Family Lawyers Discuss Gaslighting in Coparenting Situations
Read on to learn more about some common forms of gaslighting that may be controlling you without your knowledge.
Domestic violence is startlingly prevalent in New Jersey. State police reports noted over 64,000 domestic abuse reports in 2016, the last year for which there is data. One such form of domestic violence often goes uncounted, and that form is called gaslighting. Gaslighting is a term to describe one partner’s manipulative tactics to convince the other that they are crazy or psychologically unstable. It is used so that an abuser can gain control over their partner by causing their victims to stop believing in themselves instead of turning to and trusting the perpetrator’s actions. This creates a window for mental and physical manipulation and abuse. The term “gaslighting” comes from a mid-20th century movie in which a husband used forms of mental cunning to convince his wife that she was crazy, and in doing so, he was able to cover up his participation in area crimes.
Gaslighting is a subtle form of domestic violence, but it can be very damaging to a victim’s psychological well-being in the short- and long-term. So how can you tell if you are the victim of gaslighting by a current or former partner?
Lying is often a predominant part of a dysfunctional relationship. When someone is consistent with their lies and uses their powers of persuasion to make another person doubt their own information, the abusive behavior that is repeated dishonesty becomes gaslighting. One way the practice of lying becomes particularly detrimental to the victim’s psychological well-being is when a partner confesses to lies with the excuse that they feared that their partner would have an emotional breakdown. Covering up lies by insinuating emotional instability is meant to create more of it, and often does. The support of a third party couple’s counselor can help discern between a manipulator’s tactics and the tactics of a couple who simply do not yet have the tools to navigate a relationship consciously.
It is normal for a person who feels they are being mistreated in a relationship to confront their partner with their grievances. One telltale sign that you are a victim of gaslighting in such a situation in which you confront a partner for mistreatment is their projection in response to your expression. Someone who is gaslighting will throw back your grievances in your face. For example, if you speak to your partner’s behavior of consistent verbal shaming, they may tell you that you are the one who is constantly verbally abusing them. If you provide evidence of their having cheated, they’ll accuse you of cheating. Even in cases in which their allegations are blatantly untrue, the doggedness with which a gaslighter mirrors your view of their behavior back to you with accusations can become so strong and convincing that you start to wonder if they’re right. When this is the case, and you’re questioning your own good judgment, you are the victim of gaslighting.
He said, she said
Hand-in-hand with projection goes blaming. To distract you from their abusive behavior, a partner or ex will harass you with active blaming for the relationship’s shortcomings. This psychological assault is meant to weigh you down with feelings of guilt and unworthiness, as such feelings block one from their best judgment and clarity of vision. By constantly putting you down and causing you to question your ability to function in life and the relationship, they are essentially trapping you within the frequencies of fear and shame, making you believe that you are not worthy of them and need them.
The bitter side of sweetness
In the same way that abusers use blame to manipulate the victim’s sense of self-worth through aggressive communication, an abuser can adversely affect their partner’s emotional stability through inconsistent kindness. This controls a person by creating a desire to reconcile with their partner despite ongoing subtle acts of violence and discord. Because gaslighting is a symptom of codependent behavior, in which there is a developed sense of needing the other person’s presence and affirmation to create one’s own wellness, the pattern of using “making up” to keep a vulnerable partner on a close leash is particularly powerful and dangerous.
Contact Our Family Law Attorneys Today
At The Law Offices of Jacobs Berger, our team is experienced in supporting victims of domestic abuse across New Jersey and Morris County, including Madison, Randolph, Florham Park, Hanover, Denville, Tewksbury, Morris Township, and Morristown in all matters of gaslighting as a form of partner violence.