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Men are raised to think their level of masculinity depends on how much they’re able to dominate and control women. As such, they’ll employ different tactics to wield and maintain power.
Gaslighting is one of those tactics. It’s a simple, yet effective way for your husband to control, manipulate, and emotionally abuse you. Usually, you won’t realize what’s happening until his manipulative behavior takes a toll on your mental health.
The fact that it is a subtle technique done intentionally, and sometimes unintentionally, means your gaslighting husband is able toget away with a lot of wrongdoings. He gains the upper hand in the relationship, while your self-esteem and confidence dwindle.
When done intentionally, gaslighting is a systematic way to weaken you to the point where you become codependent on your partner. You can tell from the gaslighting signs whether you’re being manipulated.
Luckily, you can put an end to his toxic behavior using the step-by-step responses below as a guide.
What Is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a tactic and a form of psychological control, usually employed by individuals with a personality disorder, such as narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), sociopathy, or psychopathy.
They’ll gaslight you by saying or doing manipulative things that cause you to question your perception of reality. The perpetrators usually deliberately and systematically feed you false information to make you believe their version of events is the truth. The acts may eventually cause you to question your memory and sanity.
The use of the term ‘gaslight’ goes way back to the 1944 film, Gaslight. In the movie, the husband deceived his wife into believing what she kept seeing wasn’t happening. After a prolonged period of casting doubt on what she experienced, the woman began to think she was losing her mind.
Interestingly, gaslighting tactics aren’t always intentional. Learn about the 11 Signs of Unintentional and Unconscious Gaslighting.
Gaslighting Mental Health Effects
You may be surprised to learn that psychologists classify gaslighting as a form of emotional abuse. The feelings you experience may be similar to someone who is in an abusive relationship with a verbally abusive or physically violent person. The effects are usually harmful, regardless of whether gaslighting is occurring in a marriage, at work, or in a friendship.
In the case of your husband, he may intentionally, slowly, and gradually create situations that make you doubt yourself. You might begin feeling as if something is ‘off’ or wrong with you. Eventually, you may begin to worry, get anxious, or feel depressed.
It isn’t uncommon for victims of gaslighting to experience low self-esteem after being made to feel they’re emotionally unstable.
Other psychological effects include post-traumatic stress, helplessness, hopelessness, and a toxic dynamic known as codependency. You may become hypervigilant or have trouble trusting others. Spouses caught up in codependency may find it very difficult to leave an abusive relationship.
The emotional and psychological effects are typically the same, regardless of if gaslighting is done intentionally or unintentionally.
10 Signs of a Gaslighting Husband
Therapist Aki Rosenberg, LMFT, told MindBodyGreen that a person gaslights in a relationship because it “keeps the gaslighter in the ‘right’ and their partner in the ‘wrong‘.” To me, we feel a certain sense of betrayal when we discover the person we love is taking advantage of us, whether it’s by lying, gaslighting, or cheating. The following signs can help you know for sure if your spouse is gaslighting you:
#1. He lies constantly or pretends to forget: Gaslighting and compulsive lying often go hand in hand. Your husband may tell bold-faced lies to get you to think you cannot rely on your memory. Lying is also a manipulative tactic to gain and maintain control over you.
#2. He persistently denies things: Denying what happened or what was said is an alternative to outrightly lying. He might say, “That never happened. You’re always imagining things.” Sometimes, he’ll pretend he doesn’t recall the past to escape taking responsibility.
#3. He causes you to question your memory: In some cases, the gaslighter denies things on purpose to cause you to second-guess yourself. Your husband may change the details of what happened and persuade you to accept their version of events as the truth. To create further doubt, he might say, “You always say I said things I didn’t say. You seem to have memory loss.”
#4. He deflects from the issue: This classic tactic of narcissists and gaslighters is meant to change the topic. Changing the subject to divert the target’s attention from a topic. Your husband may turn a conversation about him into an argument about your behavior.
#5. He projects his wrongdoings onto you: Your husband may habitually say you’re the one who’s doing what you accuse him of. Again, it’s a type of deflection, only this time he shifts the blame to you.
