Some reality TV shows in UK and across the pond in the states have highlighted a topic that's very important, especially in relationships that are deemed to be unhealthy (no matter the length of time which a couple have been dating, cohabiting or even married) and that's gaslighting. We often think as human beings we know ourselves well enough to be able to spot the signs when someone is mistreating us, miscommunicating with us or manipulating us and honestly, when it comes to this technique of manipulation in a couple it can be hard to spot the signs or strategise an exit plan. Glen and I had the opportunity to share our thoughts with CNN recently and here's what we had to say:
Sarah Louise Ryan, Dating & Relationship Expert of Love Lessons says:
Gaslighting, for those of you don’t know, is a term which describes a method of control and emotional manipulation that seeks to sow the seeds of doubt within someone's mind, often slowly and over time chipping away at someone's self-esteem, inclusive of but not limited to, the perception of themselves and the world around them. Gaslighting can be a conscious or sub-conscious method to gain power within a relationship over one’s partner/someone they are dating.
Gas lighters know that confusion creates weakness. A gaslighter will check in before, during and after every single arrangement in your life that they are aware of. The weight of communication with this person will wear you down over time, weaken your energy levels and make you doubt yourself. More often than not, a gaslighter is insecure on a deep level, and so they prefer to know every detail of your schedule - who you're with, when, where so they can gauge who / what is a potential threat to a) how you think about them b) how you feel about yourself and anything that will change your perception of reality outside of your controlled relationship environment.
Gaslighters aim to project their behaviour on to you. Perhaps they were unfaithful and you know about it, maybe you just suspect and they suggest you’re going crazy. What if you’re not crazy and they are so insecure that they just like to physically have their cake and eat it with you and others? Gaslighters are intelligent; they are in tune with how you tick and can find a way to place the onus of their negative behaviour and actions on you - perhaps you made a comment which sounded like a hall pass for them to be unfaithful - so actually it’s all your fault. Perhaps things haven’t been as rosy as they are normally are and there is a friction between you both (maybe that's you just trying to pull back your independence) has caused them to go astray - perhaps that’s your fault too. Is it? Of course not. You are not accountable to anyone else actions other than your own. They might even accuse you of being unfaithful to justify their own actions.
Glen Ocsko, Dating After Divorce Expert of www.adatingdad.com
Gaslighting is nothing new, but it’s also not something that’s going away any time soon. The act of telling someone what they think, even when they know what they think because THEY ARE THE ONES WHO THOUGHT IT is one which is play number one in the playbook of the Controlling Narcissist. It’s all about control; if someone feels they can control your very memory then they can control each and every part of your mind which means they can therefore control you.
Whether it starts with simple disagreements on events or accuracy around conversations, it eventually leads to changing even the very values which make us who we are.
There’s a reason gas lights were phased out in the Victorian era: they were expensive, bad for society, dangerous and caused pain for those caught within them. If only modern dating society were as forward thinking as those who invented the lightbulb and had our own lightbulb moment about gaslighting, perhaps we’d all be a little happier.
Conclusively, as dating and relationship experts it is clear that gaslighting is never a positive element of any relationship and something which people need to be sensitive to. As thought leaders in this field it is incumbent upon us to raise awareness of what is a serious and underreported issue, with few understanding what it actually is let alone the implications it can have on lives and relationships.
Are you being gaslighted, have you been gaslighted before or do you think you know someone who is being gaslighted? Please be in touch so we can share helpful resources and can connect you anonymously and confidentially.