Gaslighting is a serious problem in relationships due to manipulative partners. Their goal – whether they’re conscious of it or not – is to create so much doubt in their partner that they cannot rely on their own opinions and judgements anymore. When this is achieved, their partner comes to rely on them far more and then they have control over much of their life.
It’s an insidious and damaging form of manipulation that’s not unlike someone who deliberately cuts their partner off from the people they know and their routines, which normally provides the anchor in their life. It’s all about control.
It Can Be Subtle
Being a subject of gaslighting, it’s often subtle. It creeps up on you over time. This is because your partner will be undermining your ideas, thoughts and actions little by little to sow seeds of doubt over many weeks, months and even years.
It’s like the frog in boiling water jumping out right away analogy. If your partner suddenly tried to dismiss everything you said as wrong, you’d object strongly to it. So, they do it a little at a time until you completely doubt your own mind!
Remember that it takes time to figure out what is going on. At times, you might even think you’re getting forgetful because sometimes a partner will deny something that you’ve seen together and make you question your memory.
How to Spot It?
You say that something has just happened, and your partner dismisses it as untrue. Rather than using facts, they redirect the argument to things that are subjective. Rather than saying that they didn’t like the dress you wore, they might say that a person privately commented that it was distasteful. That person will deny it to your face, but apparently, they privately told them they should say something to you about it… Of course, the other person said no such thing.
There isn’t any one form of mental harassment with gaslighting. It’s not a neat package. Usually though, you’ll find yourself being regularly criticized using non-factual, complete subjective opinions. Being subjective, they’re difficult to reject or disprove.
What to Do About It?
Bring any dispute back to the facts. Talk through issues directly and do not allow the conversation to switch from a factual one to a theoretical one. It is worth exploring whether your partner is even aware that they’ve fallen into this destructive pattern with their significant other.
Some people are doing it intentionally to gain more control and others are doing it without even realizing. With the people who are knowingly doing it, it’s often a learned behavior they won’t want to quit. Other partners who did not realize that they were acting that way will need help to snap out of it and probably require counselling to adjust their thought patterns, triggers, and behaviors.
Ultimately, only some partners can change their ways. It’s true that gaslighting in relationships is a serious thing. It can undermine your confidence in all areas of your life which then affects your career, friendships, and relationships with family members too. Make sure you are aware of the signs.