gaslighting in romantic relationships

“That never happened.”

“Stop being so sensitive.”

“If you really loved me, you would ____”

Have you ever been in an argument or even everyday conversation with your partner and heard any of these phrases? If you have, you have likely experienced gaslighting in some way, shape or form. 

So you’ve been gaslighted. What does that even mean? What is gaslighting? 

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse and can be presented in a multitude of ways. Gaslighting can be described as a manipulation tactic “in which one person makes another person doubt his or her perceptions, experiences, memories, or understanding of events that happened.” (https://www.psycom.net/gaslighting-in-relationships) Typically, the person being gaslighted can feel out of touch with reality, feel crazy or overly emotional, or confused and unable to recognize or remember what is really happening. When someone is gaslighted, it may be difficult for them to make sense of the situation and confusing to know if their feelings based on a certain situation are even valid. 

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So what does gaslighting look like? Let’s take a deeper dive into the examples mentioned at the beginning of the blog.

One example of what gaslighting might look like is one partner saying “That never happened” or that you are “making things up now” when you know something happened one way; when really your partner manipulates you into thinking that it either never happened at all or did not happen the way you remember it. This tactic leads the manipulated partner to believe that they are “crazy” and distorts their reality. Another example may sound like “Stop being so sensitive” or “you are overreacting”. When one partner expresses their feelings about a certain situation and they are followed up by one of these phrases, the validity of their feelings can be completely diminished. Again, leading to the manipulated person to believe their feelings and thoughts are indeed crazy and that they cannot react this way in response to their partner’s actions. One more example might sound something like “If you really loved me, you would ___” or “I thought you loved me unconditionally”. This form of gaslighting can make the partner question their own perception of what love should look and feel like. Additionally, it poses the idea that if you love someone, anything they do is excusable and forgivable. Insinuating, if you loved someone, you would tolerate any abusive behavior.  

So how is gaslighting a feminist issue? 

Gaslighting creates a significant power imbalance in relationships. While gaslighting can happen to anyone in all sorts of relationships, any gender, romantic or not; typically women are being gaslighted more often (which makes sense because women are SO easily falsely labeled as overly sensitive or emotional or PMSing). Gaslighting damages the “shared reality” that you and your partner have with one another. When this shared reality is damaged then it makes it difficult to feel a sense of security in the relationship. Being gaslighted can make the gaslightee feel as if they are constantly walking on eggshells in order to avoid the triggers of the gaslighter. When gaslighting is present in relationships, one person has all the power over what is right and wrong and what will and will not be tolerated in a relationship, ultimately giving one person nearly all the power. 

6 thoughts on “gaslighting in romantic relationships

  1. Wow! This hit close to home for me! As someone who has been actively dating for years- I have TOO much experience with gaslighting. One of the worst experiences you can have in the dating world and it always makes you feel crazy. I have found a lot of comfort in sharing my experiences with other women who have gone through similar moments with their past or current partners. It makes it easier to cope and talk about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad this resonates with others! Talking to others always makes it easier and less lonely 🙂

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  2. I had never experienced gaslighting until my current relationship, and I hated how it made me feel!
    I am currently in a 7-month relationship, and the first 3 months were a rollercoaster! I liked so many things about my boyfriend, but the one thing I could not continue as being a victim of his gaslighting.
    I didn’t even know what gaslighting was until I was telling my girlfriends and mother about the arguments we were having. They were the ones who told me I was a gaslightee, and I was very much not okay with this.
    The arguments were always over nothing and they always ended with me not knowing what I was talking about, and him being right. I was so confused during the arguments, my reality was so distorted, and it honestly, at times, had me feeling overly emotional and crazy. Not healthy… I know. It was towards the beginning of our relationship that our arguments were like this when we were still getting to know each other, deciding if we were a good match for one another when I was still being super nice, (like you do in a new relationship).
    Our arguments changed when I could not be nice any longer, I could not feel crazy during our fights longer, I took control back from him and I told him that he does not get to make me feel crazy, or make me feel like my emotions are not valid. Ever since I opened up and explained what I am not willing to tolerate I have not been the victim of gaslighting since and our relationship has grown into a very healthy one. I will admit I was questioning why I was his girlfriend near the beginning, but now I am super happy with what we have managed to grow into in the past 7 months.

    Liked by 1 person

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