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According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 40% of both men and women have been victims of “coercive control” by their significant other. This is a form of domestic violence which is rarely talked about but is sadly common. Abuse in a relationship does not always involve physical acts like hitting and pushing. Often, abuse perpetuated by a significant other is psychological. The term “coercive control” refers to acts of manipulation, harassment, and humiliation which are meant to tear down an individual’s sense of independence and to make the victim question his or her own sanity. One of these tactics is “gaslighting.”

What Is Gaslighting?

The term “gaslighting” traces its roots to a 1938 play and 1944 movie called Gas Light in which a husband emotionally manipulates and abuses his wife. Individuals who gaslight use psychological tactics to make the victim feel as if they “are going crazy.” Abusers often deny that events or conversations occurred, make up stories and lies, and isolate their victims from friends and family. The behavior is meant to gain control over the victim by making them question their own thoughts and beliefs.

Signs Your Partner Is Gaslighting You

While every situation is unique, there are often patterns that emerge when gaslighting is occurring, such as:

  • Your significant other routinely denies that he or she did or said something you remember them doing or saying. The abuser might claim that you are misremembering the situation or are confused;
  • Your spouse frequently claims that he or she did say something of which you do not have any recollection. For example, the abuser might say things like “I told you I was going to work late tonight! Don’t you remember? You must have a bad memory.”;
  • Your partner tries to isolate you from friends and family. Be wary of a partner who has a problem or conflict with most of your friends and family—especially if he or she insists you stop seeing or talking to them;
  • Your spouse projects faults or tendencies on you that are in-reality only true about him or her. A partner who is engaged in an extramarital affair might accuse you of cheating to take the attention of themselves; and
  • Your partner purposefully makes your life more difficult or complicated. Gaslighting may also  include direct attempts at sabotaging your self-esteem, career, or relationships.
  • The most common symptoms of an emotionally abusive relationship are consistency and escalation. Abusers who are trying to break down another person psychologically generally do not start with something noticeable. Trivial comments and inconsistencies evolve over time to become much more harmful deceit and manipulation. It also not uncommon for psychological abuse to eventually turn into physical abuse.

If you are in an abusive situation, you should know that there are resources to help you get out of it. An experienced Kane County family law attorney can assist you in exploring your legal options and can provide guidance in protecting yourself and your children. Call 847-426-1866 or 630-945-8807 to speak with a member of our team right away.