marriage guidance counselling

Gaslighting in relationships

Does your other half constantly put you down or treat you badly? Then when you react they tell you that YOU are the crazy one and accuse you of being ‘oversensitive’ or ‘paranoid’?

Worse still, have you started to believe them? If so, you may be the victim of ‘gaslighting’. Our marriage guidance counselling can help you see things more clearly if you think this could be happening to you.

Where did the term ‘gaslighting’ originate?

The term has in fact been around for over 60 years. It comes from a 1944 film ‘Gaslight’ starring Ingrid Bergman. In the film, Bergman’s husband tricks her into thinking she’s going insane by dimming the lights in their home (which were powered by gas) He then continually denied that the lights had changed when his wife pointed it out. Source Wikipedia

Over the years it has been adopted as a psychological term in a relationship where there is an imbalance of power. Where one partner emotionally manipulates the other into doubting their own perception of reality.

Gaslighting in relationships

Gaslighting is a form of persistent manipulation and brainwashing that causes the victim to doubt his or herself. Ultimately losing his or her sense of perception, identity, and self-worth.

Gaslighting may not be deliberate or conscious but one partner believes their reality becomes more important than their partners. The relationship may have been good for many years and continues to have positive aspects. Therefore, the other person has no reason to believe that their partner is imposing their reality onto them.

Gaslighting is a form of bullying. And the longer it goes on the more they buy into the partner’s reality and start losing their own. Deliberately or otherwise. Trying to make someone feel crazy, wrong, stupid or paranoid  is dominating and controlling and a common manipulation technique.

Gaslighting techniques

Individuals who cheat on their spouse but want to maintain control in their relationships are particularly fond of this tactic. When challenged by their partner around a justifiable mistrust the accuse them of ‘paranoia’.

Gaslighting typically happens very gradually in a relationship and may seem harmless at first. However, over time the person on the receiving end can become confused, anxious, isolated, and depressed and lose sense of what is actually happening. Then they start relying on their partner more and more to define reality making it a very difficult situation to escape.

Although it can occur in any relationship; within families, between boss and employee and even friends, it most commonly occurs within romantic relationships. According to psychologists, men most often target women in this way, although some women are ‘gaslighters’ too.

Signs that you might be being gaslighted

  • You ask yourself, “Am I too sensitive?” multiple times a day
  • You feel as though you can’t do anything right.
  • You are told things a ‘normal’ even though deep down they are not. Say your partner asks  you to do something you don’t think this is right and you say so – they then come back with something such as “I can’t believe you won’t do this for me. I thought we were a team, everybody else would do it. There is something wrong with you!”
  • Your partner pretends not to understand or refuses to listen; saying things such as “I don’t want to hear this again,” or “You’re trying to confuse me”
  • You are told that you are paranoid or stressed out. For example, your partner is seen out with a member opposite sex whom you don’t know and you ask them about it. There is a vague explanation at first but then they finish with “Do you really think I’m cheating on you? You’re  paranoid and I think you need to see a therapist!”
  • You begin to question your memory of events, even when you are sure they are accurate. You’re told “You’re wrong; you know you never remember things correctly.”
  • You start lying. In order to avoid the backlash you know you’ll get if you say a, b, or c. You were never a liar in the past and you don’t lie to other people.
  • When you ask your partner something they change the subject and/or question your thoughts.  “Is that another crazy idea you got from (a friend/family member)?” 

It goes on

  • You feel your needs or feelings are unimportant and when you try and express them you are told “Why do you have to get angry over such little things? Or “you’re too sensitive.
  • Your partner forgets what actually occurred or denies promises they made “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” or “You’re just making stuff up.”
  • You’re always apologising even when you know in your heart you have done nothing wrong.
  • You frequently make excuses for your partner’s behaviour to friends and family.
  • Something is terribly wrong, but you can never quite express what it is, even to yourself.
  • Making simlple decisions becomes difficult.
  • You sense that you used to be a very different person. More confident, more fun-loving and relaxed
  • You wonder if you are a “good enough” partner.

How marriage guidance counselling can help

When someone seeks marriage guidance counselling they are often unaware that they might be being ‘gaslighted’ . They just know they are unhappy and confused. Sometimes they come along because their partner has told them that they need to ‘sort out their issues’.

Our relationship counsellors understand that victims of gaslighting need help. Help in recognising what is or has been happening to them. Along with the reassurance they aren’t ‘crazy’. This is done through a considered, objective, non-judgemental approach. In order to help them understand themselves and the person they are in a relationship with. If they choose to leave the relationship we offer support and advice to help them through this.

If someone has already left the relationship they are often riddled with guilt and self-doubt. Our marriage guidance counselling will ensure they have a full understanding of how this situation came about in the first place. We will also emotionally equip them to identify and not ignore the warning signs. Ensuring they never enter into this type of relationship again.

Further support

For more information about bullying in relationships

If you feel that you partner is gaslighting you and you need some help. Please contact us at Online Couples Counselling today.


If you are in physical danger or need help more urgently. Contact the ‘National Domestic Violence Helpline’ on telephone number – 0808 2000 247 or on the link below.