Dating and Relationship Advice

Gaslighting is when someone intentionally causes you to second-guess yourself. It's a form of emotional manipulation that makes you wonder if your relationship problems are all in your head. It can be hard to detect the red flags for when someone is doing it to you (because that's the whole point!). But it’s necessary to understand this sophisticated form of manipulation so that you can be a part of a healthy, happy relationship in the future. You deserve it.

Red flag #1: You’re always apologizing

You find yourself constantly apologizing for things that you said and did, and even things that you didn't say or do. If this happens to you, you shouldn't wonder what's wrong with you and what mistake you're going to make next. Making you feel guilty is a classic strategy that gaslighters use to show that you're inferior to them.

Red flag #2: Your confidence has fallen

Do you feel like you started the relationship with more confidence than you have now? Are you always being told that your actions are disappointing or "not enough"? Listen to your gut. Is it telling you that something is off? If so, trust that feeling. It's possible you've been so accustomed to being told that you're not enough that you no longer trust yourself to make the right decisions.

Red flag #3: They project their problems onto you

This can come in multiple forms. For instance, if they’re the one cheating or lying, they might accuse you of doing the same thing to distract from their mistakes and invoke guilt. After all, gaslighters are master manipulators. They will try to turn their friends and family against you to validate their ideas that you’re crazy, useless, or can’t do anything right. They will use their community to isolate you, which gives them more control.

Red flag #4: You make excuses for them

When you’re stuck in a cycle of abuse, it’s really hard to break out of it. So in order for your mind to cope with the situation, you make excuses for the gaslighter. You tell your friends, family, and therapist: maybe it’s their tough upbringing, or some way they were wronged in the past. Still, it’s important to remember that this person is making a choice to act like this, and they’re responsible for their own actions—not you.

Red flag #5: They lie, lie, lie

Dishonesty is a red flag in any relationship, but the lies a gaslighter tells are extremely damaging. Not because they're impossible to tell from the truth, but the opposite: they tend to be glaringly obvious. A gaslighter will tell you that they never did or said something, even if you saw it firsthand. In the same vein, they'll also try to tell you that you never did or said something. If a person denies a fact that you both know is true, this is a major warning sign. Always trust your gut and don’t back down. Their goal is to warp your realty and make you question your perception.

Red flag #6: You wonder if you’re crazy

Even if your thoughts and feelings are totally valid, a gaslighter will make you feel like you’re paranoid or getting worked up for no reason. They might frequently call you sensitive, crazy, or throw other insults under the guide of humor (ex: “I was just joking”).  If you suspect that this is happening to you, don’t be afraid to reach out to your support group for validation. The less isolated you are, the less power a gaslighter will have over you and your mind.

Ultimately, knowing and trusting yourself fully is the best way to avoid being a victim to gaslighting. Develop your emotional awareness so you can recognize abnormal or unhealthy patterns. It’s possible that a gaslighter might change, but it doesn’t happen often.

All you can do is stand in your own certainty, and hope that your partner thoughtfully acknowledges your needs. If they can’t, then it may already be a sign that it's time to move on.

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