I am so sorry that you have to be here looking at narcissist gaslighting examples. I truly am! I don’t know how to talk about gaslighting without tapping into personal trauma. It is honestly one of the worst things one can ever go through. Think how barbaric it is to make someone question their sanity.
Imagine how remorseless and ruthless a person has to be to try and distort another person’s perception, identity, and self-worth. They do all this while claiming to love you. Believe me when I say this – that is NOT love. Gaslighting is an extremely cunning and sneaky way to destroy a person’s sense of reality. From personal attacks to character assassinations to blame-shifting – it’s absolutely the worst form of mental abuse that someone can put their partner through.
According to life coach and counselor Joie Bose, who specializes in counseling people dealing with abusive marriages, breakups, and extramarital affairs, “Gaslighting abusers do not do things consciously. For them, it is the right thing to do and they believe that their opinion is the only correct one and any opinion or emotion that doesn’t tend to their needs or approval isn’t correct and needs to be corrected.”
Allow me to paint you a picture of a gaslighting victim’s mind. Imagine you are stuck in a room that is full of smoke. It is foggy. It is so gray that you cannot see anything past the grayness of the fog. The room stinks, you can’t breathe, your eyes burn, and you feel suffocated. The exit door is wide open. You can easily walk out the door. But you don’t. Because it is not just your sight that is clouded, your brain is clouded too.
What Is Gaslighting In Narcissism?
Do narcissists use gaslighting? Most of the time the answer is yes because gaslighting and narcissism go hand in hand; let’s say they are conjoined twins. Narcissists are typically manipulative and controlling. An inflated sense of self-importance and a complete lack of empathy are the most common traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Gaslighting in narcissism is a narcissist’s way to gain control over another person. What’s more…they lie!
Oh, the narcissist gaslighting examples that I can give from my personal life. I was head over heels in love once. Like every other person blind in love, I too was under the notion that this was one of that once-in-a-lifetime kind of love, just like in the movies. And then it started. I was told I am nice one moment and the next I was someone else. I was told that my mood, my personality, my behavior, and my emotions changed from one moment to the next. He sounded genuinely concerned for my well-being.
The way he tried to make me question my own sanity would shock you. He was a different person when he was with others, and a completely different person when we were alone. He succeeded in making me doubt my sanity and feel confused; I gave in to my self-doubt and got tested for Bipolar Disorder. I found out I am as sane as the person reading this. My mental health was just fine. And yet I chose to stay in the relationship as my narcissistic gaslighting partner’s flying monkey. I truly, truly regret that.
Related Reading: 8 Signs Of Covert Narcissist Hoovering And How You Should Respond
How do you identify a gaslighting narcissist?
The saddest part of dealing with narcissistic gaslighting is that you often miss the long-term adverse effects it’s causing on your mental health or you mistake it for just another flaw in your partner. After all, you are told you are supposed to love the person with all their shortcomings, right? Years later, when you are at a better place in life and look back at the darker times, these gaslighting phrases come haunting you in your sleep.
Now that we are in charge, we cannot let you endure the misery, turning a blind eye to the visible signs of the emotional abuse you are putting up with. So, here are a few common traits of a narcissistic gaslighter to help you pinpoint the problems prevailing in your relationship:
- They make you feel very small, often unsure of your own judgment
- Do they give you a vibe that they are your savior and only hope? As if you will be lost in a sea of bad decisions and lovelessness if they don’t rescue you
- Even if it’s their fault, they convince you that it’s yours and you end up apologizing every time
- They are inconsiderate of your emotional needs
- They avoid meaningful conversations and any real effort to resolve conflicts
- As a manipulation tactic, they use your own words against you
- Constant comparison, criticism, and blame-shifting are a part of your relationship
- They play the innocent victim card in every situation trying to justify their actions as an expression of love
9 Common Narcissist Gaslighting Examples
I asked Joie why people tend to stay in such mentally scarring and abusive relationships. She said, “People are not aware of all these categorizations and demarcations and terms. The partner in most cases doesn’t realize they are dealing with manipulation tactics of narcissistic gaslighting until it’s a little too late. They don’t know the signs of an unhealthy relationship. So it’s not that they chose to stay with a narcissist, they simply chose to stay in a relationship.”
In most cases of gaslighting, the abuser is a narcissist. This severe form of mental abuse through controlling another person’s mind is pure toxicity. There are many things narcissists say when gaslighting in an argument. If you hear any of them, run as far away from that person as you can. Below are some of the common narcissist gaslighting examples you need to be aware of. Some could be unconscious gaslighting examples while others are very deliberate.
Related Reading: 13 Tell-Tale Signs Of Manipulation In A Relationship
1. “Maybe you are imagining things in your head, but that’s not what happened”
Let’s say, Sam and Emma are dating. They have planned to meet up for lunch on Emma’s birthday. When Sam entered the restaurant, he found that Emma had invited her friends as well. And the whole time, Emma barely spoke to Sam as she was busy chattering with her girl gang.
