Is My Boyfriend Gaslighting Me

Since Donald Trump’s inauguration, the term has become so popular that it was declared one of the most popular words of 2018 by the Oxford Dictionaries: gaslighting.

It hasn’t just entered our lexicon. It has become an integral aspect of our information gathering process. Anderson Cooper 360, Anderson Cooper’s nightly news roundup, includes a unique series called “We’ll Keep the Gaslight On,” a song about politicians’ lying.

The term “in the vernacular” “The act of undermining another person’s reality by rejecting facts, the environment around them, or their feelings is referred to as “to gaslight.” Targets of gaslighting are persuaded to rebel against their own knowledge, feelings, and essential self-identity.

Gaslighting occurs when a wife informs her husband that he is avoiding child care responsibilities and he responds by refusing to accept the situation.

Perhaps the president or other political officials are deceiving us all. However, it’s more than probable that the job is being done by someone considerably closer to us. Most of us have been gaslighted at some point in our lives, so understanding how to recognize it, shut it down, and limit the psychological impact on our daily lives is critical. Gaslighting can have a severe and long-term effect on our emotional, psychological, and occasionally physical well-being if left unchecked.

I’m a registered psychoanalyst and the associate director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and I’ve met with hundreds of people who have been subjected to gaslighting in their own lives over the years. That is why I developed the phrase “In my 2007 book, I wrote about the “gaslight effect,” which refers to the long-term effects of being repeatedly gaslighted. When gaslighting became a cultural phenomena earlier this year — especially, the Trump administration’s frequent lies while his fans cheered his fast and loose twisting of reality — my book was rereleased.

Gas Light, a 1938 mystery novel written by British dramatist Patrick Hamilton and adapted into a blockbuster 1944 film starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer, inspired the phrase. Gregory deceives his adoring, trusting wife Paula into believing she can no longer trust her own perceptions of reality in the film.

Gregory causes the gaslights in the house to flicker in one key scene by turning them on in the attic. When Paula inquires as to why the gaslights are flickering, he claims that it’s all in her head, forcing her to mistrust her own self-perception. As a result, the word “The term “gaslighting” was coined.

Before it became popular, the phrase was used in scholarly circles. It has been used in scholarly journal papers about women’s socialization since 1980. Experts theorized that women were socialized to crave relationships and connection, a conditioning that made them open to attachment exploitation, which is exactly what gaslighting is.

It’s unknown when the term first entered popular psychology, but it’s now commonly used to characterize a specific sort of toxic relationship in couples counseling and self-help literature.

In interpersonal relationships, gaslighting frequently establishes or reinforces an existing power imbalance. While it’s most frequent in romantic relationships, gaslighting can also occur in any connection in which one person is so essential to the other that they don’t want to upset or lose them, such as an employer, friend, brother, or parent. Gaslighting occurs when there is an unequal power dynamic in a relationship and the target has given the gaslighter power and frequently respect.


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However, the issue remains: how does one become a gaslighter? When it happens to you, how can you recognize it? And how do you deal with it once you’ve identified it?

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The gaslight tango

Years ago, I worked with a couple in Philadelphia named Janine and Dan, who were both high achievers in their 40s. (To protect their identity, their names have been changed.) Until the gaslighting began, the couple was enjoying their newlywed life. Dan would constantly remark on Janine’s inability to contribute to their financial situation. Janine didn’t take the criticism seriously at first, because she was making a good salary and contributing her fair part, even if she wasn’t excellent at saving. Dan’s jabs were disregarded by her “It’s adorable,” they say, and it’s part of their banter.

Dan accepted a higher-paying profession that required a lot of travel when they had children and decided that Janine would stay at home and care for them. Janine began to sense that he was growing aloof at that point, which he quickly disregarded. She also saw that while Dan was on the road, he would make significant withdrawals from their joint account, despite his assurances that the money was safe “When he was at home, he was “tight.”

She confronted Dan, fearing he was having an affair, only to be met by Dan’s assertion that she was wrong “I’m making up things.” When Janine resisted, he kept saying, “You’re clueless when it comes to money. Isn’t that something that’s already been established?”

She grew increasingly worried about money, convinced that it wasn’t her fault “Dan would respond with contempt anytime she brought up anything about Dan’s spending, telling her she was a financial disaster.

Janine’s suspicions of an affair grew stronger with time, but she didn’t question it, which made her even more worried. But she began to feel less and less entitled to learn about his life — after all, she was a financial nightmare. They discontinued couples treatment because the cost was too prohibitive, they claimed.


