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I Married Only Half of My Husband - Gaslighting is a Red Flag

For so many years, I would talk about my marriage to my closest of friends and family, or even to strangers, and I so carefully steered clear of the term “domestic violence”. Let me be clear, that although my husband would eventually put his hands on me several times, he NEVER hit me. He did not physically hit me... so in the moment, it did not feel like abuse. What he did instead, was throw constant verbal punches, emotional stabs and relentless, mind-tangling gaslighting.


Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse in which the perpetrator attempts to confuse and manipulate the victim in a way that makes them question their very own perspectives and memories, to lower their self- confidence and eventually gain control over them. It is a common “red flag” for domestic violence relationships. Those (like my husband) with narcissistic personality disorder are often manipulative, self-centered and without empathy…and will gaslight frequently. It is important to know that gaslighting is not a tactic used, but rather the end result of multiple tactics. Therefore, gaslighting is not something that is done to you...it is what happens as a result of being emotionally abused or manipulated in other ways.

My husband would do this ALL. THE. TIME. I couldn't separate his psychotic breaks, personality disorders, manic episodes, and other excuses for his despicable behaviors...but see now that they are only that...excuses.


My husband would experience manic depressive episodes as part of his bipolar disorder. During these episodes, he would spend weeks, sometimes months, very secluded, lazy, uninterested in his normal interests, tired and extremely negative about all aspects of his life. I would encourage him to get up so we could go to dinner or have drinks with some friends or attend a camping trip or absolutely anything. He would laugh it off and make comments about being old and wanting to just stay home and watch television. He would come up with excuses like we just can’t afford to spend the money on a night out. He would justify his unwillingness to socialize on falsities like he didn’t like the people I was suggesting we meet up with. Sometimes acting as though my mere suggestion was just absurd.

During a later moment of rage, he would start to yell at me, telling me he just couldn’t take this marriage anymore because he is the kind of person who wants to go out and party and I just want to lay around the house and watch TV and we are just two different people!


I was first confused by such odd twists to conversations. I thought my husband must be crazy to not remember what I had said. Or he must be really crazy to not realize he was the one laying around for months while I tried to get him to go out. I really couldn’t tell if he was purposefully manipulating me, or had really twisted reality in his own mind. In the moment, especially in the beginning, it doesn't come across as a purposeful manipulation. For anyone who has not experienced it first hand...they will never understand exactly how easily and quickly it happens. 

As we would drive by a new sushi restaurant in town, he would mention wanting to try it out. Later, I would suggest we try to the new sushi restaurant for dinner, and he would say it was a dumb idea because he doesn’t even like sushi.


He told me he wasn’t attracted to me and couldn’t stand the thought of touching me. And then he wanted to be intimate with me. And not only did he want to be intimate, he wanted me to act as though he had done nothing to make me feel uncomfortable about it. There were times I wondered if he had multiple personalities...one who adored me...and one who had obvious contempt for me. 


He could spend weeks complaining about the size of our bedroom television set. He would say we needed to buy a much bigger set and talk about what extra features it would need to have to keep him happy. He was never happy, and always wanted something more. After weeks of ignoring these complaints, he would start to yell that he was just tired of hearing me complain about the small television, and how I was always wanting to buy new things or spend money we didn’t have.


He would tell me he wanted nothing more than to get me to leave the marriage. That he hated me as a person and that he thought I was a dumb, pathetic bitch for staying and listening to the names he called me…..and then he would refuse to let me leave. Or beg me to stay. Or be full of apologies and excuses about how he gets mad and says things he doesn’t mean. He would cry...he would say all the right things to make me feel sorry for him...to make me want to get more adept at understanding him...at being patient with him...Yes, he would have me believing that there was a possibility it was ME who could change things so that he would quit getting so angry, or quit wanting to leave. Then he would laugh at me later, saying I was even dumber for believing his apology…and then once again beg me to stay, or refuse to let me leave.


It wasn’t long before I noticed that he would also bring others into these twists of reality. If I told him the brakes didn’t feel right and I thought we needed to get the rotors turned, he would tell me I was stupid and didn’t know anything about cars. I would hear him a few minutes later on the phone telling someone the brakes didn’t feel right and he thought we needed to get the rotors turned.

If I was upset about him being fired from another job, or spending a paycheck on drugs and we argued about it, I would later find text messages on his phone where he was telling friends that HE was stressed because it was ME who didn’t have a job, or was misusing the money.

This was every day. It was most conversations. And it was constant. And just as intended, there came a time when I started to question whether or not I was the crazy one.

That’s when I did the smartest thing I could have done at that time…I started keeping records. I journaled everything…and I mean everything. If we had a conversation, I kept track of it. If he had a mood swing, I kept track of it. This was a savior to my sanity, because not only did it help me learn his triggers and behavior patterns, but he no longer had any control over my confidence or recollections. And I tested it. If we were watching a show and he made a comment about a specific actress’s nose, I made a note of it. A few days later, I would make the same comment about the same actress on the same show, and he would respond with something like, “what about her nose? I think she looks fine, you have to be so negative about everyone all the time!” I was no longer stopped in my tracks or confused by these psychological deceptions. I was still confused. Confused about his motives, confused about his illness or what part I must play in it, but I no longer questioned my reality as I knew it. I knew that if I was going to feel emotionally incarcerated in this relationship, I was not going to lose my sanity in it.

{Victims of gaslighting can quickly succumb to overwhelming self-doubt and confusion. It can be difficult to make decisions or trust your instincts, if you have been convinced your perceptions are incorrect. It can damage your self-esteem, make you question your own sanity, and lead to further victimization. Gaslighting is a dangerous form of psychological abuse, and not one displayed by someone who truly cares about you and your well-being.}

The experience of my marriage left holes and scars and breaks on my entire psyche that I don’t know will ever heal. My instincts are in constant question, my identity is clouded by shame and damaged self-worth, my ability to trust is non-existent and I feel helpless with regards to the path my life with take. It might have taken me years to see it, and even longer to say it, but I make no mistake about it now... I was the victim of abuse.

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