Gaslighting In A Relationship – Signs & Stages To Know About

Watch out for these obvious signs and avoid falling prey to the gaslighters.

Reviewed by Dr. Holly Schiff, Licensed Clinical Psychologist Dr. Holly Schiff Dr. Holly SchiffLicensed Clinical Psychologist linkedin_icon
Written by , Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach Sneha Tete Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach linkedin_icon Experience: 4 years
Edited by , BSc Shatabdi Bhattacharya BSc Experience: 2.5 years
Fact-checked by , Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach Sneha Tete Integrated MA, Certified Relationship Coach linkedin_icon Experience: 4 years

Gaslighting in relationships is a form of psychological manipulation or emotional abuse that makes you question your own senses. People use this kind of manipulation in relationships to gain the upper hand or control over another person or to avoid accountability. The abuser uses his or her tactics, making the victim question their identity, perception, memories, and self-worth. In this article, we have discussed gaslighting in relationships, signs, stages, and how to overcome it. Keep reading to know more.

What Is Gaslighting In A Relationship?

Gaslighting partner blames you for all the problems
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Gaslighting signs can be observed in any form of co-existing bond like friendship, romantic relationship, familial relationship, and workplace relationship.

A relationship that works on the dynamics of gaslighting is usually very toxic and abusive in nature. Gaslighting usually takes place in relationships where there is no equality in power and the person gives their abuser the leverage to exploit their personal space.

Hence, for a healthy relationship, it is very important to identify the signs, effects, and ways to combat such abuse.

Signs You Are Being Gaslighted

Gaslighting is a vicious cycle of abuse and is not easily detected when used in a relationship. The normalization of conflicts and disagreements makes it even harder to distinguish if you are actually being subjected to abuse or not.

Hence, here are some crucial signs you should possibly look out for if you suspect that you are a victim of gaslighting:

1. If Your Partner Engages In Deflection

Deflection is the opposite of taking accountability for one’s own actions. In simple words, it is the act of defending and guarding one’s actions, feelings, and beliefs by pointing fingers and victim blaming. Deflection is a red flag that is commonly seen in people who have an egoistic attitude. Egoistic individuals go to extremes to protect themselves and dodge any threats against their self-image or self-importance. Hence, in relationships, it becomes difficult for them to accept their mistakes or apologize as they always feel that their partner is to blame for everything.

They lash out at you if you challenge them and dismiss your emotions while not taking responsibility for their behavior. You will be made to feel crazy for speaking up and saying something, lessening the likelihood of you doing so again.

Individuals who practice this kind of behavior are:

  • Usually afraid of the negative consequences of their actions
  • Don’t want to tarnish their outward image
  • Not empathetic
  • Play the victim

2. If Your Partner Trivializes You

Trivializing is minimizing someone’s achievements, emotions, problems, and feelings – in other words, invalidating and making someone feel inferior about themselves. In relationships, it is an unhealthy and toxic way of projecting one’s power, control, and insecurities on their partner. This has a damaging effect on the victim’s self-worth, confidence, and self-esteem.

However, they can’t constantly criticize you, so they will pepper in positive reinforcement to string you along and confuse you. They will praise you just enough to keep you from leaving.

Some indicators that your partner is belittling you can include:

  • Passing crude comments, harsh criticism, insults, and humiliating remarks
  • Refusing to acknowledge your achievements

3. If Your Partner Manipulates You

Gaslighting is also when a partner constantly dismisses you
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An abuser manipulates and uses your own thoughts, actions, beliefs, and behavior against you for mainly one of these two reasons:

  • To make surrender your power and trust
  • To make you second guess your reality

Hence, gaslit victims usually find themselves questioning and doubting their actions and sanity, making it hard for them to trust their own perception. A major sign of getting gaslit is when your partner is trying to control your mind by filling it with doubts to the extent that it confuses and alters your perception of the truth.

protip_icon Quick Tip
Manipulative partners often resort to blame-shifting and portray the negative situation as your fault or project their negative qualities on you.

4. If Your Partner Lies To You

People who gaslight their partners have a habit of fabricating lies and stories. Such people have no guilt or remorse for their lying behavior. Even when you present them with evidence of their deception, they try to deny, falsify, and distort the truth, which boils down to you questioning yourself.

Em, a blogger, shares how she was cunningly manipulated and gaslighted by her husband through lies in her blog. He made her question her sanity after some time and she says, “The trouble was, he did it in painfully obvious and unsubtle ways. Of course, I didn’t know it as gaslighting; this was the early 00s, and no one talked of the term (i).”

