of proportion. They may try to convince you that you’re in the wrong for over-reacting to the situation. Remember, someone who truly cares about you won’t invalidate your feelings or concerns. Don’t allow another person to minimize your experiences.
- They Make You Doubt Yourself. If you’re constantly second-guessing yourself, you may be the victim of gaslighting. Someone who gaslights gains the upper hand in a situation by making the other person doubt themselves. They may convince you things didn’t happen the way you remember or that you’re over-reacting. Not only will you experience lowered self-confidence in the long-term, but you may find yourself wondering if you remember things correctly or even stopping trying to share your perspective for fear that it’s simply wrong.
- They Refuse To See Your Perspective. Someone who gaslights is steadfast in the position that they’re in the right. They’re not willing to see things from your perspective or to even consider the facts you’ve brought forth. Rather, they’ll give you a bunch of reasons why they don’t need to consider your point of view – they’ll tell you you’re too sensitive, not remembering things correctly, or that you’re to blame. They’ll remain convinced they’re in the right in hopes that it’ll eventually wear you down and cause you to question your own perspective. You’re never going to resolve a conflict if someone doesn’t care to see your perspective. It’s futile. So rather than continuing to argue, remove yourself from the situation.
- They’ll Divert From The Topic. If a gaslighter feels as though they’re losing control of the situation – like you’re not believing their lies or denials – they’ll try to divert or distract in order to gain the upper hand. They’ll likely change the topic or go off-subject. For example, if you’re upset with them, they’ll bring up something you did in the past. They may say you have no right to be upset because what you did in the past was “worse” and they were able to look past it or have more of a reason to be angry. Alternatively, they may try to twist the facts to distract you from your point or claim that you got an idea from someone else (like a friend or family member), thereby invalidating your claims.
- They’ll Make You Question Your Self-Worth. Your confidence is going to take a hit from someone constantly gaslighting you – and that just makes it easier for them to control you. You’ll question how you react, feel, and remember things, which will make you less likely to call the gaslighter out on their behavior and recognize the emotional abuse. In fact, someone who gaslights may claim that you’re crazy or hard to deal with and that you owe them something since they’ve “put up” with your behavior. They may tell you no one else will put up with your “craziness” or will claim that no one will care for you the same way they do. You may not recognize this as one of the signs of gaslighting but it truly is.
- They Make You Apologize. Gaslighters always position themselves so that they’re in the right. They may even claim to be the victim in the situation. They’ll find a way to shift the blame on you so that you see things from their skewed perspective. You’ll find yourself constantly apologizing for what they’ve convinced you that you’ve done wrong. Sometimes they may demand an apology, but after enough time, you’ll find that you start over-apologizing on your own, since your self-worth is so damaged.
Remember – gaslighting is never your fault. It’s a form of emotional abuse and manipulation, which can be difficult to recognize and to get away from. The best thing you can do is put distance between you and the gaslighter so they can’t keep asserting control over you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help to get out of a difficult situation.