35 Disturbing Signs Of Gaslighting In A Relationship

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35 disturbing signs of gaslighting in a relationship

Picture this: you’ve told your husband multiple times to fix the fridge before your friends visit you this weekend. He tells you he will do it, and yet, when the weekend arrives, he blames it all on you, saying, “You didn’t remind me about it! It’s all your fault.” Well, this is a glaring sign of psychological abuse called gaslighting, and we will help you explore 35 disturbing signs of gaslighting in a relationship, just like this one, through this article.

Apart from answering your question “What is gaslighting in a relationship?”, we will also help you with some gaslighting examples and some tried and tested tips to deal with it, in consultation with counselor Ruchi Ruuh (Postgraduate Diploma in Counseling Psychology), who specializes in counseling for issues related to dating, infidelity, marital conflict, and divorce. So, let’s dive in and explore what gaslighting meaning in relationships implies…

What Is Gaslighting In A Relationship?

Table of Contents

So, what is gaslighting in a relationship and how does it manifest itself? Ruchi explains, “Gaslighting meaning in relationships amounts to manipulation wherein one person undermines another person’s perception of reality and makes them doubt their own thoughts, memories, and feelings, often making them feel confused. They also create a false reality. The person who’s gaslit ends up doubting themselves. Gaslighting also often causes immense psychological distress and is a form of emotional abuse. It makes the victim feel insecure.”

Related Reading: Has Your Husband Checked Out Emotionally? 12 Signs Of a Failing Marriage

Interestingly, the term gaslighting originated from the 1944 movie Gaslight, in which a woman is manipulated by her husband so much that she ends up losing her mind. She begins to doubt her reality, or her own perception of whether the lights in the room are dimmed or not, as the husband keeps turning them on and off.

A study on gaslighting found that there is a significant relationship between the Dark Tetrad traits (i.e., narcissism, Machiavellian tactics, psychopathy, and sadism) and the acceptance of gaslighting in intimate relationships and that men gaslight their partners more often than women.

35 Disturbing Signs Of Gaslighting In A Relationship

Gaslighting, as we know, can lead to severe trauma in the victim’s mind and can have long-term repercussions. The victim’s self-esteem can reach rock bottom. In fact, many modern studies on gaslighting techniques have examined the “manipulation of victim’s psychological and emotional wellbeing, as well as their sense of themselves as an epistemic agent”.

Related Reading: 15 Expert-Recommended Couples Communication Exercises

Likewise, a Reddit user had this to say while talking about her experience with a gaslighting partner: “We were together for 4 years. I would build up the confidence to talk to him about problems I could see in the relationship, or if he did something I didn’t like, and we would have a full-blown yelling fight. It would start off with me talking calmly and him screaming at me, ending in so many tears.

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“He would scream at me and tell me I’m crazy and overreacting, he often used to use phrases like ‘you clearly don’t remember what happened because that’s not what happened’, ‘you’re acting like a psycho bitch’ ‘that’s all in your imagination’ so many lies and betrayal in this toxic relationship.” Given that gaslighting is so traumatic and damaging, it begs the question, how does one identify its warning signs in day-to-day behavior? To help you identify the red flags, we have listed 35 disturbing signs of gaslighting in a relationship:

1. They make you feel you’re too sensitive

Ruchi says, “Often, the gaslighting partner might make you feel like you can’t take a joke or challenge your reactions to some caustic remark by creating confusion in your mind.” In this case, they may say something demeaning and, then when you react, may retort with gaslighting phrases and statements such as:

  • “You can’t take a joke.”
  • “I was just kidding.”
  • “How are you so sensitive? Stop being a snowflake.”

2. They accuse you of overreacting

Among the 35 disturbing signs of gaslighting in a relationship are statements like,

  • “It’s a small mistake. Why are you making a big deal out of it?”
  • “Stop overreacting!”

Well, Ruchi says, “This is a prominent sign of gaslighting. If the gaslighter’s emotional abuse has caused you some distress, and you’re clearly not happy with what happened, they might use gaslighting terms and say you’re the one who’s overreacting.”

Related Reading: Three years into my marriage My Husband Suddenly Blocked me out of his life

3. There’s a denial of events and conversations

Ruchi says, “The gaslighting partner might often try to deny something ever happened at all. They might undermine the victim’s own perceptions and memory.” You may also find that your partner continues to throw gaslighting statements at you, such as:

  • “This never happened.”
  • “Were you dreaming about it?”
  • “You didn’t hear it right.”
  • “Were you hallucinating?”