5. If Your Partner Talks Over You

Conflicts and arguments are unresolved and frustrating with a person who engages in gaslighting. People with gaslighting tendencies will show the following signs during a conflict:

  • They will try to stonewall you (shut you down)
  • Not give you an opportunity to explain yourself
  • Not listen to your counterarguments
  • Refuse to understand or interact with you
  • Accuse and deviate from the point of conflict

Such conditions make it difficult and frustrating for the victim as the gaslighting individual is more focused on proving themselves right rather than finding a mutual resolution to the problem.

Gaslighting tactics in relationships usually take place in stages. Find out all about the stages of gaslighting in the next section.

Stages Of Gaslighting In A Relationship

Gaslighters may shower partner with excess love
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Gaslighting is a gradual process that the abuser uses to slowly gain the upper hand in the relationship. The extent, form of manipulation, and stages can differ from person to person.

1. Lying

Victims of gaslighting will usually start to notice that their partners are manipulating them by blatantly lying to them even in the presence of evidence to the contrary. Lying is one of the common tactics used by an abuser to hold control over their partner. It involves twisting the truth and building false narratives to steer their way out of any blame. Abusers will go to great lengths to deny anything that has happened and present you with things that are not true as absolute truths. This results in you feeling confused and lost.  That being, not all liars are gaslighters. Here are a few differences between a liar and a gaslighter:

  • A gaslighter will mold your reality by distorting the truth.
  • Their lying has an ulterior motive, i.e., gaining control over you.
  • They lie to actively blame you for something that is not your fault.

2. Relying

Abusers are capable of taking victims to war with their own brains by sowing the seeds of doubts and confusion against their own perception and reality. Such victims of abuse become more vulnerable and confused over time and trust themselves less. This creates an opportunity for more power and control for the abuser. Victims who are constantly exposed to gaslighting lose their sense of self and start relying on their partner’s perspective and reality more than their own.

3. Feigning Care

Gaslighters are masters of manipulation. They use words that give the victim a false image of them showering care or concern. During conflicts, a gaslighter will show kindness and become an empath; they will assure the victim that their words and statements are purely from a place of concern, whereas in reality, they use it for their own benefit, i.e., to shift blame in the situation.

4. Tearing Down The Victim

Victims of gaslighting are repeatedly put through manipulation, lies, invalidation, questioning, discouragement, etc. Due to this, the victim loses their individuality, becomes insecure, and starts judging their own thoughts, beliefs, and actions. In short, the abuser destroys the victim’s psyche, making them codependent and vulnerable.

5. Control

One of the prime goals of gaslighting in relationships is to gain power and dominance over the partner. Gaslighters have a tendency of growing their control over the victim by continuing the cycle of lying and manipulating while undermining the victim’s confidence in their own ability to differentiate between deception and truth.

6. The Repetitive Cycle Of Abuse

The gaslighter will exploit the victim by:

  • Re-writing history in their favor
  • Telling white lies
  • Demeaning their worth

Gaslighting is not a one-time occurrence. It is a vicious cycle of abuse. Constant exposure to such abuse makes it easier to gain control and manipulate the victim.

7. Defensive

Gaslighters tend to become defensive when they are faced with a threat to their self-image. For example, when the victim criticizes their actions or presents a valid piece of evidence or point. In such situations, the abuser will refuse to accept responsibility for their actions, lie, pit false accusations, question, and doubt the victim until they don’t agree with them.

protip_icon Quick Tip
Gaslighters tend to groom their victims. They initially appear as extra caring. Once the other becomes dependent on them, they take advantage of their vulnerability.

Listed in the next section are some gaslighting examples in a relationship. Keep reading.

Gaslighting Examples In A Relationship

Shutting up the partner is a form of gaslighting
Image: Shutterstock

Gaslighting in relationships is a sensitive issue. Hence, identifying gaslighting can be difficult and confusing. Here are a few examples that will help you with gaslighting awareness in a relationship:

  • Notice if your partner defends themselves by doubting you or telling you that you live in delusion.
  • Gaslighting partners are not good with confrontation. They will deny or ignore the issue and not arrive at any solutions to conflicts.
  • They engage in the blame game every time something goes wrong.
  • They always portray themselves as the
  • They bombard you with compassion when they know they have done something wrong.
  • They try to cut off your ties with any of your social circles like your friends or family.

Wondering why people start gaslighting in the first place. Read the next section to find out.

Why Do People Gaslight?

The psyche of a gaslighter is hard to decipher. There is no one specific motive for a person to gaslight someone. There could be a few possible reasons why someone is using gaslighting against you:

  • Mental Health Issues: A person with a history of borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, or antisocial personality disorder, or someone with maladaptive personality traits like manipulation or deceiving, can use gaslighting as a way to control their relationships to make them feel less vulnerable.
  • Avoid Consequences: Gaslighting is a powerful tool of manipulation that abusers use to get away with something they have done. For example, abusive partners can use gaslighting to escape from confrontation regarding their bad behavior, like cheating, stealing, lying, etc.
  • Control: One of the primary goals of a gaslighter is to gain authority and feel powerful. An abuser can hold control over you for something you might have to offer or are easily accessible for. It could be for money, love, affection, sex, fame, prestige, etc.
  • Insecurity:  Another reason why people may engage in gaslighting is that they feel insecure about themselves on a deep level. A person may use gaslighting to break and demean the other person, feed their ego, feel powerful, and make themselves feel better.
  • Pain: Gaslighting can be a projection for someone who is trying to avoid the shame, guilt, and pain of letting their partner down. Underlying pain or trauma could be the motivation for such

There are many ways to put an end to gaslighting in a relationship. Find out how in the next section.

