“It’s all in your head.” “I never said that.” “Learn to take a joke.” When a romantic partner uses such seemingly innocuous phrases to deny you your reality or invalidate your emotions, it can leave you questioning your own agency. The use of gaslighting phrases in relationships can wreak havoc on the mind of the person at the receiving end. Gaslighting is a problematic psychological exercise that is practiced with the sole intent of asserting dominance and feeling a strong sense of power over the other.
Yet, gaslighting in personal, intimate relationships is common. It is an absolute form of emotional abuse and the use of gaslighting phrases in relationships can lead to toxicity and negatively impact the emotional health of the person at the receiving end. Common gaslighting phrases and gaslighting sentences are used by a gaslighter to confuse a person, control them, and erode their self-esteem.
Gaslighting phrases used by a narcissist can be even more dangerous and painful when used in a relationship. Since it can very easily be overlooked, we list out the most common gaslighting phrases in consultation with psychologist Juhi Pandey (M.A. Psychology), who specializes in dating, premarital, breakup, and abusive relationship counseling, so you don’t have to question whether you’re being emotionally abused or not.
What Is Gaslighting In Relationships
Before we explore some of the commonly used gaslighting examples, it is vital to understand what gaslighting is and what it looks like in intimate relationships so that you can grasp the full extent of how damaging this tendency can be. So, what is gaslighting in relationships? The term gaslighting originated from the play Gas Light made in 1938, which was later adapted into a movie.
The 1944 movie Gaslight is an intriguing example of how the whole process erodes a person’s self-worth and esteem. In the movie, a man gaslights his wife and she begins to question her own sanity. Simply put, gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse and manipulation that most commonly features in abusive relationships and is used by the abuser with the sole objective of exercising control over their victim by making doubt their perception of reality, and consequently, filling them with self-doubt.
The abuser of this tactic essentially alters information and conversation in a way that proclaims themselves completely harmless. They use gaslighting phrases to shift the story. Consequently, the victim is always left wondering about the truth behind their own perceptions, which spirals into an unfortunate sense of self-doubt. Gaslighting is often harder to identify because it’s more covert than other abusive tendencies such as guilt-tripping or name-calling, which means it can cause serious damage to a person’s sense of self without ever being detected.
Juhi says, “A gaslighter’s actions may not cause harm initially. Over time, however, this continued abusive behavior can make the victim feel confused, anxious, isolated, and depressed.” A clever and manipulative person makes use of these gaslighting phrases to transform situations to their own benefit at the expense of the sanity of the victim. That’s why an understanding of gaslighting phrases in relationships is crucial to make sure you don’t fall prey to this snide tool of manipulation and abuse.
Related Reading: 5 Signs Of Emotional Abuse You Should Watch Out For Warns Therapist
20 Gaslighting Phrases In Relationships That Kill Love
What are some gaslighting phrases? If you’ve been asking this question of late, perhaps you can sense that there is something off about the way your partner twists your words and uses them against you or relies on sarcasm, sharp jibes, or plain denial to shirk accountability for their actions and placing the blame for anything and everything squarely on you.
Looking for common gaslighting examples is definitely a step in the right direction. The next time these key gaslighting phrases are used, you’ll be able to recognize them if they make you question yourself. They’ll make you think your memories are warped and will make you think that perhaps there is something askew in the thoughts you were so confident about just a few minutes ago.
It’s a subtle form of psychological abuse that with time will not only cause rifts in the relationship but might give you insecurity issues. The following are the examples of gaslighting phrases that may seem harmless at first glance, but always have sinister undertones to them. Read on to find out if you’ve ever heard these manipulative phrases said to you:
1. “Stop being so insecure”
In a relationship, a typical gaslighter personality will never let you overcome your insecurity. If you raise a concern with them, instead of evaluating their own behavior, they will target your feelings instead. By calling you insecure, they will walk away scot-free, leaving you to evaluate your own feelings instead.
It doesn’t even just have to be your SO; your boss, your friend, or anyone you know may use this to shift the blame from themselves to you. This is the most common gaslighting phrase used in a relationship. Yes, we know you are already thinking that this sounds so familiar.
Related Reading: How To Deal With A Gaslighting Spouse?
2. “You are just being paranoid”
Juhi says that this phrase will often be used by a gaslighter personality. “Gaslighters often deny what they have been caught doing,” she explains. They simply refuse to accept your thoughts on the subject and turn the tables on you. This is why something along the lines of “you are just being paranoid” or “you are reading too much into this” is among the most commonly used gaslighting phrases in relationships.
