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Infidelity & Gaslighting

Updated on May 16, 2018

Recognizing 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.

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.


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    • cheatlierepeat profile image

      cheatlierepeat 3 years ago from Canada

      Guest: Women do this as well! I mostly refer to men in my articles because I write them based on my own experiences. Cheaters are cheaters and male or female all hateful behaviours associated can apply to either.

      Traci- I wish you well. I think there are so many things we all know in hindsight. I was young when I met my first husband as well and I can't believe I stayed as long as I did. Looking back I don't even recognize the person I was when I was married to him.

    • profile image

      Traci 3 years ago

      Thank god I found this. It is my life in detail. It's like you have been in my home for the last 20+ years. I knew when I married him that he had cheated on his first wife while she was pregnant with their FIRSTBORN. But of course he told me she was a "bitch". Always "nagging" at him. In my defense I was only 21 but shame on me for still being here 29 years later. NO MORE THOUGH. I now know I am married to a psychopath. "When you know better, you do better." I shall do much better beginning today.

    • profile image

      guest 3 years ago

      You shouldn't be so gender specific with respect to the terms used in your article. I'm a male, and I've been a serious victim of gaslighting. Even the police and courts were involved, it was very serious, and the gaslighter was female, the victim male. And there are many other males out there too that have fallen victim to this type of abuse. It's really not fair to use those gender-specific terms. Otherwise, was a very good read that I can definitely relate too.

    • profile image

      Head hurts 3 years ago

      My husband had two kids with another woman and continued on with this gas lighting behavior. He ruined our lives. All described above happened for the past 12 years. Horrible.

    • cheatlierepeat profile image

      cheatlierepeat 4 years ago from Canada

      They will do anything to protect a bruised ego. It's easier for him to live a lie then to accept that he's broken. My ex still plays victim (3 plus yrs post divorce). I don't know if your ex falls into the "narcissistic" category but my advice would be to read as many articles on this personality disorder as possible so you can be equipped if need be. My ex pretended I didn't exist until he couldn't ignore the situation any longer and once he unleashed, he never stopped. Just be one step ahead and take care of you first. Please feel free to reach out anytime you have a question or just need an ear :).

    • profile image

      SandraJ 4 years ago

      Thank you! I am happier now, no more crazy making. He is still being disrespectful, he pretends I don't exist. It will be better I think once the divorce is done. It's been a hard road to get to the point of acceptance. Accepting that he's been emotionally abusive to me and a pathological liar. His family is falling apart and yet he pretends to be a man of God. It's total insanity. I am looking forward to peace!

    • cheatlierepeat profile image

      cheatlierepeat 4 years ago from Canada

      It appears so. Are you happier now, any regrets? Even if by some miracle he wasn't having affairs, he was disrespectful and that's not ok either. I wish you happiness on your next chapter :)

    • profile image

      SandraJ 4 years ago

      I just left a year ago after more then 25 years of marriage. Some of my husbands responses to questions were: You impugn my honor by questioning my integrity. I should know how much he loves and cherishes me and shouldn't doubt that when he's out with another women he would never do anything wrong. He would give me the silent treatment for days to show how hurt he was that I questioned him. He would immediately become defensive and tell me it was my fault for questioning him. He'd say he'd do anything to show me he loves me but he would still go out with other women saying he had to because it was business. At times he would finally admit to using pornography after having lied first and then when I would question how could I believe him when he lied the last time he would turn it around that he's wonderful for finally telling the truth and I was punishing him. So he couldn't win because I'd get upset when he told the truth (I only became upset because he'd been lying for so long!) It was total crazy making. After reading this article I am beginning to finally accept that I may have been right all along that he was indeed having affairs.

    • ptosis profile image

      ptosis 5 years ago from Arizona

      State sponsored gaslighting? Excerpt from 'Mind Wars: Brain Science and the Military in the 21st Century by Jonathan D. Moreno (May 1, 2012) on individualized invasion of mental space - P. 171 "Hypersonic sound might be applied anywhere that it would be advantageous to direct a message to a single individual in a group"

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Oh gosh, I love this hub. Yes, all of the lies...I hadn't heard that term until after I divorced my husband...years after.

      I actually met a man in 2001 that was a MASTER at gas lighting. Whew! We have come a long way in our relationship and having it shfit from acquaintenship to relationship to friendship.

      He was an excellent teacher for me regarding this term.

      Excellent explanation of the term. Thanks for sharing.


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