A decade ago, gaslighting was not a common term. However, it has become part of the popular lexicon in recent years. The term comes from an old movie in which a man convinces his wife that she has lost her mind by manipulating the gas lights in their home. Gaslighting is the practice of intentionally undermining someone’s perception of reality. Someone might insist something happened that never occurred or will deny doing or saying something shortly after engaging in certain behaviors.
Gaslighting can go on for years and can destabilize someone’s sense of self and reality. Those who have recognized that their spouse gaslights them may realize that it is a form of emotional abuse. How can someone seeking to leave a gaslighting spouse do so without compromising their safety and their rights?
Seeking the support of an objective advocate
Most people preparing for divorce would benefit from legal representation. Those in a situation where a spouse has manipulated their sense of reality need it more than most. Professionals can clarify what someone’s rights are, as a spouse prone to gaslighting will very likely lie about what to expect during a divorce. They may also try to deny their own culpability for financial challenges or infidelity. Knowing exactly what to expect from the legal process of divorce because of the advice given by a lawyer can make a big difference for someone trying to leave a situation involving a gaslighting spouse.
Minimizing communication or using the gray rock method
In some cases, people preparing for divorce can completely cease communication with their spouse once they leave the marital home. Other times, particularly when there are minor children, ongoing interactions will be necessary. Having an informed approach to interpersonal communication with the gaslighting spouse is critical to someone’s mental health during and after a divorce. Communicating only in writing via a parenting app will make it harder for someone to manipulate the situation. Using the gray rock technique that involved giving no emotional responses and only replying with facts when necessary can be particularly helpful.
Pursuing emotional and social support
Those recovering from emotional abuse, including gaslighting, often have a lot of work ahead of them. Trying to work out what really happened and heal after years of emotional abuse and gaslighting will be incredibly challenging for someone to manage on their own. Working through those feelings in a confidential setting like a therapist’s office can help someone better identify emotional abuse in the future and heal from what they have already endured.
For many people, simply obtaining the strength and courage necessary to leave a gaslighting spouse will be the biggest step in the process. Staying strong throughout the process of divorce and getting seeking necessary guidance can make all the difference for those moving on from an unhealthy marriage.