Your partner constantly lies. They insult you and call you sensitive and crazy. You feel like you’re losing your mind. Is this gaslighting?
TW: domestic abuse, violence, gaslighting, manipulation, emotional abuse, quotes and things abusers say
I know, I know. Everyone is throwing “gaslighting” around as the magical term of the moment. It’s truly reached buzzword status. Yes, they’re using it incorrectly. It’s seen a sharp uptick in usage thanks to sites like Reddit, where the relationship subreddit is teeming with “red flag!” and “gaslighting!” claims. Everyone’s a gaslighter! (They’re not.)
The term “gaslighting” came from a 1938 play called Gas Light by Patrick Hamilton before being adapted into a film called Gaslight in 1944. The tale features an abusive, murderous husband who tries to convince his wife that she’s going crazy while isolating her from her loved ones. He plays with their gas-powered lights, making them flicker. Throughout, he convinces her that she’s imagining it, making her question her reality to drive her insane.
It’s now a common way to describe manipulation or emotional abuse that makes the victim question their reality and sanity.
Today, we’re going to dive into gaslighting. Hopefully, you’ll be able to determine if it’s what you’re experiencing and what the hell to do if you are. If you’re just here for educational purposes, great! It’s awesome to learn about these manipulative tactics to decrease their power over you.
If you’re hoping to learn how to gaslight, please leave and never return. Shoo, abusers! *hiss*
So, what is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a consistent pattern of manipulation: it’s not a one-off occurrence. The result of gaslighting is that you start to doubt your recollection of events, your reality, and you become full of self-doubt. Constantly having someone twist events and your words can be baffling, and it can really bore into your brain with lasting effects.
Here are some classic gaslighting tactics:
Lying to you
Gaslighters will lie about anything they can get away with. Even when you have rock-solid evidence that they’re lying to you, they’ll still somehow manage to convince you that you’re the one who’s wrong.
This tactic makes you doubt your memory of the event and second-guess yourself. Note that the abuser will typically make you the aggressor, or they’ll be the rescuer. Their new story has to make them look good in some way.
So, they shoved you down the stairs. They left you in a crumpled heap at the bottom, and you had to call for an ambulance yourself because you couldn’t move. They couldn’t give a shit. Ahhhh, but is this what really happened?!
Maybe you just tripped? They tried to grab you at the top, but they couldn’t get to you in time. They ran down to get to you as quickly as they could, crying and calling for an ambulance. They were so worried about you!
Maybe you would take on their view here. Maybe you even tell the medical staff this is what happened. But they’re trained to spot things like this. They know what abuse looks like, and they know how victims act. They are safe people for you to talk to.
The classic “I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t love you.”
Love isn’t control. It isn’t lies. It isn’t pain.
If someone loves you, they want the best for you. They show their love through their actions, not just empty words. Manipulation is not love. I know it can be hard to see through these phrases, but check out the elements of coercive control further down to see if they resonate with you.
Changing the subject
So you’ve brought up something you’re not happy with. Are they open to listening to your concerns? Or do they throw you off the scent by changing the subject to something else that you feel like you need to respond to? Maybe they throw an accusation at you that you need to address instead.
“I think you’re cheating on me with your colleague; we need to talk.”
“Oh, but I think you’re cheating on me. I’ve seen the texts. Let’s talk about Jamie, shall we?”
Now you feel like you need to defend yourself, and they’ve successfully distracted you by changing the subject, so you’re the bad guy.
Calling you crazy
Abusers do this in two ways: they call you crazy to your face and tell other people you’re crazy to discredit you. “Crazy” is one example; they may also call you confused, forgetful, or a liar, among other things.
They do this so people are less likely to listen to you if you try and speak about the abuse. Of course, people you know and love are more likely to listen to you than your abuser, but they’ll make you think their word is gospel, and no one will listen to you now. They will, don’t you worry.
This is one pervasive tactic that’ll stick with you even after your relationship as you continue to minimise/invalidate your own feelings.
If you bring up an issue that’s really important to you, and they laugh it off and say, “you’re overreacting”, that’s what’s going on. They’re trying to make you feel like your feelings aren’t important, and you’re crazy for caring about things. This makes it more likely that you’ll self-gaslight in future and talk yourself out of addressing things.
