Power in Relationships

How You Get It; How you Keep it; How You Give It Away

Gaslighting

I am in a relationship with a beautiful intelligent woman that continues to actively stare down men who are strangers to her. She engages in this habit openly and without shame any where we are. It is at the very least - embarrassing. I've brought it to her attention many times and she discounts my comments by telling me I am imagining it or she was looking at the wall, or the painting or the ........

I didn't realize this was a form of gaslighting. It is almost solely responsible for a breakdown in our relationship. I stopped being interested in taking her out because of this nasty habit and am about to end the relationship.

What in the world drives someone to blatantly do this knowing it can end an otherwise good relationship?!

Hello, anonymous... Your

Hello, anonymous...

Your discomfort is certainly understandable. No one wants to be out on a date with someone who openly stares at others. I wouldn't want my husband to stare at other women while he is with me.

However, you seem to be jumping to conclusions. Is it her behavior that makes you uncomfortable? Or could it be that you are insecure?

Sometimes we project our feelings of insecurity onto other people without realizing it. It sounds like there is a lack of trust and effective communication.

My husband has accused me of staring at other men in his presence when in reality, I was not. My mind tends to wander and it might seem that I'm not completely focused on the person I'm with, but that isn't true. I might be deep in thought or looking at a clock or something.

Maybe this is what happens with her. I doubt that she is flirting with anyone, or intentionally being disrespectful.

I also tend to be a "people watcher". I like to observe the sights and sounds of my environment because it is all very interesting. It's not because I'm bored with my husband...I simply happen to be interested in the world around me.

It is very hurtful to be accused of staring at other men and flirting. Please be aware of that. She might not be doing that at all. With all due respect, it seems as if your insecurities are the problem here...not her actual behavior.

If she is otherwise attentive and loving toward you, then you have no reason to believe that she is flirting with other men. You cannot control her behavior. You can only control your reaction. If you perceive her behavior as inappropriate, then tell her that in a calm, non-accusatory way.

There will always be other men out there...this is a fact. But she is with YOU and it is because she wants to be. Don't allow your issues to ruin a good relationship.

You describe her as beautiful and intelligent. Then you accuse her of "gaslighting" and say that you want to end the relationship because she makes eye contact with other people. Ask yourself: is this fair? Is this real or is it your perception? Has she done anything to make you not trust her?

Simply making innocent eye contact with others doesn't count. Look within. Face your insecurities. Don't blame her for the breakdown in your relationship. You deserve to feel respected and loved, but so does she.

Best of luck!

Talk about jumping to

Talk about jumping to conclusions Mindy. Sheesh...

Is there really such a thing as Gaslighting and is this what we need to worry about?

Dr.Stern, if you're writing about manipulative, controlling, selfish people, why not call them that and dispense with terminology like "gaslighting" which has no clear definition. Doesn't this type of terminology create a false image of pathology and even imply malice when that may not be the case?

I'm a southern gentlemen and would never leave my date alone at a bus stop (referring to your case study on Rhonda), but having lived in NYC and Chicago, I know people that would do as Dean did. He wanted to escort her home by subway, she insisted on bus, and so they went their separate ways.

Is this "no big deal", or a sign of incompatibility, or a sign of pathology? How do we tell the difference? Isn't this is what we need to know?

I question the idea of making such a determination based on whether we "feel hopeless and joyless" or "have trouble making simple decisions". Might we feel these things because we have issues (e.g., depression) or unrealistic expectations (e.g., emotional immaturity)? Surely there are better indicators than this.

It seems to me that we need to be teaching each other to get in touch with our personal values and seek compatibility with them - and to learn the major signs of emotional health and maturity and the lack thereof.

Just something to ponder along with all the thoughtful material posted on this blog.

Thanks for providing this venue for discussion.

agree with above

I totally agree with the above"Submitted by BPDFamily.com on May 3, 2013 - 8:11am." It is very logical,intelligent,and makes sense to me.

Gas Lighting

My X did it constantly , a bold strong stare that was embarrassing to me and sometimes the women he was directing it to. He told me I was crazy for 10 years, we live in a small town, and guess what? This "strong stare" was something I overheard him telling a friend was "first contact". So everyone is not paranoid Mindy...because living in a small town his dumbness didn't realize I knew some of those women...and they commented on it to me later...

