LOVE SCENE INVESTIGATION
My beloved Granny had died and I had grieved for weeks. My fiance Gregor was soldiering through my sadness but I could tell it wore on him. To break the cycle of misery, Gregor took me out for a night of drinking at the West End Bar & Grill with our friends from Law School. I got pretty wasted but Gregor got me home with no mishaps or scraped knees. When I awoke the next morning Gregor was incensed — he told me I had embarrassed everyone my hitting on and making out with a strange man at the bar. He said that I had done it not once, but twice, and had to literally be dragged off the guy. Hearing this tale of my misbehavior, I became emotionally overwhelmed and cried and apologized to Gregor. I begged his forgiveness — I figured Iwas so drunk I guess I just couldn’t remember doing any of that. So imagine my surprise when I spoke with my friends who hung out with us that night and they told me the drunken makeout sessions had never happened.
My boyfriend Dallas and I are co-habitating — that means living together in sin. We split the rent and utilities but keep our own cars, bank accounts and credit cards. I do really well financially but we live pretty frugally so I feel good about the 50-50 split. But whenever we go to the grocery store or out to eat, he magically forgets his wallet and asks me to spot him so he can pay me back later. Later when I ask him about paying me back, Dallas mumbles “Oh, yeah…” with a wistful look in his eye. And then conveniently forgets to pay me back. When I came back from a business trip to Europe with a bunch of euros, Dallas grabbed them, converted them to American dollars and went clothes shopping for himself. I confronted him. He said, “That’s our money – don’t you remember you gave it to me?” I’m like, say what?
I watched my friend Basia go through a horrible relationship with a manipulative guy named Brandon. The biggest red flag in her relationship was lying. Brandon would totally lie about everything, even little things that didn’t really matter – where he ate lunch, what he ate for lunch, what the weather was like that day, what movie came in the mail from Netflix. He seemed to wanna fog Basia’s perception with cross-talk. Basia’es “good girlfriend” attitude made her give in about these little annoying issues that really didn’t seem to matter. Brandon’s big campaign was to tell Basia that most of their circle of friends had said mean and hurtful things about her. The result was that Basia shied away from all their friends, their get-togethers and their parties. Within that time period, Brandon did a lot of f***ed up things like cheating on her with men and stealing from Basia. When caught in his lies & schemes, Brandon went to extremes to press her buttons. He made her feel it was her fault, he overwhelmed her with guilt for being too busy for him and driving him to “comfort elsewhere.” He basically gave her a whole song & dance to make her believe he was a good person that couldn’t that she was slacking girlfriend and a lightning rod of drama. Brandon was thus able to really spin the facts and control everything Basia did. And he never seemed to feel guilty or sorry at all. She was just this mule for him to ride, whip, whatever.
The term gaslighting comes from the 1944 mystery-thriller film Gaslight in which a man plays a series of tricks, including adjusting the gas lamps to be dimmer than usual, to destroy his wife’s sanity. It’s abuse because the perpetrator lies to make you doubt your own memory and experience of events. It’s disorienting to be told you’re wrong about events. But the gaslighter seizes upon your confusion to implant their version of the facts. Because our loved ones come across as charming and well-intentioned, our trust in them enables them to convince us the sky was green when it was blue.
The territory for gaslighting are myriad:
- Deception “I never touched your can keys.”
- Denial “That woman I tongued down at the party is just a friend.”
- Details “We met on a Friday morning, not a Thursday night.”
The punch line for all these gaslights are the announcements that, “You’re crazy” or “You’re wrong.”
In relationships, there’s a lot of pressure to just get along. The first key is being aware that such a subtle and destructive dynamic even exists. Gaslighting is sneaky and byzantine but real.
Everybody disagrees at some point about what time or day it was. The difference with gaslighting is that it’s an aggressive pattern that forces you to abandon your memories of reality. You keep giving in and you might feel crazy, have a nervous breakdown or even become suicidal.
Resisting gaslighters depends on trusting your own judgements and versions of stories. And the reveal of your loved one as a Gaslighter might be enough to end the gaslighting mindgame as well as your entire relationship.
Your happiness and sanity, your human freedom & dignity come first.