You may see this tactic across all relationships. I’ve personally dealt with it in a family setting where abuse was minimised and denied altogether.
Lengthy rant and text breakdown incoming. Skip to DARVO if you prefer!
Here’s a nice little text quote from an aunt about my abusive parents. This was in response to me saying that if she’s going to invalidate my experiences, I don’t want contact with her. (You get tired of apologists with no apologies after a while.) After promising not to invalidate me, I get this ol’ switcharoo:
“Many things go on behind closed doors with lots of families. Everyone makes mistakes and we do the best that we can at the time. It’s good to listen to other peoples’ views. And it’s silly to fall out over opinions, and you should not push your family away.”
This may look fairly benign on the surface, but if you’ve lived your life being gaslighted and spent thousands on therapy, you know it’s not. Especially when they explicitly said they wouldn’t invalidate you.
Firstly, normalising abuse. Yes, many things do go on, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay. Also, “closed doors” implies that I shouldn’t have spoken publicly about my abuse. Cute.
Secondly, if your “best” is letting a kid get hit and mentally tortured, then maybe sort your shit out? “Mistakes” include dropping an egg or forgetting to feed your cat, not fucking kids up to the point that they’re suicidal by 10. Yes, really. We both had suicide plans well before we were teenagers. But I guess many things go on behind closed doors, right? ;)
Thirdly, “other people’s views”. She means the views of collective gaslighters. The people who are so disgustingly focused on appearances and looking like the perfect family. This is a classic narcissistic trait, by the way! It’s why people like my parents don’t abuse in public. Instead, they act like the perfect parent, but they’ll let loose on you at home when you’re alone. Tell me that’s not premeditated, and they don’t know what they’re doing. Oh yeah, they do.
So, according to my aunt, I’m not allowed to trust my own memory of my childhood, but I should be listening to what other people (who weren’t there all the time) have to say? To my abusers’ flying monkeys? Got it. I’ll just tell my regular CPTSD flashbacks that they’re incorrect. Wow, thanks, I’m cured!
Also, note the “silly to fall out over opinions.” My lived experience of abuse and resulting chronic conditions, CPTSD, anxiety, depression (etc.), is just an oPiNioN, apparently. This is classic invalidation, and I’m “silly”. Infantalising me when I’m nearly 30. Can you imagine having this much audacity?
Finally, the thought that family is the be-all and end-all. Like I should have a twisted loyalty to the people that fucked up my brain for life. Nope, I’m good. I’ve chosen my own family instead. My whole biological family is blocked, bar my brother.
If you have family members like this, don’t let them treat you in this way. You have more power than you think. Your experiences are real, and the lasting effects are real, too. You’re not overreacting for wanting to place boundaries. Get them blocked and get on with your life. Here’s a great resource.
Excuse my mini-rant here, but I think the breakdown of a text like this is super interesting. I also have a “great” (/s) text from my mum on my birthday, which I might analyse another time for shits and giggles. Spoiler: it includes gems along the lines of “after all I sacrificed for you.”
10/10 for manipulation. 0/10 for parenting.
Shifting blame (DARVO)
DARVO stands for “deny, attack, reverse victim and offender.” This is where they will twist anything to make you the bad guy. So they didn’t get milk from the supermarket, and you’re a bit pissed because you needed it for breakfast. Somehow, that’s your fault. Maybe you didn’t tell them properly. Maybe you didn’t tell them at all? Even though they’ve got three texts reminding them about the milk, they somehow didn’t see them. You should’ve got it yourself. Why did you bother them with something so minor? Groceries are your job. They’re too busy and important to remember the milk. How dare you.
Milk is obviously a benign example. If they hurt you, it’s because you “made them do it.” They will always make themselves the victim and you the offender, which can be another block to you seeking help. When you’ve heard so many times that you’re the abusive one, it starts to feel real. It’s not.
Gaslighting phrases you may hear
- “You’re too sensitive.”
- “Wow, lighten up; it was just a joke. You’ve got no sense of humour.”
- “You’re just being paranoid.”
- “That wasn’t my intention.”
- “You need help. You’re crazy.”
- “You’re making things up.”
- “You’re overthinking things.”
- “No one else will love you. I put up with so much.”
- “It’s your fault I cheated.”
- “Your memory is terrible.”
- “Your friends/family are stupid; they know nothing.”
