How To Deal With A Gaslighting Spouse?

Suffering and Healing | | , Content & Creative Strategist
Updated On: March 17, 2024
deal with a gaslighting spouse

Have you ever been in a situation where your feelings have been dismissed by your partner and labeled as “trivial” or “petty?” If you are a victim of these unnecessary labels, sadly, it could be an indication that you are a victim of a gaslighting spouse. If you are married to a gaslighter personality, living every day in a gaslighting environment can be very taxing. With these tips, you can deal with the gaslighting spouse in a better manner.

People often do not realize that they are victims of gaslighting since gaslighting often goes undetected until the partner finally realizes the relationship is toxic. Signs of gaslighting are often subtle and hard to notice. According to the Oxford English dictionary, “gaslighting is to manipulate (a person) by psychological means into questioning his or her own sanity.”

Before moving on to how to deal with a gaslighting spouse, let’s make sure we’re on the same page when we talk about things like gaslighting in marriage. What exactly does it mean? How does it manifest itself? What kind of damage can it do? Let’s answer all your burning questions.

What Is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a type of mental manipulation where you are made to question your own reality. This is a dangerous technique a gaslighter can use on you by which you start feeling unsure of your sanity. To understand gaslighting you can actually refer to the film “Gaslight” made in 1944. This psychological thriller stars Ingrid Bergman, who plays the wife, who is manipulated by her husband to believe that she is going mad.

The film “Sleeping With The Enemy” also focuses on gaslighting. The worst part of gaslighting is, that it very slowly eats into your self-esteem as gaslighting phrases are repeated frequently to serve the gaslighter’s purpose. Gaslighting can happen in any kind of relationship where you are constantly fed lies till you start believing them.

It can happen between partners, between a boss and a subordinate, between a political leader and his followers, or even between a parent and a child. For example, if your partner screams at you during a public gathering and you confront them about it later, a gaslighting husband may say, “Are you crazy? I didn’t scream at you. I barely said anything to you, stop overreacting.”

Such a blatant refusal to accept any responsibility may seem absurd at first, but if they’re adamant about their opinion, it can very easily lead you to question your own reality. Pretty soon, you might be thinking, “Wait, did he do anything wrong? Or am I actually overreacting?”

If left unchecked, such manipulation can leave you questioning your own sense of reality. You may submit to anything your partner says and may begin to question your memories, decision-making and your self-esteem. To gaslight, meaning, to manipulate someone can have long-lasting effects on them that may damage any future relationships they have as well. That’s exactly why it’s so important to understand how to stop gaslighting in a relationship.

Related Reading: Is Your Jealous Boyfriend Being Possessive And Controlling?

What Is A Gaslighter Personality?

A gaslighter personality is one who psychologically manipulates you, your thoughts, and your emotions. That eventually makes you doubt yourself. They would rather constantly remind you of how you make “A big deal of things” or how you are overreacting (again!) instead of validating your opinions and listening to them.

“You are always making a big deal out of things. It’s not even that big a problem”, “You are a psycho. You are always imagining things”, “Your problems are not real. Stop being so dramatic.” These are some common statements of a gaslighter personality.

Gaslighting in relationships can have multiple motives behind it. A person may do it to try and get away scot-free from any allegations put toward them. In other cases, they may do it to exercise control or dominate their partner. In cases where they truly believe in their own reality, gaslighting in marriages may also occur inadvertently.

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Why Do People Gaslight?

A gaslighter has a narcissistic nature, anti-social approach, or other such behavioral issues. They have a desperate need to dominate others. Everything should go according to them and all hell would break loose if you try to question their intention. Truly, the answer to “Why do people gaslight?” can be given in just one word: power.

Gaslighters have an inexplicable need to control and have power over others. In a relationship, the gaslighting spouse behaves the same way to have the power over their marriage. The gaslight meaning tells us that it’s a method of manipulation, but since people can be a bit more nuanced, their motives can often differ according to the situation.

Is Gaslighting Done On Purpose?

Often, the gaslighter may not even realize that he or she is indulging in such behavior. They have probably grown up around relationships, like that of their parents, which thrived on a power struggle. It is this unsettled power dynamic that results in one person manipulating the other because they feel that they can.

manipulation method
The gaslight meaning tells us that it’s a method of manipulation

So you may understand you have a manipulative husband or a manipulative wife, but they probably do not think the same way. However, gaslighting is not always unintentional. The rising success of a partner, jealousy, and several such reasons can also lead to gaslighting behavior done on purpose.

If the problem is presented to the gaslighting spouse calmly and they deny it vehemently, then it becomes an indication that gaslighting is done on purpose, for they do not want to acknowledge their fault. That’s why it’s so hard to deal with a gaslighting spouse or stop gaslighting.

