Gaslighting is term I learned about 3 years ago, 2 years into my relationship with A2. I was complaining in a private Facebook group to some close friends about a fight I had with A2. I was reaching out and asking my friends if I was right to be upset. A friend told me to look the term up, and I was surprised. Holy cow, this was my life! So, what is gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a type of mental abuse as well as a type of manipulation. The abuser manipulates the victim into doubting their own feelings, perception, memory, and even their own sanity. The abuser may deny that abuse has ever taken place. He/she may tell their victim that they are over thinking things or taking things out of context. It can even go as far as purposely staging events to disorient the victim, to make them feel like they are crazy. This helps the abuser make it seem like the abuse is all in the victim’s head.
A2 was good at playing the victim. If I wasn’t able to calm him down during an anxiety attack, I was the one who was wrong and should have felt shitty. If I cooked something that he was suddenly allergic too (he managed to form allergies to random things throughout our relationship) I was wrong for having cooked that meal. Even if he had tolerated whatever ingredient in the past. When I would refuse to take him to the hospital for something that didn’t warrant a hospital trip (he was a frequent flyer and would go for everything from bloating to panic attacks), then I was a heartless bitch who didn’t want him to get better. No matter what the situation, I was the one apologizing. When I would recall something that he said or did previously, he said it never happened. He’d tell me he never said that to me or that he didn’t do what I said he did.
His discounting of my memory started slowly. I would tell him 5 or 6 times that we had plans and when it would come time for those plans he’d ask me why I never told him. It was the same with my work schedule. I would tell him I switched a shift and when I worked the different shift he’d tell me I never told him. At first I chalked it up to him just having a bad memory. So I’d start writing it down. That didn’t help. He’d still just tell me I didn’t tell him or that he didn’t know I wrote it down. Then he started doing it with other things, with fights. I’d recall something he said and he would tell me he never said that. It got to the point where we would even start fights because of it. I’d go to do something and he’d stop me and tell me to do it another way. When I told him the last time I did it that way it upset him, he’d tell me no such thing happened and make me do it the same way. I would comply and he’d get mad that I did it wrong. I’d get the whole spiel about how next time I should do it different. Then next time would come and we’d have the same fight. Somehow, I always the one apologizing.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t ALWAYS the one saying sorry. But, I was the only one who was actually apologizing and meaning the words. He would tell me he was sorry only at certain times. When he could see that I was starting to break and that I was getting close to ending the relationship, he’d say he was sorry and that he would change. That never actually happened though. He’d sometimes do the dishes afterward or be nice to me for about a day or two, but he always went back to his routine.
Another thing A2 would always do is accuse me of lying. Whenever I tried to back up and retrace my steps or thoughts he would ask me if I was lying. He would tell me that if I couldn’t accurately remember then I must not be telling the truth. The problem with this was, I couldn’t accurately remember because he was constantly altering my memory.
Things got to the point where I would often question myself. Why wasn’t I good enough? Why couldn’t I just do what needed to be done? Why couldn’t I just accept that this is how it is? Why couldn’t I accept him? I was ready to chalk it up to this being my life. I would work my ass off at a full time job. Then I’d come home and do all the cooking and the cleaning. He’d get to lay on the couch and I’d cater to his every need. When he needed to have sex, I’d just cater to that too. It was easier than hearing him complain when I said no. I was just going through the motions. I wasn’t happy, I just was. I mean, that’s what you do for love, right? I told myself that a lot. Love, HA! Truthfully I was just as scared to leave because I was worried what people would think of me as much as I was scared of being alone.
Towards the end of the relationship I learned a valuable lesson. The best way to fight back wasn’t actually to fight. The best way for me to deal with this was to not engage him at all. I learned this on accident. I had come home from work one day and I was extremely tired. He tried to argue with me about something, I don’t even remember what, and I just ignored him. I just didn’t want to fight. I was drained. I grabbed myself something to eat without making dinner and he yelled some more. I ignored some more. Then I sat at my computer, booted up Netflix, and submerged myself into Supernatural. I put my headphones in so he knew I wasn’t listening. I could still hear everything that was going on outside my head phones. I still made sure to hug my lil boy every time he came over to me. I made sure to feed the lil guy and give him attention. It really pissed A2 off and that’s when I realized I had gotten to him. It wasn’t even intentional, I just wanted some peace and quiet. But I finally had my ammo. That clarity finally gave me the strength I needed to kick him out. I finally felt free.