- “We’ll have to agree to disagree.”
- “I don’t like how I feel right now, and I want to finish this conversation later (or never).”
- “You’re trying to tell me what my experience is, and I’m not okay with that.”
- “Don’t contact me again.”
“Communicate, communicate, communicate,” right? “You can solve anything with enough communication.”
That might be a mantra, but it’s wrong.
You can solve a lot of things with communication, so long as the objective of both people is understanding. But the minute someone tries to replace your experience, it’s time to stop communicating, at least on that subject.
9. You Must Confront the Threat
Every gaslighting exchange exists under the shroud of some kind of threat. For my relationship, the threat started out as disapproval, then it was the relationship that was threatened, and eventually the threat escalated to his own life.
I had no ability to confront or resist the gaslighting until one by one, I confronted the fears that these threats produced in me.
I grieved. I spent a week in bed and cried over everything I had poured into the relationship. One by one I tried to internally break my attachments to the things that made me feel trapped.
I cried over the immense shame I felt and tried to build the strength to be able to hold it. First I grieved the family that I wanted so much to be a part of. Then I grieved my relationship with him. Finally, I questioned whether it was right for him to make me responsible for his life. It wasn’t easy.
And it was another six months before the relationship ended. But when I realized that I didn’t want to be in the relationship anymore, I had already internally confronted the threats that were waiting for me – and as one by one they came out in full force, I was able to put one foot in front of the other and walk out the door.
10. Gaslighting May Be Amplified in Families, Poly Relationships, and Other Groups
It’s hard to stand firm when one person is trying to replace your experience, but when they have a chorus of supporters, it is nearly impossible. There is a reason why cult abuse can lead to a complete breakdown of someone’s personality.
Group manipulation and abuse is devastatingly effective.
I can’t easily explain the level of shame and fear that a group you’re deeply invested in can produce with a coordinated attack. We need to be very careful of this in poly groups so we do not exploit this power or unwittingly enable abuse.
I know there is a lot of shame tied up in ending a relationship, and no one wants to be the bad guy. But we all owe it to each other to not participate in relationships where anyone’s self esteem is being degraded.
It doesn’t matter whose fault it is, and it doesn’t matter whether or not it is fair. There are bigger things at stake here. Let’s not punish each other for doing the things we need to do to be healthy.
For more information on gaslighting, or to get support if you or someone you know is being abused, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline or call 1-800-799-7233.