Over time, this emotional abuse might cause immense distress. The gaslit partner might actually start doubting their memory.

gaslighting meaning in relationships
You know you’re being gaslit when your partner denies events and conversations

4. Your sanity is questioned often

One of the 35 disturbing signs of gaslighting in a relationship is when your sanity is doubted. Ruchi says, “Often, a gaslighting spouse may attack their victim’s mental stability and perceptual set or experiences.” So, in this case, you may hear them make gaslighting statements such as:

  • “You’re crazy. Go see a therapist.”
  • “Why don’t you get a check on your brain?”

Related Reading: 18 Subtle Signs Of Insecurity In A Relationship

5. You’re accused of being too insecure

A gaslighting spouse or partner will, with their constant emotional abuse, make you feel like an insecure person from time to time. Ruchi says, “So, whenever you have a problem with their actions or with a person they interact with, they will make you seem like the problem and use insulting gaslighting terms.” So, you may hear gaslighting phrases from them, such as:

  • “You’re just imagining things. I was not flirting with her.”
  • “You’re feeling too insecure these days. Why don’t you work on yourself?”

6. You’re often told you misunderstand them

Ruchi says, “Gaslighting partners often accuse you of misunderstanding them and their intentions.” So, you might often hear gaslighting comments from them, such as:

  • “I never said that.”
  • “You misunderstood me.”

They might even say this right after they’ve said something offensive or damaging.

Related Reading: How To Deal With Jealousy In Relationships?

7. You’re often accused of fabricating or creating stories

One of the gaslighting examples is when you’re accused of imagining fake scenarios. Ruchi says, “When someone gaslights you, they can say you’re cooking up stories when you confront them with something that has offended or disrespected you.” So, you may end up hearing these gaslighting statements from your partner too often:

  • “Stop making things up.”
  • “Stop trying to make me feel guilty by creating fake scenarios.”

8. They say you’re suspecting too much

Have you ever been told you’re always suspicious? If you have a partner who’s using gaslighting techniques, it’s common to hear gaslighting statements from them, such as:

  • “You are being paranoid.”
  • “Chill! I’m not trying to hide anything from you.”

Ruchi says, “When you react to not being told the truth or something being hidden from you, perhaps a secret meeting with their ex or a chat with a lover, they might react by saying you’re just being paranoid.”

Related Reading: Dreams About Spouse Cheating — What They Mean And What You Can Do

9. They say you’re forgetting things

“You are remembering it wrong” — it’s such an innocent statement, right? But it can turn toxic when a gaslighting spouse uses it to challenge the victim’s memory. Picture this: You’ve had a conversation with your partner about them bringing the kids back from school because you have an important client call to attend on Skype. But they completely ignore their responsibility. Instead, your partner falsely accuses you of forgetting that they had said they wouldn’t be able to pick the kids up. Ruchi says, “This is how a gaslighting partner challenges your memory and your hold of your own reality.”

10. They always point out your flaws

A gaslighting person keeps reminding you of your flaws and shortcomings and may even be sarcastic about them. You will, thus, always have a feeling of not being good enough for them. This is a mind game they play to control you. A friend of mine, Anthony, once broke down over a call with me and related how he was being gaslit by his wife, Susan. He said, “She’s never happy with me. Right from the choice of my shirt to the food that I order, she finds faults with everything. I don’t know what to do.” Well, I had to break it to Anthony that he was being gaslit. This is one of the classic examples of gaslighting.

Related Reading: What Are Relationship Flaws And How To Deal With Them

11. You’re made to feel you’re obsessed with something

So, often when you catch a gaslighting spouse doing something wrong and demand answers from them, for instance, for cheating on you or lying to you about something, they might accuse you of being fixated on the idea. You might hear gaslighting comments from them, such as:

  • “You’re too obsessed with this.”
  • “Can’t you just drop it and move on?”

Ruchi says, “Sometimes, particularly in case of infidelity, it’s hard to let go or forget about the incident, as it keeps playing on your mind. But a gaslighting partner will not make you feel heard. Instead, they’ll try to portray you as a clingy or obsessive spouse/partner.”

Gaslighting terms
A gaslighting partner may accuse you of being obsessed

12. They say you’re misinterpreting things

Do these gaslighting terms and statements below sound familiar to you?

  • “You’re taking things the wrong way. I didn’t mean it like that.”
  • “You’re just taking things out of context.”

Ruchi feels, “When you’re always blamed for misinterpreting situations or conversations, rather than getting the apology you deserve for your feelings being hurt, you know for sure they’re gaslighting you.”

