Gaslighting: What is It and How to Protect Yourself

Couple Having a Confrontation

Have you felt like the person you’re seeing or dating is intentionally distorting reality to make it seem like you’re feeling or seeing something that isn’t real? If so, you could be a victim of gaslighting. Unfortunately, in our world, gaslighting can come from a doctor, family member, boss, and, most commonly, your romantic partner.

Recently the term ‘gaslighting’ has become immensely popular. There happen to be countless reasons for this, including the #MeToo movement. This movement showcases how harassment and sexual violence victims are often doubted and discredited when they choose to publicly share their truth.

Recent survey results revealed that gaslighting is usually accompanied by domestic abuse. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 74% of adult women who report domestic abuse claim to experience gaslighting while with their partner or ex-partner.

In addition, the term ‘gaslighting’ has become a prevalent theme among Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok users interested in mental health and healthy relationships. In our article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about gaslighting and how to defend against it so that you can avoid toxic romantic relationships.

What Exactly Is Gaslighting?

Although gaslighting has become a term nearly everyone has heard of, thanks to social media platforms and media outlets, some still don’t know what it means. The term gaslighting was created from a 1930s play called Gas Light. In 1944 this play was turned into a film. 

In both the play and the film, the central theme surrounds the husband secretly dimming and brightening the gas-powered indoor lights and claiming his wife imagined him doing so. This, in turn, made her falsely believe she was going insane.

Yet, what is gaslighting in the modern age? To put it simply, gaslighting can be defined as a form of psychological abuse because when used by one partner on another, it makes them feel ‘crazy.’

If your partner is gaslighting you, they are using psychological manipulation over a long period of time to cause you to question your perception of reality and the validity of your memories or thoughts. Additionally, if a partner or person you’re dating is gaslighting you, you’ll likely experience feelings of confusion, low self-esteem, uncertainty, mental instability, and loss of confidence.

You should also note that gaslighting is a form of domestic abuse or romantic partner violence. So if the person you’re dating or in a relationship with is gaslighting you, it could lead to an incredibly toxic relationship down the line.

What Are Some Examples of Gaslighting?

Now that you know what gaslighting is, it’s time to look at a few examples. Knowing what to look for can help you determine if the romantic partner you’re seeing is gaslighting you. These examples are fictional but do a good job of showing gaslighting scenarios:

  • Example one: Julia’s boyfriend steals her money and then tells Julia she is careless with her money and loses it herself. In this scenario, Julia is the victim of gaslighting because her boyfriend is trying to make her believe something that isn’t true while putting her down.
  • Example two: Adele’s boyfriend hid her phone for an entire day and told her she had lost it. He gaslighted her to prevent her from communicating with others and to confuse her by saying she had lost it.
  • Example three: John’s girlfriend constantly made up small stories to confuse him. She would lie about checking his phone the other day to make him feel disoriented.

What Are the Common Signs of Gaslighting?

Sometimes when you like or love someone, it can be easy to dismiss their actions or not see the signs that they are gaslighting you. Unfortunately, if you don’t know the signs, you could begin to suffer from depression, anxiety, addiction, and other mental health conditions.

To find out if you’re experiencing gaslighting, look at the statements below. If one or more of them are true for you, you could be a victim.

  • Your partner often insists that you did or said something that you know for a fact you did not do.
  • When arguing or talking, your partner twists or retells events to make you the one to blame.
  • When you recall events, your partner denies or scoffs at what you believe to be true.
  • Your partner often insists that they’re right and you’re wrong without considering your perspective or the facts at hand.
  • You’re called ‘crazy’ or ‘too sensitive’ by your partner when you try to express your concerns, needs, or feelings.
  • Your partner will tell others their doubts about your state of mind, behavior, or feelings when it’s not warranted.

What Are Some of the Techniques a Gaslighter Could Use during a Relationship?

