The Relationship Centre

How to Deal with Gaslighting in Intimate Relationships

Are you wondering how to deal with gaslighting in your significant other relationship? Our previous article talked about what this manipulation form is and specific gaslighting signs to understand.

Gaslighting manipulation is very effective and can target anyone. It is not uncommon for it to take years to finally figure out what’s going on. Equipping yourself with accurate information and support is the first step in finding your way out of this unhealthy type of relationship.

In her “Psychology Today” article entitled Gaslighting in Relationships: Seven Ways to Protect Yourself, Carol A. Lambert MSW shares the following:

“Gaslighting is psychological manipulation used to intentionally influence and deceive another to gain control. The power of this subtle coercive tactic is the creation of confusion and self-doubt in the targeted person that can be prevented by knowing what to look for and how to respond.”

If you’re wondering how to deal with a gaslighter, you’ve likely researched this topic already. Just as the descent into a gaslighting wasteland is gradual, so is the climb out of it. The more you know, the better off you’ll be. That’s because habitual gaslighters will get you to continue doubting your newfound knowledge at every turn. The more confident you are of what you observe and know, the easier it will be to find relief.

Would you like to learn how to handle gaslighting tactics? Here are some steps you can take.

Make Sure It’s Gaslighting

Our culture can be far too quick to throw psychological or behavioural labels at others. More than anyone else, your partner won’t appreciate the classification any more than you would. Before assuming your partner is gaslighting you, do your homework to make sure that is what’s going on.

Your significant other can have differences of opinion or even conflict with you without it being gaslighting. Yes, there could be some isolated themes here and there that need to be addressed. But classic gaslighting is an ongoing and consistent attempt to break you down, get you to doubt your judgment and make you easy to control. There is no equality in these relationships because your partner views you as an object to rule over instead. That’s what you need to guard against.

Keep Learning and Observing

Research gaslighting thoroughly so you can look at what’s happening. Also, explore related terms like a narcissistic personality disorder.

Gaslighting is a favourite manipulation tactic in relationships for individuals high in narcissistic traits. If you aren’t high on the narcissistic spectrum, you simply won’t understand why someone would do this to another human being. You probably never will comprehend that, but you’ll at least realize that these things do exist and that there are undeniable and identifiable telltale signs.

Explore How You’re Feeling

Gaslighting emotional abuse will make you feel badly in specific ways. Observing your partner’s behavioural patterns and how you feel about them will help you determine what’s going on.

Due to the damaging effects of gaslighting, you may feel:

  • The need to regularly apologize
  • Like you’re overly sensitive
  • That decision-making is difficult
  • Like isolating from those closest to you
  • Ongoing self-doubt, questioning yourself and confusion
  • Like you aren’t your typical self
  • Pervading unhappiness you can’t resolve

Journal About What’s Going On

It would be nice if once you knew what you were up against, you never doubted yourself again. But the nature of gaslighting in relationships will still make you question your reality. This is mainly due to the habitual conditioning you experienced from your partner. You may even get to the point where you unknowingly practice self-gaslighting. The longer you go through this, the harder it will be to see things for the way they are. It takes time to shed this false narrative and start trusting your gut instincts again.

For that reason, journaling is a great tool. Regularly document how you’re feeling and what you observe. This is helpful from a therapeutic standpoint, but it also gives you something to refer back to if you begin to doubt yourself. It’s best to keep this journal to yourself and hidden. This is the one place where what you write isn’t up for debate. No one gets to deny your reality in your personal journal!

Keep Calm

Why are you often accused of overreacting when your partner is gaslighting you? Because your partner has conditioned you to be emotionally unstable. This makes you feel like the one in the wrong when you come unglued after the lies or other demeaning manipulation techniques.

Deep down, even before learning about gaslighting, you knew something wasn’t right. So, you had plenty of emotional moments and ended up apologizing when your partner should’ve been the one apologizing to you. The attention is on you when it shouldn’t be. In some ways, it’ll be easier to stay calm knowing what you now know. In other ways, it will still be very difficult.

Journaling can help, as well as relaxation techniques like deep breathing. Also, try to find ways to be away on your own or with those you trust so that you can regrow your confidence. When you must interact with your partner, keep it simple, focused on the facts, knowing that you don’t have to be drawn back into the emotional games. If conversations become too manipulative or your reality is denied, feel free to walk away from the conversation so that you can stay true to yourself without being swayed by a false narrative.

Once you realize you can stay calm again, you will have power. Your partner won’t have as much ammunition to shift the blame to you.

Don’t Worry About Being “Right”

Upon finding yourself in a gaslighting relationship, you may want to outsmart your partner. To convince them once and for all of what they are doing and that you are on to them. Regardless of what evidence you have, you’ll likely never get them to see the truth. The issue isn’t a lack of evidence. Instead, it’s a deficit of insight. Your partner will deny and minimize anything you bring to the table.

So, how do you win? By not entering into the conversation when it grows too manipulative. Simply disengage—there is no other way.

Seek Support

It’s very challenging to handle gaslighting on your own. For that reason, resist the urge to isolate. Share what’s going on with those you trust. Also, be careful not to share too much with someone who may have aligned themselves with your partner’s false narrative.

There is power in sharing your story with trusted people. This can help you to build confidence in your perceptions after they were minimized for so long.

Struggling with How to Deal with Gaslighting? Consider Therapy

If you’re experiencing gaslighting in your relationship, there is still  hope in difficult times. It can be challenging to navigate alone if you’re in a relationship with consistent gaslighting themes. This is especially true if your partner has isolated you from your support system.

Through therapy, you’ll learn how to better identify gaslighting when it happens and how to respond healthily. You’ll also discover how to restore your diminished sense of self while evaluating what future steps need to occur in your relationship.

Would you like to learn more about gaslighting recovery? If so, please reach out to The Relationship Centre or schedule an appointment with us.