- “That never happened. I never said that.”
- “You’re being dramatic; stop being so emotional.”
- “You’re blowing things out of proportion.”
Why do toxic people gaslight?
There are a few reasons people gaslight:
- To change the balance of control in the relationship or maintain it if they’re already in control. They want to feel superior.
- To make the other person feel off-kilter, “crazy” and destroy their self-trust and self-esteem.
- To attempt to cover their tracks if they’re cheating.
- To minimise their victim’s feelings and make them feel like they’re overreacting, thus letting the abuser get away with more.
- To shift the blame onto you and make you the bad guy. This is also known as DARVO, as above.
Why does gaslighting work?
We want to feel accepted and trust the other person in our relationships. So we want to believe what they tell us. Typically, abusers don’t start abusing you immediately. Otherwise, no one would date them! They won’t pop up with the gaslighting on the first date, so you get used to trusting their words as you fall in love. They’ll introduce it so slowly you barely notice.
Everyone has insecurities, and gaslighters love playing with these. They’ll often bring up your insecurities in a way that appears like they’re looking out for you. They’re just being a good partner! Gaslighting can be hard to spot until it’s too late and your self-worth is already in tatters.
Let’s say you work with your abuser. You’re insecure about not fitting in and people not liking you.
“I’m so sorry I have to bring this up (notice a possible slight smirk on their face: they’re not sorry at all!), but none of our colleagues like you!”
The chances are, your colleagues like you; your abuser just wants to fill you with doubt, isolate you, and make you feel terrible. But, their words tie in very well with your insecurities about your workmates not liking you.
You trust your partner, so it must be true. Right?
How will gaslighting make me feel?
Oh boy, gaslighting does not feel nice, and the effects can last for years. Here are some things to be looking out for. If these resonate, you’re either being gaslighted, or you’ve been through this previously:
- You second-guess yourself constantly: You often wonder if your recollection of anything is correct.
Here’s one I do a lot: “Did I set an appointment for 2 pm tomorrow? Let me check.” *Checks three times and still doesn’t trust her judgement*
- You doubt your feelings: “Maybe I am overreacting.” You’re not. They’ve just programmed you to think that your feelings are BS. They’re not.
- You feel like you’re walking on eggshells: You’re always waiting for shit to go down. Your partner comes in, and your stomach has the “oh fuck” feeling. You constantly feel on edge, and you feel a sense of impending doom. You carefully weigh up every single word you say because you fear their response if you accidentally trigger their anger. Are they going to hurt me? Are they going to scream at me as soon as they get in from work? Will they throw their dinner across the room again?
- You’re indecisive because you don’t trust yourself: You’d rather let other “trusted” people make decisions for you. Yes, that might include your abuser. Trust me; they don’t have your best interests at heart.
- You question your judgement: You have learned that speaking up about your feelings makes you feel worse in the end, so you bottle it up instead.
- You feel alone and isolated: This shows that gaslighting is “working” as intended. Making you feel like you have no one to turn to is classic abuse. It keeps you trapped and helpless. You’re not. You have people who love you. They don’t all think you’re “crazy” like your abuser says.
- You wonder if their insults are right: Am I too sensitive? Am I crazy? Am I ugly, stupid, unworthy? Would no one want me? You’ll even tell yourself these things. Your self-esteem will be at an all-time low. They might even say, “you’re the abuser. You’re a narcissist!” Classic projection.
- You will feel like you’re going crazy: Their behaviour makes you feel like you’re going insane. It’s called “crazy-making” for a reason! It can make you act out and look like you are losing it, but it’s all part of their game to destablise and discredit you.
- You constantly apologise: The mark of someone who’s been abused: constant apologies, even when you’ve done nothing wrong. It’s an appeasing behaviour that we use to stop things from escalating. But you’ll spot yourself apologising for the things that make you who you are.
- You feel like you’re not good enough: When someone you love and trust tells you that you’re shit all the time, you’re going to internalise it. But you are good enough.
- You’re angry at the person you’ve become: “Once upon a time, you used to be strong, a fighter. What happened to that you? Why did you lose it?” That’s not your fault. Abuse knocks the fight out of anyone. You will become strong again. Stop beating yourself up.
