What is Gaslighting?
If you’ve been cheated on, it’s likely that you also experienced some degree of what psychologists refer to as gaslighting. Gaslighting, in case you’re wondering, is a form of psychological abuse that involves the presentation of false information followed by dogged insistence that the information is true.
Many people are familiar with this term thanks to Gaslight, a 1944 film starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. In the story, a husband tries to convince his new wife that she’s imagining things, in particular the occasional dimming of their home’s gaslights. This is part of the husband’s plan to rob his wife of valuable family jewelry. Over time, the wife, trusting that her husband loves her and would never hurt her, starts to believe his lies and begins to question her perception of reality and even her sanity.
Today, the plot of Gaslight may seem a bit extreme. Nevertheless, the psychological concept of gaslighting – presenting false information and insisting that it’s true, thereby causing the victim to question their perception of reality – is well accepted, particularly in connection with infidelity.
Did You Experience Gaslighting?
Did your partner gaslight you to cover up his or her sexual adventures? If you think not, you might want to think again. Consider the following lies:
- I never said I’d be home by eight. I don’t know why you would think that.
- She’s just a coworker. When she calls here, it’s because we have a project to finish. Why are you always so jealous?
- Why do you keep asking me if something is going on? You’re completely paranoid.
Do any of these statements sound familiar? Even if your partner didn’t tell you these exact lies, he or she almost certainly told similar falsehoods. And then, when you worked up the courage to question that dishonesty, your partner flipped the script, insisting that the lies were true, that he or she wasn’t keeping secrets, and that you were either forgetful, delusional, or just making things up.
That is gaslighting. And it’s a form of abuse from which you and your relationship will need to heal.
Help Is Available
If you are a betrayed partner and the victim of gaslighting, empathetic, knowledgeable support is crucial to healing. To this end, you may want to read Prodependence by Dr. Rob Weiss — a book written specifically to help betrayed partners. We also suggest our free webinars, discussion groups, and podcasts, many of which are geared toward helping betrayed partners.