Gaslighting examples, displaying that sneaky form of emotional abuse. It is like a twisted game of “Is it real or is it in my head?” The abuser tries to make their partner doubt their own memory, reality, and sanity, leaving them feeling confused, anxious, and paranoid. It all starts with little things that make you question your own judgment, but then it escalates into a full-blown mind warp. (Also see The Impact of Narcissism on Relationships.)
The following are some examples of gaslighting you may experience in a relationship:
1. Gaslighting Example: Denial of Truth
Your partner denies things that have happened or things you have said, making you question your own memory and perception of reality. Your partner may deny they said something hurtful to you, even though you clearly remember the conversation.
Sarah started to notice Alex would deny things that had happened or things she had said, making her question her own memory and perception of reality. At first, she brushed it off, thinking maybe she was just forgetful. But as time went on, Alex’s behavior became more frequent and intense. He would deny things Sarah was sure had happened, making her feel like she was losing her mind.
Sarah confronted Alex about his behavior, but he told her she was overreacting and nothing was wrong. Sarah started to feel like she was going crazy and began to doubt herself. She became anxious and paranoid, wondering if she could trust her own memory or if she was losing her mind.
It wasn’t until Sarah talked to a friend who had experienced gaslighting when she realized what was happening to her. She began to recognize the signs and sought help from a mental health professional. With the help of therapy, Sarah was able to rebuild her self-esteem and confidence and set boundaries with Alex. Eventually, she realized she deserved to be treated with respect and kindness and ended the relationship.
2. Gaslighting Example: Blaming
Your partner blames you for things that are not your fault, making you feel guilty and responsible for things you didn’t do. Your partner may blame you for her own mistakes or shortcomings, leaving you questioning if everything that does not go perfect in his life is somehow your fault.
The relationship was going great for the first few months for Tom and Rachel. Tom started noticing small indications something was not right. Rachel began blaming him for simple actions or decisions he made that she labeled as “mistakes” or for things that were out of his control. Over time, Rachel’s blaming only became more frequent and intense.
Tom tried to talk to Rachel, but she responded with anger and defensiveness. She told him he was overreacting and he needed to figure out his own insecurities. As time went on, Tom began to feel more and more responsible for Rachel’s behavior. He started to question his own judgment and wondered if he was the cause of all their problems.
One day Rachel said to Tom, “What have you done lately to help my happiness?” and it clicked with Tom that Rachel’s happiness is not in his control. The experience of being blamed for everything had a profound effect on Tom, but with the help of therapy and support from loved ones, he was able to learn to trust his own decisions again.
3. Gaslighting Example: Withholding
Withholding information, affection, or attention can be used as as a way to punish and promote insecurity. Your partner may stop talking to you for days without any explanation, leaving you wondering what you did wrong.
From the outside Emily and Mark seemed like the perfect match for the first few years of their relationship. However, Emily was feeling more and more left out as Mark seemed to be withholding information, affection, and attention leaving her feeling punished and insecure.
It started small, with Mark giving Emily the silent treatment for a few hours or not responding to her messages. But as time went on, Mark’s withholding became more frequent and intense. He would stop talking to Emily for days without any explanation, leaving her wondering what she did wrong.
Emily tried to talk to Mark about his behavior, but he told her she was overreacting and she needed to learn to recognize when he needed space.
As time went on, Emily began to feel more and more insecure in the relationship. She started to question her own behavior and wondered if she was causing Mark to withdraw. Her final straw was during an event they attended. He was kind and friendly to anyone but her – not just his friends, but also strangers or people she knew he did not like. She finally saw Mark’s withholding behavior for what it was.
Emily started on her quest to rebuild her confidence. With the help of her therapist and supportive friends and family she was able to understand her own worth.
4. Gaslighting Example: Projection
Your partner accuses you of doing things they are actually doing, making you question yourself without reason. For example, your partner may accuse you of cheating on them, even though they are the ones who have been unfaithful.
Max was charming and attentive at first, but as time went on, Lily began to notice Max’s behavior was becoming increasingly unpredictable and erratic. He would accuse her of things she had not done, and he would become angry and defensive whenever she tried to talk to him about it.
One day, Max accused Lily of cheating on him. Lily was shocked and hurt by the accusation. She had never cheated on Max, and she couldn’t understand why he would think she had. Max became more and more convinced of her infidelity, even though Lily tried to reassure him that she was faithful.
Lily started to question her own behavior. She wondered if there was something she had done to make Max think she was cheating. She tried to reason with him and explain she had not been unfaithful, but Max refused to listen. He became increasingly paranoid and controlling, even going so far as to check her phone and social media accounts for evidence of her supposed infidelity.
Lily eventually learned Max’s accusations were actually projections of his own infidelity onto her. Max had been cheating on Lily, and he was using gaslighting to make her doubt her own behavior and cover up his own wrongdoing. Through this experience, she learned she was not crazy or irrational. She deserved to be in a relationship where she was valued and respected.
5. Gaslighting Example: Minimizing
Your partner downplays your feelings or experiences, making you feel like they are not important or valid. Your partner may tell you that you are overreacting or being too sensitive when you express your feelings.
Ava loved Jack deeply and thought he felt the same way about her. But, as time went on, she started to notice Jack would often downplay her feelings or experiences. Whenever Ava tried to express her emotions, Jack would tell her she was overreacting or being too sensitive. He would make her feel like her feelings were not important or valid and she was making a big deal out of nothing.
At first, Ava tried to brush off Jack’s behavior, thinking maybe he just didn’t understand her. But as time went on, Jack’s minimizing became more frequent and intense. He would be dismissive of both her feelings and experiences. Ava felt like she was walking on eggshells around Jack. She started to doubt her own emotions and wondered if she was being irrational.
Through therapy and support from her family, Ava learned her feelings were valid and important. She deserved to be in a relationship where she was valued and respected.
Trusting Your Perspective
Recognizing gaslighting can be a difficult and confusing experience. Trusting your instincts is the first step in protecting yourself from this harmful behavior. If you feel like you are being gaslit, know you are not alone and help is available. Seeking support from a mental health professional can help you develop coping strategies to deal with the effects of gaslighting and rebuild your self-esteem and confidence.
It’s important to set boundaries with your partner and communicate your needs clearly. Remember you deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. If your partner is unwilling to change their behavior or seek help, it may be necessary to end the relationship. This can be a difficult decision to make, but prioritizing your mental health and well-being is crucial.
Reclaiming your truth and breaking free from the mind games may feel overwhelming, but working with a therapist or counselor can provide a supportive and empathetic space for healing. With time and support, you can overcome gaslighting and regain your confidence.
Reclaim your truth and break free from the mind games – work with Dr. Guess to overcome gaslighting and regain your confidence.