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Dan had admitted to being in another relationship the last time I heard from Janine. Janine questioned whether it was her fault for being such a jerk “I’m in a lot of agony” when it comes to money.

In my work, I saw instances like Janine’s and Dan’s all the time. Gaslighting occurred frequently in response to both genuine accusations (Dan was spending a lot of money on the road) and emotional complaints (Janine noticed that Dan was distancing himself).

Undermining a partner’s emotions and feelings is a means to reject their truth, which is an important gaslighting tactic. It’s just as helpful to continually invalidate how the other spouse feels about a situation as it is to claim their perceptions are incorrect. During those moments, the emotional slicing away has the effect of convincing the other person that they are imagining or hallucinating “made up” circumstances that don’t exist, when what that person is feeling or experiencing is genuine.

Gaslighting techniques, as Matthew Zawadzki, PhD, pointed out in a 2014 article on the subject, “radically undercut another person to the point where she has no place to stand from which to dispute, no vantage point from which her remarks may be construed as genuine disagreement.”

What turns us into gaslighters?

For gaslighters like Dan, the tactic is a way to regain control of the relationship in the present moment, to end the fight, to relieve some anxiety, and to feel “in charge” once more. It’s a technique for someone to divert blame and tear down someone else while keeping the other person hooked, especially if what they’re hooked on is the frantic need to please someone else — or prove that person wrong.

People aren’t born gaslighters in the same way that introverts and extroverts aren’t born. A gaslighter is a social learning learner. They see it, experience its effects, or come upon it and realize it is a powerful instrument. It’s a self-regulation and co-regulation cognitive technique. To tell you the truth, it works.


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The gaslighter may be completely unaware that he is engaging in any kind of strategic or manipulative behavior. He may lack self-awareness and believe he is expressing himself directly, or he may be prone to unflinching honesty and telling it “how it is.”

If a gaslighter’s partner inquires about his whereabouts when he returns home at midnight, the gaslighter can accuse their partner of being overly concerned with timeliness, then explain their actions to themselves by asking, “What’s wrong with telling someone there’s something wrong with them?” It’s his way of explaining why his partner is irritated about his tardiness and putting the conversation, as well as himself, to rest.

Gaslighters are human beings, too. Gaslighting is a terrible habit that many people pick up from the relationships they grew up in. Change is feasible if a gaslighter’s partner, friend, or parent is prepared to put in the effort to change the way they fight or interact with them. However, if they continue to shield you from your own reality, this may be tough to do.

How do you recognize that gaslighting is happening?

Take a look at the following list. If any of the items on the list ring true for you, you may be in a gaslighting relationship and need to investigate further.

While all of these symptoms might occur as a result of anxiety disorders, depression, or low self-esteem, the difference with gaslighting is that another person or group is deliberately attempting to persuade you to doubt what you already know to be true. If you don’t have similar sentiments around other people but do with one person in particular, you may be a victim of gaslighting.

What is the context in which you are hearing these phrases? Topics like money, sex, your families of origin, or habits you brought into the relationship are common triggers that create a tense situation that can lead to gaslighting.


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It’s also worth noting that the gaslighter in my practice is usually a man, and the gaslightee is usually a woman. Many women are conditioned to doubt themselves and often apologize for disagreeing or upsetting their relationships, in my clinical experience. Men aren’t like that.

What to do if you’re getting gaslighted

Pulling oneself out of a gaslighting power dynamic like the one Janine was in can be extremely difficult. It is, nonetheless, doable. Greater emotional awareness and self-regulation — both the knowledge and the practice — are the antidote to gaslighting.

Gaslightees learn (or accept if they already knew and were made to forget) that they don’t require anyone else to verify their reality by employing these emotional skills, resulting in increased self-reliance and confidence in defining their own reality. They’ll also discover that it’s possible to manage the uneasy feelings that come with standing in their own assurance in the face of a gaslighter. This is especially difficult if the gaslightee has been abused, as it necessitates a considerable transformation in mentality and abilities through therapy.

Over the last two decades, the following measures have helped my patients and friends:

1) Determine the issue. The first step is to recognize the issue. Describe your relationship with your spouse, friend, family member, coworker, or boss.

