Still from the 1944 film GaslightI had kind of a weird experience just now.

Last time i talked to NHB, he wanted me to give him more of an explanation about what I thought was abusive about our recently-deceased relationship and I couldn't explain very well. He seemed to want to continue the conversation and to get more information from me. So today I emailed him a link to Trauma by Gaslight, with a little disclaimer that if he feels like he's had enough of my attempts at explanation, he should just say so and I won't send him anything of the sort ever again.

Within five minutes, I get three voicemails and three e-mails in which he claims he is "literally struggling to speak," demands to know "why you keep sending me this stuff?", saying he doesn't know what in the blog entry applies to us, and pleading urgently and repeatedly for me to call him. So I sent him an e-mail apologizing for upsetting him and saying i won't bring up the subject to him again, and he replied with an email that just said, "please be ok." I replied that I am very ok, and I hope he is too. Fin.

This kind of overdramatic reaction to things is typical of him. Perhaps this instance was particularly upsetting to him because of the past-tense nature of our relationship, but this was his modus operandi when we were together, too. And the kicker is, it still works. It's still effective in making me unsure of my own motives ("why are you sending me this stuff?!?" when I'd already clearly established that the intent was to share potentially helpful information with him) and it even got me to doubt whether I'd ever experienced gaslighting at his hands in the first place.

Luckily, there was a link in the first article to Psychology Today's "Are You Being Gaslighted" ("Gaslit"?) that I had open and was reading just as all this was unfolding. I recommend reading the whole thing, which is not very long, but the part that resonated the most with me and felt descriptive of my experience in a relationship with NHB, was this:

She knew her husband would accuse her of not caring enough about him to go to the store earlier in the day. Incidents like this were happening so much at home, Melanie began to believe he was right - after all, what was more important than her husband. Why wasn't she a more considerate wife? She was unhappy almost all the time - and, she really believed that she could be a better, more considerate wife. She began to look for evidence of her poor behavior. Melanie had lost the ability, over time, to see anything else wrong with the relationship, besides that she was a less than adequate wife.

The "your failure to provide what I wanted from you is nothing less than deliberate torture on your part" angle is surprisingly easy to work, and even easier to disguise. After all, doesn't everyone have the right to feel hurt when you disappoint them? What kind of cold-hearted bitch wouldn't try harder next time? A healthy, sane, cold-hearted bitch, that's who.

Why Do We Giggle At Shoe Lifts

JudyWatts on Sun, 2012-10-14 08:04

We loved with a love that was more than love.

"Melanie began to believe he

Stabbity on Mon, 2011-11-28 22:53

"Melanie began to believe he was right - after all, what was more important than her husband. Why wasn't she a more considerate wife?"

That reminds me eerily of my ex. While I was with him, I was so sure that if I was just a better girlfriend, if I just tried harder, everything would be fine.

I wonder if being overdramatic is another potential symptom of gaslighting. Some people are just particularly emotional, but when every little thing that goes wrong is the End of the World, of course that makes a partner work harder to be perfect in all ways. And
then feel like that much more of a jerk when they inevitably fail, because what kind of horrible jerk would just not care about something that's so important to their partner?

Why yes, when something went wrong for my ex, it was always the End of the World, and it was always, always, my fault.

In short, you're not alone, I'm sorry to hear you went through that, and just in case there was any doubt, the experience you just described is gaslighting.

Suddenly I'm terribly curious, how would gaslighters describe their behavior? They're probably not self-aware enough to realize they're being dicks, but if they were, what on earth would they say?

In my experience, they don't

crystal violet on Thu, 2012-09-06 08:18

In my experience, they don't describe it. They just reinforce it. If called out on it they're all "How could you say that?" and "Why are you doing this to me?"

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