Gaslighting In A Relationship With Spouse and Kids: Signs & Effects

How Gaslighting Can Affect Your Relationship With Your Spouse And Kids

There are times when certain psychological issues can affect a healthy relationship. And one such issue that could affect a relationship is gaslighting. Gaslighting is a technique in which one person manipulates the other person in such a way that the other person starts questioning their sanity, reality, or even their existence. When you’re with the love of your life, you’d hardly expect your partner to gaslit you, but gaslighting is more common that you think. If you feel you are a victim of gaslighting, here are some signs that will help you confirm the same. We have also put down some tips that should help you avoid it!

What Is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a  kind of psychological manipulation used to exercise control and domination over the other person in the relationship wherein the victim starts questioning their judgment, memories, and reality. Gaslighting is about maintaining control and power over the other by making the other person in the relationship feel wrong about everything they do. It is a malicious form of emotional or mental abuse because it can become very difficult to establish or identify.

How Does It Work?

This is a psychological tactic that can do more harm than you can possibly imagine and cause immense suffering and pain to the victims. The sad part is that it can sometimes cast its grip on a relationship without anyone even realizing it. If you are thinking that it is something that can affect married or committed couples only, well, you will be amazed to know that this phenomenon is also seen in parent-child relationships, siblings, employer-employee, and other such relationships. Gaslighting is sometimes so mellow or unnoticeable that the person who is being manipulated does not even realize it. He or she might dismiss or overlook the acts of control and manipulation as some random occurrences. It is perhaps the reason why it becomes more difficult to identify gaslighting in a relationship.

The term ‘Gaslighting’ was first noticed in a 1944 movie by the same name. The movie was about a man who manipulates his wife into questioning reality and her sanity. The term gaslighting was derived from the film, and since then, it is used by clinical psychiatry.

Causes of Gaslighting

If you are wondering why do people gaslight or what are the causes of gaslighting, well, here are some reasons that explain why this happens:

1. They Feel Good About Themselves

When a person is gaslighting in a relationship, they may get a false sense of satisfaction by controlling the other. This makes them feel good about themselves, and hence, they may continue to do it.

2. They Feel This is How Relationship Works

They feel that it is the only way that they can keep their partner close to them and be in control of them and their lives.

3. They Enjoy Controlling

It’s the sheer feeling of being in power and controlling the other person that gives them a kick. Most people who gaslight their partners find great pleasure in controlling their partners.

Signs of Gaslighting in a Relationship

Here are some signs of gaslighting in a relationship:

1. Your feelings are often dismissed.

In a healthy relationship, there is room for two-way communication, and the issues and concerns are listened to and dealt with, with mutual support. However, that is not a usual scenario in the case of gaslighting in a relationship. When the person who is at the receiving end tries to say something, they are often made to believe that they are mistaken or overthinking about the situation.

2. You start doubting reality.

If you often wonder about reality or your existence, there’s a good chance that it could be due to gaslighting. Relationships are hard to maintain and require constant efforts. However, if you keep questioning your own behaviour and find it difficult to trust yourself, or you feel, you are losing it all, it could be a sign fo gaslighting in a relationship.

3. You do not get to put across your thoughts during a conflict.

Conflicts are fairly normal in any relationship. However, what’s not normal is when one person is not allowed to put forward their views or thoughts. This means if you feel that you are not able to put across your stance or explain your side of the story during conflicts and you do not get to speak your views, it could be due to gaslighting in your relationship.

4. You get blamed.

One of the most evident signs of gaslighting in a relationship is when one partner always blames another or the outside factors or anything that goes wrong in the relationship. The argument will eventually take a turn to how you have faltered rather than talking about their faults or issues that may be affecting the relationship.

5. You feel guilty.

You may come to a point where you start feeling guilty for everything in your relationship. The thought of sharing your feelings or concerns may give you jitters and may cause you immense guilt.

A woman feeling sad in a relationship

6. You feel that you are not giving enough to the relationship.

Because you are being blamed for everything wrong that goes into the relationship, or you have been minimized or denied so much that you feel that you are not giving enough to the relationship and you start feeling that it is your fault.

7. You are alienated from friends and family.

Your partner will alienate you from the people who love or care about you because this way, they can have better control over you. This is one of the important signs and examples of gaslighting in relationships.

8. Your partner never apologizes.

No matter how hurt you feel because of your partner’s actions or words, they will never come and apologize for any wrongdoing. This is because they are never ready to accept their fault or take accountability for their actions. On the other hand, they may make you feel that you are overreacting or overthinking.

Signs That You Are Gaslighting Your Kids

Here are some signs that can help you understand if you are gaslighting your kids:

1. You act as the victim.

One of the most common signs of gaslighting kids is by playing the victim. This occurs when parents do not accept their role as parents, and hold children responsible for all the problems.