Later when he said, “I thought it was a date. Why did you call me there if you wanted to hang with your friends?”, she casually replied, “Don’t be silly. I invited you because I wanted to spend quality time with you on my birthday and we had a great time. Stop imagining bad things.” This is where it all begins. That’s Level One of your narcissistic gaslighting girlfriend/boyfriend. They make you question your perception of reality.
This could easily be an innocent mistake or a misunderstanding or it could also be one of the unconscious gaslighting examples. You may not question their intentions during the honeymoon phase because you are too smitten to see the situation objectively. If it has happened once or twice, that’s acceptable. But when it begins to happen over and over again, you need to sit up and take notice of the pattern of narcissistic gaslighting. Make sure you know all the warning signs of gaslighting before it’s too late.
- How to respond: “I am not making up stories in my head. I was there the whole time and I am speaking from what I saw and felt. I am not blaming you for spending time with your friends. Perhaps the next time, we can meet separately because I love it when you are paying attention to me.”
2. “I never said that”
Sam thinks Emma loves romcoms. He has planned a movie night with popcorn, pizza, and beer. And then, when the movie starts, Emma says, “I don’t really like romcoms.” Sam is a bit puzzled at this because he vividly remembers a conversation that took place around movies where Emma expressed her love for romcoms. She trots out one of the classic gaslighting phrases in relationships, “I never said that. Probably one of your exes must have said that.”
“That never happened.” “I never said that.” “Are you sure I was there when you said that?” These statements are all a portrayal of a typical gaslighter personality. The victim starts questioning his or her reality and begins to rely on their abuser’s version. You start relying on a narcissistic gaslighting boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s manipulated versions of reality, which increases your dependency on them.
- How to respond: “Honey, I wouldn’t force you to watch a romcom film unless I clearly remember you telling me you enjoyed them. I think this relationship will work better if you could stick to your narratives. Otherwise, it leaves me very confused.”
3. The trump card – “You are oversensitive”
This is one of the most toxic gaslighting phrases in relationships. You are not oversensitive. It’s the abuser who is insensitive and cold-hearted. They do not care about your feelings and emotions until it serves them in some way. The relationship between an empath and a narcissist is not exactly a joy ride after the initial mystery is lifted and this is where you begin to crumble.
You didn’t see it coming. You don’t recognize it happening. Your self-doubt increases, and your conviction and confidence drop. Your feelings are constantly invalidated. And you have started believing it all. The damage is complete. Those days are not so far when you see yourself apologizing for taking a stand against their disrespectful remarks that made you feel utterly humiliated.
- How to respond: “Can we discuss this and come to a middle ground so you don’t feel so overwhelmed with my expression of emotions and I can still feel safe being vulnerable around you?”
4. “You are the problem here. Not me”
Blame-shifting is one of the most common narcissist gaslighting examples and a hidden manipulation technique of malignant narcissists. There is a difference between a regular person lying and a narcissist lying. A regular person normally lies in order to get out of a tough spot.
But when a narcissist is gaslighting you with lies, they will twist things in a way that will make you feel guilty as if you are the one lying. As if the victim is at fault. They not only do not know how to stop lying in a relationship but also are adept at turning the tables and making the victim appear as the bad guy. “Sometimes people do not know better and think acceptance is the right thing to do rather than break up,” says Joie.
I guess that’s why I stayed with a narcissistic gaslighting boyfriend for so long. I might have stayed longer if I hadn’t found out about his affairs. When a narcissist is caught lying, they will make it look like it is someone else’s mistake. They want to hold someone else accountable for their lies. Their agenda is to twist the situation and hold somebody else responsible for their actions.
- How to respond: “I am ready to take responsibility for my actions when it’s due and I wish you did the same too. However, I am sorry for the way I acted in this situation. Can you tell me what would you have done if you were in my place?”
Related Reading: 13 Sure-Shot Signs He Pretends To Love You
5. “Learn to take a joke”
Another manifestation of chronic gaslighting is when they accuse you of having little or no sense of humor. Your partner cracks a joke at your expense, and when you are offended, they say, “Learn to take a joke”. This is one of the examples of narcissist text messages you’d be used to receiving if you’re being gaslighted in your relationship. It’s one of the warning signs of toxic relationships. It’s never a joke if the purpose is to hurt you or offend you.
When you confront your narcissistic gaslighting boyfriend or girlfriend for hurting you with their crass joke, they will make fun of you for being a bad sport. “I was just teasing you.” “Oh, don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.” ‘You are being paranoid.” “It was just a joke. Don’t get so worked up.” These are all the things narcissists say when gaslighting, in order to prove themselves right.
- How to respond: “I don’t appreciate such comments in the name of humor and it bothers me. If you care about my feelings at all, I hope you won’t crack such jokes in the future.”
6. “I am doing this because I love you”
Love bombing is a common abuse strategy used by malignant narcissists and sociopaths, yet it is one of the most overlooked narcissist gaslighting examples. Gaslighters will always use love as a defense to make you believe them. And when you don’t agree with them, they will accuse you of not believing them or not loving them equally.
