Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse used by abusers to gain and maintain power and control over their victims. The term originates from the 1938 stage play Gas Light, in which a husband tries to convince his wife that she's insane by making small changes around the house and insisting that she doesn't remember what things were like before.
Gaslighting has been one of the most powerful tools for manipulation throughout history because it's so hard to detect. As a result, people who are being gaslighted often don't realize they're being manipulated until long after it's happened – if ever.
And once you do notice what's happening, breaking free can be very difficult. Unfortunately, there are no telltale signs or definitive way to know when it starts; you only know the feeling that something isn't right and your relationship isn't healthy.
What's In This Article
What Is Gaslighting?
The term gaslighting comes from a play called Gas Light. The character of the husband in the play tries to make his wife think that she is insane.
He does so by making minor adjustments at home and convincing her that she is hallucinating. His aim is to make her seem crazy in order to send her to a mental institution and inherit her money. Soon, the woman doesn't know what's real and what isn't.
While gaslighting was first introduced in a play, it is a very real phenomenon that is used by abusers to maintain power and control over victims. It is a form of emotional abuse that causes you to doubt your intuition, memory, and reasoning.
Gaslighting can make you feel crazy because, in the eyes of the abuser, the truth doesn't matter – it's what he says or does that matters.
In a healthy relationship, both people feel heard and supported. When something goes wrong, a couple can talk about it together, building on each other's ideas and feelings to solve the problem.
In an abusive relationship, though, one partner tries to keep power by making their partner dependent on them for everything – from emotional support to basic needs like food or clothing.
If your partner is gaslighting you, you might feel confused and isolated. Your partner might tell you that your feelings are wrong or stupid – or they might ignore them. Usually, this kind of behavior is unpredictable, so you can never know what's expected of you.
Gaslighting isn't just one thing, although it does have a few key elements. Gaslighting is when you get manipulated into doubting your perceptions and memories – and sometimes reality itself.
For example, your abuser might use gaslighting to hide infidelity or other behavior that would damage their reputation if it were made public.
They might also use gaslighting to test the boundaries between you and them. If you can't trust yourself, your perception of reality, or your feelings about the relationship, it's much harder to resist abuse.
Some abusers may gaslight as a reaction to feeling threatened by their partner; they might not like how powerful the victim is becoming compared to them. They might also use gaslighting to feel like they can control someone outside of the relationship.
For example, if your abuser feels like you're becoming more powerful and confident, they might gaslight to make themselves feel better about their lack of power; if you challenge them in any way, they'll feel threatened.
If your partner uses gaslighting as a reaction to feeling threatened by you, it's important to remember that they're the one who's doing something wrong. You don't need to apologize or feel guilty about making them feel uncomfortable; that discomfort results from their abusive behavior, not an indication of your power.
When you look back on the relationship later, it might seem obvious that what was happening wasn't okay. However, because the manipulation is so subtle and unpredictable, it's hard to know what's going on at first. You might think you're losing your mind or having a mental breakdown without realizing that your relationship isn't healthy.
Gaslighting can destroy your self-esteem and make you question everything about yourself – but if you look back afterward, you'll be able to see a clear pattern of abuse.
Read More: Help! I Think I'm Married To a Narcissist
Does Your Husband Say These Things to You?
Part of gaslighting is making you doubt your feelings and perceptions. A husband might do this by telling you that you're being oversensitive or unreasonable. He might say to you that your feelings aren't valid and say things like, “I'm sorry, but I don't have to take this.”
Your husband might also try to make you feel wrong about challenging him by saying things like, “If it weren't for me, nobody would even want to be with you.”
He might try to make you believe that his behavior is normal, especially if he has a history of gaslighting. Your husband might deny things he's said or done in the past and tell you that his words or actions didn't happen at all.
If your husband says things like the following, he's likely using gaslighting tactics.
“That Never Happened”
You might remember a conversation or event entirely differently from how it happened.
Does your husband deny that any of this was real? That's gaslighting behavior designed to make you doubt your memory. And if you start to doubt your memory, it becomes harder to defend yourself against other kinds of manipulation that your husband might be employing to emotionally abuse you.
