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4 Ways He Gaslights You

by | Abuse Literacy

Gaslighting is notoriously difficult to spot, especially in the middle of an abusive episode. 

Victims of Abuse Are Empowered Through Education

As women learn the tactics that psychological and emotional abusers use to gaslight them, they are empowered to make informed decisions about their own safety. 

Victims of abuse deserve safety in every area of their lives, especially their own minds. When abusers choose to gaslight victims, they are forcing the victim to call her own reality and her own sanity into question. This insidious form of abuse must be stopped.

The Four Secret Tactics of Gaslighting Revealed

Abusers will often use four discreet tacts to make victims question their reality and sanity; these tactics often overlap or are used two or three at a time. 

Tactic # 1: “You Didn’t See What You Just Saw” 

One of the most notorious tactics used by gaslighting abusers is to blatantly discredit the reality of victims. 

“Where did that $500 go that was in our bank account yesterday?”

“What $500? It didn’t go anywhere. You’re wrong.”

OR

“I saw you with that woman from work; she told me that you are sleeping together. Please just tell me the truth.”

“What woman from work? You’re crazy. I’m not seeing anyone.”

Abusers often use this tactics to try to hide substances and behaviors like infidelity, pornography, drug use, and gambling. 

Tactic # 2: Redirect Responsibility 

When abusers can successfully get a victim to look at her own responsibility in the chaos that he has created, the spotlight is off of his abusiveness, and he is able to carry out his abusive behaviors without consequences.

“Where did that $500 go that was in our bank account yesterday?”

“Why can’t you keep track of the money? You’ve been terrible with money since the first day I met you.”

OR

“I saw you with that woman from work; she told me that you are sleeping together. Please just tell me the truth.”

“I’m not… but if I did, it would be because you never have sex with me when I want to.”

Tactic # 3: Saying You Need Mental/Emotional Help AND/OR Dismissing Your Mental/Emotional Help

When an abuser can deflect from his own behavior by pinning the “craziness” on the victim by either

a. telling her that she “needs help” (stigmatizing mental health issues)

and/or

b. criticizing and dismissing the mental/emotional help that she is receiving through counseling, therapy, coaching, or support groups,

he is creating a distorted reality where he is the “sane and healthy” side of the partnership, and she is the one causing the chaos.

“Where did that $500 go that was in our bank account yesterday?”

“You are so paranoid! You need a psychiatrist!”

OR

“I saw you with that woman from work; she told me that you are sleeping together. Please just tell me the truth.”

“Is this more of your man-hating therapist’s garbage coming out? Is she telling you to accuse me of having affairs?”

Tactic # 4: Highlighting and Criticizing Your Character Flaws

This is simply another way for a gaslighting abuser to distort reality and create the illusion that the real chaos is caused by the character flaws of the victim, rather than his own abusive behaviors.

“Where did that $500 go that was in our bank account yesterday?”

“If you weren’t so insecure, you’d be able to see that you’re totally overreacting again. Every other woman out there would be totally calm about this… but not you. You’re freaking out over $500.”

OR

“I saw you with that woman from work; she told me that you are sleeping together. Please just tell me the truth.”

“Why are you always trying to create drama? When I met you I thought you were better than that but I can see that you’re just like your mom. A total drama-queen.”

I’m Being Gaslighted,  Now What?

Women can protect themselves from the devastating pain of gaslighting by setting and maintaining boundaries. Boundaries are not statements, requests, or ultimatums. They are courageous actions that women take to separate themselves and their children from abusive behavior. 

Betrayal Trauma Recovery Supports Victims of Abuse

The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Support Group Meets daily in every time zone; join women from all over the world as you process your trauma and begin your journey to healing.

The free BTR Podcast offers inspirational stories of abuse survivors who have triumphed through trauma. Tune in and find solace in the healing of others. 

Remember, you are not alone. 

