Why Relationships with Gaslighters or Narcissists Can Be So Painful
Gaslighters and narcissists harm your self-esteem and view of the world.
Posted July 21, 2019 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch
Gaslighters/narcissists can cause a great deal of trauma. If you are in a relationship with a gaslighter/narcissist, it may have traumatized you in ways that you aren't consciously aware of yet. Read on to uncover how the gaslighter/narcissist may be impacting your view of yourself and the world around you.
(Note: I use "him" or "he" for a majority of the pronouns in this article, but women can also be gaslighters/narcissists.)
They Change Your View of People Being Generally Good. People tend to start life with the view that people are basically good. If you had trauma in childhood, such as abuse, that worldview changes quickly. The people who you were supposed to trust in your life didn't protect you. If you make it into adulthood with the perception that people are basically good and then get into a relationship with a gaslighter, the view of people being generally good can change. Here's a person who told you he loved you, and then he turned into a monster. This is a person that would drop the "mask" that they wore, and what you saw underneath terrified you. You saw a person who not only didn't have your best interests in mind, they were the furthest thing on his mind.
They Erode Your Trust in Yourself. Part of a gaslighter's strategy is to make you think you are not capable of functioning without her. She will tell you that you are crazy, or that what you saw and heard "isn't really what happened." By making you feel like you're unstable, you start relying on the gaslighter to give you the "correct" version of reality. This manipulation assures the gaslighter that you will stay with her and continue feeding her narcissistic supply. You may start to feel like you perceive things incorrectly. Gaslighters will even hide your items and tell you that you are irresponsible and can't be trusted. They tell you that you are crazy, that they told other people you're crazy, and that your friends and family think you're crazy. (See "Gaslighters Tell You Other People Think You're Crazy Too.")
They Erode Your Trust in Other People. Gaslighters manipulate partners by telling them how wonderful their exes were, or by telling you that they could have anyone they wanted. You start distrusting your friends, people that you meet, even strangers. The gaslighter does "splitting" — pitting you against others, to isolate you from important people in your life. One common tactic is to tell you that your friend was flirting with him and that if you don't start treating the gaslighter with respect, he has other options. Being told this makes you eye your friends suspiciously. It even makes you look at people you don't know suspiciously. You may interpret a friendly person as flirting with the gaslighter because the gaslighter told you how many people want him. Gaslighters/narcissists are also more likely to cheat, which adds to your distrust of others.
They Hurt Your Relationships with Friends and Family. As you read above, gaslighters practice splitting. This is a way to pit you against your friends and family. It helps the gaslighter isolate you so you are not "distracted" from feeding their narcissistic supply. Gaslighters will lie and tell you that your friends and family think you're crazy. They'll tell you the horrible things your friends and family supposedly said about you. They're usually lying.
They Make You Not Want to Be in a Relationship Again. At the beginning of your relationship, a gaslighter love-bombs you. He tells you how wonderful you are, how he's never felt like this before — everything you'd love to hear from a potential partner. But as soon as the gaslighter knows you are hooked, they start devaluing you. The gaslighter puts you on a pedestal at the beginning of your relationship, and then he essentially pushes you off of it—and it is a long way down. From that point on, the gaslighter tells you (and shows you) that they think you aren't good enough.
It can be a challenge to want to get into a relationship again after being with a gaslighter. While it's important to look for red flags, such as love-bombing, seeking them out can take over your dating experience.
They Alienate Your Children from You. Many gaslighters/narcissists see their children as extensions of themselves. They don't differentiate between themselves and their children. They tend to have poor boundaries with their children. When their children start differentiating from them (saying "no" more often, for example), it is developmentally appropriate. However, gaslighters can't handle this, because they demand 100 percent loyalty at all times. To say no to the gaslighter can invoke narcissistic rage. A gaslighter will tell his children horrible (untrue) things about the other parent, to have the child's attention all to himself, and also to "punish" the child for setting boundaries with the parent. (See "10 Tips for Co-Parenting with a Narcissist.")
They Make You Forget Who You Are. You may have had a job that you were passionate about and interests and hobbies that gave you a sense of accomplishment. However, the gaslighter would belittle your interests and career because he saw them as a threat to you devoting all your attention to him. Also, gaslighters can force you to quit your job, and make you financially dependent on them. This is a form of abuse.
- 11 Warning Signs of Gaslighting
- So You're in a Relationship with a Narcissist, Now What?
- Rebuilding After a Gaslighting or Narcissistic Relationship
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: thehotline.org or 1-800-799-7233
- National Domestic Violence Directory of no-fee legal representation: probono.net
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: suicidepreventionlifeline.org or 1-800-273-8555
Gaslighting Essential Reads
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