They will push their sinister agenda and constantly try to influence you and your opinions. Before you fall for their tactics, you need to learn how a few tips on how to deal with a narcissistic spouse. “I am saying this because I love you and want to protect you.” “I think I know what’s best for you because I love you.” “Believe me, I know what’s best for you.” “You need to trust my actions.”
Ladies and gentlemen, please do not fall for such gaslighting phrases in relationships. A manipulative, narcissistic partner will shower you with fake love, concern, affection, and intimacy. They will learn about your insecurities, your innermost desires, and secrets. They will learn everything there is to be learned about you and then they will use it to exploit you mentally.
- How to respond: “I love how you take care of me and I believe it’s out of genuine concern. But, I’m an adult and perfectly taking care of myself.”
7. “You must work on that”
Being subjected to constant criticism makes you doubt yourself, irrespective of how good you are at something or what your strengths and skills are. In the case of narcissistic gaslighting in relationships, the abuser tries to get you as off-balance as possible. They will criticize you for being too emotional as a part of their hidden manipulation tactics. They will criticize all your life and career choices, and even your food preferences, dressing style, or other lifestyle choices.
Eventually, this will corrode your sense of self-worth. They will constantly hurl insults at you. “You have no control when it comes to burgers.” “You don’t know how to manage money.” “You are not wife material.” “Nobody will love you as I do.” “You will never get anyone better than me.” Trust me, dear readers, I am shaking as I type this. I have heard it all!
- How to respond: “Sometimes your words can be quite hurtful. I am trying to work on certain aspects of my life. If you could be a little more supportive and less critical, it will be easier on me.”
Related Reading: Feeling Unwanted In A Relationship – How To Cope?
8. “You are just insecure and jealous”
Another common narcissist gaslighting example is accusing the victim of paranoia. When an accusation like this is made, there is a high chance that your narcissistic gaslighting boyfriend or girlfriend is cheating on you. They will project their errors and insecurities on you instead of taking responsibility for their actions. This is where knowing how to respond to gaslighting becomes crucial.
Do malignant narcissists use gaslighting? Yes. They don’t just gaslight you but they will also accuse you of gaslighting them. They will accuse you of being a narcissistic gaslighter. “Why do you think I am cheating on you? Is it because you are cheating on me?” “Why are you acting so paranoid?” “Stop accusing me of things you might be secretly doing.” These are, clear and loud, narcissist gaslighting examples. The abuser will often paint you as a jealous and insecure person.
- How to respond: “This jealousy is not cropping up out of nowhere. There are enough valid reasons for me to believe you are cheating on me. So, unless you are ready to come clean about it, I can’t hang in here hoping you would change and come back someday. We should take a break and give ourselves the time to think about the whole situation again.”
9. “You are crazy. You need help”
Crazy, mental, psycho, lunatic, irrational, insane, and delusional are the words thrown around casually and frequently. It is natural for narcissistic people to find fault with everyone but themselves. Let’s say you’re in the middle of a fight and you send your partner a long text message conveying the way this falling out has made you feel. They reply saying, “I am not the problem here. You are.” Such examples of narcissist text messages mean they are the problem and they are projecting it onto you.
No matter how much you bend over backward for them, you will never be good enough. You will never be deemed worthy of their love. They will bring you to a point where you lose sight of what’s wrong and right. You will have no energy left in you to call them out. They will drain your sanity and rationality. It gets difficult to maintain your sanity when your partner is a narcissist and a compulsive liar.
- How to respond: “I don’t believe I have said or done anything that crosses the boundaries of sanity. However, you are probably right. Maybe I do need help. I need help to figure out how to stay in this relationship and not lose my voice, my individuality, and mental peace at the same time.”
Joie says, “Gaslighters never realize the harm they are causing another person. Only through counseling can they see it. Rectification too takes time. Unfortunately, there is no quick-fix for gaslighting. The rigidity of the perpetrator’s thought, beliefs, and convictions gets the better of their sense of judgment.”
- Narcissists are control freaks and manipulative by nature and gaslighting is one of their hidden manipulation techniques
- The major goal of narcissistic gaslighting phrases is to confuse you about your own reality and judgment
- These people don’t acknowledge your emotions
- They use your own words against you and make you feel guilty about their shortcomings
- Many times narcissists are not even aware of their gaslighting tendency and its impact on other people and therapy is your best recourse to deal with the situation
Narcissistic Personality Disorder and the nature of gaslighting make a detrimental combination in a person causing damage to their romantic partners. Going through the stages of self-doubt, difficulty in decision-making, and a constant feeling of loneliness and fear, you may end up finding yourself on a therapist’s couch.
If at any point, you seek professional help, skilled and experienced counselors on Bonobology’s panel of experts are here for you. And, finally, don’t be so blind in love that you start believing your partner’s twisted narratives as truth. Exercise vigilance and caution, practice self-care, and distance yourself from your abuser.
This article has been updated in November 2022.