- You feel confused: Anyone in your position would feel confused when the person you trust is screwing with your reality. Seriously, your feelings aren’t abnormal. You’re not going crazy. Gaslighting is insidious and will make your brain feel hollow and chaotic all at once.
- You think people are disappointed in you: You feel like you’re letting everyone down. You apologise constantly. They’re not disappointed in you; your abuser has lied to you and torn down your self-worth to the point that you might feel like your very existence is a mistake. It’s not.
Other red flags to look out for
Devaluing and “jokes”
Here are some examples:
- Backhanded compliments: “Great job completing your degree! Shame it’s in a useless field.”
- “Constructive” criticism: “I don’t wanna ruin your day, but that dress makes you look fat.”
- One-upping: “Yeah, it’s great you did that, but I did it way faster.”
- Comparison: “If only you looked as good as your best friend.”
- Insults posed as questions: “Wow, you’re not really going to eat all of that, are you?”
If you respond (like anyone would) with shock, upset, or anger, they’ll say you’re overreacting, too sensitive, and call it a joke. This is an element of gaslighting.
Abusers try to isolate their victims from family and friends because they don’t want them to have a support network or see what’s actually happening beneath that Instagram Valencia veneer. Keep talking to people you love. Your abuser will try and turn you against them or vice versa, so it’s helpful to be able to recognise signs of manipulation.
“Oh, your brother said you’re always going to him and complaining. He’s sick of your bitching. He said you told him about our argument the other day.”
This makes you less likely to confide in your loved ones, worried that you’re a burden or they’ll talk to your partner. The likelihood is that they haven’t even spoken to your loved one.
“They don’t want the best for you, do they? They don’t know you like I do. I’m the only family you need, babe.”
This is the us-against-the-world mentality. It’s dangerous. They try to make you think everyone is out to get you because they often have these paranoid views themselves. This is an attempt to create a bubble of just you two, with no outside input.
“You don’t need to go to that birthday party. We can go out on a date instead.”
Innocuous-sounding on the surface, but if you never go out on dates, and they make a habit of trying to get you to cancel on your loved ones by weaponising romance, they’re manipulating you. If you do go to see your family or friends, you’ll probably get shitty texts full of guilt trips and accusing you of all sorts!
This plays into this next point:
Controlling you in other ways: coercive control strategies
These elements are part of coercive control, where you feel like your abuser has more of a say over your life than you do. It creates a deep sense of fear. Coercive control is so damaging to the victim that it’s been illegal since 2015. Research identified it as the third of eight steps to murder. Looking at the stages on this article can be an important wake-up call.
Obviously, context here is also important. If your partner says “don’t go to that part of town, it’s really dodgy”, and they’re actually trying to protect you, that’s different. If they’re trying to stop you from going to work because you have colleagues you could be attracted to, that’s what we’re talking about.
Many of their restrictions come from their paranoia that you’re cheating or otherwise “betraying” them. Normality is off-limits. Yes, it’s exhausting.
Saying who you can and can’t see
“ You know what I think about her. No, you can’t see her.”
“Your best friend hates me. Why do you even talk to her still? It’s her or me.”
Saying where you can and can’t go
“I’m not happy with you going to that family dinner. They all talk shit about me. Why would you want to be around people like that?”
“No, you can’t go to that concert. I know you fancy the singer, and you’ll probably try and get backstage because you’re a whore. If not that, you’ll find some loser in the crowd you wanna screw. You can say goodbye to our holiday next month if you go.”
Saying what you can and can’t wear
“You should wear more make-up and actually make an effort. You look awful.”
“You think I’m letting you go out dressed like a hooker?”
Yep, you’re wearing a turtleneck and boyfriend jeans. And you’re a guy.
Monitoring your phone, either by checking it or using spyware
“What were you doing across the other side of town yesterday?”
You didn’t tell them where you were. They insist you did. You definitely didn’t. They’ve installed an app, and they’re tracking you. Great! Time to factory reset that phone.
“Give me your phone, I need to check who you’ve been texting. Why have you changed your password? What are you hiding?”
Meanwhile, they’re likely very secretive when it comes to their phone! Often, toxic people project their behaviours onto you. So, if they’re constantly accusing you of cheating, perhaps they’re the real guilty party.
Monitoring your time
“If you’re not back in 15 minutes, we’re going to have a problem.”
