Gaslighting: What it is and How to Deal With It

Louis Laves-Webb

June 12, 2019

How to Deal With Gaslighting in a Relationship

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation named after the 1938 play Gaslight. In the play, the main character tricks his wife into believing she is going crazy by telling her he doesn’t notice the gas lights of their home flickering. In fact, he is the one causing the flickering.

What is Gaslighting in a Relationship?

Today, gaslighting refers to this same sort of emotional abuse and manipulation when one individual of a couple makes the other question their own thoughts, feelings, and even sanity. Most frequently used by narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths, it’s a means of obtaining power and, once obtained, abusing it.

Recognizing the signs of gaslighting early is critical. The more the individual being abused doubts their judgments, the less likely they are to leave the relationship, no matter how emotionally abusive it gets. You can’t respond to gaslighting correctly if you don’t even recognize that your partner is gaslighting you.

Signs of Gaslighting

Gaslighters typically use the same basic techniques to brainwash their victims. The following methods of deception are used to slowly shift the power in favor of the gaslighter.

Lying and Exaggerating

Gaslighters love to create a false narrative surrounding their victims, planting seeds of doubt so assiduously that, eventually, the victim believes they are going insane. They create an absurd world where truth appears to truly be out of reach.

Since just one lie here or there isn’t enough to brainwash someone, gaslighters use...


Gaslighting takes time to work. The lies may not work at first, but they gain momentum as they’re repeated. This is why gaslighting can be especially potent in a married relationship with children. The spouse being brainwashed can feel trapped until it’s too late.

In other words, the closer the relationship is between the gaslighter and their victim, the more dangerous and compelling the lies seem. If the relationship isn’t especially intimate, an individual is likely to leave before they lose autonomy.

Giving False Hope

To further confuse their victims, gaslighters will mix in compliments and positive reinforcement alongside their lies. After repeatedly lowering expectations, throwing in even a small victory can be enough to convince the victim to stay. Though it may seem like an offhanded compliment, it is actually a calculated ploy to make you further question your reality.

How to Stop Gaslighting in a Relationship

Getting out of a relationship with a gaslighter is like putting out a grease stovetop fire. If you employ the right strategy, it’s as simple (in theory) as putting the lid back over the pan. Unfortunately, the gut reaction most people act on, throwing water on the fire, only wastes time and can even make matters worse. So what's this simple solution that may go against every instinct?

The simple, “lid over the pan” solution to stop gaslighting in a relationship: just leave.

You need to leave and cut off all contact. In this case, there is no salvaging your relationship. It’s hard to hear, but your partner only cares about their own needs. They will never prioritize you, listen to you, or love you. If you’re forced to co-parent with a gaslighter, limit contact as much as realistically possible.


If you’re worried you’re in a relationship with a gaslighter, be on the lookout for telltale signs. Are they lying repeatedly to make you feel crazy, only to give you false hope when you’re close to finally leaving? It goes without saying, but you don’t deserve to be emotionally manipulated by an abusive narcissist.

Gaslighting can be extremely emotionally damaging and can destroy an individual's self-esteem. Professional help can be integral to restoring self-love. If you think you might be interested in speaking with a licensed counselor, contact Louis Laves-Webb and Associates today.

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