What is Gaslighting in a Relationship? 22 Signs to Look For

What is Gaslighting in a Relationship? 22 Signs to Look For

In abusive relationships, gaslighting is a common form of manipulation. A type of emotional abuse in which the abuser or bully creates a false narrative and misleads the target. The victim of gaslighting begins to question their judgments and even wonder if they are losing their minds. If you're wondering what is gaslighting in a relationship, you can look for these 22 signs in your relationship.

Gaslighting mainly happens in romantic relationships, but it can happen in controlling friendships or family relationships too. Gaslighters might have mental health disorders like narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) or borderline personality disorder (BPD). It's a way for them to exert control over friends, family, and co-workers.

Here's how gaslighting works

Gaslighting undermines your sense of reality. If someone gaslights you, you may doubt yourself, your memory, recent events, and your perceptions. You may feel dazed after communicating with someone who gaslights you. Your mother might tell you that you're being too sensitive or that you're to blame for something.

You can become confused and question your judgment, memory, self-worth, and overall health if you get gaslighted. You might be able to tell if someone is gaslighting you by knowing what tactics they might use.

Gaslighters are often pathological liars and often have narcissistic tendencies. They usually blatantly lie and never back down or change their stories, even when you call them out or provide proof. Maybe they'll say: “That didn't happen,” or “You're crazy.”

How to tell if someone is gaslighting you

Sometimes gaslighting isn't so obvious. From the outside, it's easy to see, but from the inside, it can seem totally subdued and confusing.

You'll be able to identify gaslighting a lot easier if you know the signs.

1. People are making you believe you're something you're not

People can get hurt by being called names over time. If your partner starts calling you cuckoo or tells you that you might have manic-depression or bipolar, you should be concerned, right? Don't fall for that.

Someone who wants to label you psychiatric might be hiding something.

2. “It's just in my head” is a regular thought

It starts to sink in. When you talk to your partner about your feelings or observations, they dismiss them as if they're the only ones.

They also bring in other people and say they think the same about you. Then you start to wonder if you're seeing the same thing as them.

3. Your words are used against you

Particularly when it comes to your fears. Do you ever confide in your partner, and a while later, they bring it up at their convenience – like getting their way or winning an argument?

You'll be put on the defensive if they know what buttons to press. What's the point? Since they know what the effect will be. It's going to make you feel like your fears are real, and that makes you feel weak.

After that, your partner is totally controlling you and gaslighting you.

4. Everything they do is questioned

Are you constantly questioned by your partner? Does that make you feel incompetent? Frustrated with explaining your choices and values all the time?

You might start to doubt your abilities if you second guess your decisions. It makes you feel incompetent.

5. Your perception starts to go out the window

People who manipulate won't acknowledge your perceptions, but rather twist things around so that you doubt yourself.

People who are openly disapproving of you will tell you that they're not who you think they are – and eventually, they'll make you believe it as well.

6. Your feelings and needs aren't taken seriously

Here's an example of gaslighting when you're being put down. You had a tough day at work. Finally, you sit down with your partner and tell them everything.

When you almost saved the company from collapse, your partner brushes it off as nothing. They make a habit of minimizing your feelings and triumphs as if they're not important.

7. You feel small and incompetent

You feel small next to your partner.

So much has been downplayed about your ideas and needs that it seems the only thing that matters is your partner in the relationship. You start following them blindly because you see no other way.

8. Some people think they know you better than you do

When you say you don't like Chinese food, they ask, “What do you mean?”? It's good! You like it!it!it! That's how they are all the time, imposing their whims and wishes on you like you're into the same stuff as they are.

You don't know what your real preferences are after a while because the gaslighting gets worse.

9. They're selective with their memories

Also, your partner's version of things is pretty convincing. Things they promised you get forgotten or denied.

You'll hear them say things like, “I don't understand what you're saying…” or “That didn't happen.”. I don't remember it.