“That journey only takes 14 minutes. What took you so long? You’ve been gone almost 20 minutes! I checked the traffic and messaged you constantly, and you ignored me. You were with someone at the store, weren’t you? Who were you screwing in the car park? I knew I couldn’t trust you. I’m coming with you in future.”
Financial abuse: not allowing you to have a job, taking your money
Financial abuse can start very innocently. They act like they want to provide for you. They make you reliant on them and strip away your independence. I’ll write a full article on this at some point.
“I work really hard, so you don’t have to. You don’t need that shitty part-time job. I’m happy to give you pocket money and look after you.”
“Look, with all I do for you, the least you can do is give me your wages.”
Threatening to harm you or themselves
“If you leave me, I’ll kill myself.”
“If I can’t have you, no one can.”
What does your gut say?
Are your instincts screaming at you that something is at least a little bit fishy here? Even if you have the slightest concern, listen to it. Many victims of narcissistic abuse have ignored that gut feeling. Don’t be one of them. If it feels off, it most likely is. Speak to someone you trust.
How to counter gaslighting
I’d simply say, “get out!” but I know most people prefer to give others a chance (second chances are dangerous, but we’ll leave that for now). It’s not your fault you’re in this position, but you’re not helpless either. You can add some strategies to your relationship to see if they help. Realistically though, it’s safer to get out.
Gaslighting can turn violent if you don’t respond the “right” way. Guess what? There isn’t a right way in an abuser’s eyes. There’s something called a “double-bind” (this video is great, by the way), which is a lose-lose. It’s another form of crazy-making. Here’s an easy example from my childhood:
My dad is yelling at me. He often took shit out on us if he was having a bad day. He could create drama out of thin air. Impressive if you write TV shows, not so much if you’re trying to bring up well-adjusted kids. (But he was tRyiNg HiS bEsT, let’s not forget auntie’s advice!)
I try to defend myself because he’s lying and being snappy because he wants an argument. (Now I know to never give them what they want!)
Him: “Don’t talk back to me!”
So, I go quiet. I just take the yelling because I’m now not allowed to stick up for myself. He’s hit me plenty of times in these situations, so I’ll shut up.
Him: “Why aren’t you defending yourself?!”
This is the sort of shit that drives you insane.
A classic double-bind in less than two minutes. Either get verbally abused or physically attacked. There’s no “right” way to respond. I learned that very early on in life. The fact I still vividly remember this incident 17 years later says a lot about how it gets into your brain.
While some abusers may never escalate to violence, you can’t tell. In the UK, two women are murdered by their partners each week, and 30 men are killed by their partners each year. 30,000 women were killed by partners and former partners worldwide in 2017.
Violence isn’t the only bad thing that can happen in an abusive relationship. Psychological abuse is long-lasting torture that you deal with even after you’ve escaped. As many as 23% of domestic abuse survivors have attempted suicide. Our brains can’t handle this treatment.
Don’t become a statistic.
Enough preaching. Here are some strategies to try. These are also really helpful in relationships that aren’t just with a partner.
Solid boundaries show a gaslighter that they can’t manipulate you, that their dirty tricks won’t work on you! Gaslighting can turn into a huge argument where they call you “crazy” and throw a classic word salad at you.
Here are some boundary ideas for gaslighting attempts:
- “If you raise your voice at me, this conversation is over.”
- “It seems like we have different recollections, so let’s leave it.”
- “We can discuss this, but please don’t resort to name-calling. If you call me “crazy” or minimise my feelings, I will leave this house.”
- “My feelings are as valid as yours.”
The key is to stick to the boundary you set. If you say you’re leaving, leave. Don’t stick around after they violate your boundary; otherwise they’ll know that you don’t respect yourself, and they can ignore your boundaries.
Here’s a general boundary point to note: Do they accept you have the right to say no to their ideas? Or do they react with anger, guilt trips, or throw the silent treatment at you? These are signs of a toxic person.
Be very wary of someone who can’t take a no. If they try and coerce you into agreeing or ignoring your boundaries, get out. These people are dangerous and don’t respect you.
Try the grey rock method
This is a strategy where you act like a rock: you become suuuuper boring. Not many people want to play with a rock! So, don’t rise to any bait, give very simple answers, and don’t give them any information they can use against you. Often, abusers try to upset you or make you seem unhinged, so refusing to give them what they want is a big part of grey rock.
