The term “gaslighting” comes from a movie released in 1944. In Gaslight, a husband tries to convince his wife that she is crazy. He intends to have her committed to a mental institution, giving him control over her inheritance. The husband uses several techniques that cause his wife to question her grip on reality. 

Unfortunately, these techniques are not limited to novels, plays, and movies. Spouses often use these techniques to gain an advantage in family disputes like divorce and child custody.

Here are some facts about gaslighting and how to recognize when you are a victim of manipulation by your spouse or ex-spouse.

Gaslighting Techniques

The best-known gaslighting technique—and the one that gave the movie its title—simply involves lying. In the film, the wife notices the gas lamps in the house flicker. This happened because the husband was searching the attic for valuables.

But the husband sees this as an opportunity. He lies to his wife and convinces her that the flickering is just in her imagination.

He also uses other techniques to manipulate his wife, including:

  • Isolating his wife from friends
  • Hiding items and telling her that she stole them
  • Encouraging her paranoia about people judging her or disliking her

Bear in mind that gaslighting is more than lying. It is lying to manipulate someone else’s behavior. This is why your spouse or ex-spouse might use gaslighting in a dispute with you.

Reasons a Spouse or Ex-Spouse Might Gaslight

Gaslighters want you to distrust your view of reality. You are more likely to rely on the gaslighter when you cannot trust yourself. 

As a result, you will:

  • Agree with them
  • Avoid looking into their story
  • Have sympathy for them
  • Do favors for them

Ultimately, gaslighting is about control. By getting you to doubt yourself, the gaslighter gains control over you.

In a divorce proceeding, a gaslighter might convince you that you misremembered the cost of a piece of property. This allows the gaslighter to undervalue what they keep or overvalue what you take during property division.

What Are Some Ways to Detect Gaslighting?

There are several ways to detect and avoid gaslighting. The place to start is by understanding what gaslighting is and why your spouse or ex-spouse might use it.

With that understanding, you can counter a gaslighting spouse by using these techniques:

Double-Check Everything

Spouses and ex-spouses use gaslighting to make you trust them. Do not fall for it. Double-check whatever they gaslight over. You have a good chance of uncovering whatever they do not want you to find.

Focus on Facts

Gaslighters will often manipulate you by playing on your emotions. A gaslighter might encourage your paranoia, like the husband in the movie. They might undermine you, dismiss you, or even flatter you to try to plant doubt in your mind.

The gaslighter will rely on your feelings to distract you from facts. You should set aside your feelings and focus on facts. This might be difficult, given the emotions in a family legal dispute. But if you remain objective, you have a better chance of seeing through the gaslighting.

Set Boundaries

You may need to limit your interaction with your spouse or ex-spouse. This might include having all interactions go through an intermediary. For example, a relative could act as the go-between for communication regarding your children.

If you interact with your spouse or ex-spouse, limit the topics to the matters that will be resolved in the divorce. If your spouse cannot stick to those boundaries, be prepared to cut off communication.

Surround Yourself with Advisors

A critical part of gaslighting is when the gaslighter tries to isolate the victim from anyone who can point out the gaslighting. Don’t let that happen. Surround yourself with friends, relatives, and legal representation. These trusted advisors will help you recognize your spouse’s manipulative behavior and avoid it.

Contact Our Family Law Firm in San Diego, CA For Help Dealing With a Gaslighting Spouse

Whether you are going through a divorce or thinking of filing for divorce, you aren’t alone. Contact an experienced San Diego family law attorney for help dealing with your gaslighting spouse or ex-spouse. An attorney will advise you of your legal rights and protect you from manipulative techniques.

Contact our experienced San Diego family law lawyers at San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC today for legal assistance. Contact our San Diego office at (619) 866-3756 to schedule a free consultation.

San Diego Divorce Lawyers, APC
2851 Camino del Rio S #430
San Diego, CA 92108