#6. He trivializes your experience: A common pattern is telling you you’re overreacting to his harmful behavior. Getting you to think his wrongdoing isn’t as serious as you think is meant to get you to lower your standards. Once that happens, you’ll notice they’ll misbehave even more.
#7. He controls how you should feel: We are all wired differently. No one should dictate your emotional response to something. Apparently, gaslighters didn’t get the memo. They’ll lie or dismiss your feelings, then turn around and criticize you for feeling angry or hurt.
#8. He tells you you’re crazy: Oooh, this one is another classic gaslighting sign or tactic. Calling you crazy or paranoid is meant to make you question your mental health. He also wants you to react negatively to the statement. This way, he could accuse you of suffering from some mental issue.
#9. You sense something isn’t right: Your gut instinct tells you something is off about your husband. You just aren’t able to pinpoint what. You find yourself walking on eggshells all the time and afraid to raise important topics with him for fear he may criticize or put you down.
#10. You feel disconnected from yourself: At some point, you’ll begin to feel confused about what’s real and what’s not. You may no longer recognize the person you used to be. You’re mostly sad, lonely, or depressed. Reality feels like a blur.
How to Respond to a Gaslighting Husband Step by Step
Relationship experts agree that you can find it far more difficult to walk away from a gaslighting husband, especially if you have kids together. You could try problem-solving before taking such a drastic measure.
As you’ll read below, there are steps you can take to deal with the issues in a safe, healthy, and effective way. See it as an interim measure to let your husband know you’re aware of what’s happening.
You can discuss how his actions affect you and the consequences on the marriage if the behavior persists. The step-by-step guide is meant to help you determine how to respond to your husband and end the toxic behavior. The steps involve directly dealing with your husband’s behavior and protecting yourself.
STEP 1. Point Out His Behavior.
Remember your husband’s behavior might not be intentional. With this in mind, it’s probably best not to approach him in an accusatory manner. Set up a time and the right environment to raise the issue.
Explain his actions and point out that they are considered gaslighting or manipulative techniques. Let him know how his behavior affects you. Depending on his personality, he could take it as a teachable moment. He may apologize and promise to be more mindful of his actions and statements.
STEP 2. Hold On to Your Version of Events.
The foundational gaslighting tactic is making you doubt what you heard, saw, felt, or experienced. Creating doubt will eventually cause you to lose trust in your ability to think, reason, and make decisions. That is precisely the outcome the gaslighter wants.
Squash their intentions by maintaining your version or recollection of the events. I know you know your husband is playing mind games. So don’t fall for it. Reassure him that your memory is intact.
STEP 3. Don’t Engage with Him.
Calling out people who are narcissistic, confrontational, or have another type of toxic personality can be futile. If your husband may dismiss you if he possesses narcissist traits, such as arrogant and controlling. He might even call you “crazy’ for bringing up the gaslighting topic.
An effective response in such circumstances is not to engage your husband in the discussion. End the conversation or walk away. Putting you down when you’re there to problem solve only reinforces the gaslighting behavior and its effects.
STEP 4. Don’t Argue with Him.
Arrogant and narcissistic gaslighters take confrontation and drama as narcissistic fuel. Recognize when your husband is turning a disagreement into an opportunity to humiliate, insult, and put you down for highlighting his toxic behavior.
Countering, deflecting, and defending their bad behavior are hallmark traits of a gaslighter. They turn the conversation into who’s lying and who’s not and who’s right and who’s wrong. They confuse and drain you emotionally to the point where you give up on trying to resolve the issue.
STEP 5. Don’t Second-Guess Yourself.
One of the gaslighter’s goals is to get you to second-guess your thoughts, decisions, memory, and reality. Now is a good time for your self-awareness to kick in. This allows you to catch yourself the moment you begin to accept their narrative. Instead of questioning yourself, question what’s really going on.
Ask yourself if your husband is feeding you information you know is false. If you still feel confused about what really happened, talk to someone who might have witnessed the event or overheard the conversation. They can help clarify or confirm your version of events.
STEP 6. Keep Yourself Grounded.
The mind games and manipulation by your husband can throw you off balance. A reduced ability to carry out day-to-day functions can also occur. The psychological impact depends on the frequency and intensity of his behavior pattern.