Are they bringing up your insecurities to make you cry? Those tears stay in until you’re away from them. Don’t give them the satisfaction of affecting you. It’s hard to avoid reacting, but they bait you purely to get a response. You’ll see that shitty little smirk (even if it’s the slightest microexpression) if the tears fall or you get angry. They love this shit.
Record what happens
Gaslighting will make you doubt your memory, and you’ll be riddled with self-doubt even if you’re certain something happened that way.
Ways to log what’s happening:
- Voice notes
- Screenshots of emails or texts
- Record conversations
This can be a great way to check if you’re actually struggling with your memory or if you’re being gaslighted. It’s best to do all this secretly to ensure your abuser doesn’t escalate or gaslight you further. Abusers fear being outed, so they may do anything to stop you from telling anyone else what’s happening. Keep any recordings or notes backed up to the cloud (make sure they don’t have access) and off the devices they know about.
It’s also a good idea to keep track of your feelings. You are allowed to feel, no matter what they tell you! Keeping a note of your emotions and what happens is a great way to check your version of events versus theirs. It can also help with future things: whether that’s a restraining order or just reminding yourself what a shit person they are, having evidence of their abuse is really helpful.
Just because you’ve gathered information about abuse, this doesn’t mean you should confront the gaslighter. Confrontation can be dangerous, and I wouldn’t recommend it. Instead, use your evidence as motivation to leave.
Don’t lose your identity
A huge part of abuse that we don’t really think about is your abuser stripping you of your identity. Whether they belittle the things you love, discourage you from pursuing any hobbies, or have such tight control over you that you don’t even feel allowed to think, these are all designed to turn you into a shell. You’ll expend so much energy just trying to survive.
Remember the things you love. Hold onto them so tightly. That might be your favourite band, the hobby you love, or your best friends. Whatever it is, don’t let go. That’s a huge part of your identity that they’ll be trying to eradicate. Being able to put energy into holding onto YOU for dear life reminds you that you don’t deserve dehumanisation. You matter. Maybe it’ll even help you counter gaslighting attempts as you remember your value.
Look at how your partner is treating you, and ask yourself whether you would have tolerated this BS before your abuser came into your life. They have warped your view of what’s acceptable. It’s not your fault, but you can harness the strength of pre-abuse you and remember your worth. You are so worthy.
Talk to trusted people
Part of staying grounded is talking to the people you trust and love. They can hopefully give you an unbiased insight into the person, and it’s even better if they’ve dealt with a manipulative person before and recognised it. They’ll be able to smell these tactics a mile off. (I call it my narc-dar)
Shame is a huge part of abusive relationships that prevents victims from talking about what they’re going through. Trust me, the people you love aren’t going to judge you. (But if they do, they’re toxic and ignorant). Rather, they’ll be so proud of you for talking to them, and they’ll be more than happy to talk things through with you and help you detach from your abuser. Having an outside perspective is so helpful for remembering what’s normal, and their validation is vital for you to feel heard and understood.
Speaking to a therapist/counsellor is also a great idea if you can afford it. They can give you their unbiased view on what’s happening and work on any underlying issues you have, such as low-self esteem or codependency.
It turns out that they have more red flags than communist Russia; how do you get out?
So, you recognised red flags here in your partner? Great job! That’s the first step in dealing with this, as you’ve managed to work past the gaslighting. The next part is harder, so you need to break it into parts.
Slowly detaching yourself from the person can be really helpful, and it won’t cause any alarm. You can employ the “grey rock” method above.
If you have a car, secretly keep a spare key somewhere you can access it. Putting together a grab bag can be great preparation if they escalate. Ensure you have all your documents (think passport, birth certificate, etc.) and anything else you need in a bag that you can leave in your car or somewhere else, like a friend’s house or even a safety deposit box. Belongings can be replaced: your life can’t.
Make sure you tell people what’s going on. Do it safely and make sure your partner can’t find out. So, in-person conversations, a prepaid (burner) phone, or a new email address. A hidden spare phone with all emergency contacts is really helpful, whether that’s your friends, family, or local domestic violence shelters.
There are also amazing resources on Reddit for leaving an abuser. Make sure you use Incognito browser windows for reading anything abuse-related and a VPN if you publicly post so they can’t trace it back to you if they happen to find it. Make sure you exclude plenty of personal details so it could be anyone you’re talking about. Always log out of any websites/emails.