10. Your instincts aren't as reliable as they used to be

Whenever you think you're about to do the right thing out of instinct and common sense, your partner flips it around. Suddenly, everything makes sense.

You believe your partner instead of your instincts, which can lead to a pattern of submitting to them.

11. You can't even trust your memories

What your partner remembers is all that matters. You're still in the wrong, regardless of whether you remind them of something they conveniently left out.

It's all in your head, do you think it's all in your head.

12. It's getting harder and harder to express yourself

Arguing with your partner or even talking to her is pointless. You just end up angry, confused, exhausted, and even ridiculed sometimes. Even if you suspect they're gaslighting you, you give up.

Because you think you won't be listened to, you stop saying what you need to say. And even then, you lose focus on what you really want to say.

13. You feel the need to always keep the peace

If you don't want an argument or a hard conversation, you lie and settle. Even worse, you keep lying to yourself, just to keep the peace.

You'll end up fighting with your partner because they won't stop insisting on their version of events. Why bother?

14. Always saying “sorry”

You don't seem to be doing anything right. You feel like you're walking on eggshells when it comes to your relationship.

It only takes one wrong move to get you in trouble again. Your “sorry”s are so frequent that you start to believe it's all your fault.

15. Even though you're miserable, you keep telling yourself everything is okay

You get depressed when you feel like you can't hear yourself speak because of all the gaslighting. Your every move gets magnified, and you get criticized constantly and in the worst ways.

Your partner won't acknowledge your feelings because they won't validate them.

Although you know you're not happy, you keep telling yourself that everything is fine. If your partner is in a good mood, it doesn't matter where they are or what they're doing. But you aren't in a good mood.

16. It's starting to feel like you're crazy

Whenever someone you share intimacy with manipulates and gaslights you, you can really feel it, especially when it's done constantly.

Your partner may seem to be wrong at first. It takes some time for their words to sink in, but as their words hit you so hard, you start to wonder if something is seriously wrong with you.

17. You question your sanity

In addition to beginning to think you are going crazy, you begin to question your sanity completely. Is something wrong? Was that really what they said? Are you dreaming of it or did they actually say that? 

Not only will you be confused, but you'll also be so tangled up in knots that you won't know up from down.

18. No longer do you make your own decisions

Your partner questions everything you do, so you feel incapable of doing anything. In addition, you're doubting your own abilities, which means you're far more likely to avoid making decisions, relying on your partner instead.

Even if you don't say “make this choice”, simply ask what they think and follow their advice without question.

19. Your family and friends are worried about you

From the outside, it's easy to spot gaslighting. Even if you suspect something isn't right, you won't be able to notice it so much when it's happening to you. You will still be visible to those around you.

Thus, if your family and friends have expressed concern about your partner and have told you that they think you are being gaslighted, you should take notice.

Will you listen to me, as a victim of manipulation?

20. Your isolation has gotten worse

You're unlikely to listen to your friends and family if your partner is really controlling you. Due to your reliance on your partner, it would be much easier for you to isolate yourself from friends and family.

Seeing less and less of the people who care about you is because you don't want to hear the truth.

Even worse, it pleases your partner that you're doing this because when you don't have people around, you're much easier to control.

21. Everything you do is second-guessed

Gaslighting leaves you doubting your sanity and making you second guess everything in the end. All people, except your partner, will become distrustful of you.

When you're so controlled, it becomes extremely difficult to form your own thoughts. By this point, your partner has succeeded in gaslighting you.

22. You actually know that something is wrong at some point, deep down

There could be a feeling deep down that something is not right. Standing up to your partner and letting them know that they're gaslighting you won't be enough, but it will be enough. Hope is still there for you.

You will eventually have the strength to face things and leave if you can hold onto that inkling and let it grow. There is still a tiny thought that pops up occasionally, “I'm right, I know I didn't say that.” Even for those who really are under a partner's control, there may still be a tiny voice that says, “I know I'm right, I know I didn't say that.”

Ian Walsh