What a joke!

You just gaslighted this guy you crazy fool.

1. With no evidence to the contrary that his woman is rude (and she MAY not be) you first hit him for being insecure.
2. Second (not exactly gaslighting) you claim 'sometimes my mind wanders and my husband thinks I'm not with him, but I am! I'm preoccupied etc.' .OK, so your not with him.
3. You throw this victimmy guilt trip on the writer, saying 'oh it's very hurtful to be ("accused" as you put it) of looking at other men.

Miraculously illogical writing. The sentence structure is good, but the emotional intelligence is tht of a 3 year old.

Thank God you weren't my mother. You are a narcissistic hellpit and totally unaware of yourself, much less anyone else. This is the stupidest answer I've ever read, starting with your canned first couple sentences that condescendingly fake empathy for the guy.

Gaslighting is basically telling another person that their reality is invalid. Do you now see what a crazy manipulative gaslighter you are? SURE it's possible the other woman is staring at a wall, and not another guys butt, however before I suggest that, I'm going to give this guy the benefit of the doubt that he followed her eyes and between her eyes and the wall was a butt blocking her view, and that she wasn't impatiently wishing the butt would get out of the way so she could look at the wall, you dope.

Get off the internet you dysfunctional functional-wanna-be. And take note that I provided you 3 quick examples off the top of my head as to why this is idiotic. I'm being honest, I supplied you with factual examples of my criticism. And frankly - I feel for those under your care if you are a counselor of some version. One nice thing: You taught your audience what gaslighting is through your own example of it. GASLIGHTING IS DENYING ANOTHER'S REALITY usually to defend your own despicable behavior, or to control. "Oh you're just being sensitive, insecuuuuuuure, oh please don't even suggest that I would ever look at another man ... it's so paaaaiiiiinful to me that you accuse me." ... that's what you sound like. Transparent. Barf.

Ahem...exsqueeze me??

You just did to this person what you are telling him he's done. You projected YOUR OWN experience onto him, based on things your husband has accused you of, and then told him he is doing the same thing.

You are gaslighting him and then having the gaul to present yourself as someone who is trying to help people not be gaslighted.

Look in the mirror.

gaslighting

Yes, I agree. Comments seem to loose impact when the accusations have the same intensity.
We all have our wounds, we don't need to look any further than ourselves to start.
It takes lots of healing to keep the difficult things in perspective.

Well Mindy you just threw

Well Mindy you just threw this guy under the bus by putting absolutely everything wrong in the relationship on him, when he is simply asking for a little advice.

'I also tend to be a "people watcher"'

People watchers CAN be some of the most manipulative people around.

'You describe her as beautiful and intelligent. Then you accuse her of "gaslighting" and say that you want to end the relationship because she makes eye contact with other people. Ask yourself: is this fair? Is this real or is it your perception? Has she done anything to make you not trust her?'

You seem overly focused on the man's feelings and point of view here instead of looking at the overall situation, almost to the point of dismissing said feelings or discreetly invalidating those feelings.

This comment page is 2 years old so I won't continue commenting on this much further. Mindy you make yourself out to be someone who has a fine sense of everything that is going wrong around them but you really seem like someone who disguises themselves and organizes others.

Well Mindy you just threw

Well Mindy you just threw this guy under the bus by putting absolutely everything wrong in the relationship on him, when he is simply asking for a little advice.

'I also tend to be a "people watcher"'

People watchers CAN be some of the most manipulative people around.

'You describe her as beautiful and intelligent. Then you accuse her of "gaslighting" and say that you want to end the relationship because she makes eye contact with other people. Ask yourself: is this fair? Is this real or is it your perception? Has she done anything to make you not trust her?'

You seem overly focused on the man's feelings and point of view here instead of looking at the overall situation, almost to the point of dismissing said feelings or discreetly invalidating those feelings.

This comment page is 2 years old so I won't continue commenting on this much further. Mindy you make yourself out to be someone who has a fine sense of everything that is going wrong around them but you really seem like someone who disguises themselves and organizes others.