In an attempt to evade any confrontational conversations, gaslighters manipulate with phrases such as this when you might be suspicious of them doing something they shouldn’t. They’ll disregard your suspicion as though it’s a useless thought that shouldn’t be paid attention to. They don’t get to decide the value of your opinions and by assuming they do, they make you question your self-worth.
3. “You are way too emotional”
If you are looking for the most common phrases used by a gaslighter this is definitely one of them. They would tell you that you are being emotional and show their lack of empathy, which is an important gaslighter trait. They never want to own up to their actions. Moreover, they will always make you wonder if you have been overreacting to the situation.
The intent behind such subtle gaslighting phrases is to make you perceive your emotions as a sign of weakness or something to be ashamed of. Your reaction might be completely justified, but a gaslighter will make you consider otherwise. When you keep hearing gaslighting terms like this, it will discourage you from showing your emotions in the future. Which makes it obvious why gaslighting is considered abuse.
4. “Please stop being so dramatic”
Gaslighting in female friendships is also often observed and is a notable reason for worry. According to Juhi, women undergo gaslighting more often than men. She says, “In most male-dominated societies, women are brought up in a way that they learn to prioritize other people’s feelings over their own, making them more susceptible to gaslighting.”
A clever woman will lay the problems of the situation on you and call it a dramatic reaction. This is a common phrase used by a person with gaslighting traits. Here again, the intent is to invalidate your response to a situation by making it seem like an overreaction.
Related Reading: 9 Common Narcissist Gaslighting Examples We Hope You Never Hear
5. “You are just making this up”
A narcissist will completely deny the way you feel, and nothing serves their purpose better than using gaslighting phrases in relationships. Their sense of denial will creep up often on you and will force you to change your own perception. This is a narcissist gaslighting phrase that is often used. No matter how much you explain yourself, they will convince you to think that your feelings are irrelevant.
Such responses can quickly transform into serious relationship arguments as well as make you question your own memories! Narcissist gaslighting phrases such as these make you question your reality and whether the things you’re so convinced about actually happened or not.
With this phrase, the person you love is questioning your memory of events. No matter how convinced you are of them, persistent doubts from your partner will make you question yourself at some point. Be careful to not fall prey to narcissist gaslighting phrases such as these.
6. “Stop imagining things!”
Such a dangerous phrase! It can cause severe cognitive dissonance in the victim. But these are just the kind of things gaslighters say to deny their victim their sense of reality. By wholly throwing your perception out of the window, this phrase can make you feel small and even borderline insane. This is the most common gaslighting phrase used but it can prove to be really lethal.
When used repeatedly, this gaslighting phrase can make a victim lose ground in their own beliefs and opinions. Given its effectiveness, it can be labeled as one of the best gaslighting phrases at least from the gaslighter’s point of view since it serves their purpose to the T.
Related Reading: Emotional Baggage – What It Means And How To Get Rid Of It
7. “That never happened”
Taking it a notch higher from the previous phrase, this one will totally make one feel like they’re crazy. Such a phrase can make one lose their sense of reality. It may seem inconsequential but these three words, if used consistently, can morph into extreme emotional abuse. The victim could lose all sense of reality and start questioning their own sanity.
Such gaslighting examples show a complete lack of empathy on the part of the abuser and show that they can go to any extent to exercise control over your mind to keep you under their thumb. If your partner is inconsiderate enough to use this gaslighting key phrase toward something they know happened, just to cover their tracks, it shows how little they think of you. There’s zero respect for you in their minds and you need to re-evaluate the relationship.
8. “You are just overthinking it”
This phrase is a stonewalling technique used to evade further speculation into the situation. It is easier to let go of problems when one simply attributes them to overthinking. One may immediately also want to stop doing so in order to preserve their mental health. This is one of the worst examples of gaslighting phrases used rather insensitively in relationships.
If you’ve suffered from overthinking in the past, a phrase like this might be enough to send you into a panic. You know how hard it is to stop overthinking, and when one falsely accuses you of it, you start wondering if you’re overthinking when you’re actually not, distorting the way you perceive things. That’s precisely why the use of gaslighting phrases in relationships can be so damaging.
9. “Stop exaggerating!”
This gaslighting phrase is meant to indicate the demise of the victim’s rational capabilities. If you are in a relationship with a psychopath, you will hear this often. They will assuredly consider your concerns trivial and exaggerated. So everything that you say will be easily brushed aside as your exaggeration. These gaslighting sentences can actually make you feel low.
