Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse. It occurs when one person manipulates another into doubting their perception, memory or reality.
Recognizing gaslighting during divorce allows you to maintain your mental well-being.
Signs of gaslighting behavior
Your spouse may deny saying or doing certain things, causing you to question your memory. They might say, “I never said that,” or “You make things up,” even if you have a clear recollection of events.
Gaslighters often shift blame, making you feel responsible for the issues in the relationship. They might say, “You are too sensitive,” or “This is all your fault.”
Your spouse may downplay the impact of their actions. You end up feeling like you have blown things out of proportion. They might say, “It is not a big deal,” or “You are overreacting.”
You might also notice that your partner contradicts themselves, causing confusion. They might say one thing and later deny it. As a result, you question their understanding of the situation.
How to respond to gaslighting
If you feel something is wrong, trust your instincts. Gaslighting might make you doubt your feelings, so try to follow your intuition to get through this challenging situation.
Document instances of gaslighting. Write down what your partner said or did that made you feel like they were being dishonest or tricking you. This record can be valuable if you need to seek support or legal advice.
Talk to friends, family or a therapist about your experiences. Sharing your feelings with others you trust can help validate your reality.
Establish clear boundaries with your spouse. Let them know that gaslighting is unacceptable, and you will not tolerate manipulative behavior. Seek an order of protection if their actions escalate.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline reports that 48.4% of women and 48.8% of men have experienced psychological aggression such as gaslighting. If you develop symptoms of depression or anxiety, consider seeking the guidance of a mental health professional. Therapy can provide coping strategies and emotional support.
Gaslighting can have a significant impact on emotional well-being, especially during divorce. Recognizing the signs and taking steps to address and counteract these manipulative actions allows you to move forward in a healthy way.