Some of the techniques used by someone who is gaslighting are trivializing, withholding, blocking, stonewalling in the relationship, diverting, denying and discrediting. Since these ultimately aim to limit communication and tilt the odds in their favor, understanding how to respond to a gaslighting spouse gets very difficult.

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Are you married to a gaslighter personality?

Though you may now know the answer to, “What does it mean to gaslight someone?” It may still be unexpectedly difficult to identify when it is happening to you. When left unchecked, falling prey to such manipulation can wreak havoc on your mental health. Let’s take a look at a few traits that may point out you are in a relationship with a gaslighting personality.

  • They frequently lie to you and do not feel guilty about it
  • They cannot admit their mistakes
  • They get extremely furious if they are criticized
  • They are aggressive about everything that is said to them
  • They never validate your emotions and force you to think like them
  • Everything you say to them is a chance to lash out on you
  • They manipulate you and try to control you in every manner possible

At the end of the day, a gaslighting husband, or a manipulative wife will try to dominate your thoughts by disregarding your opinions and giving precedence to their own. There will be a glaring lack of respect in your relationship, since it’ll be apparent that they’re never going to pay much attention to what you have to say.

Emphasis on gaslighting phrases

Before we figure out how to respond to gaslighting spouse, we need to take a look at all the things they say to achieve their manipulation. There are some typical narcissist gaslighting phrases that are being used to manipulate a person. Some typical examples of gaslighting phrases are:

  • It was just a joke, you didn’t get the humor
  • Are you becoming a psycho?
  • You are insecure and jealous
  • You are too demanding and overbearing
  • You are always imagining things
  • Really? That never happened at all
  • Do have a relative who was mad?
  • You are having short-term memory loss
  • It never happened that way
  • You are making that up
  • Stop confusing me

What does it mean to gaslight someone? It means to rob a person of their own critical thinking, forcing them to question their own memories and sanity. It can eventually lead a person to tolerate a toxic relationship, since they may not even know that they are being gaslighted.

What Is A Gaslighter Personality
Gaslighting phrases can destroy your sense of self

How To Deal With A Gaslighting Spouse?

Now that you know what gaslighting is and what a gaslighter personality is, you are probably feeling exasperated and holding your head and thinking, “How do you deal with gaslighting?” It may not be easy to deal with a gaslighting spouse, but with these tips, things might get a little bit simpler. You can definitely minimise the effects of gaslighting emotional abuse.

Related Reading: Exposing A Narcissist – What You Should Know

1. Immediately respond to their claims

Arguing with a gaslighter is futile. They will gaslight you at any given opportunity and will conveniently make it look like it is your fault. How many times has your spouse said things to you like “You’re always hysterical”, or “stop acting crazy”, or “why are you always overreacting to things?”

It hurts to break this to you, but this is a classic strategy of every gaslighter. This is exactly the answer to “What is a gaslighter personality?” They will gaslight you, but when confronted with anger, they will burst into defense and throw frustrating claims at you. And then you will have to deal with an angry husband who gaslights.

It can be really difficult to maintain your cool when dealing with a gaslighter, but you need to try anyway. Experience has taught every spouse that their gaslighting partner is never going to understand your side of the argument.

To survive gaslighting, you need to patiently tell them that your experience of their claim is not the same as theirs. Offer to sit them down and talk about it. A gaslighter personality is defensive and angry. Being sensible through it all might have a calming effect on them.

2. Second-guessing is a BIG no-no!

Spouses often wonder why do people gaslight? One of the main reasons is to make you second-guess yourself so that things function like the gaslighter wants them to function. As someone in love, you might eventually begin believing the claims of your gaslighting spouse and think that you are the problem in the relationship. Wearing someone down is the weapon of a gaslighter.

Dealing with a gaslighting spouse can be really overwhelming, but it is essential that you have confidence in yourself while dealing with a toxic relationship. At any given claim of your gaslighting spouse, pause and think if what they are accusing you of is true in reality. There is a huge difference between what you truly believe and what you are being pressured to believe.

Understanding the difference is important in how to survive gaslighting. Do not doubt yourself. The more confident you are in your beliefs, the easier it will be to deal with the gaslighting spouse.


3. Keep yourself grounded at all times to deal with gaslighting in relationship

You cannot survive gaslighting if you are not aware of your own identity. Granted, a relationship is about two people, but it is beyond necessary to have a hold on your individual identity. Why do people gaslight? The easiest answer to this question is to have the upper hand, alpha control over the relationship.

A gaslighting spouse will tear down your sense of thought and foundation brick by brick so that you lose your idea of individuality and engage in their games of manipulation. It cannot be repeated enough that you need to keep yourself grounded. Do not let your spouse’s hints, doubts, and gossips shake your belief in yourself and everything around you.