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7 Comments

  1. M. A. S.

    Wow! This article is such a God-send and answer to prayers. I can’t thank you enough for writing this and making it available! My husband does exactly this which, until I read your article, was very confusing and hurtful to me. My feelings don’t matter or are invalid. Everything is my fault. My reality isn’t real. He is highly manipulative and quickly turns things around to avoid responsibility. (Sometimes I ask him what color the clouds are in his world!) I feel so much better now that I can label this and identify what has been happening. It has given me strength to know that I am not going crazy. Thank you so much!

    Reply
    • Anne

      I’m so glad you found it helpful!!

      Reply
  2. Me

    We’ve been in a few years of recovery now, and I can say gaslighting happened.
    It was very subtle. I would say " I want to talk to you. Have a conversation." When he was in active addiction, ( I had no clue, but can now look back and identify times he gaslights me.) he would get so angry, and stand in front of me and say "I am talking to you! What do you call this?"
    I’d feel confused, and so upset. Not understanding why he didn’t want to connect and just talk to me. Now I know the unkind tone and words were from shame of acting out.

    Reply
  3. Alisa Dunn

    I just wrote a comment, but some how I deleted it. This is the first time after learning about gas-lighting in Oct. 2014, after my then husband left me accusing me of domestic violence that he’d been committing himself with me during the 6 months we were together until the divorce in Sept. of 2015. I’m sure that he had an addiction to pornography because everything was how it’s described when someone has a pornography addiction. He was gas-lighting me from the time we were dating clear to the end. I was so surprised to see this article and at the same time very grateful because it puts more of the pieces of the puzzle together for me when it comes to my family where my father has/had and addiction all these years and I didn’t understand so many things that happened or were said, or I felt like I was a scapegoat (because of my hearing loss(?)) to take away any attention to what my father was doing, despite living or trying to live the Gospel principles. I have just recently found out that my brother’s marriage was destroyed by a pornography addiction also. It saddens me so. I’m not sure what to think that the men that are closest to me have this problem and then it brings me to thoughts of a dynamic that I don’t like and am, if I am to continue a relationship with my parents and brother and sisters, that I am supposed to tolerate no matter, but don’t know how to do that. Thank you for this article. I may share it with my mother, but that may cause problems since she prefers to keep it under the carpet.

    Reply
  4. Anonymous

    I saw a naked woman in my boyfriends photos. I took him outside to confront him privately and while I pushed him out the door he deleted the photo. He pulled up another more tame photo and told me this was why I was freaking out and to “oh my G** calm down”,(he never swears). I wasn’t freaking out until he showed me the fake photo. I knew what I saw. I snatched the photo from his hands and went into his deleted photos folder. His face turned white. Later he had a whole story about how this was a girl he dated and his buddies sent the photo to him. Somehow the conversation ended with me feeling guilty and asking for forgiveness. I dated him for 2 more years. Three years in total where he cheated repeatedly and we had many similar instances. I realized he’s a liar and walked away. I’m happy without him, work with him regularly and have no ill will. I just hope he comes clean and finds help someday.

    Reply
  5. Christina Plaza-Rupert

    My husband and I have been married just over a year. 2 months before our wedding things started to get heated in conversations…..we both questioned getting married. My husband has over come drug and alcohol addiction and is 7yrs. Clean and sober. 2 months after getting married we entered counseling due to the horrid fighting. The councilor shed light to me he had narcissist and personality disorder and behavior. She never told him just me…..months of counseling and me being thrown into the lions den I told her I’m not doing relationship exercises with him because there is something underlying and it isn’t being addressed. We have not stopped fighting and now I have caught him watching pornography. He told me he has struggled with this his whole life. Now gaslighting he has been doing since before we got married and now it’s worse. How can you help someone see these behavioral patterns if they constantly project it all back as your problem and not theirs? I never give him the right answer he wants to hear so it gets me in hot water. Had I not thought this was where God has placed me I would have been fone because I refuse to allow someone to talk down to me like I’m an object or beneath them. I am only staying because I think I was placed in his life to help him as everyone including his family babies him through all his destruction and it makes me sick. Someone needs to put him in his place and tell him what a destructive person he is and how everywhere he goes including work he destroys people and makes them quit their job because no one can work with him. Please help me survive this life with some tools in my toolbox. Thank u👍

    Reply

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