Well Mindy you just threw

Well Mindy you just threw this guy under the bus by putting absolutely everything wrong in the relationship on him, when he is simply asking for a little advice.

'I also tend to be a "people watcher"'

People watchers CAN be some of the most manipulative people around.

'You describe her as beautiful and intelligent. Then you accuse her of "gaslighting" and say that you want to end the relationship because she makes eye contact with other people. Ask yourself: is this fair? Is this real or is it your perception? Has she done anything to make you not trust her?'

You seem overly focused on the man's feelings and point of view here instead of looking at the overall situation, almost to the point of dismissing said feelings or discreetly invalidating those feelings.

This comment page is 2 years old so I won't continue commenting on this much further. Mindy you make yourself out to be someone who has a fine sense of everything that is going wrong around them but you really seem like someone who disguises themselves and organizes others.

How is this "gaslighting" thing constitutional again?

I thought we still had rights, oh wait, I forgot, we are now "the melting pot." I wonder if that stands for laboratory in some sick man's mind?

Men take it harder when their woman notices another man

Most men cannot tolerate their wife looking at other men in front of them because they don't feel loved and they feel inadequate. They take it harder when their wife looks at other men, especially on TV and movie screens or even Playgirl, Cosmopolitan, or anything that features, scantily-clad men. Just look at the Magic Mike movie for example or that recent Calvin Klein men's underwear TV ad, most men would dare forbid their wife to ogle and lust after fit, attractive men like that. Men are very territorial over their wives looking at other men in front of them.

"their" woman?

First of all, no woman is a man's property or possession to control and "forbid" them to do what they want. Second of all, if a man is so paranoid that they are insecure enough to feel threatened by Magic Mike or underwear ads, they need to examine the root cause of their insecurity. Even in the most healthy relationships, BOTH partners may look at other attractive people..they are human still, however, that is where it stops. Mutual trust and understanding are the core values of a successful relationship...NOT needing constant reassurance by your partner that undermines the quality of the relationship.

"their" woman

Exactly. I totally agree with everything you wrote. You do not become someone else's possession when you get married. Also marriage does not equal death or blindness. Of course both of the couple still notice other attractive people! And any person that is married and claims to not look at other people whom they find attractive is either kidding themselves or not telling the truth.

"their" woman

Exactly. I totally agree with everything you wrote. You do not become someone else's possession when you get married. Also marriage does not equal death or blindness. Of course both of the couple still notice other attractive people! And any person that is married and claims to not look at other people whom they find attractive is either kidding themselves or not telling the truth.

If he is truly being

If he is truly being gaslighted, this is the most damaging piece of advice you can give someone. It would make him doubt his perception of reality even more. My advice to the poster above is don't doubt yourself, and you are doing the right thing. Take it from someone who has had 3 nervous breakdowns from being gaslighted, you best to end it know then live through the ten years of hell like I did.

I think it's important to

I think it's important to define what your speaking of in terms of "staring down" men. Is she doing this in a defiant angry sort of way or is it the flirting type of staring down. Sounds like you have issues no matter which. If your gut says its wrong, listen. You and only you gets to decide what you allow in your life so live that.

in the dark

i going thru a really difficult time in my marriage right now. Everyday feels like a part of me is cipping off bit by bit. Frequently i feel like i dont know myself anymore...and cant seem to control any situation in my life anymore. i dont know whether i'm being gas lighted, or im the one who is going crazy in this relationship, or whether im in some other form of abusive relationship ..when i get a chance, i try to blog my worries online just to get things off my chest as i have really no one else to turn to or talk to. .. my blog http://cashwilliams84.blog.com/ i dont really know what to do with myself

I can only speak of my own

I can only speak of my own experience. What is his reaction to you when you make a point, question him on his behaviour, or try to stand up for yourself? Does he lie, deny, omit the truth? Does he tell you you're imagining it, or you are being overly sensitive? Do you no longer feel you have the strength to make a stand? Is there a time in your life, looking back, when you feel you've lost your feet and Reality isn't what you thought it was and it all stems from interactions with your partner? Do you wonder how someone who was a strong as you were can be brought to your knees, without you even knowing how it happened?

