GASLIGHTING P.3: YOUR FAULT?
No relationship is fully safe from gaslighting.
Like any habit, it can be cultivated unconsciously over time. Little disconnections + resentments here and there in your relationship that build and build over time.
These ‘habits’ get to a point where one or both of you begins to believe no amount of effort will have you be successfully heard, seen, received, understood, etc.
Resentment and frustration begin to callous the relationship.
The care it once had to shelter it from careless cruelty and irrational arguments turns into numbness and scar tissue.
Eventually, this callous attitude makes one (or both) persons believe that it is okay and necessary to override or invalidate someone else’s reality in order to defend themselves or be understood. Over and over again.
Here are the most common questions I get from people in this dynamic or recovering from this dynamic…
🌵Did I do something to make my relationship have gaslighting?
🌵Could I do something better to avoid this?
🌵Why did this happen to us? To me?
🌵How can my relationship look so different now than it did before?
🌵Who is this person?
🌵Who am I?
🌵Am I ok?
🌵Is this dangerous?
🌵Is this really a problem?
🌵Do I even know anymore?
Many of these questions are important keys to possibly shifting the dynamic.
Many of them point to things you CAN control and things you CAN’T.
Think of these questions as a flashlight- they point you in the direction your awareness needs to go in next.
IN ANSWER TO THE FIRST QUESTION- Did anything in particular trigger gaslighting in my relationship?
For the gaslightee…
Most likely, if it's not obvious, there is no one thing that you did that caused gaslighting in your relationship. Unless there was a clear break in trust (i.e. someone cheated) or a massively disturbing life event (death in the family, losing a job), gaslighting is a dynamic that is developed subtly over time. How?
For the gaslighter...
Usually, someone becomes a gaslighter in attempts to control or handle a situation in a relationship.
They are typically trying to stop a conflict, ease anxiety, or to feel in charge again.
It’s a way to avoid taking responsibility for something out of guilt or fear or shame.
Ask yourself if there was something you did you feel guilty about.
OR are you trying to protect yourself around your partner?
Do you feel constantly attacked?
Are you afraid your partner is going to leave you so you’d rather convince them they are wrong about that thing they are intuiting?
Are you oblivious on how to fix the thing in you that they keep saying is upsetting them - so out of a desire to protect the relationship and stay with them- you try and convince them they are wrong?
If you keep telling your partner they are wrong when you know you f’d up or when you’ve heard what they are talking about from other partners before, just take a look at what they are pointing to.
Did you do something to break the trust?
Or is it something about you that you don’t want to change that they keep saying you have to?
Or something about you that you DO want to change but don’t believe you can.
GET CURIOUS. GET CLEAR.
Where is this coming from in you?
Are there things your partner keeps bringing up that you've heard before from other partners, friends, family, that you could hear differently?
WHAT ARE THE MAIN CAUSES FOR GASLIGHTING IN A RELATIONSHIP?
It can have two main seeds.
🎍THE FIRST: You inherited it.
Many times gaslighting is a habit passed down through generations.
Mirrored in family dynamics- between parents or from parent to child.
If it was modeled to you as a child, at some point or another, you will inevitably have it emerge in your current reality. Maybe with a boss, a continuing relationship with a parent, a new or old friend, your relationship…
You will have the choice to digest and evolve out of it OR you can unconsciously continue passing this ugly habit down through generations. Up to you.
Whether you are the gaslightee or the gaslighter, you have a choice on whether or not to continue engaging in this very tiresome very unpleasant relationship habit.
🎍THE SECOND: It was co-created.
Something happened in the relationship (whether both of you know about it or not - like cheating) that broke the trust or put the relationship under threat.
Many times a person is denying another person's reality because they f’d up and don’t want to lose the relationship - like cheating or lying - so they deny, deny, deny.
Or someone has trauma or trigger that causes them to feel unsafe and the gaslighting is an attempt to feel safer or in control.
Or someone has a hairline- trigger that can be set off at any time and either uses or triggers gaslighting in any argument.
SO WTF, I’m in this relationship, I don’t want to leave- what do I do now?
