What Is Gaslighting in a Relationship?

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What is gaslighting in a relationship? Are you being gaslighted? Could you be unintentionally gaslighting your partner? What are some examples of gaslighting in a relationship? The key signs to look out for? And then finally, how do you stop gaslighting in a relationship?

In this post, we’re going to break it all down, for a full and complete understanding of gaslighting in a relationship. So let’s start from the top…

What Is Gaslighting in a Relationship?

By definition, gaslighting is “to manipulate (someone) by psychological means into doubting their own sanity or perceptions.” It’s a form of emotional abuse.

Gaslighting in a relationship is particularly common, especially when there’s a power imbalance.

Recommended Read: Signs Your Relationship is One Sided

Gaslighting is all about power really. A person makes their partner doubt themselves in order to influence how they think or feel, assessing control over you. Which sounds pretty dark. But it’s not a nice thing.

How Does It Happen?

Gaslighting in a relationship happens gradually – just like any type of abuse. The gaslight doesn’t want to push the boundaries too far at first, so it gradually builds and builds. 

Gaslighting in a relationship, typically happens through lies and exaggeration. Repetition of the same lies / concepts / theories is also common.

Examples of Gaslighting in a Relationship

To better understand what gaslighting is in a relationship, let’s look at some examples of early-stage gaslighting.

So it could be that you made plans with your partner, they specifically said they would be free on Saturday to go to a family event with you.

You look forward to it all week, Saturday comes, it’s the morning, they’re still in bed, you ask if they’re getting up to get ready soon.

They say, “You didn’t tell me about this. You know I’ve had a hard week. This isn’t really fair. Just go by yourself then if that’s what you want. I’m never included in anything anyway…”

They lie about something you told them, saying that you didn’t tell them, then twist it to make out you’re not interested and you’re the one doing something wrong.

On the flip side, another example of gaslighting in a relationship is when they speak like they’ve already told you something, and then shame you for “not listening.”

So maybe they tell you about something they’re going to last minute, claiming they’d already told you before. Or perhaps they “remind” you about something they’ve done, or something they like that “apparently” you should already know. For example…

“It’s Harry’s birthday night out this weekend, remember? I told you last week. You must have been busy on your phone. But yeah, I won’t be here.”

What is Gaslighting in a relationship?

The lies may also go one step further, to make up things that you said.

So for instance, let’s say your partner agreed to look after your child whilst you go and do something, but now wants to go on a “lads night out.” They might say something like…

“No [NAME], I told you weeks ago about Harry’s birthday. I won’t be here this weekend, so you’ll have to either stay in or find someone else. I swear you never listen to me sometimes…”

In this situation, they’ve fabricated a conversation, which you know didn’t happen as you would have remembered – but there’s no negating. If you confront it, the lies just spin further or they get nasty, so you think it’s easier to just give in.

They may also make out that it was YOU who made a mistake, then sweep in, to seem like the hero.

So going back to the family event example, they may say something like…

“You didn’t tell me about this. You know I’ve had a hard week. This isn’t really fair. But I’m not going to let your family down, so I’ll get ready now…”

What Is Gaslighting in a Relationship?

These are just a few examples of gaslighting in a relationship. As your resolve begins to weaken, the abuser will rely less and less on subtle deceptions and switch to more barefaced lies.

They will tell you that you/they did (or didn’t) do something, or did (or didn’t) say something… Things that – initially – you would not even comprehend could be possible.

But they wear you down and down, until it is.

Recommended Read: 20 Signs He Doesn’t Actually Love You

Signs of Gaslighting in a relationship

Here’s some common phrases when it comes to gaslighting:

  • “You’re just insecure.” / being “dramatic” / “crazy.”
  • “Why are you being so paranoid?”
  • “It’s all in your head.”
  • “What are you on about?!”
  • “How could you do this?”
  • “Do you really think that I’d do that?”
  • “Why are you acting like this?”
  • “You know I only do it because I love you.”
  • “This is your fault.”
  • “You made me do this.”
  • “You know you’ll never get anyone better than me.”
  • “Believe me, this is for the best.”

You’re Not Crazy…

Do some of these phrases sound familiar? Maybe time and time again?

Gaslighting is when your partner discounts how you feel and twists things to make it your fault, or like you are the one being unreasonable.

One of the biggest insults – which is a form of gaslighting – is when a guy calls a girl crazy. In fact…

33% of females have been called “crazy” or “insane” by a romantic partner…

The truth is, you’re not crazy. Honestly, you’re not. You’re allowed to have a response, you’re allowed to have emotions.

If your partner calls you crazy in a response to something they’ve done, they’re not only trying to weaken your credibility, but force you to doubt your own logic, doubt yourself.

It’s not true, it’s not fair and you have to recognise it. So when someone throws out the “crazy” comments, make it a major warning sign for you. This guys being a gaslighter and it’s not okay!

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Signs of Gaslighting in a Relationship

What else can you look out for? What are the other signs of gaslighting in a relationship, to help you better understand what gaslighting is and what it looks like? Well…

If you’re being gaslighted in a relationship, you’ll find that your partner:

  • Denies things you know are true.
  • Makes up things that aren’t true.
  • Doesn’t listen to what you say, or let’s you speak your own truth.
  • Tries to make you feel bad or guilty.
  • Makes you question yourself and whether you’re being reasonable.
  • Isolates you from other people.
  • Turns you against your own friends / family.
  • Minimizes or dismisses your feelings and uses them against you.
  • Pretends to be concerned about your psychological wellbeing.
  • Accuses you of things you haven’t done.
  • Never apologizes or recognizes any of their own mistakes.
  • Gets defensive and turns on you if you say / ask something they don’t like.
  • Blames you for things that have nothing to do with you.

You’ll also find that you feel like you:

  • No longer feel like the person you used to be.
  • Are always having to apologize.
  • Feel like everything is your fault.
  • Wonder if you’re being too sensitive.
  • Are on edge / scared for the next “blow up.”
  • Are constantly treading on eggshells.
  • Can’t express how you feel.
  • Question how you feel – and whether you should feel that way.
  • Have lost your confidence and self-belief.

Are You Being Gaslighted In A Relationship?

So there we have it – what gaslighting is in a relationship, what it looks like and how to better spot it.

If you’re being gaslighted, or are gaslighting your partner even – the first step is realising, the second is doing something about it. And I know it’s hard. But you have to refuse to stay where you are.

Struggling to leave? Or struggling to change? Then get in touch. Get one-to-one specialist coaching. And don’t let gaslighting beat you. Click here for more info.

You can also get support from charities like WomensAid. Know that you’re not alone, and it doesn’t always have to stay this way. Take care. Look after yourself.


What Is Gaslighting in a Relationship?

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Ella Stearn
Ell is a Breakup, Dating & Relationship Specialist & Coach, with over 3 million annual readers, globally. As the Creator of Forgetting Fairytales, her mission is to help you learn to love yourself, find the right person to give your love to, then make it a love that truly lasts.

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