Am I Being Gaslighted? 15 Relationship Red Flags to be Aware of
Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that drives people to question their sanity or even their reality. Gaslighting comes in many different forms, but in the most serious instances, it is a form of emotional abuse. Gaslighting can occur in romantic relationships when someone repeatedly manipulates their partner. When someone gaslights their partner, they’re exerting power in the relationship to try and gain control over their partner or inflict some sort of emotional damage.
People may do this to make themselves feel better in the relationship (this is often the case when people have low self esteem) or they may believe that controlling their partner is the only way to get them to stay in the relationship.In other cases, research has shown that some people really just like the feeling of control they get from gaslighting another person... Regardless of the reasons WHY people gaslight, the signs are pretty much the same.
Here are 15 red flags that you should be aware of that could mean you are being gaslighted by your partner:
When a partner gaslights you, they challenge your perception of events and your sense of reality. To do this, they often distort the truth and lie about things so that they can frame things how they want to. Lying is used as a form of control to make your question yourself. A gaslighter will constantly lie to you about things little and small. It can be hard to detect when someone is lying, but in a gaslighting situation, even if you do catch your partner red handed in a lie, they will keep up the ruse.
Denying even if you have proof
Like we said before, gaslighters will lie and lie and lie even if you have proof that they are lying! Though we don’t always like to admit it (even to ourselves!) white lies are often commonplace in relationships, romantic and not. But in a normal relationship, if you are caught telling a white lie, you become embarrassed and immediately fess up. In a gaslighting situation, even when a partner is presented with proof or evidence that they are telling a lie, they double down and refuse to own up to it. Doing so will make their partner feel confused and can even distort their partner’s perception of reality, making them question themself, “am I making things up?”
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You're always making excuses
When a partner gaslights you, they will often make you feel as if all situations are them vs. someone else or your relationship vs. another person. This type of combative behavior will (intentionally) lead to lots of conflict in your life, which will force you to apologize on their behalf to friends, family and other people in your inner circles. Gaslighters often won’t own up to their behavior, or make you feel as if the situation was your fault, which can lead you to lie on behalf of your partner or make excuses for them. Doing this often makes you feel distant from your loved ones, which works to the gaslighters benefit.
They use what you like against you
Gaslighters understand what is near and dear to your heart, (remember, they’re master manipulators) and they use this understanding against you. Gaslighters will often say things like, “I am the only one that understands you” so that you feel seen in the relationship and also indebted to your partner for seeing you. Gaslighters also slowly wear down your sense of confidence and self worth. They do this by questioning things that you like about yourself and talking you down. Remember that partner’s should be supportive of your likes and interests, including the things you like about yourself! If you feel like your partner is constantly critiquing the things that you like and are proud of, then this is a sign of gaslighting.
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They use your personal relationships against you
Gaslighters thrive when you are isolated from other people in your life because they get to control the narrative without being challenged by outside perspectives. Gaslighters will often make you feel guilty for being close to people outside of the relationship. They will accuse your friends of lying, they claim that your friends don’t have your best interests in mind, they will say that your friends are manipulating you (cough cough PROJECTION) or that you act differently when your friends are around. All of these things will make you question your close relationships, which works in the gaslighter’s favor.
They tell you you're being crazy
One of the key manipulation tactics used by gaslighters is invalidating your feelings and making you question your reactions to things. Gaslighters will make you feel silly for feeling hurt after they do something manipulative, or they will call you crazy if you react in a normal way to something that they have done. Gaslighters do this so that you are forced to question your reaction to things, and so that you believe that you are the problem. Think about it, if someone tells you that you are overreacting to something, your instinct is probably to feel embarrassed and dismissed. Moving forward, in hopes of coming off as more laid back, you will probably let things that you feel uncomfortable with or that you find problematic slide so that you don’t come off as overly sensitive. This allows gaslighters to get away with bad behavior, because you believe that your reactions are the problem, not their actions that illicit the behavior.
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Gaslighters often use projection as another form of manipulation. Gaslighters are notorious for lying, but rather than owning up to their own actions, they may accuse you of lying. This forces you to defend yourself, and shifts the conversation away from their behavior and onto your behavior even if you haven’t done anything wrong.
