10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Gaslighting before it happened to me

He would accuse me of inconsistency when I backtracked.

I would try to explain that I was adjusting to try to communicate best with him, because clearly I was failing.

He would tell me that my inconsistency implied that I was lying.

I would say, “No, no, I know I’m not lying. Maybe I just can’t remember it right.”

“It seems I can’t trust your memory,” he would say.

We would never return to the original issue. I usually ended up crying hysterically.

 

4. It’s Normal Not to Be Able to Remember What Happened

This, more than anything, is something I wish I had known.

It was a secret I kept, that fed my self doubt and guilt for years after I left. I used to black out. I remember conversations where I would start standing in the kitchen and end up in a ball on the floor.

Just days after it happened, I wouldn’t be able to remember what happened in the time in between. I wouldn’t even be able to remember what the conversation was about. My abuser accused me of abuse while I was with him – and then publicly for years after.

It’s one of the reasons I left  –  because I couldn’t figure out what I was doing or how to fix it, and I couldn’t bear the thought that I might be abusive to someone. I’ve ripped my memories apart, trying to figure what it was that he experienced. What it was that I did.

And I have found some things in me that needed to change, as all people who look deeply at their abusive tendencies will find. But I couldn’t, in my own memory, find what it was that he saw in me.

I could not find the narcissist. I could not find the vicious manipulator. I could not find the home wrecker. But I had black spots in my memory. Completely black. And I wondered ,  Is that when it happened? Is that when I abused him?

Losing spots in your memory makes it very plausible when someone tells you that they cannot trust your memory. It makes it very plausible when they tell you that you are abusive.

But it’s normal to lose your memory when you’re being gaslighted. In fact, it is one of the signs that you should look for. It’s a good sign that it might be time to leave.

 

5. There Are Distinct Stages (And These Stages Can Progress After the Relationship Is Over)

A gaslighter doesn’t simply need to be right. They also need for you to believe that they are right.

In stage one, you know that they’re being ridiculous, but you argue anyways.

You argue for hours, without resolution. You argue over things that shouldn’t be up for debate  – your feelings, your opinions, your experience of the world.

You argue because you need to be right, you need to be understood, or you need to get their approval.

In stage one, you still believe yourself, but you also unwittingly put that belief up for debate.

In stage two, you consider your gaslighter’s point of view first and try desperately to get them to see your point of view as well.

You continue to engage because you’re afraid of what their perspective of you says about you.

Winning the argument now has one objective :  proving that you’re still good, kind, and worthwhile.

In stage three, when you’re hurt, you first ask, “What’s wrong with me?”

You consider their point of view as normal. You start to lose your ability to make your own judgements. You become consumed with understanding them and seeing their perspective. You live with and obsess over every criticism, trying to solve it.

Looking back, I see that I was deep in stage two when I left the relationship. However, I continued to try to have a friendship with him for months after. I longed for resolution, understanding, and forgiveness.

And when I finally went no contact, instead of healing, I actually moved into stage three. I didn’t understand, nor did I know how to solve, the gaslighting that I continued to do to myself after the relationship was over.

20 COMMENTS

  1. Wow – I recently had a conversation with my mother that went something like this:

    Me:So what you are saying is that you know my feelings and my reasons for doing things better than I do? And even if I do not agree with the way you are presenting my story that is okay because you know it better than I do?

    Her: Yes, I have spent thirty years working on myself to be as wonderful as I am, and I have this knowledge and understanding of people – I know why they are the way they are and why they do things.

    Me: Well I do not agree with the way you are presenting my reality – it is far from what is actually happening.

    Her: Yes dear. (said in tone that implies she is humouring me and will continue to do what she describes as going into my biofield , believing that she is actually finding out information about me – even though I have told her she can’t do that without permission and I certainly haven’t given it).

  2. One of the best pieces I’ve read written on this subject ! Lived it and had no idea of it until the damage had set in and eventually turned to physical abuse. Thankyou so much for sharing this, I wish I had of understood it a few years ago. I still cant comprehend why anyone would intentionally want to do this to another person. It’s really sickening.

  3. If this article pertains to you and u will know if it does Please look into Narcissistic behavior and abuse the mental and emotional toll this takes on you is immense! Abuse does not only mean getting physically abused. This behavior does not happen over night it happens in time and u stay because u remember that man u fell in love with that was so sincere and loving he was everything your heart desired your prince charming! Im sorry but that mask fell off and that “act” that pulled u in did the job you will never see those traits again no matter how long u wait and try to fix things. These people do not feel inside as we do remember the person u fell in love with was a fraud. Think of them as vampires the will suck the life out of u and continue as long as u stay and u will lose yourself you will be shocked by this behavior “where did he go” Jeckyl and Hyde” he is so mean and cruel he makes you believe its YOU and your crazy! They have no sympothy or empathy they lie constantly they cheat they are very sneaky they hide things from you like there possessions things that u could care less about they now dont trust u and not because u did ANYTHING when u try to commuicate its always a debate you become weak from trying over and over you are lonely and everything is your fault. they eve smear your name to anyone who will listen you become angry that u invested all this time u blame yourself they make a ton of broken promises they hide money from u they believe all is THERES only u are there gas and they will take as long as u allow the ONLY way to save yourself and your life is to Leave and must have NO CONTACT they will try to get u back convince u they changed its bullshit NO CONTACT they never care about your needs they dont care how u feel. If any of this sounds familiar all i am asking is that u research Narcisisst and I hope u will get out. I am a victim of this it took me 9 years and i left 7 times. My 7th was my last i slowly am regaining my life YOU CAN YOU DONT NEED HIM there is help. I am still a work in progress i finally am finding myself again i did not like the person i was around him i became isolated financially controlled the more i gave the more he took and neglected me in every aspect. Hope this helps i am just paying this forward…

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