You’ll need to mentally separate yourself from what’s happening in order to maintain emotional balance. Remind yourself of who you are–a sane and functional individual. Not someone who’s paranoid or suffering from memory loss, as your husband wants you to believe.
STEP 7. Remind Yourself Gaslighting Isn’t Your Fault
A manipulative gaslighter who knows what they’re doing will attempt to shift the blame to you. My ex called me the gaslighter after I called him out for gaslighting me. Don’t buy the BS.
Your husband’s behavior, in this instance, is never your responsibility. He may hold himself accountable if he’s emotionally intelligent. In other words, he's able to see how his actions affect you. He might be more willing to stop gaslighting based on his level of emotional intelligence.
STEP 8. Do Some Positive Self-Talk.
The effects of gaslighting can have you engaging in negative self-talk. You might start thinking you really are “crazy” or losing your memory. You might believe you deserve how your husband treats you.
With intentional gaslighting, the person knows manipulation is working when they see you crumbling emotionally. Counter that with positive self-talk. Tell yourself nothing is wrong with you. Reassure yourself that you deserve a loving and caring partner.
STEP 9. Reach Out for Support.
Gaslighting is a form of emotional and psychological abuse. Don’t be surprised if you experience anxiety, depression, hopelessness, or helplessness, as seen in survivors of intimate partner violence. These symptoms usually occur due to difficulty coping with the effects of abuse.
Reaching out for help from individuals in your emotional support system is crucial. Talk to someone who will listen to you with empathy and compassion and provide sound advice. Those who have your back can play an instrumental role in helping you to recover from abuse.
STEP 10. Show Compassion.
First and foremost, show yourself compassion. Remind yourself that this isn’t your fault and you deserve a loving and empathetic partner. Practice self-forgiveness and reassure yourself that things will get better.
Gaslighting is a learned toxic behavior and a coping mechanism for some people. As much as your husband’s behavior might have taken a toll on you, it won’t hurt to show him compassion. Who knows, your emotional support might help facilitate a change in his behavior.
STEP 11. Consider Therapy.
Behavioral or talk therapy with a licensed professional has its benefits. You’ll have a safe and supportive space to express your emotions. Your therapist might shed more light on gaslighting in relationships and its effects.
They may also explore coping strategies with you and provide tips on how to boost your self-esteem. If relevant, talk to your therapist about safety issues surrounding leaving your husband. They may refer you to the appropriate agencies or provide useful resources.
STEP 12. Quit the Relationship.
“Til death do us part”, if and only if your marriage is a healthy one. You didn’t sign up for abuse, intentional or not. However, we all make mistakes. You can gauge your husband’s level of care based on whether he dismisses your concerns or agrees to change.
Making the decision to leave can’t be an easy one, especially if children are involved. Therefore, count this as a last resort if gaslighting continues. In everything, you must maintain self-respect and prioritize your needs and well-being over his.
Note that domestic violence resources are available here if there’s a threat to leaving safely.
STEP 13. Rebuild Your Self-esteem.
Emotional abuse chips away at your self-esteem. Restoring your sense of self-worth and confidence makes it more difficult for someone to take advantage of your vulnerabilities. Strategies for rebuilding self-esteem include acknowledging the abuse, forgiving yourself for staying with an abuser, and practicing self-care.
Also, create or reinforce boundaries to protect your mental health. If you end up quitting your marriage, going NO CONTACT with your ex is a strong boundary. Drawing the line prevents gaslighting from continuing and further eroding your self-esteem.
Final Thoughts on Responding to Your Gaslighting Husband
Frankly speaking, if your husband intentionally gaslights you, he doesn’t care about your well-being. Finding effective ways to cope with and respond to gaslighting can seem daunting, especially when dealing with a pathological person such as a narcissist.
Once you recognize the manipulation pattern, there’s no other choice but to deal with it… firstly to check your spouse’s behavior and, secondly, to protect yourself!
Hopefully, the step-by-step plan provided helps you to take back control of your life. After trying different strategies that didn’t work, ending the relationship might become the most practical solution.
In fact, some survivors of gaslighting have gone rogue and flipped the script on the offender. Read more here with 15 Ways to Turn the Tables on a Gaslighter in Your Life.