2) Separate the truth from the lies. Make a note of the chat in a journal so you can look back on it objectively. Where is the discourse moving away from truth and into the perspective of the other person? After you’ve finished reading the exchange, write down how you felt. Look for indicators of your experience being denied repeatedly.

3) Determine whether you and your spouse are in a power struggle. You might be getting gaslighted if you find yourself having the same conversation with someone over and over again and can’t manage to persuade them to acknowledge your point of view.


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4) Visualize yourself without the relationship or continuing it at a much greater distance as a mental exercise to foster a mentality adjustment. Importantly, even if the vision makes you feel anxious, try to see it in a good way. Consider how you will feel in the future when you have your own reality, social support, and integrity.

5) Allow yourself to feel all of your emotions. Accept and admit that your feelings are normal. I recommend keeping note of your emotions. Consider using the Mood Meter app, which was created by Marc Brackett and me at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. It’s a simple method to learn about your emotions and track your patterns, allowing you to discover what causes your sentiments and providing helpful strategies to change your moods.

6) Give yourself permission to give up something. Part of what makes leaving a gaslight relationship traumatic and difficult is that the gaslighter may be the one “someone” you’ve committed to, such as your best friend, mother, sister, or brother. It’s fine to walk away from toxicity, no matter where it comes from.

7) Have a conversation with your close pals. Inquire if you appear to be yourself, and assess your spouse’s actions. Request that they be brutally honest with you.

8) Pay attention to feelings rather than right and wrong. It’s all too easy to get caught up in wanting to be right or brooding endlessly over who’s correct. But who is right and who is wrong is less essential than how you feel – if your conversation makes you feel horrible or makes you second-guess yourself, that’s what you should focus on. In any argument, who is right or wrong is less important than having a sense of psychological and emotional well-being in a relationship.

9) Keep in mind that, even if you are correct, you cannot control other people’s opinions. You may never persuade a friend, boss, or lover that you aren’t overly sensitive, overly controlling, or overly anything. As frustrating as it may be, you must let go of trying. Your own opinion is the only one you have influence over.


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10) Practice self-compassion. Even when you’re not in a compromising situation, this is difficult. It’s even more difficult to give oneself the benefit of the doubt, kindness, and love when you don’t feel confident or strong. It will have a therapeutic effect on you and assist you in making decisions. Now is the time to take care of yourself.

Gaslighting is not the same as sensitivity

It’s crucial to distinguish between gaslighting and legitimate disagreement, which is normal and even necessary in partnerships. There are healthy and useful ways to handle conflicts, and not every conflict includes gaslighting. Gaslighting differs from other forms of deception in that just one of you is listening and evaluating the other’s point of view, while the other is dismissing your perception, insisting that you are mistaken, or telling you that your emotional reaction is abnormal in some way.

Victims of gaslighting aren’t merely overly sensitive. For a variety of reasons, some people are more vulnerable to emotional injury than others, but gaslighting isn’t about personality differences. It’s all about throwing one’s perception of reality off kilter.

Larry and Dana, a couple I counseled, came to me because Dana was concerned that Larry had begun to hang out with friends late at night. But when Dana said that his activities made her feel like he was putting other people ahead of her, Larry denied her feelings and denied that he was even out that late.

Larry would not have been gaslighting if he had agreed with Dana’s assessment of the issue and stated that he wanted to develop his connections or that he believed Dana was drifting away from him and that’s why he was spending more time with his pals. (It’s important to note that being affirmed does not imply that you are always correct; that, too, is a sort of gaslighting.)

Even if you’ve been gaslighted — which is, without a doubt, a kind of abuse — it doesn’t imply things can’t be fixed. For one thing, you can learn to validate yourself by increasing your emotional awareness and learning to recognize gaslighting. Ignore those who disagree with your viewpoint. In gaslighting, it’s the self-doubt that’s so damaging.


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Paula, now aware that Gregory has been using her, turns the tables on him in the film Gas Light. Gregory is handcuffed to a chair by cops in the final scene. He tells Paula to get a knife and cut him loose as soon as she enters the room. Paula, on the other hand, plays him like a fool by appearing to be too mentally ill — a reality he has created for her — to carry out his orders.

You are the mastermind behind your own universe. The gaslight may be on if you’re staring at the beams and walls and thinking to yourself, “Wait, I know this isn’t true.”

Is my boyfriend a gaslighter?

Gaslighters are masters at making their partners feel insane, overly sensitive, and forgetful, and they make them feel as if they’re losing touch with reality. If your relationship makes you feel dreadful rather than joyful, you may be getting gaslighted without even realizing it.

