Addiction•Betrayal•Emotional Health • 2 minutes to read
What do you know about gaslighting? This is likely a word you’ve heard but might not fully understand. And even if you’ve heard this word, you may not know the difference between lying, manipulating, and gaslighting. Understanding these differences and how they impact a relationship can provide valuable insights for couples who are pursuing relational health and healing.
What is Gaslighting?
The term is from a 1940s movie, Gaslight, where a husband attempts to convince his wife that she’s losing her sanity. Gaslighting, in its broadest sense, is a form of emotional abuse that involves lying, controlling, and hiding behavior. Not all people who lie are gaslighters, but all gaslighters engage in lying and deceit.
Gaslighting often extends beyond mere lying and manipulating; it’s a pervasive tactic used to hide one’s behavior and exert control in a situation and/or over another person. Interestingly, while gaslighting and narcissism seem to go hand-in-hand, not all gaslighters are narcissists, but all narcissists tend to engage in gaslighting.
Gaslighting in the Realm of Addiction
Individuals stuck in addiction often resort to gaslighting to deflect shame, blame, and control. Common behaviors include lying by omission, manipulation of reality, and scapegoating. These tactics are typically aimed at protecting the addict’s secrets and can have severe consequences on a betrayed partner.
Gaslighting can also have a physiological impact on betrayed partners, who experience a shift from perceiving their spouse as someone who is safe to perceiving them as someone who is dangerous. What makes matters worse is the loss of trust in one’s own intuition and reality. This is a significant challenge, making it crucial for betrayed partners to reconnect with themselves, find safety and stabilization, and seek outside support.
How Betrayed Partners Can Respond
Addressing unhealthy patterns in a relationship where gaslighting occurs requires a multifaceted approach. Betrayed partners must identify their role in the gaslighting dance, step out of the destructive pattern, and regain trust in their own instincts. Setting boundaries, standing their sacred ground, and seeking external help are essential steps toward healing and self-empowerment.
Gaslighting, lying, and manipulation can create a toxic dynamic in relationships, particularly for those in early recovery. For betrayed partners, trusting your gut, standing your ground, and implementing healthy boundaries are vital components of navigating the challenging journey of healing from the impact of gaslighting. Seeking support—whether through a group, counseling, or safe friends—can provide the necessary tools to rebuild trust, both in oneself and in the relationship.
How Those Who Struggle Can Respond
For those who struggle, moving beyond merely stopping a negative behavior and shifting toward transforming the way you approach life can be essential to your healing. While insecurity and fear may be underlying factors, wholeheartedly engaging in recovery can significantly contribute to personal growth and healing the relationship.
Being able to empathize with your partner’s pain and take responsibility for the damage caused by your actions, through open and honest communication, can begin to foster a deeper connection throughout the healing process.
In the realm of recovery, recognizing and addressing gaslighting, and removing destructive patterns, is a courageous step toward fostering healthier connections and building a foundation of trust in the relationship.
This blog post is based on podcast episode 253: Gaslighting, Manipulation, & Lying, with Trevor Winsor, Nick Stumbo, and Eileen Fagan. Check out the full episode here.
The views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are those of the author alone and do not reflect an official position of Pure Desire Ministries, except where expressly stated.