BEWARE GASLIGHTING! It can happen during divorce too.

Are you a victim of gaslighting without even knowing it?

There are so many questions around this topic so let me help clarify a few things for you.

What does Gaslighting mean?

Gaslighting is not new. Many people are surprised by this but it was used in the world wars as a technique to tortue prisoners. (I know yuk right)

Simply explained….It’s a way of making you feel like you are going cray cray. Even to the extent that you may commit suicide or hurt someone else.

Someone may constantly be hassling you and telling you you are imagining things. A common example is a wife asking her husband if he is having an affair. 

It goes like this.

You see all the signs. Late home, away on weekends, grooming more than usual, buying new underwear (yes true!!) and loses interest in sex. You get suspicious and start to ask. 

Then there is denial claiming you are  imagining it and making it all up. Maybe they go and tell their friends that you are having an affair!!! This happens. To cover it up. 

So you doubt yourself and wonder why this is happening and think you must be wrong. Yet all the facts and evidence points to someone else. 

It’s a nasty situation and abusive.

Gaslighting in the media

Have you heard of the Betty Broderick case?

It was reported in the court that she claimed he was manipulating her and gaslighting her to the point that he hoped she would commit suicide and would be free of her. Unfortunately she killed him and his new wife. Very tragic for everyone.

There is also a famous 1938 movie Gaslight and reports on how it was widely used in World War 1.

Are you being gaslighted? 

Does any of the above sound familiar? Are you in divorce proceedings and your ex is claiming you are imaging things? It can be subtle and you may not even notice it at first.

For example, things start to disappear.

In my house before my divorce, wedding pictures and pictures of us up on the wall or fridge would disappear! One by one. Then my ring. I didn’t notice immediately as it was all too slow and subtle but put together over time it added up.

When I asked my ex, he denied it, then they would start to reappear in weird places!! So I then thought I had moved them and he would agree.

It’s slow and subtle. It can erode your confidence and self belief.

It can even make you shy and subservient. It is psychological abuse. You are led to doubt your own judgement (and sense of reality) through the abuser’s repeated denials, deflections and lies.

How to deal with gaslighting in your divorce

Start a journal. Write it all down – time, date, place etc. This allows you to look back and assess the situation.

Keep evidence. Seek help and keep it to yourself until you have sought help from a counselor, psychologist, etc. 

Signs of gaslighting

Take a look at the list below. If any part of the list resonates with you, you may be involved in a gaslighting relationship.

  • You ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” many times per day.
  • You often feel confused and even crazy in the relationship.
  • You’re always apologizing.
  • You can’t understand why you aren’t happier.
  • You frequently make excuses for your partner’s behavior.
  • You know something is wrong but you just don’t know what.
  • You start lying to avoid put-downs and reality twists.
  • You have trouble making simple decisions.
  • You wonder if you are good enough.

While all of these symptoms can occur with anxiety disorders, depression, or low self-esteem, the difference with gaslighting is that there is another person or group that’s actively engaged in trying to make you second-guess what you know is true.

If you don’t typically experience these feelings with other people but do with one particular individual, then you might be a victim of gaslighting.

How to deal with gaslighting

1) Identify the problem. Recognizing the problem is the first step. Name what is going on between you and your spouse, friend, family member, colleague, or boss.

2) Sort out truth from distortion. Write down your conversation in a journal so you can take an objective look at it. Where is the conversation veering off from reality into the other person’s view? Then after you look at the dialogue, write down how you felt. Look for signs of repeated denial of your experience.

3) Figure out if you are in a power struggle with your partner. If you find yourself having the same conversation over and over again and can’t seem to convince them to acknowledge your point of view, you might be getting gaslighted.

4) Engage in a mental exercise to encourage a mindset shift: Visualize yourself without the relationship or continuing it at much more of a distance. Importantly, cast the vision in a positive light, even if it causes you to feel anxiety. Think down the road when you will have your own reality, social support, and integrity.

5) Give yourself permission to feel all your feelings. Accept and acknowledge that what you feel is okay. I recommend tracking your feelings. Consider trying the Mood Meter app that Marc Brackett and I developed at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence; it’s an easy way to facilitate your learning about your emotions and track your patterns, allowing you to learn what triggers your feelings and gives helpful strategies to shift your moods.

6) Give yourself the okay to give something up. Part of what makes it painful and challenging to leave a gaslight relationship is that the gaslighter may be the one “someone” you have committed to, such as your best friend, your mom, your sister or brother. It’s okay to walk away from toxicity, regardless of the source.

7) Talk to your close friends. Ask them if you seem like yourself and do a reality check on your spouse’s behavior. Ask them to be brutally honest.

Please reach out for help if you relate to anything discussed above.

For more tips and inspiration, hop on over to our FREE DOWNLOADS page or book a FREE CONSULT to find out how I can help you through the other side of divorce.

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1 Comment

  1. Elaine Duffus November 5, 2020 at 7:14 am

    Excellent article and sums up everything I’m going through.
    Now his solicitor is gaslighting me? Can I ask for his case to move to another solicitor in the firm?


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