No one wants to believe their spouse could manipulate them. However, manipulative behavior can be difficult to recognize. Your spouse may use subtle strategies to gaslight you into believing that you are the one causing problems in your marriage. 

What Does it Mean to “Gaslight” Someone?

The term “gaslighting” derives from the play Gas Light. In the 1938 play, the husband uses subtle manipulation to make his wife doubt reality. He makes her believe that she is losing her mind by causing her to question reality and even her senses. He accomplishes his goal by turning down the gas lights in their home. His wife begins to doubt herself because he denies noticing any change. 

In the 1960s, “gaslighting” became a popular term to describe manipulating another person’s perception of reality.

How Does a Spouse Gaslight Their Partner?

Narcissistic spouses often use gaslighting to manipulate and control their partners. By manipulating a partner’s perception of reality, a spouse can convince a partner that they suffer from emotional or mental disorders. As a result, other people may begin to believe the partner is unstable, including counselors, judges, and child services. 

By manipulating a partner’s emotions and feelings, a spouse can cause conflict between the partner and other people in their life. The conflict isolates the person from their family and friends. Therefore, the person must rely solely on the spouse, which increases the level of control and manipulation a spouse has over their partner. 

A spouse often denies accusations made by a partner, even when the partner has proof the spouse is lying. The manipulative spouse remains calm in the face of proof, making the partner begin to doubt whether they are correct. Before long, the partner starts to think they are the incorrect one.

Gaslighting also involves blaming a partner for the spouse’s destructive behaviors. In other words, it is the partner’s fault that the spouse abuses or ignores them. If the partner works overtime to earn extra money, the manipulative spouse says that the partner does not care or want to spend time with them. 

If the spouse is having an affair, they may blame the partner for having an affair. They twist the partner’s words and actions to make it appear as if the partner is cheating. In reality, the manipulative spouse is having an affair. 

Signs of Gaslighting to Watch for in Your Relationship

Gaslighting can be difficult to recognize. However, memorizing the signs of gaslighting can help you realize if you’re being manipulated so that you can seek help.

Signs of gaslighting include:

  • Use of blatant lies
  • Denying they did or said something in the face of evidence to the contrary 
  • Constant and slow manipulation over time
  • Using kids, friends, family, and others against you
  • Using random statements of positive reinforcement to add to the confusion
  • Their actions rarely match what they say
  • Projecting their bad choices and behavior to you (accusing you of the misconduct they committed)
  • Doing anything to disrupt normalcy and stability
  • Aligning people against you by convincing you they believe the things they say about you 
  • Convincing you that everyone else is lying to you 
  • Telling you and other people that you are crazy

If you believe that your spouse is gaslighting you, there is help. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline or the California Department of Public Health’s Injury and Violence Prevention (IVP) Branch

You may also want to discuss your situation with a San Diego divorce lawyer. An attorney can help you weigh your options and take steps to protect yourself, your children, and your financial situation. 

How Can Gaslighting Impact the Outcome of a Divorce?

One of the common issues that gaslighting impacts during divorce is child custody. A spouse may use the children as “weapons” against their partner. They may seek sole custody out of spite, even though they have no interest in parenting the children.

In severe cases of gaslighting, a person may appear to be suffering from emotional or mental disorders. These conditions could affect a judge’s decision in custody cases.

Additionally, a spouse who has gaslighted their partner into believing they have no power could convince them to accept a settlement agreement that is not in their best interest. They may forge a prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement and use the partner’s lack of knowledge of the document as “evidence” of their mental instability. The best way to fight a manipulative spouse is by hiring an experienced divorce lawyer. Having legal counsel to protect your best interests can prevent a spouse from taking advantage of you during a divorce proceeding.