“You're Being Too Sensitive”
If you confront your husband about something he said or did, and he calls you too sensitive or says that you can't take a joke, remember that it is a common tactic that abusers use to make their victim feel guilty for getting upset.
In a healthy relationship, your husband would apologize for hurting your feelings, not make fun of you, or tell you that it never happened, all while claiming that you're too sensitive.
“You Don't Remember Correctly”
Gaslighters control their victims by flooding them with a mix of positive and negative messages so that you never know what's going to upset them. If they tell you that something didn't happen the way you remember it – even if they're wrong – this is an attempt at manipulating your memory.
Memory manipulation is something that abusers do to their victims to make them doubt their own emotions and perceptions. It's a common tactic and one that is often used alongside gaslighting.
“You're Acting Crazy and Others Think So Too”
Abusers want to make you doubt yourself so that they can stay in control. So they'll do things like accusing you of being too emotional or suggest that other people think you're acting strange so that you begin to believe them instead of your feelings and opinions.
Their goal with this type of gaslighting is to make you doubt your sanity and turn the blame for their abusive behavior onto you.
“I'm Sorry You Think That I Hurt You”
If your husband’s response to your pain is an apology that has nothing to do with what you're upset about, that is another red flag.
Abusers don't care about hurting you or making you feel bad – they want to get away with treating you poorly, and gaslighting is one way of doing that. This type of “fake” apology attempts to make you doubt your perception and leave you feeling guilty and responsible for the other person's bad behavior.
“You Should Have Known How I Would React”
One method of gaslighting is constantly changing the goalposts. For example, your husband might apologize and say that they didn't mean to hurt you – but then turn around and do the same thing again a few days later.
By blaming you for his reaction, he's attempting to ensure that you don't trust your instincts. The next time something similar happens, you'll doubt yourself again and blame yourself for upsetting him even though you didn't do anything wrong.
Read More: Are You In A Toxic Marriage?
Do You Find Yourself Feeling This Way?
Even if you realize that your husband is using gaslighting behavior, it can be hard to know what to do about it. That's because gaslighting can be challenging to identify and even harder to prove.
If you feel that your husband is lying about reality or denying things he's said in the past, there's a good chance that he's manipulating you.
Suppose you're not sure what's happening or want to know more about identifying gaslighting behavior. In that case, these are some of the common feelings that victims have when their husbands or partners are gaslighting them:
You Wonder If Your Feelings are Justified
If you feel like your husband is constantly blaming you, making fun of you, or accusing you of acting crazy – even when this isn't the case – it can be hard to know whether they're hurting your feelings.
These feelings make it hard to trust yourself and leave room for doubt in your mind. As a result, you might find yourself wondering if perhaps there is something wrong with you rather than seeing your husband's behavior for what it is.
Read More: 11 Signs He Will Cheat Again
You Second-Guess Your Memory of Past Events
Since gaslighting makes you doubt your memories, it can make you question events that have already happened. For example, if your husband calls you crazy or accuses you of exaggerating, the next time something happens, it's hard to tell if it did happen the way you think it did. This means that eventually, everything begins to seem like a blur, and you can't trust yourself at all.
You Are Always Apologizing
If your husband is constantly accusing you of upsetting him or trying to make you feel bad about yourself, it will be hard for him to admit that he might be the one who needs to apologize. Letting him know that his behavior hurts you can result in an extended argument that makes you feel even worse about your worth as a person and leaves you apologizing for upsetting him.
You Make Excuses for Your Husband
A gaslighting partner will eventually make you feel like nothing they do or say is ever your fault. As a result, you may begin to feel like it's easier and safer to take the blame and try to change yourself than admitting that your husband doesn't treat you well.
Eventually, your self-esteem will drop, and you'll find yourself making excuses for your husband's behavior so often that it begins to seem normal. When your self-esteem and self-worth plummets, it can be challenging to realize that your husband is the one who needs to change – not you.
You Think There's Something Wrong With You
When your husband constantly blames you for his poor behavior, it can be hard to remember that he isn't the only one to blame.
However, if you begin to believe that something is wrong with you and try to change who you are or what you do so that your partner will stop treating you poorly, it becomes a never-ending cycle. You can't blame yourself for someone else's bad behavior, and you don't deserve to be treated badly.
