What Is Gaslighting in a Relationship?

Warning Signs to Look For or Emotional harassment? Explains Couples Therapist and Marriage Counselor Shivani Misri Sadhoo

In today’s world, many people find it increasingly difficult to distinguish between reality and manipulation. Imagine knowing something to be true, only to have someone insist that it’s not. This scenario might sound familiar because it’s a common form of psychological manipulation known as gaslighting. Maintaining your grasp on reality is crucial when faced with such tactics. Curious about what gaslighting really means?

In this article, relationship expert Shivani Sadhoo, will unravel the concept of gaslighting in relationships and highlight the warning signs you should be aware of.

what is gaslighting in a romantic relationship

What is The Term Gaslighting?

Gaslighting refers to a form of emotional harassment in relationships. It happens when one person convinces another that their memories or perceptions are wrong. The goal is to manipulate and control the other person. The harasser presents their own version of events as the truth. This makes the victim doubt their own thoughts and feelings.

Over time, it can undermine the victim’s sense of reality and self-trust. For instance, in a relationship, one partner regularly dismisses the other’s emotions as “overreacting” or “being too sensitive” and denies the validity of their feelings when they are hurt. This constant denial can make the victim question their sanity.

When it comes to relationships, gaslighting involves various tactics like redirection, undermining, denial, and distorting history, aiming to manipulate and control, whether intentionally or unintentionally, subtly or harshly.

What are the Signs to Watch out for Gaslighting?

A blatant lie – When someone often tells a blatant lie, even when evidence contradicts them, it’s a clear indication of gaslighting in a relationship. Their goal is to make you doubt yourself and keep you unsteady. By consistently lying with a straight face, they set a precedent, making you unsure of what’s true. Whether it’s denying calls to an ex despite evidence, their primary aim is to manipulate you into questioning reality and your own perception.

Coercion – Coercive gaslighting is a form of manipulation where the perpetrator resorts to force, punishment, or threats to control the victim’s thoughts and actions. For instance, giving your partner silent treatment when they interact with others or attempting to convince them they’re morally deficient for not complying with the harasser’s demands are indicative of this behavior. Such actions serve as red flags for gaslighting, as they demonstrate an intent to dominate and undermine the victim’s sense of reality and self-worth.

Refuse to take responsibility for their own mistake – Denial of wrongdoing, often coupled with an ‘I am always right’ mentality, is a key warning sign for gaslighting in relationships. Gaslighters negate their actions, challenge the victim’s recollection of events, and manipulate the truth to suit their narrative, leaving victims feeling unseen and unheard. This tactic aims to make the victim doubt their perceptions and sanity, making it hard for them to heal or move on from emotional harassement.

Shifting blame – In relationships, scapegoating or shifting blame is a red flag for gaslighting. This manipulative tactic involves deflecting responsibility onto others to evade accountability and protect one’s reputation or power.

For instance, in intimate relationships, a gaslighter might justify cheating by accusing their partner of neglect. They excel at blame-shifting, turning the tables to make themselves appear faultless while casting their victim as the culprit. This slippery tactic aims to distract from their own misconduct by making the other person feel wrong and guilty.

Distortion of reality – When your partner constantly twists and reframes reality, it’s a clear warning sign of gaslighting in a relationship. They deny your perceptions, self-view, thoughts, emotions, and behaviour, leading you to question your memories and experiences.

This manipulation creates a persistent sense of invalidation, making you doubt the validity of your own observations and feelings. Gaslighting is characterized by the deliberate confusion they create, leaving you feeling uncertain and disoriented in your own reality.

Now that you’re familiar with the signs of gaslighting in relationships—blatant lies, coercion, refusal to take responsibility, blame-shifting, and reality distortion—you can better safeguard your mental well-being and recognize manipulation tactics, nurturing healthier connections.