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What's your definition of gaslighting?

(82 Posts)
ExpatTrailingSpouse Wed 21-Sep-16 15:10:15

For whatever reason, a lot of articles have been popping up lately about gaslighting, so just wanted to get opinions on what that means to everyone.

I've been thinking hard about it and by definition feel like I've been gaslighted in the past, but then wonder if I'm just being paranoid.

Any examples people care to share? I'd love to hear.

toots321 Wed 21-Sep-16 15:41:03

It's psychological abuse!

toots321 Wed 21-Sep-16 15:41:57

Oh sorry read your post wanted examples 🙈

ExpatTrailingSpouse Wed 21-Sep-16 15:42:01

Agreed it's a form of abuse.

I guess what I meant was what's the difference between someone misremembering something and purposefully telling you something else happened?

Gymnopedies Wed 21-Sep-16 15:42:15

To me it's when someone changes the reality to suit their interest.
For example, MIL telling stuff to DH about me in the car (in order to cause a row but info appear innocent). Then DH tells me and as it is it was incorrect so asked him who said that. He says his DM did in the car, but MIL is adamant she didn't say anything and it was FIL. Poor FIL who has been gaslighted for 40 years accepts it. DH knows better but we let it go to avoid a scene from MIL.

Gymnopedies Wed 21-Sep-16 15:45:24

Sorry for typos! All this happened within about 30 minutes so MIL knew it was her trying to cause problems but wanted us to believe otherwise.

ExpatTrailingSpouse Wed 21-Sep-16 15:53:14

my example that I'm not sure about is this:

At preschool curriculum night with dh and ds - company facility so all kids have a parent who work for same company, in our case dh. We're sitting at a table doing an activity. A parent walks in, sees dh and comes over and says hey dh, didn't know your kid came here too. Dh stands up and says hey parent good to see you and sits back down. I stand there looking at the parent, he's looking back at me, dh is oblivious. Parent goes off to see his own kid. Five mins later comes back over (probably to say bye), sticks his hand out to me and says hey, I'm X name. Then says, actually I think we've met before. I twig I met him at a hotel when he and dh had a business meeting.

Anyway, so dh later remembers this as he stood up and introduced us and told us we had met before! Because I called him on the fact that yet again he had ignored me in front of his colleagues and pretended I didn't exist (he has extensive history doing this). Insisted that the other parent had only come over once and that he had introduced us.

This is just one of many times I feel like he's trying to rewrite events in his favour. It leaves me feeling worried if I've misremembered stuff but at the same time I know I haven't - but they insist so forcefully you're unable to argue with them because how can you tell someone they don't know what they're remembering?

LurkingHusband Wed 21-Sep-16 15:53:29

What's the film the term comes from ?

Having learned a lifetimes worth of valuable knowledge from MN, Gaslighting is one of the key themes in MrsLH and her DM (i.e. my MiL) relationship.

For MrsLH it was having loads of things that she remembered from her childhood being denied flat out in front of me. Especially when it came to our DS ...


MiL: "Why do you insist <DS> should eat what you do ?"
MrsLH: "We think it's good to encourage variety - the same as you did with us."
MiL: "Not sure why you say that - we never made you eat anything you didn't like."

Only MrsLH repeatedly told me that she had been bought up to eat what was put in front of you. The fact that exchange happened in front of me, and upset MrsLH was probably the intention all along."

Did I mention MrsLH and DM are NC now ?

ExpatTrailingSpouse Wed 21-Sep-16 16:02:39

LurkingHusband - thank you, That's a good example. My own dm is a bit like that as well and I do recognize it there ... But for some reason have trouble spotting it with dh.

Notapodling Wed 21-Sep-16 16:14:20

It's deliberately lying to you and making you believe you are anxious, confused or just plain wrong when they know you're not, usually to make you feel bad so they can get away with treating you badly.
They use the fact that you trust them not to lie to you to make you assume that you were wrong.