Even if your recollection of the event was not exaggerated, an implication such as this will make you doubt yourself. Of all the phrases gaslighters use for you, this may be one of the most dangerous ones. Chances are, your partner knows you’re not exaggerating the situation and plans on using this gaslighting key phrase to put you in a world of doubt.
Related Reading: Verbal Abuse In Relationships: Signs, Effects And How To Cope
10. “Stop taking it so seriously”
What are some gaslighting phrases, you ask? Well, anything aimed at invalidating your emotions can qualify as an example of gaslighting and this phrase definitely fits the bill. The next time someone uses this on you, ask yourself why should you not take something seriously if it is emotionally bothering you. If it bothers you, it is serious. As simple as that. A narcissist or sociopath will say such hurtful things and will do everything to make the victim feel otherwise.
To steer someone away from expressing themselves and not taking seriously what’s important to them is no less than emotional punishment. Nobody else gets to decide what’s serious for you and what isn’t. It isn’t their place to tell you what you should or shouldn’t consider serious. As one of the most common gaslighting phrases, this one is designed to make you doubt your decision-making.
11. “Can you not take a joke?”
An example of gaslighting is when the abuser frivolously says hurtful things or causes harm only to call it a joke later on. For example, they might comment unfavorably about your looks or dress sense or attitude. When it upsets you, they will call it a harmless joke or playful banter. Statements meant to dismiss insensitive remarks as a form of humor qualify as the classic examples of subtle gaslighting phrases.
They do this in order to avoid having to apologize or own up to their wrongdoings. Some people may even do this out of habit, saying hurtful things only to hide behind this excuse afterward. How many times have you heard gaslighting sentences like this in a relationship?
Related Reading: 12 Hurtful Things You Or Your Partner Should Never Say To Each Other
12. “You are just misconstruing my intentions”
To deflect responsibility from themselves, they will skillfully label any and every problem as a result of a misunderstanding. “This is not what I meant.” “You are taking things out of context.” “That’s not how I said it.” Such gaslighting phrases in relationships serve well in helping an abuser wash their hands off any accountability for their actions.
This classic tactic will make the victim easily divert their attention to other things. If it’s a misunderstanding and it’s their fault they don’t take responsibility. Juhi says, “Narcissists and psychopaths have a tendency to fabricate and indulge in a lot of white lies. They use misunderstandings as a gateway ticket and then pretend to sort them out smartly.”
13. “You are being unnecessarily jealous”
To feel a sense of importance and control in a relationship, a narcissist personality might deliberately make the victim feel jealous. They revel in strong validation by applying this method. It fosters their own self-esteem while they disregard the hurt they might be causing you.
This form of gaslighting in personal relationships can quickly make the relationship go downhill. Profiteering from another person’s fabricated sadness is awfully manipulative. Juhi suggests that such abusers enjoy their partner’s dependence on them. The things gaslighters say can seem harmless on the face of it, but more often than not, have a sinister motive behind them.
14. “The problem isn’t with me, it is with you”
This has to be the most terrifying of gaslighting phrases in relationships. A classic one, these words are the cue for harrowing self-esteem issues. This is psychological torture in a way that one is projecting their own problematic issues onto the victim. The victim is forced to question their own selves, actions and feelings constantly.
The victim might make efforts to stop problematizing a situation when they are not at fault at all. Most common gaslighting phrases such as this one are used to shift blame and induce self-doubt. Your manipulative partner knows that as long as they keep you questioning yourself, they’ll be able to get away with whatever it is they’re doing.
Related Reading: 8 Signs of Covert Narcissist Hoovering And How You Should Respond
15. “You just have zero emotional security”
One of the most hurtful gaslighting phrases in relationships is this…it can be terribly hurtful and even rude. It is almost like a verbal form of emotional punishment. By claiming that you have a vulnerable emotional state, they’re trying to establish that any reaction from you is invalid since your emotional state is not to be trusted. Gaslighters manipulate with phrases such as this to make you think that you don’t deserve to be upset.
This defensive approach and personal attack truly threaten the psychological well-being of another person. The abuser might just say this in a fit of annoyance but these words run deep. These words can make one second guess everything they subsequently feel. If you take a close look at these gaslighting examples, you’d notice a pattern – the intent is always to make the victim feel badly about themselves and fill them with self-doubt while exonerating oneself of all accountability and culpability.
