14 Signs Of Gaslighting – How To Spot Lies & Manipulation

by | Abuse Literacy | 9 comments

Many women in a relationship with a pornography and sex addict experience what is known as gaslighting.

Why Should I Learn About Gaslighting?

Coach Sarah, a Betrayal Trauma Recovery Coach, talks about the importance of recognizing gaslighting in your relationship.

“I am CONVINCED that, until a person can identify how they are manipulated, what they lost because of it, and what made them vulnerable to it, they will not be able to stay connected to their truth and their voice (or their intuition). They will not be able to gain clarity in their marriage and will be susceptible to gaslighting in other relationships as well.”

What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is the attempt to convince another that what they perceive, believe, think or feel is inaccurate or untrue. Gaslighting is a VERY complex and nuanced issue. ANY time someone tries to make you doubt your reality—your memory, your judgments of a situation, the validity or your feelings, etc.—they are attempting to gaslight you.”

Almost everyone gaslights at one point in their life without realizing it. Coach Sarah talks about the first time she realized she was doing it to her own daughter.

“Here’s a fairly ‘innocent’ example—one that I realized I did to my daughter when I first started studying this. Here’s the gist: my beautiful, creative, DRAMATIC daughter would get upset about something, and inevitably start crying like the world was coming to an end.

“I would tell her, ‘It’s not that big of a deal. You’re acting like a TV fell on your foot, when really, all that happened was you stepped on a pebble.’ Sigh. Was I trying to shame her, or invalidate her feelings? NO! I simply wanted my daughter to stop hurting—and, maybe, wanted a small reprieve from the drama—maybe).”

Like many people, Coach Sarah wasn’t doing it on purpose.  

“Here’s what I, unknowingly, caused to happen within her sweet little head and heart: she had to question whether what she felt was okay; she now had to choose between honoring the very real pain she felt in that moment, or listening to her mother—someone she loved and trusted.  

“Do you see the effect of gaslighting at work here?

“As I learned about what gaslighting is, and how NOT to do it, my response to my daughter changed to: ‘I’m so sorry you’re hurting right now. That must feel like a really big deal! Can I give you a hug?’

“The amazing thing is that, once I started validating her pain—even if I thought it was WAY over the top—she learned how to move through her pain and go on to the next thing. Brilliant!”

How Can I Tell If I’m Being Gaslighted?

With the help of a therapist, BTR Coach, or a support group, you can learn to spot gaslighting. Your support system is crucial to helping you identify the gaslighting that may be happening in your relationship. Their outside perspective can help you see it more clearly.

Coach Sarah talks about the importance of being able to identify gaslighting:

“Identifying gaslighting in our relationships can be scary, but it’s so important! I encourage you to sit with the list below and consider how strongly you connect with each bullet.

“As you read each statement, try to rate how strongly you identify with it. Use a scale of one to ten, one being you don’t connect at all, and ten being, “This is totally me!”

10 Signs Your Partner May Be Gaslighting You

  1. You make excuses for your partner’s behavior to yourself, friends, and family.
  2. You constantly second-guess yourself.
  3. You ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” often.
  4. You often feel confused or “crazy.”
  5. Your husband tells you what you are really thinking and feeling, but he is wrong. He doesn’t believe you when you tell him the truth about how you feel.
  6. You can’t understand why, with so many, apparently, good things in your life, you feel a sense of doom.
  7. You sometimes lie to avoid the put-downs and reality twists.
  8. You think twice before bringing up certain, seemingly innocent, topics of conversation.
  9. Before your partner comes home, you run through a checklist in your head to anticipate anything you might have done wrong that day, make sure everything is just right, or think of the “good” reasons you have for not having done everything perfectly.
  10. You have the sense that you used to be a very different person—more confident, more fun-loving, and more relaxed.

What Are Some Of The Tactics Used In Gaslighting?

Being able to spot the tactics used in gaslighting can help you see clearly what you are experiencing.

If you are in a relationship where there is prevalent gaslighting, you are likely experiencing MANY things. Three of the most common experiences are being lied to—through concealment or falsification—the crazy-making that comes with the mind games and feeling confused about reality.

Another way to tell if your husband is trying to gaslight you is by identifying whether one of the following common tactics is at work. There are four main tactics someone uses when attempting to gaslight.

4 Gaslighting Tactics

  1. Redirecting responsibility by blaming you for the problems in the relationship.  The roles in the situation are reversed—he becomes the “victim”, and you become the “offender.”  “Well, of course we’re having problems in the marriage! You’re always so angry!”
  2. Discrediting your reality by saying the problems are your imagination or “faulty” thinking.  “I wasn’t staring at that woman! You’re just insecure!”
  3. Saying you need OR dismissing the help you’re getting (Therapy, coaching, support group, etc.).  “You’re the one with the problems!  You’re the one who needs help!” OR “That’s not really what you want; your coach is the one telling you to say that.”
  4. Highlighting and criticizing your character flaws. “You are shrill, blaming, and controlling, so of course I’m going to watch porn!”

Now That I Know I’m Being Gaslighted, What Do I Do?

Now that you’re beginning to see and understand what is happening, you can stop “the dance” and start a new one. It takes a LOT of time, learning, understanding and practice – but you can stop the gaslighting and become more connected to your truth and your voice than you dreamed was possible! Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Pay special attention to the feeling of confusion.  If you start to feel confused, take a time out until you clear your mind.
  • Stay connected to your FEELINGS. Often, we get sucked into gaslighting when we get caught in the “who has the best defense of their thoughts” game. When that happens, stop and ask yourself, “How am I feeling in this moment”. If you feel disrespected, or like your thoughts, feelings, or opinions are not being considered, take a time out.
  • Sort out what you know is true and what is a distortion. If he says something that doesn’t make sense, or you feel you are being blamed for something you don’t feel you should own, take a break and when you’re safe, ask yourself what YOU know to be true.

Remember, no matter what is happening, you deserve to be treated with respect and loved well.

If, at any time, you don’t feel these things are happening, give yourself permission to respond with one of these statements:

  • “That might be true, but I don’t like the way you’re speaking to me.”
  • “I’d like to hear what you are saying, but I can’t hear you when you are raising your voice or calling me names.”
  • “I’m not sure what to say right now, but I know I just feel like something is off. I need some time to clear my head.”  

This is one way you can begin to regain your truth, your voice, and your power. If you are struggling to spot the gaslighting, try an Individual Session on Detecting & Confronting Gaslighting or Spotting & Stopping Emotional Abuse. If you need a support group but have been unable to find one that works for you, try a Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group meeting.

If you're in this situation, there is help.

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