Related Reading: 8 Ways To Reconnect After A Big Fight

13. You’re told you can’t handle the truth

Ruchi says, “Gaslighters often portray themselves as people who’re honest and call a spade a spade. But mostly, that’s not the case.” They do this so that instead of taking accountability in relationships, they blame the victim for not being mature enough to handle the truth. Now, the truth can often be masked by derision or sarcasm about their partner’s looks, career choices, or dress sense.

14. You’re portrayed as cynical

“You’re always looking for problems. Can’t you just be happy?” Have you often heard those words from your partner? Well chances are, they’re gaslighting you. Ruchi feels, “Such people are hardly concerned about you but they pretend to be too positive to neglect your concerns.” So, they may:

  • Not want you to bring up issues in the relationship
  • Dismiss your feelings and thoughts, terming them ‘negative’
  • Claim you’re too critical of things

Related Reading: How To Deal With A Negative Spouse – 15 Expert-Backed Tips

15. You’re termed an ‘attention seeker’

Have you often been told you’re trying to seek attention when all you were trying to do was tell your partner about an incident that bothered you? Ruchi says, “When you’ve expressed your need for validation, and your partner has dismissed them or belittled them, terming you an attention seeker, it can make you feel like your voice doesn’t matter. This is how you recognize gaslighting.”

gaslighting examples
If you’re with a gaslighter, they may accuse you of being an attention-seeker

16. You’re walking on eggshells

One of the 35 disturbing signs of gaslighting in a relationship is that you find yourself walking on eggshells. You’ll be anxious and scared to hurt your partner’s feelings all the time. In such cases, you might be scared to even express your thoughts and views about day-to-day activities, such as:

  • Asking them to plan a vacation
  • Telling them you need to visit your parents next weekend
  • Informing them of a work trip

Related Reading: “My Anxiety Is Ruining My Relationship”: 6 Ways It Does And 5 Ways To Manage It

17. You’re told you’re an irrational person

The ability to be vulnerable with each other is one of the defining traits of healthy relationships. Ruchi says, “But if merely asking for some emotional security makes your partner term you an ‘irrational person’, you can rest assured they’re gaslighting you and that yours is a toxic relationship. They are trying to turn your vulnerability into a reason to make you feel bad about yourself.”

18. They call you ‘manipulative’

“You’re trying to manipulate me by making me do what you want me to.” — Have you often heard your partner say this to you for no apparent reason? Well, Ruchi says, “Gaslighters often turn the tables and accuse the victim of using them or manipulating them in relationships when they try to make them understand their needs or boundaries.”

Related Reading: ‘My Husband Starts Fights And Then Blames Me’: Ways To Cope

19. Blame-shifting occurs often

Have you often heard your partner say things like, “You’re the problem, not me”? Well, shifting blame and refusing to take ownership of their mistakes is a classic sign of gaslighting. Ruchi says, “This is pure deflection. This is how gaslighters undermine your reality and make you responsible for their actions.”

A Reddit user shares his story of being gaslit by his spouse: “…she would misplace her own things, then yell at me for “losing” them or throwing them away – so I’d have to dig through all kinds of closets and places, only to have it be somewhere where I would have had no reason to put the item.”

20. They accuse you of being hostile

Here is one of the classic examples of gaslighting. My friend, Nancy, once related an incident that still strikes me when I think of gaslighting examples. She had a fight with her aggressive partner while attempting to address issues in her relationship.

Related Reading: 7 Reasons You Feel Uneasy In Your Relationship And 3 Things You Can Do

But then she was left feeling like she was the one who was aggressive. Her partner left the room, slamming the door, but not before saying, “You’re trying to pick a fight again. I can’t talk to you when you’re so dramatic and hostile.” This is a classic case of gaslighting, where they try to escape giving explanations by pinning the blame for being hostile on you.

21. They isolate you

One of the warning signs of gaslighting in relationships (as well as that of narcissistic personality disorder) is when your partner tries to isolate you from your family, friends, and loved ones. This way, they gain power and can manipulate you further, as you will be devoid of a support system to fall back on. So, they might:

  • Try to brainwash you by lying to you about your close friends or family
  • Prevent you from meeting your loved ones

22. They call you ‘needy’

Ruchi says, “You may be genuinely looking for support during a distressing time, such as a medical emergency or an important meeting at work, and when you ask your partner for help, you may be dismissed as being too needy or an overly dependent person.” So, gaslighters might say things such as:

  • “You’re too needy. Stop depending on me all the time.”
  • “Be independent. You can’t ask me to make you happy all the time.”