16. “That was never my intention, stop blaming me”
One of the more defensive yet common gaslighting phrases, this one can truly take the heat off the abuser. By deflecting the issue and clearing one’s intentions, they do not feel the need to further explain their actions or the outcome. This is certainly one of the more subtle gaslighting phrases but that doesn’t make it any less effective in making the victim wonder if they’ve made a mistake by raising an issue or pointing out something that has been bothering them.
This is toxic as it indicates failed communication. Moreover, it leads to a buildup of unresolved issues that you are forced to shy away from. These issues however persist and can further ruin your relationship. But such a statement only comes from a person with gaslighting traits.
17. “I think you need help”
While this might come off as genuine concern in some cases, if practiced in a manipulative manner by a narcissist, it is probably reeking of falsehood. This is the highest form of deception. By creating the scenario of attributing an actual mental health issue to someone, the abuser sits back and watches the self-doubt creep into the victim. This is not only wildly deliberate but is also a huge distraction from their own activities.
Even if you’re feeling completely fine, a statement such as this will make you think you’re not. Most common gaslighting phrases such as these aim to establish that there’s something inherently wrong with you, so your opinions do not matter. As a gross violation of your rights and autonomy, this phrase has malicious intent written all over it.
Related Reading: 12 Warning Signs Of Gaslighting And 5 Ways To Deal With It
18. “Just forget about it now”
These words are an effective way to completely sidetrack the issue on hand. When you constantly avoid problems, you do not actually forget about them. Shying away from talking about the problem is one of the biggest signs of an unhealthy relationship. When you’re in a relationship with a toxic partner, this becomes your reality. They use some of the best gaslighting phrases to get out of addressing the many issues you have been consistently sweeping under the carpet.
A part of them stays with you subconsciously because you are unable to talk about them on a conscious level. This can affect your thought process and will lock the door on a huge variety of suppressed concerns. Nobody else should get to decide what you should “forget about” and what deserves your attention.
19. “You are remembering it wrong”
Yes, gaslighting personalities can also throw accusations of memory loss. This is where it gets quite troublesome. This sadistic method is an attack on a person’s neurological sanity, and therefore, one of the more dangerous gaslighting examples. Furthermore, it is the presentation of a completely warped reality.
The victim is coerced into remembering the situation differently even though they could swear what they saw and felt was true. However, in the clutches of excessive psychological control, the victim is unable to present their viewpoint further. When subjected to such gaslighting phrases in relationships, even the most confident person can begin to doubt their own sense of reality.
20. “Cmon, stop making such a huge deal of things”
Juhi highlights, “Gaslighters choose to become defensive and then further trivialize any issues that their partners suggest”. She also suggested that they continue to propose a state of denial. They want to continue being in a state where they are not accountable to anybody. Instead of falling prey so easily, it is time you started being honest with yourself.
Gaslighting is not merely a technique that one uses to one’s advantage. It can also run deep and be a psychological disorder that the abuser might be undergoing. Ms. Juhi Pandey also added, “People with personality disorders, such as narcissistic personality disorder or antisocial personality disorder, may use gaslighting as a way to control others”.
If you have noted that you might be subject to this manipulation or are in a fix where you are unable to communicate with your partner and are often left feeling neglected, reach out to us. With our panel of psychologists, you can examine all your fears, troubles, and problems.
In a relationship when a person uses some common gaslighting phases to create doubts in a person’s mind about their own memory, sanity, and self-esteem. Gaslighting can happen between colleagues, friends, or in a romantic relationship where you purposely use lies to confuse a person about their own mental state.
The term gaslighting originated from a play Gas Light made in 1938, after which it was adapted into a movie. The 1944 movie Gaslight is an intriguing example of how the whole process erodes a person’s self-worth and esteem. The husband kept dimming the gaslights and telling his wife that she was imagining things and made her believe that she had become a kleptomaniac. None of which was true. This is a gaslighting tactic.
You know you are being gaslighted when someone keeps blaming you, is overcritical about whatever you do, questions your every move, and casts doubts on your sanity.
A person with gaslighting traits might end up gaslighting you unintentionally. Common gaslighting phrases like: “you can’t take a joke” or “you are being unnecessarily jealous” are often used in an argument without malicious intent. But when this is done in a repeated pattern with a purpose, it becomes intentional gaslighting.
Gaslighting in relationships is characterized by the perpetrator using different phrases, terms, and statements to deny their victim’s sense of reality. From passing off sensitive remarks as a joke to claiming that their victim needs help with their mental health or making them question their own memory, a gaslighter can slowly but surely fill their victim with so much self-doubt that they can no longer trust their own judgment.