Gaslighting is another form of invisible abuse that employs manipulation and emotional abuse that aims to make the target doubt just about everything – including their own perceptions, memories and reality.
Unfortunately, in abusive relationships, gaslighting is a common tactic used by one partner to gain control and power over the other. It’s also usually a very gradual process (which can eventually escalate into other forms of insidious abuse), and the targets of gaslighting often end up feeling confused and isolated, and worst of all, not trusting their own judgment or perceptions.
By design, the targets of gaslighting often start to believe that they are the ones with the problem – not the gaslighting partner. Here’s how that happens over time:
1. Criticism is portrayed as guidance
If you can’t rely on your intimate partner to be honest with you about your faults, who can you rely on? Well, a gaslighter will often purposefully chip away at their target’s self-esteem under the guise of “giving advice” or “constructive criticism.”
For example, your partner may discourage you from making a career change by suggesting that you can’t handle the pressure of a new environment or new job, or that you will miss the security of your old career. Or, they may subtly indicate that you aren’t nearly as smart, creative, capable or talented as you believe and they “don’t want you to get your hopes up and be disappointed,” when the reality is they want you to stay in your place.
2. Control is portrayed as protection
Gaslighting is all about control – and what better way to control someone than by convincing them that they’re being kept in a box for their own protection so that they’re isolated from anybody who might help them see the truth of the situation?
For example, you may be naturally outgoing and social – but your partner may gradually start to restrict where you go and what you do in the name of safety. You may be asked not to go out with your friends or anywhere without your partner there to protect you from some potential danger. What if you’re robbed? What if you are assaulted? The fear they instill in you over the unknown can gradually cause you to withdraw from the life you used to enjoy with friends and loved ones.
3. Obsession is portrayed as devotion
This is especially insidious because the abusive partner usually portrays themself as deeply in love and devoted to their partner – while actually using that profession of love as a form of control. Obsession, with ease, masquerades as “love”, especially in the early years of the relationship.
For example, you may hear things like, “It’s not that I don’t trust you, I just can’t bear the thought of you being away from me for too long.” Some abusive partners even threaten self-harm if their target even tries to discuss problems in the relationship or talks about separation. Many targets are held hostage in their own homes because of their partner’s threat to do self harm if they leave him or her.
It can take a tremendous amount of support to break free from a gaslighting and or obsessed partner. If you feel gaslighted, then please know, you are probably being gaslit. Trust your gut. it’s essential to seek guidance from people you can trust, such as a therapist, life coach, family, and an attorney.
At The Law Firm of Poppe & Associates, PLLC, our focus is relentless advocacy for our clients. If you or someone you know would like to learn more about the divorce process, reach out to schedule a consultation at 646-665-3903 or by contacting us online.
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Mia Poppe, Esq.