IF YOU ARE THE GASLIGHTEE- The most effective thing you can do is to focus on validating yourself AND practice NOT engaging in conversations that are headed toward volatility.
Trust yourself. If your partners' tone has changed, if their body posture is tense, DO NOT RISK IT, hang up or go in another room for a bit. Come back to the subject later (and this is just as important).
Is it unfair you have to do all this? Sure. But who cares. If it makes it impossible for you to experience gaslighting- THEN IT IS WORTH IT.
Also, do not tolerate OR engage in conversations where you have to defend your reality, feelings, experience.
Notice when you feel gaslighting is festering in your relationship and bring it up in a non-confrontational manner. If your partner tries to gaslight you again, don’t accuse, just raise the mirror and reflect back to them how they are doing it in that moment.
The self-doubt is the damaging part of this dynamic. YOU need to validate your feelings + your reality. Don’t compare it to someone’s who may have an ulterior motive for you to doubt yourself.
BE VERY INTENTIONAL when you bring up difficult conversations with the person.
Trying to explain to them how they are gaslighting you when they are enraged will make it much much harder to communicate with them about this and probably get veeeeery messy.
Make sure they are in a place to hear you when you breach the subject. Don’t do it when they just walked through the door, are about to leave, just got fired, are distracted, playing video games, or just woke up. Put it in the calendar, tell them you want to talk about something important.
Bring it up as a thing you want better for the both of you.
Pick your battles. If you are going to insist they are gaslighting you over your opinion on the movie. Is. it. Worth. It? Will it really change your life to have your opinion on a movie validated by them? No. It will just get you MORE practice in the cycle of gaslighting- defending your right for an opinion you have regardless of whether they agree you have a right to it.
You know what you believe, there are tons of other people that would be happy to get into a hearty discussion with you on the subject.
Expect this shift to take time.
IF YOU ARE THE GASLIGHTER - Does your partner look disheveled and meek after your arguments?
Do you leave feeling gross and shameful for how out of control that whole situation got?
Are you baffled and confused at what you were actually fighting about?
Do you blame your partner for starting the fight even though they didn’t actually do anything wrong?
Do you just say your partner is right about everything because you don't want to deal with it? And it still causes fighting? (this is a very sneaky form of gaslighting - message me for more details).
The VERY first step is to acknowledge and be aware of it. Many people avoid owning the habit because they don’t like associating with the narrative of being a gaslighter or abusive. But this just keeps you stuck verbally stabbing anyone who loves you in order to be safe, right, in control, or a number of other things. It serves you in no other way.
Own it. Validate their experience of gaslighting and trust that when they are pointing it out to you, it’s not to hurt you, but to better the relationship.
“People aren’t born gaslighters like they are born introverts or extroverts. A gaslighter is a student of social learning. They witness it, feel the effects of it, or stumble upon it and see that it is a potent tool. It’s a cognitive strategy for self-regulation and co-regulation. To be frank, it works.
The gaslighter may not even know he is doing anything strategic or manipulative. He lacks self-awareness and may just think he is expressing himself directly, or is prone to unflinching honesty, saying it “like it is.”” - VOX
NOT EVERYTHING IS GASLIGHTING
Conflicts in relationships are to be expected and are important.
They are opportunities for us to practice how we will navigate and handle the big things that are bound to hit in life.
They help us process old dysfunctional ways of communicating and relating in an ideally safe and loving relationship.
Gaslighting is quite specific. Typically only one person cares what the other is saying while the other is intent on discrediting their experience of things or attacking them personally - like saying they are too sensitive or don't remember things correctly.
Having a disagreement on a memory is not gaslighting necessarily.
Having a disagreement on who is right and wrong about something- though unpleasant- not necessarily gaslighting.
Telling someone that when they leave their clothes all over the floor it makes you really upset- not gaslighting.
Get clear on how you feel gaslighting affects your relationship, get a second opinion, get informed and approach it from there. It’s so much harder to do this alone.
If you or someone you know is struggling with this, reach out, send me a message for some support.
For an opportunity to work together on a deeper level book your exploratory call on my main page.