“I never said that.”
“You’re the one who’s being unreasonable.”
If your spouse or partner is trying to gaslight you, you might be all too familiar with the above phrases and others like them. If the gaslighting is happening during the course of a divorce, you must be aware of it and the effect it could have on your future.
What Is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a type of manipulation in which one person attempts to get another person to question their own judgment, beliefs, perceptions and even reality. The behavior often surfaces in abusive relationships when the abuser attempts to convince the victim he or she does not actually have it so bad. “You’re imagining all this,” the gaslighter will insist, despite the evidence from your own eyes and ears.
The term gaslighting stems from a 1938 play (and subsequent movie version) in which a husband continuously tampers with the gas lights in the house in an attempt to convince his wife she is losing her mind.
How Does Gaslighting Intersect With Divorce?
Gaslighting is such a destructive practice that it can quickly require an end to a relationship, marital or otherwise.
Gaslighting can persist into divorce as the practitioner (often a narcissist) may employ it to stop the divorce from happening or in an effort to gain an upper hand in legal proceedings.
Gaslighting tactics in divorce may include:
- Telling you the divorce is all your fault
- Claiming you are exaggerating his or her bad behavior (or denying it happened at all)
- Accusing you of being greedy in seeking property that is rightfully yours
The sooner you identify and guard against such tactics, the sooner you can begin moving on to a better post-divorce future.
Be Careful If You Have Children
If your spouse or partner has gaslighted you, there’s no reason to believe he or she will not attempt to use similar tactics on the children you share. In the context of a custody dispute, such manipulation may take the form of parental alienation, a phenomenon in which one parent tries to turn the children against the other parent.
The best thing you can do in such a situation is to know and protect your rights and to have a strong legal advocate on your side. The law is the law, no matter how hard a gaslighter might try to bend the facts. Exposing this destructive behavior in legal proceedings can hold the gaslighter accountable while helping you break free from him or her and move on to a better tomorrow.