Gaslighting is a play of power and you need to know that a relationship is never about power, it is about trust, respect and love. Having control of your thoughts and emotions can help you deal with a gaslighting spouse in a better manner.

Related Reading: How To Deal With A Controlling Husband?

4. How to respond to gaslighting spouse? Focus on the accusations

One of the biggest flaws of a gaslighting personality is that they are blatant liars. They can look you in the eye, lie right on your face and you will still see not one tiny hint of regret or shame. This is just how they play so that you believe their lies and second-guess yourself. You have a spouse who lies, and dealing with him or her is harder than you think.

What you need to do is focus on the accusations. See if there is any credibility in what they are throwing at you and then deal with it accordingly. More often than not, gaslighting spouses accuse their partners of doing things that they are guilty about themselves.

For example, if they are accusing you of cheating on them or lying to them, all you have to do is take a step back and analyze if you have done anything to incite those accusations. If you have not, chances are your partner is the one who is engaging in cheating and lying. This will give you a better grip on the situation and help you deal with the gaslighting spouse.

Once you understand what you’re being accused of and the reason behind such accusations, you can begin figuring out how to stop gaslighting in a relationship. That’s simply because the problem areas are presenting themselves to you, all you have to do is have a conversation about them. That leads us to the next point, which entails confronting your partner.

5. Confront them with the problem

How To Deal With A Gaslighting Spouse
Confront the gaslighter with a problem

Understanding how to survive gaslighting can be very tricky. Gaslighters are not very receptive to confrontations and it’s hard to stop gaslighting. They would rather lash out than look at things objectively. However, it does not hurt to try. Alternatively, a gaslighting spouse may pretend like they’re listening, but eventually, blame it on you, claiming that you have been taking things wrongly and that all their accusations and other gaslighting personality behavior were simply out of concern and care.

If your spouse is in complete denial of their behavior and is making no attempt to understand or change, then that is the biggest red flag your marriage can have. Unless they’re willing to acknowledge your point of view, figuring out how to stop gaslighting in a relationship may get extremely difficult.

Related Reading: Understanding The Dynamics Of Abuse In A Relationship

6. Seek professional help if things get worse

If the only thing running in your head is, “Why do people gaslight?” and this question is hindering every aspect of your life, you need to consult a professional immediately. A friend or relative might be biased towards you and might not be able to look at the situation as objectively as a neutral third party could.

A counselor or therapist will help you see the downfall of your relationship in a better manner and even guide you with some strategies to deal with your gaslighting spouse. They will help you rebuild your confidence and walk you through grounding yourself better.

If you think you’re being emotionally abused in your relationship, Bonobology’s panel of experienced therapist can help give you the necessary skills to cope with this challenging period in your life.

7. Last resort to deal with a gaslighting spouse is to leave them

If the love for gaslighting is more important for your spouse than their love for you, it is time to leave. Think about getting a divorce, but be objective. Quitting a marriage cannot be easy, but it is not easy to live with a person who never bothers to address your problems or their behavior either.

Gaslighting, if not kept in check, becomes a branch of emotional abuse, and in such a case, splitting is the only solution. The gaslighting spouse may view this as another opportunity to gaslight you more, but you need to remember that this is simply gaslighting done on purpose.

Again, divorcing a narcissist is going to be another battle, but you are strong for that. Any more explanations and conversations is going to be very exhaustive, which is why you need to make up your mind and be firm in your decision of calling it quits.

It is really painful to love someone so intently that you are ready to deal with everything that they throw at you, but at the end of the day, nothing should come above your self-respect and mental health. Some people are quite literally incapable of being loved.

A gaslighting spouse may not know their behavior, but they will acknowledge it once they realize their mistake. If they don’t, you have to accept that they are only married to you for power and it is better to stay miles away from the negativity.

Gaslighting at work

Gaslighting does not happen only in an intimate relationship but also in a formal relationship in the workplace. Corporate HRs also use gaslighting techniques to keep the employee subservient. Celina Brown, a journalist in a well-known newspaper, made a lot of enemies because of her good work and team player capabilities.

But her HR wanted to keep her soaring popularity in check and told her that they have been receiving frequent complaints against her from her team. None of it was true but it was a great gaslighting technique to keep her afraid. Bosses on subordinates, HR teams on employees gaslighting is rampantly used in the workplace. Dealing with a gaslighter at work can be even more tough because their lies or taunts can lead to professional trouble .

So you ensure you have all instructions from a gaslighter co-worker in writing over email. So that they cannot tell you later, you don’t remember what they had said and use their manipulative techniques.

Be it at work or in an intimate relationship the sneaky techniques a gaslighter uses are hard to deal with. But with a bit of intelligence and patience, you can show them the mirror. Remember if you have to deal with the effects of gaslighting you have to be really strong.

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