9 Signs of Gaslighting in Relationships to Watch Out For

A woman who thinks she's being gaslighted in her relationship thinking about the signs of gaslighting while in a filed wondering what to do.

Do you ever feel like you’re going insane in your relationship? When you’re being gaslighted, your relationship takes a nightmarish detour down loony-toon town, where your partner starts distorting your view of reality through denial, excuses, and lying. Through this emotional torture, you change from a level-headed, confident person to a confused victim. You’re being mind-warped into questioning right from wrong.

You’ll feel exhausted, insecure, and highly unstable. As you continue trying to prove your side of the story,  your partner will continues to grow more complicated and distant. If this hell sounds familiar, you’re likely being gaslighted. But before we go over the signs of gaslighting in relationships, let’s first understand how it works on a deeper level.

Gaslighting in relationships.
Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse. As explained by Dr.Stephanie A. Sarkis, “It’s a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed.” Freaky right?

Essentially, the gaslighter in your life is gaining more power over you by controlling your sense of reality in the relationship. The more you weaken emotionally, the more likely you are to accept your abuser’s distortions of the truth. Even if deep down you know something is wrong, your mental breakdown will make your insecurities worse, further victimizing you to the abuse.

Only a self-obsessed, insecure person will gaslight their partner. By keeping you in a state of confusion and anxiety, they maintain their power in the relationship. To avoid being susceptible to gaslighting, you need to watch out for these signs.

Blind denial of everything.
Here’s some twisted logic: “If I deny something enough, their side of the story will disappear.” A gaslighter will blatantly deny the facts, even when you confront them with hard evidence. In fact, their denial can be so convincing that you’ll start questioning your own perspectives. 

When dealing with blind denial, you start to feel alone in your views. You’ll lose sight of reality and accept theirs. So stay confident and clear about what you know.

Lies without guilt.
It takes a real shoddy person to lie to your face. A gaslighter won’t care. They know they’re lying—trust that they’re not that delusional—they’re just trying to confuse you. By rendering you completely disoriented from the truth, they limit your ability to challenge them. Basically, you’re left powerless.

In your eyes, the lie is completely illogical, but for them, they’re training you. According to Dr. Sarkis, the gaslighter is setting up a precedent. Since you’re never fully sure if anything they say is true, they keep you off-kilter. That’s the goal.

Deflection from the story.
Someone who’s gaslighting will always divert from the problem. You’re telling them one thing but they’re focusing on something completing unrelated. Why? They’re incurably unwilling to accept their own flaws and offenses. So they’ll do everything to avoid being held accountable as the bad guy.

Deflection also allows them to avoid your feelings. To put it bluntly, your emotions are inconvenient for the gaslighter and hinder their ability to dominate you. So through these abusive deflection tactics, they can brush-off your version of the story, while avoiding responsibility for upsetting you.

Don’t even bother attempting to redirect the conversation. You’ll never win with a gaslighter. More likely, you’ll just plunge yourself further into a toxic puddle of frustration and anxiety.

Blaming you for everything.
The blame game is a gaslighter’s favorite weapon. In emotional warfare, the art of blaming holds you responsible for all their abuse.

If they’re guilty of something, projecting the blame onto you is their escape route. According to relationship therapist Carolyn Cole, “A common one is if they’re cheating. If so, they will continually accuse their partner of being unfaithful.” This form of manipulation makes it so you’re too busy defending yourself, which keeps the focus off of them and instead, on you. It’s emotional abuse at its worst.

Keeping you exhausted.
Constantly battling with a gaslighter  keeps you exhausted. You’ll lose sleep, energy, and time trying to prove their faults, while your mental health plunges into chaos. Psychologically, you’ll feel overwhelmed and possibly even depressed.

You’ll often feel like you’re losing your mind. As Joshua Klapow, a clinical psychologist, explains, “It’s literally a manipulative attempt at making another person think they’re losing their ability to think, remember, and be rational.” Over time, your abuser will wear you down. You’ll start losing the will to defend your boundaries and values as the gaslighter continues to erode your sense of self. Eventually, you’ll feel degraded from the person who you initially were.

Throwing you bait to reel you back.
A good manipulator offers a balance of kindness and abuse. Why? Just when they feel like you’re drifting away from the relationship, they’ll throw you some bait, a nice gesture or gift, to reel you back. They know there’s only so much terror you’ll handle before walking away, so they need to feed you a little hope, once in a while, to keep you around.

For lack of a better phrase, it’s like throwing a dog a bone. They’re bargaining on the hope that you’ll be grateful for these small tokens of kindness. This tactic convinces you to stay around longer. But that’s when the cycle of gaslighting will start again.

The dreaded word salad.
You can’t make sense of a senseless story. When arguing, the gaslighter will string together an incomprehensible jumble of explanations and contradictions, leaving you utterly confused and unable to battle back. This headache of an ordeal is called word salading.

They know their story doesn’t logically add up, or even flow logically, but that’s the point. The gaslighter wants your brain to hurt so you’ll be too disoriented to argue with them. What’s worse, the more you try to patch the truth together, the more they’ll complicate the word salad, entangling you deeper into their web of nonsense.

Use triangulation.
Triangulation is the technique of smearing your viewpoint by dragging outsiders into your argument. First, they’ll flip the story and then, they’ll manipulate others into disagreeing with you—information they’ll later use against you. This tactic is intended to discredit you during disagreements. In their mind, if they can convince you that outsiders think you’re crazy, you’ll be more likely to accept their view.

Bringing outsiders into your personal drama is meant to humiliate and discourage you. The gaslighter relies on triangulation to put your views in the minority. In turn, you’re forced to question whether you’re right.

It takes a sickly self-centered and insecure person to gaslight their partner. As long as they keep you in a state of confusion and worry, they maintain their power in the relationship. Essentially, gaslighters thrive on power—not love. The sooner you accept this heart-wrenching truth, the sooner you can recover from gaslighting.

Rachel Esco

Freelance Writer

Rachel is a lifestyle blogger, based in Toronto, who specializes in dating and relationships. Her articles have been featured in publications, including “Huffington Post”, “Life Hacker” and “Women’s Post”.

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