The person being gaslighted just starts feeling worse about themselves and trust less and less in their own judgement until they have so little self esteem left, they'll put up with all sorts of bad treatment because they can't even recognise it anymore.

I've been in this situation. I thought I was going insane, so much so that when I finally got actual evidence that he'd been lying to me I had to take a photograph because I knew I was in such a bad mental state that I'd manage to persuade myself I'd imagined it and I needed a physical reminder. I couldn't trust my own mind.

I also know of a couple where he planned their fights -- winding her up with little things like eating with his mouth open or leaving socks on the floor so when she finally got cross and snapped at him, it would feel out of proportion and she'd feel guilty and apologise. She only found out because he told the wrong friend all about it. Apparently he thought it was hilarious.

Lottapianos Wed 21-Sep-16 16:18:30

'What's the film the term comes from ?'

Actually, its 'Gaslight'

Both my parents are champion gaslighters. My mother has no shame about flat out denying something she has said or done in front of your very ears and eyes. Its insane-making

The re-writing history thing is more my dad's bag. My parents have a pretty awful marriage and my mother giving him the silent treatment for months on end was not unheard of. He would carry on playing happy families with us as if nothing strange was happening. Pretty shit atmosphere to grow up in obviously. It was confusing and isolating and miserable.

When I was at university, I came home every term or so. During one visit, I noticed that the atmosphere between them was loads better than it had been the previous time I saw them. I mentioned quietly to my dad that I could see they were getting on better and that I was really glad about that. His response to this comment was to say that me and my siblings had been in 'a privileged position' witnessing their awful marriage and had been given great insight into 'the inner workings of a marriage'. hmm Yes thanks so much father dear for showing me how beautiful a relationship can be. Its still one of the most awful things anyone has ever said to me.

Penfold007 Wed 21-Sep-16 16:20:18

ExpatTrailingSpouse I think your name says it all. I'm not sure your example is gaslighting more just your H is rude. Does he have any good points?

Gymnopedies Wed 21-Sep-16 16:25:00

Yes Expat, that's gaslighting. That is nasty and damaging for your mental health and self-esteem. DH tried it on me once and I made it very clear that is not acceptable and he better not try again (or else it would be the end of the relationship).

ExpatTrailingSpouse Wed 21-Sep-16 16:27:58

Penfold - I think this is why i would like to read others examples to see if I can find a commonality.

In terms of whether rude vs gaslighting: for a moment after he claimed to have stood up and introduced us and reminded us of having met, I doubted myself and my own memory. And then stopped because I distinctly remember the other parent saying directly to me "I think we might have met before". And I have those moments of doubt because my memory has worsened somewhat since having ds (not that badly but I used to be the kind of person who remembers everyone's names and phone numbers etc). But then I realize he's just making shit up to get out of being in trouble.

Btw this was done in counselling. 20 minutes later he tried to backtrack and say oh well maybe it did happen the way you said since I've got form for doing this before. And then I'm like wtf? You just insisted 20 mins ago that you were 100% sure you introduced us etc! Which he then tried to deny he said that! I'm like ffs the counsellor is sitting right there and heard you too!

ExpatTrailingSpouse Wed 21-Sep-16 16:30:08

I guess my point is at what time does it stop being them having a "bad memory" and then (consciously or unconsciously) trying to alter yours!

LurkingHusband Wed 21-Sep-16 16:30:27

The person being gaslighted just starts feeling worse about themselves and trust less and less in their own judgement until they have so little self esteem left, they'll put up with all sorts of bad treatment because they can't even recognise it anymore.

I dread to think where MiLs behaviour could have gone. As it is it ended in an assault on me with MrsLH being hurt in the crossfire.

This site has been invaluable for myself and MrsLH, to help come to terms with what happened and what was happening.