Related Reading: Causes & Signs Of An Emotionally Exhausting Relationship And How To Fix Them

23. They play the ‘victim’

“You’re making me look like a ‘bad guy’, aren’t you?” — Have you heard your partner say this to you often? Ruchi says, “You’ll often find a gaslighting partner accusing you of painting them in a bad light or portraying them as the villain in your equation.” So, one of the examples of gaslighting is when they play the victim so that they can’t be blamed for their ruthless actions.

24. They say you exaggerate things

A gaslighting partner might often make you believe that your truth isn’t really the truth. Ruchi says, “They will make you believe you’re exaggerating scenarios and that you’re the one who’s at fault for being affected by things or events.”

25. You’re told you’re ungrateful

Ruchi believes, “Everybody wants to be seen as a good person. So, if your partner tells you you’re being ungrateful, it might make you feel small.” This is another way a gaslighter attacks you. They make you feel you aren’t appreciating them and their efforts enough.

Related Reading: Resentment In A Relationship – Signs, Causes, And How To Let Go

26. They say you’re too controlling

One of the examples of gaslighting is when they control you and then call you controlling. Ruchi says, “Often, when you assert your relationship boundaries and preferences, stating you would or wouldn’t do something or that they shouldn’t neglect or dismiss your needs, the gaslighting partner might quickly retort by accusing you of being too controlling.” So, they might end up saying things such as:

  • “You can’t make me do that.”
  • “How are you dictating what I should or shouldn’t do?”

27. You’re branded ‘delusional’

When a gaslighter tries to invalidate your thoughts, they might brand you ‘delusional’ to disregard your thoughts and feelings. Yes, ‘delusional’ is a heavy term and Ruchi says, “It can create a cocktail of insecurity and negativity in your mind, making you feel as if there’s something wrong with you.”

Gaslighting comments
A gaslighting partner may often term you ‘delusional’

28. They term you ‘too emotional’

Now, this is a tag of emotional invalidation. Ruchi agrees, “Most people who come to me for couples therapy talk about their partners being too sensitive or emotional about daily events.” But this accusation amounts to gaslighting, because:

  • It brands your emotions as excessive or unwarranted
  • It implies you should keep mum when there are things that should be said

Related Reading: 11 Warning Signs Of Lack Of Emotional Connection In Relationships

29. They don’t take accountability

“You’re responsible, not me” — This is another one of the classic things gaslighters say. Ruchi says, “Diverting accountability and not taking responsibility in relationships is a classic sign of gaslighting in relationships.”

30. ‘Hot and cold’ behavior

A prominent gaslighting sign (and that of narcissistic personality disorder too) is when your partner’s behavior fluctuates. So, they might heap praises on you one day, and then criticize you the next day. Or may prioritize you above all else, and then discard you like you mean nothing to them. This is actually a carefully crafted way to keep you hooked. You will never leave them, as you will keep waiting for that occasional act of validation or positive reinforcement.

Related Reading: Hot And Cold Women, Why Do They Act This Way?

31. You’re always apologizing

If your default response to every argument or conversation with them is “I’m sorry” or “I shouldn’t have done that”, it’s a clear indicator your partner is gaslighting you. A gaslighter’s main weapon is to make you feel bad about your actions and elicit apologies from you.

32. There’s a big mismatch between their actions and words

A gaslighter’s actions almost never match with their words. Yes, they can bluff and make grandiose claims, and yet, when it comes to keeping their promises or living up to their words, they will be found wanting.

33. They minimize your voice

Have you ever heard your partner saying the following to you?

  • “You make mountains out of molehills.”
  • “It’s not such a big deal!”

Well, accusing you of making insignificant things seem big or blowing things out of proportion is a gaslighting partner’s way of minimizing your voice and concerns. Ruchi says, “They make you look like a fool for voicing your needs or showcasing your emotions. It’s as if your needs don’t matter and you’re asking for too much.”

Related Reading: 21 Stages Of A Narcissistic Relationship With An Empath

34. You’re told you love ‘drama’

If you’re still wondering how to know if your partner is gaslighting you, remember, a gaslighting person may often say that you’re being a drama queen (or king), when you challenge their actions with hard evidence. So, you may hear things such as:

  • “Stop being so dramatic.”
  • “Don’t create a scene.”

Ruchi believes, “This way, they undermine their victims’ emotions without validating their reactions.”

