Watch Out For These Signs Of Gaslighting In A Relationship

Even if you weren't aware of it, there's a very good chance that, at some point in your life, you've been gaslighted. The term actually comes from the 1944 film "Gaslight" (although there was a 1938 play too), in which the lead character Paula (played by Ingrid Bergman) is made to feel like she's increasingly losing her mind because of the lies and trickery displayed by her husband, Gregory (played by Charles Boyer). Gregory goes above and beyond in creating a madness in Paula's brain that far surpasses just lies but extends to isolation, manipulation, and even making her question things she knows are right (via BBC). 


Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation by one's partner. Either to gain something or, simply, because they get off on the control. "I think of gaslighting as trying to associate someone with the label 'crazy,'" assistant professor of sociology at the University of Michigan Paige Sweet, Ph.D. tells Forbes. "It's making someone seem or feel unstable, irrational and not credible, making them feel like what they're seeing or experiencing isn't real, that they're making it up, that no one else will believe them."

It is, for lack of a better word, terrifying. But terrifying or not, it's fairly common. In fact, too common. So while you may not see it at first, because love makes it so that people aren't capable of seeing anything clearly, here are some signs to watch out for in your relationship that have gaslighting written all over them.


1. Your partner forces you to think it's all in your head

Whether it's your behavior at an event or something simple like turning off the TV, if you're being gaslighted, your partner will twist these things around: "You were embarrassing at the event — don't you remember?" or "Why do you keep turning the TV on and off?" While the reality is you weren't an embarrassment, and you turned off the TV once, someone trying to psychologically manipulate you is going to start with small things like this so that you're forced to question what's real and what isn't (via WebMD). As a result, you can't help but pause and search your brain for what the truth is. And, if you're in love with your partner, you believe your relationship is healthy, and you trust them without a doubt, these things can be really overwhelming, even scary.


"People who experience gaslighting often feel confused and anxious," associate teaching professor and associate director of the Department of Counseling Online Programs at Wake Forest University Allison Forti tells TZR. "Even when they have proof something happened, gaslighting can be so effective that they start to doubt themselves. In more extreme cases, some people may start to lose their sense of self and experience psychological trauma."

2. You constantly apologize and are confused why

When someone is in control and blaming you for things that you didn't actually do, not only do the mind games make you think you've done something wrong but that you should apologize for it — even if no apology is necessary, because you didn't do anything wrong (via Healthline).


When you constantly feel like you need to apologize for behavior that you don't even recall doing (because you didn't), it can mess with how you see yourself. It makes you feel small and helpless ... like you can do nothing right.

"The person who's perpetrating it may or may not know they're doing it, but for the person it's being done to, it can feel confusing and very damaging," psychologist Chivonna Childs, Ph.D. tells Cleveland Clinic. "You start to question your self-worth, your self-esteem, and your own mental capacity." It's a way to break you and ultimately control you. And whoever has the control rules the relationship.

3. There's no end to the lies from your partner

Whether they're lying about your behavior, the turning off of the TV, not paying a bill you actually paid, or going so far as to say something to you, then saying even seconds later that they never said it, the lies are constant (via Marriage). Their thinking is that if they fill your head with enough lies and discrepancies, you'll have no idea what's up and what's down.


"The gaslighter is an expert at making the 'victim' feel like they don't know which end is up," New York City-based neuropsychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez tells TZR. But the problem with being gaslighted is that you do have moments of clarity. You do see that the lies as blatant, uncalled for, and make no sense. But then they follow up those constant lies with big lies, the type of lies that trump all other lies, that you become so wrapped up in them that you're literally and metaphorically thrown off balance (via Psychology Today). Why? Because who would waste their time lying about whatever they're lying about? Someone who gaslights, that's who.

4. Manipulative language is at the core

From the outside, most people can recognize manipulative language. If a friend or family member is being manipulated, we can see that BS miles away. Even if the salesperson at Best Buy is trying to get you to buy a bigger TV, you can sniff that manipulation out like a bloodhound. But when you're in a relationship and being manipulated, all bets are off. The reason for this is that, in most cases, someone who gaslights is also a narcissist (via PsychCentral).


Which brings a whole new component to the situation. "Gaslighting is very commonly found in those with narcissistic-personality disorder," relationship therapist Carolyn Cole tells Insider. "It often occurs in abusive relationships, as it is a form of emotional abuse. For example, if you don't do something they want you to do, they may say something like, 'Mhmm, you know, if you really loved me, you would do this for me.'"

5. They use what's important to you has a weapon

Because people who gaslight know your weaknesses and prey upon them, they have the ability to really rip someone's spirit from them and weaken them (via Psychology Today). They do this by trying to turn your family against you with lies or convince you that your family is against you.


They'll also take things in your life that you love and twist them around. Your job? You suck at it; you're lucky they haven't fired you. Your pets? You should be feeding them better food and taking them to the vet more often if you love them. Your kids? You shouldn't have had them; they were a mistake because you're such a bad parent (via Marriage). It's all about them controlling the narrative and you being on the end of their hate and manipulation.

While getting out of a relationship with someone who gaslights is possible, it does require work and that first step is recognizing that you are, indeed, being gaslit. If you can't see it yourself, then listen to your friends and family who point it out to you. No one should endure any form of psychological manipulation, so if you can see a way out of it, then go for it. Life is too short to live under the twisted thumb of a person who wants nothing more than to make you feel crazy as a means to control you.