How To Stop Gaslighting In A Relationship

Stand up to your controlling partner
Image: Shutterstock

Gaslighting effects can be damaging to the individuals in a relationship. Self-deprecation, lack of self-esteem, anxiety, low confidence, PTSDi  It stands for post-traumatic stress disorder, a mental health condition that is triggered by the experience of a terrifying event. , vulnerability, codependency, and inability to trust are a few harrowing mental effects of gaslighting. To combat such abuse, standing up for yourself, preserving your mental health, and taking back your control should be a priority.

Here are a few ways in which you can identify and stop gaslighting behavior in a relationship:

1. Realization

The first step in gaslighting recovery is figuring out if what you are experiencing is actual gaslighting. As emotional abuse is harder to recognize, understanding not all conflicts amount to abuse is important. Here are a few ways to identify if you are a victim of gaslighting:

  • Make sure that the pattern of abuse is consistent over time.
  • It is emotionally draining and mentally exhausting.
  • You are doubting your choices, feelings, and actions.
  • You find yourself apologizing for more than you
  • Your feelings of unhappiness, confusion, and paranoia persist for a long period of time.

2. Maintain A Calm Composure

Dealing with gaslighting is exhausting as it involves dealing with a variety of emotions. Frustration, confusion, sadness, anger, and anxiety are a few of the emotions experienced by victims of gaslighting. As these emotions are completely normal, keeping your calm will help you act on the situation effectively.

Maintaining your composure can help you fight manipulation, make rational decisions, and stay alert.

In the event of gaslighting, try practicing mindfulness:

  • Calm yourself down by taking deep, slow breaths.
  • Give yourself a pep
  • Use visualization techniques.
  • Count up to 100 to center yourself.

3. Preserve Your Space And Energy

Gaslighting can be overwhelming and stressful for the victim. In such instances, it is advised to take a mental break and move away from the situation. Taking your own personal space can help you calm down and bring some focus and clarity to your mind. By preserving your space and energy, you are also keeping yourself sane.

4. Trust Your Instinct

Intuition is a very strong and powerful sense that helps you to avoid danger and can possibly lead you to the correct path. It is easier to sow seeds of doubt in a person with a poor instinct or gut feeling. Hence strengthening this part of your psyche is important to help you break free from the shackles of gaslighting.

Here are some benefits of tuning in your gut:

  • It can improve our understanding of ourselves
  • Help us make better decisions
  • Keep low stress-levels
  • Maintain calm in anxiety or stress enduring situations.

Hence, believing in the old saying “your intuition is being true to yourself” is a lesson to be practiced.

5. Stand Your Ground

A gaslighter is constantly in the pursuit of control over your thoughts and feelings. This is usually achieved by manipulating facts and events and invalidating the victim’s perception. To avoid this, stand firm and trust that your part of the story is important. This involves believing in what you have seen, heard, and felt and not owning up to your abuser’s perception.

6. Keep A Record

Journaling through the process of gaslighting is useful for victims who feel misled and confused about their own thoughts and feelings. Keeping a record of your truth can prevent you from getting manipulated by your abuser, shed some clarity on the situation, and help you process and validate your emotions.

Journaling such instances should involve penning down details like:

  • The abuser’s patterns of behavior.
  • Describing situations of getting gaslit.
  • Noting down any statements said by the abuser.
  • Your actions and feelings towards the situation.

7. Seek Professional Support

Reach out to an expert for gaslighting therapy. Talking to a mental health professional can be a good option to recover from the effects of gaslighting. A therapist can acknowledge your pain, help you rebuild your self-esteem, fosters confidence, enlighten you with insight, and help you gain control over your own life.

Getting outside advice is important since your perception of the situation may be clouded. A professional can give you a more objective opinion of what is going on and remind you of your worth since the gaslighting may make you question your skills and take away your confidence.

8. Set Personal Boundaries

Setting personal boundaries in relationships that involve gaslighting is crucial. Usually, in gaslighting relationships, the abuser violates your boundaries by dictating how you must feel, think, or act in a situation. An abuser will find ways to induce anxiety and confusion into the mind of the victim in an attempt to overpower them. Such signs of manipulation and control can only be stopped if one creates personal boundaries.