2. You are overly controlling.

It is okay to control some aspects of your child’s life, however, when the control becomes too intrusive, and you start dictating your child’s likes, dislikes, preferences, opinions, wants, needs, etc., it could be a telltale sign of gaslighting.

3. You undermine your child’s success.

No matter how big or small the success is, you tend to undermine your child’s efforts and endeavours. Your child feels that no matter what he does, his efforts or accomplishments are never enough for you.

4. You mock your child.

Sharing jokes is something that parents love to do, and children enjoy, but sometimes parents may unknowingly or knowingly mock their child. You may mock your child over their failures or faults. Your child may start feeling guilt and shame by this kind of behaviour.

5. You exaggerate conflicts.

If you are too volatile and make too big a deal out of trivial issues or problems, well, it could be a warning sign that you are gaslighting your child!

6. You deny your actions.

One of the main signs of gaslighting is denying something that you said or did. If you lie and not accept the things you often say or do, this is a clear indication of gaslighting behaviour.

7. You are too close to your children.

Being friendly with your child is good, but sometimes enmeshing with your kid or being too friendly may make you protect your child from sadness, disappointment, and other such difficult emotions, and the child will find it difficult to cope with such emotions later in life.

8. You ignore your child’s subjective experiences.

If you often deny or dismiss your child’s experiences, you are questioning your child’s reality and negating their experiences, which is a sign of gaslighting.

Effects of Gaslighting

When a person is subjected to gaslighting, it may greatly impact their feelings and emotions. They start doubting their perception and existence. It is normal for people suffering from this kind of emotional abuse to experience difficulty in trusting themselves and their identity. This gives a severe jolt to their self-esteem and often leads to isolation, anxiety, and depression.

There is no doubt that it is a slippery slope for a victim that they feel trapped in. However, if spotted on time, there are various measures that can help the victim.

What To Do If You Are Being Gaslighted

The first and foremost step is to make efforts to come out from the vicious stages of gaslighting and the cycle of this emotional abuse that you have been subjected to. Whatever you think or plan to do, make sure that you do not let it get derailed by your abuser by manipulating you. It is important for you to know and understand that you will be subjected to manipulation even when you try to wriggle out of the situation, and thus you will have to prepare yourself accordingly and be disassociated as much as possible. The next section explains how you can do that!

How to Stop and Avoid Gaslighting

Here are some ways of avoiding or stopping gaslighting in a relationship:

1. Be aware of the issue.

The first and foremost step to avoid someone from gaslighting you is to understand that you are actually being gaslit. Knowing and then educating yourself about this toxic behaviour of others can help from avoiding being the victim.

2. Trust your feelings.

It is very normal for a person experiencing gaslighting in a relationship to succumb to negative emotions and feelings. However, deep down, you may be aware that it is not your fault. Make sure you listen to your inner voice and trust yourself. Your emotions, feelings, or thoughts are yours, and they should not be subjected to any kind of debate.

3. Make yourself a priority.

Do not get swayed by the negativity levied on you by the other person. Remember that you need to prioritise your mental and physical health. Indulge in activities that you enjoy and give you pleasure. Give yourself some attention and invest time and energy in some self-love and care.

4. Set your boundaries.

No one should be granted authority or power over your life that they start controlling you. If you start feeling that your boundaries are constantly tested or crossed, you should either make efforts to make amends or be in a position to walk out of the relationship.

5. Understand that it’s not your fault.

It’s important to know that if your partner is gaslighting you, it is nothing to do with you, or it is not your fault. It is about their feelings and emotions that are making them act or behave in this manner. In a relationship, both partners are responsible for their behaviours.

6. Seek help.

Often, help from friends, family and professionals prove to be beneficial in putting an end to this toxic phase in one’s life. Look for people other than your spouse who can validate your feelings and assess your situation in helping you understand what is happening.

If you are a victim of gaslighting, then it very crucial for you to seek help to resolve the battles going inside your mind and heart. People who are being subject to gaslighting may not realise how bad it can affect their day-to-day functioning. There is no doubt that gaslighting can be damaging to your overall well-being. However, accepting and understanding that you are a victim is something that can open doors for healing. Reach out to your family, friends, or professional guidance to sail through this difficult phase in your life.

Also Read:

Importance of Trust in a Relationship
Signs You’re in a Healthy Relationship
Importance of Maintaining Good Family Relationships

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Aarohi Achwal holds a bachelor’s degree in Commerce and a master’s degree in English Literature. While working as an intern for an English daily, she realised that she likes writing above anything else. The idea of being heard without having to speak appeals to her. She likes to write research-based articles that are informative and relevant. She has written articles on pregnancy, parenting, and relationships. And she would like to continue creating content on health and lifestyle.