I need to talk about gaslighting.
I think that I have been reluctant to tackle this subject because I still don’t firmly grasp what it is. I have been puzzling my way through it for months now. Someone first brought it to my attention in July 2016. I did the research then but I was in such a state of denial about the man my husband had become that I put it aside. I wasn’t ready to face one more scary truth on top of a mountain of others.
I understand the manipulation – the purposeful tactic of twisting someone else’s truth in such a way that their ability to process their own emotions becomes stunted and confusing at best. I suppose my disconnect comes from the question of intentional versus unintentional. If someone does not know that they are gaslighting, does that absolve them from the purposeful and often narcissistic intention behind it? Or is gaslighting simply gaslighting and it doesn’t matter the intent behind it? It just is?
I know that this occurred time and again in the last year of my marriage. I cannot begin to tell you the number of times I was told that I was ‘wrong’ or ‘crazy’ or that my ‘story’ was false, a misperception of the truth. That I was making him out to be a malicious person when he did the hurtful things he did out of a place of hurt and desperation. He has told me that he has forgiven himself for the hurt he caused me and the pain and the suffering he inflicted. He says “I am sorry” like a parrot. When I told him that most of my family will likely never speak to him again, I got another round of: ‘your perception is wrong and you need to believe that I am the bad guy to justify why I left, etc. etc.’ (paraphrasing here). When I call him out on the fact that it feels (to me) like he has left me for a much younger woman, again, I get the ‘I left you for the new me’ which discounts my belief and my hurt and my story. Enter in the constant confusion I still feel.
When I told a friend that my ex had ‘forgiven himself and come to terms with the hurt he inflicted on me’ that friend replied, ‘well la di da. I am so happy for him’ and I think that is how I feel. I have begun to delete my ex’s messages without reading them because they only serve one purpose: to completely undermine my perceptions of the truth. My emotions and my feelings around what he did and continues to do. WRONG.
I have finally begun to completely let go of my self-doubt around my story. I have spent countless hours bawling my eyes out questioning my own sanity – isn’t that gaslighting right there? The minute you think to yourself, “Maybe I am wrong? Maybe I am the crazy one? Maybe I don’t know what really happened? Maybe he was justified in his actions?”.
And if he believes that his story is the true one – that he left me for the ‘new him’ and he made some mistakes etc., and when I tell him that the entire situation looks very different to most everyone else, am I gaslighting him? If denying someone their story or their truth is gaslighting, then it would seem to me that we are all biased and we are all gaslighters to some degree.
Maybe the difference lies in the intent? Malicious and purposeful shaming and belittling. An intentional dagger straight into the heart; straight into the mind. I know that my ex has never once questioned his own sanity; his own truth.
I have. More times than I care to remember. His statements over the past year were some of the most hurtful and damaging I have ever encountered. He said he was sorry. But sorry doesn’t make it go away. Sorry doesn’t put the pieces back together. Sorry doesn’t fix this marriage.
If you identify with these 10 signs, you’re most likely being gaslighted.
- You are constantly second-guessing yourself.
- You start to question if you are too sensitive.
- You often feel confused and have a hard time making simple decisions.
- You find yourself constantly apologizing.
- You can’t understand why you’re so unhappy.
- You often make excuses for your partner’s behavior.
- You feel like you can’t do anything right.
- You often feel like you aren’t good enough for others.
- You have the sense that you used to be a more confident, relaxed and happy person.
- You withhold information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain things.