Gaslighting in a relationship is a type of emotional abuse and psychological manipulation that gives the abuser the power to exploit another person. If your partner refuses to be held accountable, lies to you, and makes you question yourself, chances are you are being gaslighted. While the motive behind a gaslighter’s actions is difficult to understand, possible reasons include mental health issues and insecurity about themselves. That is why it is extremely important to realize that you are being gaslighted and set personal boundaries with your partner. If you experience anxiety and low self-confidence, consult a mental health professional to help you heal and take control of your life.

Infographic: Healing From Gaslighting Abuse

Gaslighting in a relationship can wreck your self-confidence and make you question your identity. This psychological abuse may leave your memories and perception warped, making you lose faith in your ability to function independently. Check out the infographic below for some ways to heal from this emotional manipulation and regain your self-worth.

healing from gaslighting abuse (infographic)

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Gaslighting in a relationship is a type of emotional abuse and psychological manipulation that gives the abuser the power to exploit another person. If your partner refuses to be held accountable, lies to you, and makes you question yourself, chances are you are being gaslighted. While the motive behind a gaslighter’s actions is difficult to understand, possible reasons include narcissism and insecurity about themselves. That is why it is extremely important to realize that you are being gaslighted and set personal boundaries with your partner. If you experience anxiety and low self-confidence, seek gaslighting support by talking to a mental health professional to help you heal and take control of your life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is gaslighting normal in a relationship?

No. Gaslighting is a common type of abuse in toxic relationships. There is no gaslighting in a healthy relationship.

How do you destroy a gaslighter?

The most effective approach to stop a gaslighter is to act cool when they try to manipulate you. They enjoy getting a rise out of you. Therefore, it frustrates them when they don’t get the response they were hoping for. They will probably try to persuade you that they will change once they realize you no longer care, but don’t fall for it.

Can gaslighting be intentional or is it always unintentional?

Gaslighting does not always take place with malice. Gaslighting frequently occurs when the gaslighter is unaware that they are using any kind of cunning or manipulation. Gaslighters sometimes feel as though they are just expressing themselves honestly because they lack self-awareness.

How can gaslighting impact a person’s self-esteem and mental health?

Chronic stress and severe emotional distress are the results of gaslighting. Your sense of identity, worth, and confidence are eventually worn down by the constant bombardment of verbal (and occasionally physical) assaults, which also gradually erode your sanity.

Is it possible to repair a relationship after experiencing gaslighting?

There is a way out of gaslighting. It is crucial to practice self-compassion and endurance, as the healing process can be prolonged.

How can I differentiate between healthy disagreements and gaslighting in my relationship?

The purpose of gaslighting is to make you doubt your sanity, whereas the objective of a disagreement is to reach a resolution or have their point of view understood.

Is gaslighting normal in a relationship?

A frequent form of abuse in unhealthful relationships is gaslighting. It can occur in romantic relationships of any age, including adolescent relationships and even marriage. It’s possible that gaslighting won’t occur in a new relationship.

Can gaslighters love?

Gaslighters will frequently use this phrase to justify a wide range of negative behaviors. They enjoy using your love and affection for them against you in this way. But the truth is that you can love someone and still be angry with them for something they did.

What are the red flags for gaslighting?

You question your truth which is the first red flag. The second red flag is that you keep asking yourself tough questions. The third red flag is that you’re always perplexed. And the most common red flag is that you keep on misinterpreting things a lot of the time.

What does God say about gaslighting?

Even though God can always be trusted, it can be challenging to do so at first. Hebrews 6 gives hope to those who have experienced gaslighting by reassuring them that, despite what their abuser may have told them, God cannot lie and that He will keep His promises.

Key Takeaways

  • Gaslighting in relationships is a form of psychological manipulation or emotional abuse to gain the upper hand or control over another person or to avoid accountability.
  • Gaslighting is a vicious cycle of abuse that makes the person on the receiving end question their identity, perception, memories, and self-worth.
  • Gaslighting is a gradual process that the abuser uses to slowly gain the upper hand in the relationship and the extent, form of manipulation, and stages can differ from person to person.
  • The mental effects of gaslighting include self-deprecation, lack of self-esteem, anxiety, low confidence, PTSD, vulnerability, codependency, and inability to trust.
gaslighting in relationships

Image: Stable Diffusion/StyleCraze Design Team

Are you living in constant fear and walking on eggshells in your relationship? Chances are that your partner is gaslighting you. Check out this video to understand your situation in more detail.

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Dr. Holly Schiff

Dr. Holly SchiffLicensed Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Holly Schiff is a clinical psychologist licensed in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York and has over 10 years of experience. She was awarded a Doctorate of Psychology in School and Community Psychology from Hofstra University. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Fordham University, majoring in psychology with a minor in sociology and pre-law advisory. While completing her full bio

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