I've said this before (and been criticised sad) but the one thing which kept MrsLH and I sane was a realisation - about 10-12 years ago - that the gaslighting was happening. This was before we knew of Mumsnet as a wonderful source of advice and experience.

One we realised it was happening, I was able to catch MiL out. She was very into "little chats" when - mysteriously - no one else was around. Either with me, or MrsLH. An awful lot of these chats were "don't tell MrsLH, you don't want her to worry and make her condition (multiple sclerosis) worse".

So one time I was "summoned" for a little chat - which I was able to record on my mobile. Sure enough, when MiL mentioned this chat to MrsLH, not only was it the opposite of what had been said. Apparently I had said "this that and the other". Listening to the recording, MrsLH was upset, but - having already felt something was "off" - not devastated.

Because we did not know of the wealth of sage advice available here, we felt it was a unique situation, and just learned to accept it. Once we knew it was happening, it was easier to deal with. I like to think we "inoculated" ourselves against the poison. If we hadn't communicated, or been able to communicate, it's probably fair to say we'd have split up.

Lottapianos Wed 21-Sep-16 16:36:01

Its scary, isn't it LurkingHusband? So deeply dysfunctional and dangerous. I agree with you that this site is full of invaluable information about relationships and I'm also grateful for that. When you're first in the situation, you do feel like its unique to you, and in my case, I certainly took a lot of the blame on my shoulders and made excuses. When you do a bit of research, and find out that this is 'a thing' experienced by other people, its such a relief. There's a real sense of 'its not me, its them' and it enables you to start drawing boundaries and refusing to put up with it any more. Very liberating (if very painful at times).

Potplant Wed 21-Sep-16 16:38:08

for me its always stupid little things, that makes you think 'who would lie about that' but the effect is to doubt yourself.
I'm going out for a night out, H is to stay in with the DCs. He says he needs to go see his friend for some reason and asks me what time I'm leaving. I tell him I have to be at x place for 8pm, which he knows is 15 mins away. At 7.55 he comes back, then says that I told him I was leaving at 8pm. When I insisted that I didn't he says 'this is why you're always late, you always get the times wrong'. He goes on about it so often it makes me start thinking that perhaps I did say 8pm. Which I know I didn't. So I'm flustered, my anxiety is through the roof and I'm late and my friends are annoyed!
I've also had that picking a fight about nothing, so he could storm off and I would be scratching my head wondering what I'd done wrong, and end up apologising. Not sure that gas lighting as much as being a knob.

museumum Wed 21-Sep-16 16:45:29

OP - is it just you your Dh does this to? Or is he generally a bullshitter?

My Dh bullshits at work, always glosses over not knowing something and smooth talks clients.
If he's stressed he will try this at home with me out of habit - I always call him on it and he always apologises and stops so I would not call him a gas lighter as he's not trying to control me.

LurkingHusband Wed 21-Sep-16 16:50:21

Not sure that gas lighting as much as being a knob.

Which is the way they get away with it. No matter how much I disliked my MiL (and initially I didn't - I thought we got on well, and I was incredibly lucky to have such a decent MiL) I could never - in a million years - believe that her behaviour could ever be deliberate. Because to do so would be to imagine they were capable of incredible cruelty.

It was only reading repeated stories here that convinced me of what was really happening.

I've told this tale once before, but make no excuse for repeating it.

Early on in MrsLHs and my relationship, when I was working, MrsLH would have various hospital appointments. I always offered to take time off, and MrsLH always said not to worry, and that her DM was happy to help out (with a lift).

However behind MrsLHs back, I would get a call from MiL(or she would pop in) and - just the two of us - she would explain how MrsLH was upset I wasn't taking her to the appointment, but she was far too worried to tell me ... however she would be really happy if I could take her to the appointment but it was "probably best if you don't tell her I told you".

So I would - with great annoyance about Women, and Why Can't They Bloody Say What They Mean - arrange time off and - to MrsLHs surprise - say I'd take her to the appointment.


