A healthy relationship can be one of the most exciting and fulfilling aspects of our lives. Most adults desire an intimate relationship with a loving partner, but not all relationships are easy.

Many challenging ones include unhealthy behaviors that negatively impact the relationship; and in some cases, have an extremely negative impact on the health of one or both people.

In 1992, relationship expert, Dr. John Gottman conducted a study of couples’ communication and behavior in their relationship, especially during a conflict. He was able to predict, with 93.6% accuracy, which relationships would eventually end in divorce.

Specific negative communication styles like criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling, behaviors he referred to as The Four Horsemen, resulted in greater conflict and, if not addressed, led to the eventual demise of the couple.

The Four Horsemen are not the only negative communication styles that occur in unhealthy relationships. Among others, Gaslighting is becoming a more common occurrence. So much so, that Oxford Dictionaries named Gaslighting one of the most popular words in 2018.

Gaslighting is highly unhealthy and problematic in any interaction and even more so in intimate relationships.

Gaslighting is a psychologically manipulative behavior used by someone attempting to undermine another person’s reality by denying facts, discounting the obvious, and invalidating the other person’s feelings. When this happens often and consistently, the person being gaslighted starts to question his or her own judgment, emotions, and/or behavior.

He or she may doubt their own assessment of a situation and ultimately question their own sanity. If you can relate to this, then you know that gaslighting can make you feel like you are going crazy. Even worse, the person doing the gaslighting will confirm your madness and ensure you that you are the problem and are, in fact, acting crazy.

But this is far from the truth, and just a manipulative tactic to play games with your mind. Dr. Robin Stern, associate director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and author of The Gaslight Effect, labels the long-term consequences on a person experiencing repeated gaslighting as the “gaslight effect.” 

This is why it is so important to understand what gaslighting is, become masterful at identifying it in your relationship, and develop boundaries and behaviors that combat your partner’s unhealthy ways. People often gaslight to stay in control of a situation or avoid truly dealing with the feelings of the other person or conflict they deem uncomfortable.

You may be getting gaslighted if your partner…

  • Undermines your emotions and feelings.
  • Discounting your perspective in a situation.
  • Says things like…
    • Why are you acting crazy? You really need to stop acting crazy.
    • Stop being so sensitive.
    • Oh come on, I never said that.
  • Makes you question yourself and your feelings.

The National Domestic Violence lists five techniques a gaslighter might use to manipulate someone. They include things like:

  • Withholding this means your partner refuses to listen or says they don’t understand.
  • Countering: This refers to questioning your memory of an event.
  • Blocking or diverting this is When your partner changes the subject or questions your thinking.
  • Trivializing refers to making your needs or feelings seem unimportant or insignificant.
  • Forgetting or denial When your partner pretends to have forgotten what actually happened or denies something he or she had previously agreed to.

For more information on gaslighting and romantic relationships, check out our other articles on PsychBytes.com or reach out to a mental health professional.

Click here for more content by Myque Harris, LPC!

Myque Harris, LPC
Myque Harris works as an Integrative Psychotherapist (LPC) and Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT-200) in private practice in Charlotte, NC. Her passion for helping people has fueled her career as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) for over 13 years. She supports both men and women of all ages across the lifespan, but her practice specializes in supporting adolescent girls and adult women. She is an advocate for POCs and an ally for the LGBTQ community and proudly supports these populations in therapy and in life. As a trained yogi, she incorporates yoga and mindfulness into her clinical practice. One of her ultimate goals is to help individuals connected to their true self and live a rich authentic life. Myque is a mother, loves to read, is a published poet and author, and contributes regularly to shrinktank.com and psychbytes.com. A few things Myque can’t live without: music, love, family, true friends, yoga, and donuts…we can’t forget donuts! Namaste!

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