Of course not all situations are like mine, but if your experience is something like this then you have been gaslighted.

could a parent do this to a

could a parent do this to a child? because this is what i am getting from my mother. please help.

When you start with

When you start with assumptions, the truth will elude you.
There is nothing like a fresh start in life without disruptions.

Me too. Its very confusing

Me too. Its very confusing and enraging. Then when the defensive rage comes because she accuses me of vague "wrongs" and then refuses to explain or debate...the rage she creates in me gives her self-righteous satisfaction. She doesnt care how much I cry out in confusion or plead for answers. I beg her to please explain and tell me why Im wrong. She ignores me and lets me melt down. She is cruel and plays the victim on top of it when I crack and lash out in anger! Its so horrible. I always turn into that hurt little child, "I HATE YOU!I HATE YOU!" Then I get to feel like a fool and ashamed.

She often does it on top of an already difficult emotional time. ie My teenage sons in rebellion and being very hurtful. She accuses ME of having a "tone" with HIM!HOW? WHY?! Oh no, she cant answer such questions...Then the pain of a lifetime of her cuts rears its ugly head again. RAGE HURT CONFUSION! Why mommy why...ie heres a VERY common scenario: as children, my sister does something VERY mean to me. Mom ignores the assault per usual. I respond by calling her(my sister) "a brat". Mom-"dont call her a brat!" THOUSANDS OF SUCH ASSAULTS! Logic does not apply,rules do not apply,fairness does not apply...

Absolutely!

After my parents divorced, and my mother moved out, leaving me with my emotionally unstable father, I would call her and tell her all the horrible things that were going on in the house. Her response was ALWAYS, "It's not as bad as it seems." Years later when I had some therapy under my belt and repressed memories of abuse came to the surface, I told her what he had done to me. Her response was, "You're not remembering things correctly." I think invalidation may be at the core of gas lighting, but it's about making someone doubt their feelings, instincts, thoughts and memories. I'm not saying she did it on purpose; I think she was and is in incredible denial, but it's a horrible feeling that I never want to cause in anyone else!

At least you know this is

At least you know this is something you will never do to your own children. I am so careful with my interactions with my kids to ensure they know there are people in the world who are like this.

Are You Being Gaslighted?

Oh My God. I thought I was through with being gaslighted. I recently found the term and its meaning. I was in a relationship (my ex husband) who was a classic gaslighter. I have been divorced from him for almost 20 years. However, a work situation, too bizarre to discuss here, has led to gaslighting on the job more than once, and by extension into the community thanks to ex colleagues. Your description, however, also describes my current relationship with certain family members. I have been feeling that things were not right in the home for some time, and I know this is also an extension of the workplace issue. Very nosy nervy backstabbers. What a great article. Thanks so much for writing it.

You are not so great!

My husband has compared me to another woman unfavorably but then completely denies that he intends this to suggest that he fels attracted to or has any affection for the other woman. He actually said that she made him happier than I had made him in years! Then denied that he had had a relationship with her!

It happened so completely out of the blue and was so cruel and unexpected that I chose to believe him at the time but then began to realize that his words could only have meant what they meant.

yet he still deny that he had any feelings for her and in fact says that he was trying to say that he missed and loved me and did not want this person to get in the way of our relationship? he now insisits that she was trying to force her way in between us!

I became so confused and depressed and now am finally coming to my senses. has never done this before, in 13 years of marriage and that is why it is so difficult to accept and believe. This has caused a major traumatic episode for me. This IS gaslighting in is's most virulent form!

Remember what Maya Angelou

Remember what Maya Angelou always says: When someone shows you who they are, believe them! The first time!

Gaslighting for children and teens

Dear Robin and readers:

Am wondering whether and to what extent the 'gaslighting' phenomenon applies to children and teenagers, who are still forming their reality and identity.

Thank you for the signs listed.

Is it always intentional? Or is the pattern there?

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.

More information about formatting options

Robin Stern is a licensed psychoanalyst in private practice and the author of The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life.

more...

Subscribe to Power in Relationships

Current Issue

Dreams of Glory

Daydreaming: How the best ideas emerge from the ether.