MiL says to MrsLH "I thought I was taking you to hospital ?"
MrsLH: "No, for some reason LH decided he should take me. Bit odd really, I said there was no need."
MiL: "Hmmm, that is odd. Sounds a little controlling to me ...."

you can guess what a few years of that would have led to.

Lottapianos Wed 21-Sep-16 16:53:11

OMG Lurking Husband shock that's just deranged! What was she doing - trying to split the two of you up?

Potplant Wed 21-Sep-16 17:06:14

LH - that's just crazy behaviour. I'm wondering what she was hoping to achieve, but I know there's no sane answer. She probably doesnt even know herself.

Agree with so many other people that reading threads on here made me realise what was going on. When I started pulling him up on it, especially in front of other people things went downhill fast.
Shortly after we split he tried something similar, arrangements about DCs. He said that I hadn't told him something when I had, which led to How spiteful and bitter I am. How I'm trying to keep the DCs away from him, etc etc. I sent him a screenshot of the text confirming the EXACT thing I said. I felt like punching the air.

LurkingHusband Wed 21-Sep-16 17:09:18

OMG Lurking Husband shock that's just deranged! What was she doing - trying to split the two of you up?

I have no idea - that way madness lies.

As the NC goes on (nearly 3 years now) MrsLH has flashes from her childhood where things didn't add up. So I can't take it personally. It's just MiL is a narcissistic, controlling, bullying personality. (As the drip she has chosen for her partner demonstrates. Although he's a nasty piece of work to. It was he who hurt MrsLH when MiL assaulted me).

Maybe there's a backstory in MiLs past, or maybe she was born an evil witch. I don't know, nor do I care. She has ruined enough of our life, in ways that will last forever.

I find posting here therapeutic (which given the state of NHS resources is a godsend).

Another scheme she dreamt up was to tell me that MrsLH had noticed I was putting on weight (I was - it's home cooking). She knew I was a good swimmer, and suggested I should start swimming again, but to make it look like my idea, to please MrsLH.

So I did.


MiL: "LH has started swimming I see."
MrsLH: "Yes he wanted to lose weight"
MiL: "Are you sure - it seems odd to spend time away from you."
MrsLH: "I don't mind, it's what he wants."
MiL(slight, but obvious pause): "Oh ... well as long as you're happy. I'm sure he is just going swimming ..."

These conversations were quite common, as - surprise surprise - MiL tended to call the evenings I went swimming.

These are just the things MrsLH and I can prove, because we can piece the separate sides together. I have a lot more suspicions, which - if true - make these couple of stories look like disney.

Gymnopedies Wed 21-Sep-16 17:18:07

Ah LurkingHusband, my MIL had the decency to start by insulting me so I was on my guard. Yours is certainly much more on the sly.

LurkingHusband Wed 21-Sep-16 17:27:42

Ah LurkingHusband, my MIL had the decency to start by insulting me so I was on my guard. Yours is certainly much more on the sly.

My family background is far from perfect. My DF is also a controlling person. MiL knew we had a difficult relationship, and so was able to interpose herself as an "ally".

Of course all the pressure took it's toll on MrsLH and my relationship too - to the extent that MiL suggested I seek therapy. Which I did. I then naively reported all back to MiL so gave here the inside knowledge she needed to continue manipulating me.

The biggest irony is my DF warned me after speaking to MiL on the phone for a minute that she was a very dangerous woman. And in a credit to him, he never interfered in any way between MrsLH and I. Of course I ignored him as we all do when we're rebelling. In fact one of MiLs little weapons was to suggest I was "just like my Dad" which terrified me - it's the one thing I feared most.

In another big irony, if I had been "just like my Dad" then about 2 or 3 weeks after moving in with MrsLH, I would have told MiL in no uncertain terms that if she didn't like how we did things, she could FROTTFSOF.

Anyway, dinner calls smile. Probably best to wind down for now ...

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