35. You’re always seeking acceptance

A typical trait of a gaslighter is that they can enslave your mind. So much so, that you may find yourself begging for their attention or acceptance because they’ve made you believe that you’re flawed and they’re doing you a favor by being with you. If you’re trying to figure out how to know if your partner is gaslighting you, pay attention to how they make you feel about yourself.

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How To Respond To Gaslighting

So, now that we are acquainted with 35 disturbing signs of gaslighting in a relationship, with various gaslighting examples and phrases, aren’t you wondering how to deal with this menace? Well, we’ll take a look at how to respond to gaslighting, in this section.

Let’s first look at what a Reddit user shares about his plight of dealing with a gaslighting partner: “Every time I let one of these things pass without leaving her, I betrayed myself and weakened my own mind. Don’t get me wrong, I confronted her. I tried to talk her into acknowledging that these things didn’t make sense. I foolishly believed that there was some level at which she had to acknowledge a shared reality with me. This is not true. You can take a horse to water but you cannot make him drink. You can have a conversation with a psychopath but you cannot make them communicate.”

Related Reading: What Is Narcissistic Ghosting And How To Respond To It

But is the scenario this grim? Can a gaslighting partner not be managed at all? Well, Ruchi disagrees. She feels you can respond to gaslighting in an effective manner. How? She gives us a few tips to deal with gaslighting in relationships:

  • Stop doubting yourself: To deal with a gaslighting partner, you must ditch self-doubt and be aware of your own reality. Ruchi feels, “You should trust your own judgment with enough self-confidence and say things like: “I know what I saw. Don’t make me doubt my sanity.” Be open about your reality and vocal about it. Avoid negative self-talk and don’t feel ashamed
  • Maintain a journal: Write a daily journal, keeping a written record of the daily events. Ruchi feels, “So, now, you can turn around and say, “Look, your account doesn’t match with mine, I am not imagining things.” This is not to blackmail or challenge your gaslighting partner but to clarify your own doubts when you’re challenged
  • Set your boundaries right: It’s crucial to set boundaries in every relationship, and even more so in abusive relationships. Ruchi advises, “Try and set strict boundaries and be able to say things like, “I won’t tolerate being manipulated like this” or “I have this evidence this is not true”. Be mindful of your own needs and avoid any emotional response
  • Seek support from a trusted network: Be surrounded by supportive people, be it a therapist, family members, a support group, or friends. Ruchi says, “You should have a trusted network that offers you support and validation. These are people who should know you or your reality, are not always challenging you, and are able to show you that you are being manipulated. Spending time with them will also offer some much-needed mental relief.”
  • Take a break: It’s advisable to step back and take a break when you’re constantly fearing conflict with your gaslighting partner. Ruchi says, “When you’ve had a heated argument and are not able to think clearly, take a break and gather your thoughts. Clear out the conversations in your head and get some time to think about how to respond to your gaslighting partner with ease. Focus on self-care and remember, your mental health is your responsibility.”
  • Educate yourself: The more you know about gaslighting in relationships, the more you’ll be able to counter it. Ruchi suggests, “Get some professional help, talk to a therapist, watch videos, and read books on this psychological manipulation tactic, and remember that you’re not alone.”

Key Pointers

  • What is gaslighting in a relationship? Gaslighting is when someone tries to manipulate you by invalidating or negating your reality
  • The 35 disturbing signs of gaslighting in a relationship included blame-shifting, isolating you, calling you needy, and accusing you of being overly sensitive
  • Some ways to deal with gaslighting are ditching self-doubt, setting boundaries, maintaining a written record, and educating yourself about gaslighting

Through this article, we have tried to help you recognize 35 disturbing signs of gaslighting in a relationship. Gaslighting is a dangerous game of control and manipulation and almost always ends with the gaslit person losing their sanity and sense of self-esteem. But with the tips stated in our article, you will be able to manage a gaslighting spouse effectively.

Remember, emotional abuse of any form, be it through gaslighting or not, can cause long-term mental health issues and can also escalate to domestic abuse. If you feel making amends with a gaslighting partner is not worth it, irrespective of your level of emotional investment, feel free to disengage. After all, you only live once. So, stop making excuses, value your self-worth, and remember, you’re the only person who can help yourself out of this mess.


1. How do I identify a gaslighter?

A gaslighter will show many signs, such as invalidating your emotions, isolating you from friends and family, and making you seem needy and overly sensitive.

2. How do you outsmart a gaslighter?

You need to keep track of events and gather hard evidence to challenge them when they try to make you doubt your sanity. You also need to set healthy boundaries.

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