Besides knowing the signs, you’re the victim of gaslighting; it’s an excellent idea to learn about the techniques a gaslighter could use during a relationship. Although there are many techniques, we’ve managed to narrow down the most important ones that you need to know:

  • Countering: When a partner questions your memory of events even if you know you have remembered something accurately.
  • Trivializing: When your partner makes your needs or feelings seem unimportant.
  • Withholding: When a partner refuses to listen or pretends not to understand you.
  • Blocking or diverting: When your partner often changes the subject or questions your thoughts negatively.
  • Forgetfulness or denial: When your partner pretends not to know what actually transpired or denies that they made promises to you.

What Are Five Ways You Can Defend against Gaslighting?

Since gaslighting is becoming a serious issue in relationships, it’s important to know how to defend against it. You can use numerous techniques, but a few are more reliable than others. Have a look below at the five ways you can defend against gaslighting.

Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries is crucial when entering a relationship (even if only to date someone casually). Setting boundaries might seem complicated, but it isn’t. For example, should you suspect someone is trying to gaslight you, it’s best to start limiting your time around them to see if that changes their behavior.

To set boundaries, you can start by refusing to go places with a date or partner. If they discuss a topic you don’t like, you can leave the room and not give them the satisfaction of seeing you emotionally wounded or upset.

Should your partner or date realize their gaslighting behavior, they will stop and respect your boundaries. If they don’t, you know they will continue trying to gaslight you throughout your relationship.

Ensure You Pay Attention to the Gaslighting Signs

Arguably the very best way to defend against gaslighting is to know the signs. A date or partner that tries to gaslight you will be deceitful. Yet, this is different from telling a white lie. Gaslighters are repeat offenders who lie, spread false gossip about you, and don’t feel a sense of personal responsibility when in a relationship.

Gaslighters will also try to disregard or trivialize your feelings and thoughts and argue that they are always right. If you’re in a safe and healthy romantic relationship, you shouldn’t question your sense of self and memories.

If you see these signs alongside the ones we mentioned above, you could be experiencing gaslighting with your current romantic interest or partner. Should you be aware of these signs, you can quickly identify gaslighting behavior and will know if it’s intentional. If it is intentional and the person is a serial gaslighter, it’s best to cut ties.

Build Your Self Confidence

Unfortunately, a gaslighter plays on people’s confidence, so one of the best ways to defend against gaslighting is to have high self-esteem and self-confidence. After all, the stronger you are emotional, the less likely a gaslighter is to break through your defenses.

Luckily building your self-confidence isn’t as difficult as you might believe. To start, you should believe in your value and self-worth. You can do this by telling yourself positive affirmations or journaling the qualities you love about yourself. In addition, you can take online confidence-boosting courses or invest time in reading books that help build confidence.

A gaslighter won’t stand a chance if you successfully build self-confidence. Their manipulative tactics will fall flat as you’ll have the confidence to stand firm in your beliefs.

Stay In Contact with Your Support System and Seek Counseling

Sadly, many gaslighters will try to separate you from those you love, like your family and friends. They do this to exert control over you and your decisions, thoughts, and experiences. To defend against gaslighting, you must always stay in contact with your support system.

Maintaining healthy and regular contact with those you trust will help you identify gaslighting and overcome it.

Another way to defend against gaslighting that has been proven to work is to seek counseling. With the assistance of a qualified personal therapist, you can spot the gaslighting signs as they will help you put down your rose-colored glasses and see the reality in front of you. You don’t deserve to be manipulated. Seeking professional help will assist you with putting yourself first.

End the Romantic Relationship

If a gaslighter does not want to change their ways, your best option is to end the romantic relationship. You could face a toxic relationship and an unhappy life if you don’t.

Unfortunately, most times, people who gaslight others don’t believe they are doing anything wrong, so there is a strong likelihood that they won’t change or admit to having a problem. If you feel they could change, it’s best to seek couples counseling to work through your problems.

Wrap-Up On Gaslighting

Gaslighting is clearly a problem many people face when involved romantically with another person. Fortunately, now that you know the signs and how to defend against gaslighting, you stand a better chance of finding a meaningful romantic relationship. After all, you deserve happiness and shouldn’t let anyone manipulate you into thinking otherwise.

Scroll to Top