What are some examples of gaslighting that can happen in an intimate relationship?

Q:

What are some examples of gaslighting that can happen in an intimate relationship?

A:

Gaslighting is a term that a lot of people are just discovering. But, unfortunately, it is not a new experience for many people. The term gaslighting comes from a film by the same name, which originated as a 1938 play written by Patrick Hamilton before it was adapted into a film in 1944. In the movie, the main character is essentially trying to drive his wife crazy so that he can commit her and steal her jewels.

In the film, he gradually tries to make his wife feel crazy by doing things and then denying they ever happened. Although the movie is pretty dramatic, it's important to note that gaslighting is typically a very gradual thing. It may seem harmless at first, but it can gradually make people question their own thoughts and behavior.

Gaslighting can appear in many types of relationships, such as within parent/child relationships or in intimate relationships. So, what does gaslighting look like?

Here are a few things that you should be on the lookout for:

  • Withholding: The abusive partner pretends not to understand or refuses to listen. Ex. “I don’t want to hear this again,” or “You’re trying to confuse me.”
  • Countering: The abusive partner questions the victim’s memory of events, even when the victim remembers them accurately. Ex. “You’re wrong, you never remember things correctly.”
  • Blocking/Diverting: The abusive partner changes the subject and/or questions the victim’s thoughts. Ex. “Is that another crazy idea you got from [friend/family member]?” or “You’re imagining things.”
  • Trivializing: The abusive partner makes the victim’s needs or feelings seem unimportant. Ex. “You’re going to get angry over a little thing like that?” or “You’re too sensitive.”
  • Forgetting/Denial: The abusive partner pretends to have forgotten what actually occurred or denies things like promises made to the victim. Ex. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” or “You’re just making stuff up.”

If you are able to stomach it, I recommend checking out the film. Sometimes it is easier to see things from the outside in order to recognize them in your own relationship. You can also listen to "Trauma Queen" Season 2, which is all about gaslighting in all its different forms.

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Written by Jimanekia Eborn
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Jimanekia Eborn has worked in mental health for the last 10 years, which is where she saw the need for sexual education and sexual trauma support. This has led to her passion for assisting and supporting those that are sexual assault survivors and those without access to comprehensive sex education. Her compassion and passion for these populations has pushed her to continue building safe spaces for clientele, sharing education, and supporting their mental spaces.

 

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