Am I Being Gaslit?

Falling in love can be the best feeling in the world! It’s intoxicating and exciting and while you are getting to know your new partner they big you up, put you on a pedestal and you feel amazing and absolutely believe your new partner really likes you. You develop big feelings and believe they have your best interests at heart. This is when gaslighting starts and depending on whether you have had a relationship before and how your previous partners have treated you it can be easy to miss early red flags.

Below I explain gaslighting and outlines some examples of gaslighting phrases so you can recognise the next time you are being gaslighted.

What does gaslighting mean and is it happening in my relationship? 

‘Gaslighting or ‘crazymaking’ is the emotional and psychological manipulation used by a partner to confuse you into believing whatever they want you to believe. In extreme cases the person on the receiving end of this behaviour will find they lose the facility to trust their own judgment, thoughts, recall or memory.

It’s often difficult to identify in the early stages of getting together with someone. Initially, your partner will play what looks like a bit of a game or just a joke. They may take or hide your things ‘for a joke’ and then lie, saying they haven’t.

While you are looking for your ‘lost item’ your partner puts it back in the usual place. When you find it, they will tell you it was there all the time and your partner might make it out to be a joke and will expect you to see the funny side too.

They might arrange to meet you somewhere at a particular time and not turn up. When you message them, they tell you it was a different time or the wrong place or even the wrong day.

They might say things like, ‘you’re so forgetful’ or ‘you’re going mad’ and will lie to you making you feel stupid for feeling confused and causing you to worry that you are losing a grip and going mad.

Before long you your partner starts to gradually pull you off your pedestal, dismantling the way you see yourself and you won’t realise it is happening. They may directly tell you that you’re being silly and unrealistic. They might laugh at you, the things you say, achieve, succeed in. If your partner is laughing at you but putting you down at the same time it becomes hard to tell if they are being serious or are joking. If your partner appears to ‘normally’ be nice you will want to believe they were joking rather than consider they intended to be mean.

It may be confused with passing it off as ‘just’ heavy-duty teasing, a bit of banter and perhaps you need to lighten up and get a sense of humour! When you challenge these comments or try to express your feelings, your partner might tell you that you’re being a bit over the top, too sensitive, ridiculous, unreasonable, annoying, or that you are ‘mad’, ‘losing it’, ‘unhinged’ or ‘messed up’.

Gaslighting Changes How You Feel About and See Yourself

It is the same principle when your partner makes fun of or belittles your achievements. If anyone puts you down by chipping away at you like this, they are attacking the very core of you, your self-esteem – how you see yourself. They may also use sexist or racist jokes directed at you personally, using your gender, race, age, sexuality or difference to hurt your feelings and generally insult you.

When you believe you are in a good relationship and you have feelings for your partner, you tend to lean into believing them. This leads you to doubt yourself rather than doubt them. The manipulation and abuse isn’t simply the act of ‘gaslighting’ alone. You experience this alongside kinder behaviours, seeming acts of tenderness or care, leaving you to conclude that your relationship is okay and it is you that is ‘losing it’, making mistakes, over-sensitive and lacking humour.

Ultimately, you are left feeling confused, stupid, full of self-doubt, insecure and lacking self-confidence and ironically, more dependent on your partner, because at least they ‘seem’ to want you. You may think that if you work really hard things will get back to the way they were, and you will have more ‘good’ times. You believe because you clearly are the problem that it is your responsibility to put things right and make the relationship better.

If you find yourself in a situation like this there are services and organisations that can offer you support:

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