Signs you’ve experienced gaslighting

Gaslighting can leave you continually second-guessing yourself, as well as overwhelmed, bewildered, and unsure of your capacity to make independent decisions.

What is an example of gaslighting in a relationship?

A spouse committing domestic violence and then denying it is an example of gaslighting. Gaslighters may also persuade their victims that they are mentally ill or that they are overly sensitive. For additional information, go to Insider’s Health Reference library.

Why do men Gaslight?

People gaslight for a variety of purposes, one of which is to acquire dominance over another. This need for dominance could be a result of narcissism, antisocial personality disorder, or other factors. Gaslighting, like other forms of abuse, is all about power.


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The subject frequently doubts their own memories and thoughts as the gaslighting advances. Their self-doubt may put them on the defensive, making it difficult for them to criticize the abuser’s actions. The abuser may be relied upon by the target to validate their memories. This trust can allow the abuser to control their victim more easily.

The abuser may eventually persuade the target that they are the source of the abuser’s rage. The abuser’s ego is often fed by the target’s attempts to apologize and mend the relationship. However, the target’s capitulation rarely results in long-term contentment. A person with a narcissistic personality may develop into “They are “addicted” to gaslighting and must more control in order to maintain their self-esteem.

The target’s embarrassment and perplexity are often used by gaslighters to isolate them. Fearing that their loved ones will side with the abuser, the person may withdraw from them. The purpose of the gaslighter is to make the target fully reliant on them. If they achieve this goal, the abuser may abandon the victim and seek a new victim “I will conquer.”

Why do partners gaslight?

Gaslighting is when someone tries to persuade someone that they are incorrect about something when they aren’t.

It usually manifests itself as a pattern of regularly arguing with someone or refusing to listen to their viewpoint. Many of us are guilty of small forms of gaslighting from time to time, such as refusing to listen to what our spouse has to say, even if they are correct, or continuously disputing over minor issues, even when we are unsure of our position. It’s a type of pettiness — a refusal to be shown incorrect – that’s mainly innocuous.

In more extreme circumstances, though, it can be a form of abuse. It has the effect of making someone doubt their own beliefs about things – or even question their sanity – when it is done frequently over a lengthy period of time. It can have a significant detrimental impact on a person’s self-confidence and self-esteem. Someone may purposefully gaslight their spouse as a means of manipulating them in specific circumstances — this is a terrible type of emotional abuse that should never be tolerated.

What is stonewalling in a relationship?


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Refusing to communicate with another person is known as stonewalling. The silent treatment, or intentionally shutting down during a disagreement, can be cruel, infuriating, and damaging to a relationship.

What to do when someone is trying to gaslight you?

Finally, what should you do if you suspect someone of gaslighting you? Here’s what Stern has to say about it:

  • Determine the issue. The first step, according to Stern, is to recognize the problem. “Once you’ve given something a name, you can start addressing it more directly and granularly,” she explains. (Writing down information from a conversation that you can review later — when you’re not in the heat of the moment — might help you separate the truth from the lies, according to Stern.)
  • Allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling. One of the problems with gaslighting is that it causes the victim to question his or her own beliefs, values, perceptions, and feelings. Recognize that what you’re feeling is what you’re feeling so you can take whatever steps you need to feel better.
  • Allow yourself the opportunity to make a sacrifice. The fact that the abuser is someone they care about, look up to, or have a relationship with makes it difficult for a victim to leave a gaslight tango. “That relationship may have a lot of amazing things going on,” Stern adds, but it’s not worth it if it’s eroding your reality. And, she argues, in order to reclaim your lost sense of self, you may need to cut that person off, give up some of those beautiful things, or live with that person’s low impression of you.
  • Begin by making tiny choices. Take one step at a time to get out of or stop a gaslight, Stern advises. No, you can’t. Do not get involved in a debate that is plainly a power struggle.
  • Get a second opinion on your decision. Ask a trusted friend or family member whether they believe your reasoning is as erroneous as your potential abuser claims.
  • Have empathy for yourself. “It’s critical to have compassion for yourself,” Stern explains. You are only responsible for yourself. Stern emphasizes the need of being honest with yourself. Maybe your relationship may be terrific tomorrow, but focus on how you’re feeling right now, she advises. Recognize when you’re experiencing these emotions: “This feels like a waste of time right now. He irritates me to no end.”

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