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

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

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 judgments. 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.

If I could go back and give myself one piece of advice, it’d be to go no contact immediately for at least a year. And maybe that’s what others might need, too.

It’s really, really hard. It’s hard because it may still feel like that understanding and resolution is right around the corner. It’s hard to let go of that.

But think: You don’t have to yet. Just commit to a year. Because anyone who isn’t abusive won’t punish you for the space you need to heal.

And when I say “no contact,” I mean complete no contact. Distance yourself from mutual friends. Block your gaslighter on social media. Ask your friends not to give you any new information about them unless it directly pertains to your safety.

Fuck anyone who says you are being unreasonable.

You need this to heal, and you need the space to learn how to stop gaslighting yourself.

6. There Are Distinct Traits That Make You More Susceptible to Gaslighting, But They Can Also Be Super Powers

There are three tendencies that will pull you into a gaslighting exchange. These tendencies are the need to be right, the need to be understood, and the need for approval.

Additionally, certain traits – such as being empathic, being a caretaker, needing to see your partner in a positive light, and being a “people pleaser” – might make you more susceptible.

But I would strongly urge you to not go in and try to crush these wonderful things about you.

You care strongly about your ideas, and about other people. You want to understand and be understood. You care about your effect on other people, and you’re willing to change to accommodate the people around you.

And ironically, your gaslighter probably told you that you were selfish and cruel and oblivious. And then perhaps your therapist told you that you need to stop caring so much because it draws you into abuse. What to do?

Empathy is important. It’s important for all of us. It makes me angry when people tell me that my empathy is a weakness. My empathy is a superpower. My desire and ability to empathize kept me locked into a cycle of abuse, yes. But my desire to empathize wasn’t the problem.

The ability to hear criticism and then to change yourself for the better based on that feedback is also a fucking superpower. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. My problem was not my willingness to change, but my willingness to change for the wrong reasons.

Change should make you bigger. It should increase your tank of self-love. It should make you stronger, clearer, more directed, more differentiated, and more compassionate.

The pain of growth is different than the pain of destruction. One will fill you with love and pride, even when it’s hard, and the other will fill you with shame and fear.

No one should use shame or fear to try to get you to change. When they do this, they’re not asking for change – they’re asking for control.

21 thoughts on “10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Gaslighting before it happened to me”

  1. I could relate to so much in this article. I’m exiting an abusive marriage where my wife gaslit me for years. Her favorite method was to accuse me of gaslighting, making me question my own reality and then make me feel terrible for bringing up what I was upset about.

  2. Thank you! I knew I’d read this somewhere else first. Great piece, and shame on this site for reposting it without credit.

  3. 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).

  4. 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.

  5. 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…

  6. My ex-husband was a womanizer. He always chose my closest friends and they usually went along with the gaslighting. When I would confront him with his cheating, he would say, "You are so suspicious. I am not cheating on you. You are so possessive." When I would ask his latest lady love, she would say, " Tim needs his space. You are so possessive." He would bring them home. That is confusing. He couldn't be that brazen. After a while, you doubt everything. I lost all confidence in myself.

    Finally x in marriage counseling, after we split into individual counseling, I found a list he had made for the counselor of all of his affairs. I had been right! About everything and everyone. It was a tremendous relief. But the stress had damaged me. I don't trust anyone.

  7. Great article and thanks so much for writing it. It really helps me put things into perspective and it explains a lot of what I've experienced with my relationship with my wife and how i feel about myself and about life. I feel like I've almost lost myself and I'm quite depressed and I want to leave, but i can't break all contact because of my 21 month old son. What do you suggest in this situation?

  8. Of course it's easier to stay with him.But what will your daughter think about you? Will he portray you as weak, or unintelligent? When he feels he is losing control of his daughter as she grows and spends more time at school and friends he will want to gas light a vulnerable child or teen some day to keep control.. Sure you can chose for yourself. But you're choosing for her as well.

  9. Take good care of yourself and your little one. Be as kind and compassionate as you can to your husband without losing yourself. Stay true to you always though you may not be able to get the respect and honesty you want in your relationship with him. He's on his own journey and it's not your job to fix him or shove a mirror in his face. His behavior has to come to light for him in a way he can process it and that won't mean you having to incur further or worsened abuse. Be good to yourself first and then be good to him. If he thinks you're judging him as abusive, more than likely the behavior will just get worse. For some reason gaslighters have an insecurity they can't face, and they want control over their reality and they seek to do that through control. If you know what his insecurity is, take that into consideration and try to have empathy and compassion for that. It's unfortunate that he's coping with it by gaslighting you but somewhere inside is a need that he fears won't be met and his strategy for handling it isn't healthy. Be careful, not "walk on eggshells" careful but just take it easy. Men I think have a much harder time dealing with insecurities becuase of how much pressure they feel to "be a man." If you let him gently know that you love him for who he is maybe over time he may relax and feel comfortable addressing his fears himself or with you. Some people, and I think men especially, need a baby soft touch in order to address their fears and insecurities. I've made so many mistakes and been too confrontational with gaslighters and gotten very hurt, so I hope what I've learned is helpful in some way. As scary and difficult as it is to deal with this behavior, staying kind, curious, and compassionate would've gotten me much better results, I think. Good luck to you!!

  10. My husband and I have been together for 15 years. Half of my life. Now we have a 2 month old child. I love my husband but I know this hurts our relationship deeply. My mother is a gaslighter and it is what I'm used to. I am fully aware and have been aware that my husband had been gaslighting me for some time but I have no desire to leave him.

    I feel like I can transcend it somehow. At first our relationship was volatile but over time I have developed self confidence within myself and I am a stronger person now that I have found a spiritual path, much to my husband's dismay.

    I would like some opinions on my situation but just be aware that any

    suggestion to "leave now" will not result in me leaving now.

    I'm looking for more in depth and intellectual forms of advice. Thank you for your energy in reading my post. <3

    Thank you.

    1. How about nursing the love of your life, yet while you are nursing them after their operation they are stealing your valuables, and yet deny it when they are the only one with you! Lowest of lows!

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