Is My Partner Gaslighting Me?

When there is gaslighting in a relationship, a partner can use manipulation tactics in order to maintain control of their partner in some way. Gaslighting can be indicative of a serious issue of emotional abuse. Here’s how to recognize gaslighting in a marriage.

There can be a range of motivations behind gaslighting behavior. Perhaps the person seeks to maintain the upper hand in the relationship, avoid taking accountability for their actions, or blame or shame their partner into believing they are at fault. Regardless of the intention, gaslighting is unfair to the person affected. When someone gaslights their partner, they often portray themself as the hero, are dismissive of their partner’s feelings, and manipulate their words, perceptions, and the truth to fit their personal narrative. The gaslighter will go so far as to make their partner believe that their convoluted version of reality is actually the truth.

What is Gaslighting?

Psychologists have coined the term “gaslighting” as a manipulation tactic one uses to cause another person (or people) to question their own memory and perception of reality. Gaslighting can manifest even in simple phrases like “Stop being so sensitive, you’re crazy for thinking I’d say that.” If comments like these are repetitious enough, the person affected may truly start to believe that they are “crazy” for thinking the way they do–– even if the truth of the situation is on their side. While comments like these may seem harmless, the ability a person can have to alter another’s perception of reality and doubt their own thoughts is powerfully dangerous.

How to Recognize Gaslighting in a Marriage: Examples

Below are some examples of “red flag” behaviors to help someone identify whether their partner is gaslighting them:

  • They dismiss or deflect your opinions, emotions, and/or personal beliefs.
  • They will stifle your voice, whether it be in an argument or regular conversation.
  • They are hesitant to apologize–– if they do at all–– when their partner expresses hurt.

As a result of these behaviors, the person affected may start to believe that they are at fault and begin to feel guilty for their own behavior based on their partner’s accusations and/or judgment of their character.

What is Emotional Abuse?

Emotional abuse is a way someone can control another person by using their emotions against them. Similar to gaslighting, someone who is emotionally abusive will manipulate their partner to criticize, blame, and embarrass them. Emotional abuse is a very serious topic, and if anyone feels their partner is taking advantage of their feelings, it is important for them to remember that they are valued and that this behavior is not okay. It can be challenging to come to terms with the fact one is being emotionally abused, and it can be even more painful to speak about it, even with a trusted person. Emotional abuse can negatively impact one’s self-esteem and mental health, especially when one does not realize how or why they are being manipulated. Plain and simple, it is not their fault nor do they deserve this unfair treatment.

Related: Emotional Abuse Laws in California

Is gaslighting in a marriage considered emotional abuse?

There is overlap between gaslighting and emotionally abusive behaviors in the respect that one’s partner can take advantage of their emotions, opinions, and perspectives to reassert their narrative. Both are a sign of psychological abuse that one has over another person. As mentioned earlier, these behaviors can be difficult to recognize, and even harder to confront. Gaslighting can be considered a strong example of emotional abuse. Whichever term is used, the bottom line is that it is unfair for a partner–– or anyone for that matter–– to manipulate someone else’s mind to gain power or control over them.

People affected by emotional abuse/gaslighting are strong and resilient. It can be hard to break away from being manipulated, especially if the person gaslighting them is their partner. Conversation to mend the relationship or walking away are options a person may take, but it is most important that the person affected is supported during this time and has the time to make these life decisions at their own pace.

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If you have any more questions on how to recognize gaslighting in a marriage, get your free consultation with one of our California Domestic Violence Attorneys today!