Make a plan to leave with someone you trust, such as a parent, sibling, friend, or colleague. Preferably someone critical of your partner and loyal to you to ensure they won’t tell your partner what’s going on.
It can be hard to get out when you feel like they’ve got a strong grip on you, but you can always find opportunities. Don’t be afraid to get a police escort if you’re worried about your leaving plan being interrupted.
Sometimes, it’s not possible to make a proper plan. If you think you’re in imminent danger from an escalating abuser (i.e. they’ve done something like trying to strangle you, or there are other risk factors), you need to get out ASAP by enlisting help from friends, family, and your local police to make sure you can be safe. People do care about you, and people want to help. Leaving is the most dangerous part, so make sure you get help.
This article has some amazing tips for preparing to leave, including in an emergency.
But what if they’re not gaslighting me on purpose?
Let’s be real here: would you say this to your best friend if they told you everything that’s spinning around in your head after reading this article?
If it’s happened once or twice, maybe you can consider they have a bad memory, or they’re just terrible at choosing words during conflict. But if it’s a pattern, and there are other elements of abuse in your relationship, they are likely gaslighting you on purpose!
Regardless of the reason, remember your worth. You deserve to be with someone who doesn’t make you feel like you’re going crazy.
I’ll be honest: I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of gaslighting. On my part, I felt trapped and neglected and chose the wrong way to deal with my situation, so I ended up in a web of lies. I’ve felt absolutely terrible in the years since as I know my actions caused huge trust issues for him.
It truly taught me to deal with my issues head-on, rather than screwing someone up (who was also screwing me up, but that’s what break-ups are for). Since then, I’ve got into therapy to resolve my deep-set issues from childhood and beyond. When you learn intense gaslighting as a child, it looks like a valid way to deal with a situation. It’s not.
All of this to say, your partner’s mental health struggles aren’t your responsibility. It’s something they need to deal with, and it’s not your job to heal them. Trauma is not an excuse to continue the cycle of abuse.
If you think you’re with someone who has narcissistic traits or you have been in the past, check out this subreddit for support.
And check out Dr Ramani’s YouTube channel. She’s a registered psychologist who specialises in narcissism. Educate yourself. You’ll be so grateful to yourself in years to come when you can spot red flags a mile off!
Here’s a relevant video from Dr Ramani:
Gaslighting is a real mind-fuck. You’ll go from feeling like a normal person one month to certifiably insane the next. You’re not the problem. Your abusive partner is the issue, and the best way to protect yourself is to leave before things escalate. Chances are, if you’re only just realising they suck, you’re not ready to hear all of this, you’re still in denial, and you don’t want to get out of the relationship. That’s okay, but you need to put yourself first and think of your safety. At the least, keep carefully educating yourself on these things.
Can you imagine putting up with this shit for another year? How about five? A decade? The person you fell in love with doesn’t exist. What you’re seeing now is the real them. Before you know it, you’ve wasted a lifetime with someone who resents and abuses you. “Where have the years gone? I’m stuck here forever now. I don’t have any money, options, friends, or family who care anymore.”
Even worse, you bring children into the mix, you’re bonded with this person for life, and they screw up your kids, too. (Some amazing solicitor firms and counsellors have experience with narcissistic abuse, so don’t despair!) Get out while you still have enough self-respect to see their behaviour is wrong.
A great way to look at any red flags is to imagine your best friend is recounting these experiences to you. What would you tell them to do? We often hold much higher standards for those around us, and we don’t want them to take any shit. So why should you? You deserve better than someone warping your reality through manipulation. You are worthy.
If you’re feeling helpless, remember that you’re not. You still have all the power they tried to strip away from you, it’s just buried under all the shit they’ve created. Reach out to your loved ones or an organisation to help you.
Help for LGBTQ+ people here.
Help for men here.
Help for women here.
Once again, this amazing article on getting out of an abusive relationship.
There is no shame in asking for help. It’s not your fault. Good luck ❤
I’ll be writing more about narcissism/narcissistic tactics in future. My main recommendation is to check out Dr Ramani’s channel, which is linked here again. It’s an absolute haven for information, and being educated is the best way to fight against this. Good luck avoiding the emotional vampires!