No, you’re not going crazy. You’re being gaslighted. If you’ve been made to feel irrational and oversensitive, or if you’ve been treated blazingly hot and then frostily cold by your "nice" boyfriend, these are all warning signs that you’re being gaslighted. The term “gaslighting” comes from the 1938 play Gas Light in which a boldly romantic but secretly narcissistic man goes to dramatic lengths to make his young wife feel like she is literally going crazy.
Nowadays, the phrase refers to the patterns of behavior that a narcissist might display in a relationship to make his partner feel totally unsure of herself and totally dependent on him. The thing is, because gaslighting is rooted in making your partner feel like they can no longer trust themselves, their sanity, or their memories, it can be really difficult to discern if it’s happening to you. This list chronicles some of the key red flags of a gaslighting partner. Read on to find out if it’s happening to you.
He Has to Have Things His Way
Does your partner have to have everything, even the weirdest, smallest situations, their way? Do they make you feel stupid, irrational, or just plain wrong for having a different opinion? Obviously, (before you say it) all couples have their disagreements, so this gaslighting symptom isn’t just that naturally occurring, inevitable difference of opinion. It’s serial control where your partner REFUSES to drop a topic until you agree with them.
If, for example, your partner forces you to listen to his ideas about the merits of spaghetti noodles vs. linguini noodles until you change your order (and it’s not just in jest, or it feels weirdly serious to you), you might be dating a gaslighter.
Whenever You Bring Up a Problem to Him, He Treats YOU as the Problem
In logical argumentation, there’s a fallacy known as argumentum ad hominem. Basically, when you commit this fallacy, you attack the person making an argument rather than responding to the argument that they’re actually making. Gaslighters are argumentum ad hominem PROS.
So, one way to tell if you’re being gaslighted is to notice how your partner is responding to you in arguments. For example, say you bring up the fact that his late nights are making you nervous both for his and your own safety, and you ask him to call or text if he’s going to be out later than he thought. If his only responses are about you - that you’re crazy or you’re too controlling or you’re being too sensitive - and he ignores the substance of everything that you said, he’s employing a classically fallacious gaslighting technique.
He’s Manic in His Treatment of You
If he’s hot then he’s cold, or he’s yes then he’s no in the way he treats you, you might be being gaslighted. Gaslighters get their partners hooked on their presence through big, grandiose displays of romance or dazzlingly good times that, when the relationship really gets going, they cease to perform. People who seriously gaslight often also show narcissistic tendencies; that is, they’re really good at identifying and pursuing people with low self-esteem.
They then make those people dependent on their presence and attention. And then they suddenly and coldly withdraw their affection. If you’re feeling this grand addiction/withdrawal cycle because of the way you’re being treated, you might be with a narcissistic gaslighter.
His Covert Manipulations Make You Second-Guess Everything
Gaslighters are legendary in their ability to make you feel like your memory is failing you. And for the most part, it’s in their vested interest to make you feel this way. When you want to revisit a conflict that you had with your partner, if they’re a gaslighter, chances are they’re going to have a very different version of events in mind than the one that you bring to the table.
Usually, their version places you at the epicenter of the trouble, and you walk away from the conversation blaming yourself and doubting your ability to remember what actually happened.