You Trust the Judgment of Others and Not Your Own
If your husband constantly accuses you of exaggerating or lying about your feelings, you might find it hard to trust yourself. You might begin to avoid speaking up because your partner will accuse you of overreacting.
Eventually, you'll learn not to trust yourself and may even start to view yourself as overly emotional. However, that might not be the case at all.
You Wonder If Something Might Be off
Another sign that your husband might be gaslighting you is a feeling that something is off in your life. This is because you'll begin to question your reality, making it hard for you to feel at home in your own life.
When something feels off, but you can't quite figure out why it's a sign that your husband may have been manipulating you this entire time.
This feeling is hard to describe, but if something in your life has changed for the worse and you don't know why specifically, your husband might be gaslighting you.
Here Is What You Can Do About It
Several methods can help you cope with gaslighting in your relationship. First, it's essential to try different techniques and do what you can to ensure your happiness.
An excellent way to start is by looking at the people you surround yourself with so that you'll have support when you need it most. Close support is vital because, for many people, gaslighting can take a toll on self-esteem and mental health.
For example, suppose your husband continues to accuse you of upsetting him even when you know that what you're saying is true. In that case, it's time to stop engaging in the argument and instead tell someone else about what's going on so they can help hold him accountable.
Write Down Examples and Present Clear Evidence When Talking to Your Spouse
You can begin to cope with gaslighting by gathering evidence and writing down examples of the behavior. Make sure you present it in an unemotional way so that your husband doesn't feel attacked.
Writing down examples is crucial because it can be hard to remember everything when you're in the midst of an argument. In addition, you can present this evidence to your spouse when you're calm so that you're not accused of emotional outbursts.
When you have clear evidence, you feel more confident and in control of the situation.
Ask Yourself If Being Married to Him Makes You Feel Good or Bad
It's important to ask yourself if being married to your husband makes you happy. If you can't remember when he made you feel good, it might be a sign that he doesn't care about how his actions make you think and is only interested in what will benefit him the most.
In addition, if you're never allowed to get a word in edgewise, or you get cut off constantly when talking, it's another sign that your husband might be gaslighting you and not care about your emotional health.
Think About Advice Would You Give a Close Friend Who Is Going Through the Same Thing
If your husband is constantly telling you to change who you are, it's a sign that he is struggling in your marriage, even if he doesn't want to admit it.
When something doesn't feel right in your relationship, compare your situation with the advice you would give a friend going through the same thing. It's often easier to see problems in other people's marriages than your own.
Having an outside point of view allows you to see things from a different perspective and might help you realize that there is nothing wrong with you. This gives you a new perspective and helps you see things more clearly.
Seek Professional Couples Therapy or Counseling
If you've realized that your husband is gaslighting you and you're unable to cope on your own, it might be a good idea to seek professional couples therapy. A therapist can help the two of you communicate better and learn ways to rebuild trust in your relationship.
However, if your spouse refuses to go with you, individual counseling may better suit your needs. If you decide to seek counseling, ensure that you find a therapist who specializes in couples counseling to get the best possible advice for your situation.
Also, be sure to find one that specializes in emotional abuse and mental anguish so they can better understand what you're going through.
Going through a divorce can really take an emotional toll on even the strongest people.
If you are in need of therapy with both privacy and convenience, we recommend Online-Therapy.com. Their incredible service gives you access to instant professional help, on any device, wherever you are in the world.
Consider Getting a Divorce
If your husband continues to gaslight you and make you feel like there's something wrong with you, it might be a good idea to consider getting a divorce. This gaslighting will likely continue, and he won't change who he is unless he has serious motivation or until you take the step of separating from him.
Read More: Top 25 Reasons For Divorce
If your marriage doesn't make either of you happy anymore, it can be a sign that you're genuinely not compatible, and creating a life together is no longer an option.
When you're married for some time, it can make the idea of divorce seem like a social taboo. However, if your marriage is making one or both of you miserable and you don't want to live with the person anymore, divorce might be the best option.
This is especially true if your husband is constantly making you feel bad about yourself or is gaslighting you.
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