- Gender and Relationships
Infidelity & Gaslighting
Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which false information is presented to the victim with the intent of making them doubt their own memory and perception. It may simply be the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, or it could be the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.
The term gaslighting comes from the play Gas Light and its film adaptations. In those works a character uses a variety of tricks, including turning the gas lamps lower than normal, to convince his spouse that she is crazy. Since then it became a colloquial expression which has now also been used in clinical and research literature. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting
The weeks, months, sometimes even years that lead up to the discovery of a partners affair are the most grueling, mind boggling and emotionally tormenting times a betrayed spouse is forced to mentally endure. You know something is wrong, things don't add up time and time again. You confront your partner with pretty substantial proof, ask lots of questions and have all your ducks in a row, but even with all the facts in hand your partner manages to make you think that you're crazy. By the end of the conversation you most likely feel guilty that you even brought it up.
They will tell you that your snooping and suspicions are the cause of your relationship problems, not the behaviour you are accusing them of. This is a form of the phenomenon known as gaslighting, and it's one of the most hateful things a person can do to someone they profess to love. The betrayer chips away at your reality and makes you feel unsure of everything you feel and everything that you believe to be real. You begin to question what you know are the facts, you shake your head and walk away from a conversation thinking "Am I losing my mind?". You wonder if you even know what's real anymore, you wonder if you ever did! This is emotional abuse and it's a cruel but clever tactic cheaters will use to try to cover their tracks. A highly manipulative person can even manage to make you think that the distance between the two of you is all your fault: If only you were a better wife, better mother, didn't nag! They expect you to turn a blind eye and to pretend all is well and if there is a problem in the relationship - it's you.
He will act insulted by your accusations and say you should be thankful for what you have instead of looking for reasons to rock the boat! There is no limit that he won't reach to convince you that everything you believe is "crazy" and "all in your head". He wants to emotionally destroy you, so he can control you!
Gaslighting is a form of control which cheaters attempt to disguise as love, and it often works because it's our unconditional love and trust we have put in them that causes us to listen to and believe their bullshit stories. Fear of losing our husbands, partners and family unit is what makes us buy into the garbage they are selling. We look for ways to explain their behaviour because we are compassionate, and they have convinced us that we are the problem, not them! Some examples of the things they say to get us to stop asking questions are:
You've been acting crazy lately, people are starting to talk
No one will ever love you as much as I do
You're nothing without me
I only want the best for you
You're so convinced I'm cheating, you must be having an affair
Again, this behaviour is all about control, the last thing they want is for you to be asking questions, or checking in on them. They think if they can put all the problems in the marriage on you that you might back off. After all, you don't want to make a bad situation even worse by constantly arguing. Although this is what they're hoping for, it's a game for them! Someone having an affair will actually try to create arguments: what better reason to leave the house to go call or meet their affair partner. Oh, and guess what; it's all your fault because you started the argument. Clever right? Gaslighting is very real and it is emotional abuse. It has happened to many of us, most of us just didn't know it had a name.
I know from personal experience that when my ex husband was finally caught cheating, and there was no more denying the affair that one of the first thoughts I had was "I knew it, thank God I am not crazy". In hindsight, my biggest regret was not trusting myself and ignoring my intuition. I had a sense of what was happening all along, but didn't have faith in myself. If you are in the pre-discovery stage of a partners affair or suspicious of an affair, I encourage you to read everything that you can get your hands on about Gaslighting! I wish I had known it existed while I was suspicious of my partner infidelity. My best advice is to always trust your intuition because that little voice in our head often knows a lot more than we are willing to acknowledge.