Do you feel like your spouse is dismissive of your feelings during a disagreement? Do they deny things even though you have evidence? Do you find yourself questioning what is real and ultimately apologizing to your spouse for acting ‘crazy’? If so, you may be experiencing gaslighting in your marriage.
In a marriage, disagreements with your spouse are bound to happen and sometimes people forget small details or perceive things differently. However, a pattern of dismissive behavior that causes you to constantly question your reality is a key sign of gaslighting. While disagreements are a normal part of marriage, gaslighting is not. If you are not sure if you are being gaslighted, see “5 Signs of Gaslighting in a Marriage”.
If gaslighting has become an unfortunate part of your marriage, here are three tips to deal with it:
Realize You Are Not at Fault
An unfortunate effect of gaslighting is that it makes the person being gaslighted believe that they are constantly at fault for their spouse’s behavior, when in reality this is far from the truth. If you are being gaslighted, it is important to realize that it is not your fault and there is nothing you could have done to prevent it. Gaslighters have deep insecurities that cause them to seek power and control. By controlling your perception of reality, they ultimately have control over you. This control makes them feel both superior and safe, and they do not like to relinquish this control. Although this does not excuse gaslighting, realizing that is not personal can help you deal with it better.
Take Care of Yourself
A gaslighting spouse will also likely try to isolate you from your social circle, hurt your self-esteem, and can even cause feelings of depression. To deal with gaslighting in a marriage, it is important to realize these things and promote self-care as a coping mechanism. Maintaining social relationships will allow you to have others confirm your worth and perception of reality. Gaslighters try to isolate you as a way of making you think they are the only person that cares about you. Maintaining social relationships helps you to see that this is not true. Social relationships also benefit your self-esteem. Because gaslighters are constantly belittling you, it is important to remind yourself that you are important, worth love, and capable. Ultimately, social isolation and a deflated sense of self-esteem can cause you to fall into a depression. For this reason, it may be beneficial for you to work with a licensed psychologist when dealing with gaslighting in a marriage.
Don’t Expect Them to Change on Their Own
The majority of gaslighters are unable to just stop their behaviors. This is partially because gaslighting behaviors have become a part of their personality and they don’t know any other way to interact with people. They may also feel that they are not doing anything wrong because to them, you are the problem. This is not to say that gaslighters are not capable of change. However, to truly change, most gaslighters will need to willingly (emphasis on willingly), make the decision to get help from a licensed psychologist. In most cases, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help a gaslighter to improve themselves. Therapy is by far the best way to deal with gaslighting in a marriage. Additionally, couples therapy can be beneficial when dealing with gaslighting in a marriage.
Dealing with gaslighting in a marriage is no easy task. On its own, marriage is hard enough. Gaslighting only makes things worse and places additional strain on the marriage. While these three tips can help you better deal with your spouse, gaslighting can usually only be resolved through couples and or individual therapy.
Dr. Miller is trained in Adult, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. She is also trained in Anesthesia and Pain Management. Because of her broad experience, Dr. Miller is uniquely qualified to treat psychological trauma, depression and anxiety that can occur as a result of injury or disability. For more information, schedule a consultation at NJ Family Psychiatry & Therapy.