Words and actions don't match up
Remember what we said about constant lying? Gaslighters are always lying which means that their actions and their words don’t match up. When you are in a relationship with someone it’s important to look at what their actions are demonstrating to you. A gaslighter will tell you that they have your best interests in mind, but what are their actions saying. In this case, the old adage that “actions speak louder than words” could not be more true.
They tell you how you're supposed to feel
Galighters will not only dismiss your feelings, but they will tell you how you are supposed to feel. If you are upset about something, they may say things like, “you should be happy I did this for you” or “you should be more grateful”. Telling you how you should feel makes you question your gut reaction to things (which works to distort your sense of reality) and often puts you in a position where you are apologizing to your partner (more on that below...)
You're always apologizing
Gaslighters will make you feel like everything is YOUR fault, even though it’s their behavior that is manipulative and unhealthy. If you feel like you are constantly having to apologize to your partner in order to keep the peace (whether or not you think that you have actually done something wrong) then this is a red flag that your partner is gaslighting you.
You "walk on eggshells" around them
Gaslighters have succeeded when you feel as if you are the problem in the relationship. If you feel like you are walking on eggshells around your partner, fearful that you will ‘overreact’ to something and set them off, or fearful that you will get into a fight and they will project on to you, then this is a sign that you are being gaslighted. Gaslighting messes with your head to such an extent that your goal is to keep your partner (aka the gaslighter) happy at all costs. This means that you prioritize their feelings and feed into the narrative they created about your relationship dynamic. Fights are a normal part of every relationship. If your partner makes your feel guilty for bringing up your feelings, or blames you for every conflict in the relationship, then this is a sign of gaslighting.
They add in positive reinforcement to confuse you
Seasoned gaslighters are masters of control. They understand that you probably won’t stay in the relationship if they are controlling or manipulative 100% of the time, and so they add in just enough positive reinforcement to keep you invested in the relationship. If your partner’s good behavior has you saying to yourself, "see they're not so bad!", or you can point to the few examples of times they are kind and compassionate to you to justify staying in the relationship, then this is a sign of gaslighting. Partners should lift each other up and be each other's cheerleaders and advocates. If this kind of behavior is uncommon in your relationship, then, gaslighting or not, it’s time to move on.
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They align people against you
Like we said before, gaslighters aim to isolate you from friends and family so that they have more control in their relationship and control over your actions. Gaslighters will tell you things like, “so and so also thinks you are overreacting to this situation” or “I was talking to my sister and she can’t believe you reacted like that”. More often than not, your partner is lying to you about what other people have said, but they make it seem like other people are on their side so that you further question your own behavior, and so that you don’t know who to turn to in the future. This not only ‘justifies’ their behavior, but it also isolates you from your support system.
You feel isolated from your former life
Gaslighters often completely isolate their partner from their friends and family members as a means of control. Think about it, if you have no connection to anyone outside of the relationship, then it becomes harder and harder to question the actions of your partner, especially when they lie to you and dismiss your feelings. Having outside perspectives reduces the amount of control that they can have in the relationship, so they systematically edge people out of your life by creating conflict, forcing you to take sides and convincing you that you are better off without certain people in your life.
You just don't feel like yourself anymore
At the end of the day, it’s important that you trust your gut most things in a relationship. If something feels off in the relationship, or you don’t feel like yourself or like you have control in your relationship, it’s a sign that you are being gaslit. Even the most headstrong, independent people can be in a relationship with a partner that gaslights. It has nothing to do with you and everything to do with your partner’s manipulative and controlling behavior. If you wake up one morning feeling isolated and unlike yourself, it’s a sign that you are being gaslighted in your relationship.
So what if you are being gaslighted in your relationship?
If you feel like you are being gaslighted in your relationship, you should trust your gut and find someone in your inner circle that you can confide in. Gaslighters make this very hard to do, but more often than not an old friend that you have temporarily lost touch with will come to your side if you need them. Getting an outside perspective on the relationship will help you identify the manipulative, unhealthy behaviors and allow you to either confront your partner about these behaviors or leave the relationship. Gaslighting comes from a need for control, and while this is something that a gaslighter can work on, it is not always your job as their partner to help them address this. When gaslighting is very serious, it is a form of emotional abuse and you should leave the relationship rather than try to reform your partner. At the end of the day, it is important that you focus on yourself and your needs. Practicing self care, learning to trust your instincts again and reclaim your identity.
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