What Is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is emotional abuse and psychological manipulation where one spouse distorts reality to convince the victim of gaslighting that what that person feels, sees, or believes is not real, often unjustly labeling that person as “crazy”. The primary tactic and goals are to control the victim’s thoughts and behavior.
The victim of gaslighting will often be made to feel unstable, irrational, and not credible until the victim ultimately agrees with their abuser. The victim is convinced that what they are experiencing is not real, made up, and that no one, family or friends, would believe them or their cries for help.
The victim is also routinely misled, lied to, and manipulated to remain in the marriage. Common manipulative statements that an abuser makes include:
- Saying that no one else will ever love the victim/spouse
- Claiming that the victim is “crazy”
- Asserting that the victim needs therapy or medication
- Stating that the victim must remain in the marriage to support their abusive spouse and the children
Where Does the Term Gaslighting Come From?
The term was used in a 1938 play and then later in the 1944 film “Gaslight” starring Ingrid Bergman. In both the play and the film, the husband convinces his wife that she is imagining things that are actually happening, including dimming the “gaslights” in the house intentionally, with the end result of making the wife believe she has gone insane. It is a powerful depiction of manipulation and control over another person.
What Are The Signs of Gaslighting in a Divorce?
Gaslighting victims are commonly told by their abuser that they over exaggerate and trivialize their thoughts/opinions, and always place blame on the victim. The Gaslighter abuser will always minimize the victim’s feelings or emotions, question their memory, and discredit the victim in front of family or friends. The Gaslighter abuser will use tactics to keep the victim off balance such as shifts in their own behavior. In one moment they can be warm and caring and in the next moment cold and withdrawn (the silent treatment). This warm/cold tactic wears down the victim and keeps the victim emotionally exhausted.
The victim of gaslighting will often experience effects such as:
- Low self-esteem
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Suicidal thoughts
The Gaslighter abuser uses these negative effects as proof that the victim is in fact “crazy” when the truth is that the abuser has caused these mental health issues.
Gaslighting Behavior & Children
Gaslighting goes beyond the victim/spouse and always has an impact on the children of the marriage. This usually comes in the form of parental alienation. The Gaslighter abuser will usurp the victim’s authority over the children with the children directly and outside such as daycare, school, and family members.
The Gaslighter abuser will also turn the children against the victim to the point where the children will not enjoy spending time with the victim or become scared of the victim. As such, the abuser systematically over time makes efforts to marginalize the victim to alienate the victim from their own children as another method of overall control.
How Do You Divorce a Gaslighting Abuser?
See below to learn how to divorce a gaslighter abuser:
- The first step is to build protective resources such as a professional therapist and a hire Westchester County divorce lawyer who is familiar with Gaslighting behavior and personality disorders. Divorces are difficult and divorcing a Gaslighting spouse can be even harder especially when children are involved.
- Good record keeping is a key element when divorcing an abusive Gaslighting spouse. Keep a journal of all your spouse’s attempts to gaslight you previously and currently. Setting forth facts and specific incidents is essential in divorce court proceedings. A journal will also help you recollect events for future litigation.
- Identify witnesses such as family, friends, co-workers, and school officials that have witnessed the abusive spouse’s behavior. This is key because one of the key elements of Gaslighting is discrediting the victim in front of third parties. That’s why it is more likely than not that a third party has witnessed the abuse.
- Use the Westchester County divorce process to help you. Your divorce lawyer can file motions in court to obtain orders of protection and restraining orders to protect you, your children, and your assets. Our divorce lawyers can also assist in involving the police and District Attorney should the abuser commit any criminal acts.
- Importantly, do not tell the Gaslighting abusive spouse you are seeking help or contemplating a divorce. The abuser will feel threatened and take immediate action against you. Consult with a lawyer first.
Experienced Westchester County Divorce Lawyers
You need an attorney who is experienced in dealing with personality disorders such as Gaslighting behavior. Gaslighting is a serious form of mental and emotional abuse that can take years for the victim and children of the marriage to recover from but the first step in recovery is to take action.
At Proto, Sachs & Brown, LLP we will help you sort through the facts of your case logically and compassionately. Our goal is to prevent your abusive spouse from continuing to gaslight you through the divorce process as they did in your marriage and to free you from the abuse.
To learn more about how our experienced Divorce attorneys can help you divorce a gaslighting abusive spouse, call to schedule your free consultation today at (914) 840-5104. We have offices conveniently located in White Plains and downtown Peekskill, New York. We can also conduct a telephone or video conference.