If you start to feel confused when confronting your partner this is a surefire sign that you are being gaslighted. Here is what to do to out the person who is trying to pull the wool over your eyes.
In any relationship there are times when you bring up an issue and you end up feeling frustrated and misunderstood. Usually however you don’t end up doubting your own sanity, your memory and your own senses. In a relationship with an abusive person when you bring up an issue or something they have done that has hurt you it is common for them to deliberately draw you into crazy-making circular conversations that don’t make sense.
There are a few things to watch out for
- You feel confused. This is the big warning sign. If you feel unheard, frustrated, undermined and confused beware. Feeling confused is a very bad sign about the character of the person you are dealing with. It is very likely that you are being deliberately manipulated by this person if you feel chronically confused when you try to raise an issue with them.
- This person tells you what you are thinking and/or feeling – they try to tell you what you are thinking/feeling. Rather than asking you they tell you.
- The conversation is complicated, circular and the issue doesn’t get resolved. In fact you end up talking about many more issues than you started with and most of them are something you’ve done wrong even though the conversation initially started with you trying to raise something they had done to hurt you.
- They deny it.
- They blame you.
- You end up feeling at fault.
- You often end up backing down.
- You feel really frustrated like you brain pretty much doesn’t work any more.
- If there was a wall nearby you would pretty much like to bash your head against it.
- They pull you up on irrelevant details to make you wrong.
- They divert your attention onto other issues.
- You end up arguing about the details of exactly what happened and you have the feeling they can’t really believe what they are saying surely? This is another biggie.
If any of this happens when you bring up an issue. STOP. It no longer matters who is right. JUST ASSUME YOU ARE RIGHT. At this point simply DIG YOUR HEELS IN and MAINTAIN YOUR POSITION. If it is safe to do so (i.e., you think that there is no threat of physical violence if this person loses it) then do the following:
- Keep making THE SAME STATEMENT over and over again i.e., your original complaint and use I statements. For example
“I want you to get out of bed to take the kids to school.”
“I still want you to get out of bed to take the kids to school.”
“The fact I stayed in bed until 11 am on Sunday is irrelevant. I still want you to get out of bed to take the kids to school.”
- Hold your course unless there are signs this person is becoming physically violent and keep using BROKEN RECORD.
- Accept no excuses.
“I hear that you are tired but I still want you to get out of bed in the morning to take the kids to school.”
- Push them into giving yes or no answers. This one drives them nuts.
“That is not the issue will you or will you not get out of bed to take the kids to school?”
- Do not allow them to tell you how you feel.
“I know how I feel. You know how you feel not how I feel. I know how I feel. I am still angry that you will not get out of bed to take the kids to school.”
- Do not let them sidetrack you.
“I am not interested in that issue now, what do you propose to do about your habit of staying in bed until noon every day and not taking the kids to school”.
- Ignore accusations, insults and implications that you are being unreasonable.
“That is not relevant to my question. What do you propose to do about your habit of staying in bed late instead of taking the kids to school?”
- If they attempt to portray you in a negative light or bring things up you have done or that you kind of did but not in the way they say and so on ignore them. Ignore any attempt to put responsibility onto you. Carry on assuming you are correct and consciously push the responsibility back onto them regardless of what you have done e.g.,
“Your attempt to portray me in a negative light is noted. You are trying to divert attention from my issue. I want you to tell me what you are going to do about your habit of not getting out of bed in the morning to take the kids to school.”
- Stick rigidly to YOUR recollection at least until you get some movement or concession from them – even if they do start to convince you it might not be quite right. It doesn’t matter. Keep it simple. Do not respond to any invitation to doubt yourself. You could be more flexible and open to being corrected with someone trustworthy but given you are experiencing the symptoms of being gaslighted this is likely not the situation here. With this kind of character you cannot afford to give them the benefit of the doubt. You are looking for them to give pause for thought about THEIR own actions rather than relentlessly trying to get you to doubt yours. Keep going.
“The point remains that I observe you are sleeping in most days. You getting up at noon is not acceptable to me. Will you or will you not commit to getting out of bed earlier to take the kids to school?”
- Keep going do not doubt yourself. You are dealing with a manipulator. The objective here is to unmask him or her.
- Keep the weight of responsibility on the aggressor i.e., your partner who is trying to gaslight you.
- Keep your tone of voice measured and calm.
- Maintain eye contact.
- Do not become aggressive. Continue to state your issue in an assertive manner. Don’t worry you are not being aggressive here. It is not you that is the problem. It is just that they are making what should be a simple interaction into something difficult.
- Do not use sarcasm.
- Do not make threats.
- Be aware of your body language. Avoid raised eyebrows, eye rolls and so on. Consciously avoid anything that indicates condescension or disrespect.
Just use simple I statements. What you want. How you feel. Nothing more and keep repeating it. Stand firm. Keep asking them what they propose to do about the issue.
KEEP THE WEIGHT OF RESPONSIBILITY ON THEM
All you are doing is raising an issue and insisting on a normal human response to you respectfully raising a concern while refusing to get sidetracked. By avoiding threats and displays of disrespect and so on you avoid giving them anything to try to turn the situation around with and make you the bad guy. This gives them no way to dodge responsibility and the fact that their usual tactics of blame shifting are not working will make them very angry.
If you do this I can promise you that the most covert narcissist with their proclaimed virtuous self image will be unmasked. He or she will be snarling, telling you to f*** off and hitting things. You are unmasking a potentially dangerous character so use with caution. By using this technique you will get to bottom of things and see who you are really dealing with.
- Do not feel guilty. If you approach the issue in this way the person is defending a position they should be backing away from.
If this is a healthy relationship:
- They should be trying to understand your concern.
- They should be listening to how you feel.
- They should be making compromises.
This is the normal mature human response to you raising a concern which you have a right to expect from your partner. This is basic respect you have a right to expect from anyone let alone the person who purports to love you. Instead you will find that they are telling you to f*** off, shouting and throwing their weight around while you remain calm. Nice eh? And you thought you were at fault. Now you will see that you were not. It is not you that is the problem it is them.
Keep calm and do not give them the excuse to make you the bad guy and see what happens. WARNING only do this if you believe the threat of physical violence to be small. It will help you see who you are really dealing with and perhaps give you the incentive to leave.
If you are going to stay then you are setting boundaries and dissolving the cognitive dissonance over who you are dealing with by exposing their con. This is better for your mental health than living a lie with this person and blaming yourself. If your narcissist has any hope of changing for the better then by firmly modelling your half of conflict resolution they may decide to grow up and come along with you into a more mature relationship. If not, then at least you know what you are dealing with.