Are you always feeling at fault after every argument with your partner?
It makes you confused and angry, but somehow you believe you are at fault too?
Do you second-guess your memory regarding past behaviors or incidents because you’re told they’re wrong, never happened or got your details all wrong?
This is gaslighting and is done to manipulate and dominate. It is incredibly harmful as it can lead to anxiety, insecurity, and depression. I call the experience of being gaslighted “crazy-making” behavior. If you have experienced any of the following, you may be experiencing gaslighting:
Questioning Your Feelings: You have an interaction or argument and you leave it feeling confused about whether what you’re feeling is okay. You may wonder why you are having such strong feelings. This is because your feelings (or opinions) have been dismissed or disregarded, invalidating them saying things such as “you’re too sensitive”, “you’re making this a big deal”, or “what are you saying you don’t make sense”.
Apologizing Unnecessarily: You end up apologizing for any slight you are seen as having or after any disagreement or argument. People often tell me they are doing this so things don’t turn into an argument. You begin to wonder “am I always wrong?”. Unfortunately, you begin to believe you are.
Defending Your Partner: You find yourself keeping aspects of your relationship private and hiding your partner’s behavior from the people who are close to you. This happens because family & friends aren’t feeling your partner is the best choice for you, therefore, you feel a need to defend them. You know their behavior isn’t acceptable, but fear exposing the dynamics of the relationship.
You Doubt Yourself: You have a sense of what makes a good, but this thought is constantly dashed by your partner. They may say “all couples fight” or “our relationship is fine”, all the while you are very unhappy. You’re not trusting yourself, your feelings or decisions.
Things Don’t Feel Right: You don’t feel your strong, confident self anymore. There’s more frustration than happiness in your relationship and you’re not sure why. You’re not feeling secure and can’t pinpoint why. Your gut feelings are telling you your relationship isn’t okay, but it’s scary to admit that.
Gaslighting is kind of emotional abuse. It can also be a form of verbal abuse. You may be allowing another to define your reality, so to recognize it in your life can be tricky. If you recognize yourself in this article, you are being emotionally manipulated, so take action if you can. The first step is simply recognizing the behavior. Your second step would be to know that gaslighting isn’t about you and to start talking to someone about it.
Look for my follow up blog on ways to counteract gaslighting behavior in relationships. Take great care!