About the author, Coach Sarah

Coach Sarah is a Certified Professional, Relationship, and Partner Coach at Betrayal Trauma Recovery, trained by the Association of Partners of Sexual Addicts Trauma Specialists (APSATS). She is passionate about using her story and her training to help people heal from the devastation of betrayal trauma and the effects of gaslighting. Working alongside therapists, Sarah provides support and care through individual coaching, group work, classes and workshops. She’s also a mom to two amazing kids. Sarah lives with her daughter and son in Austin, TX.

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Hope After Porn

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Porn use (and even adultery) doesn't always mean that a marriage is over. Get this free e-book to read how four betrayed wives found healing for themselves and for their marriages.

41 thoughts on “What You Need to Know About Gaslighting

    • Hi Mandy, yes! In fact, most people don’t know when they are gaslighting. In the case of an addict covering up their behaviors, they may be aware that they are not being honest, but they don’t really understand what they are doing to the other person. They’re not “trying” to be abusive/make the other person feel like they are going crazy.” But even non-addicts gaslight. Often it’s a shame response, and people are completely unaware. It’s a complex issue, but that’s the cliff’s notes answer.

  1. Sarah, thank you. After forty years with my (now) ex-husband, I don’t really know if I trust any feeling I have. I have difficulty liking myself and am still, after almost two years of being alone, not sure who I am or what to think or feel. A lifetime habit is hard to change, but understanding helps.

    • Dear FMR…I Very Much UNDERSTAND! I’m married 41 yrs (found out about his secret life 36yrs in😖). It is an incredible amount of yrs to UNDO & find Reality bcause the constant question that haunts is “Was Any of it Real”? In my own personal path to finding ME again I only know this MY Part was REAL! Real Love, Real Care, Real Energy, Real Strength..Real Everything!! It’s why they are called PSYCHOLOGICAL Vampires..U were taken into or rather had a Fantasy World projected onto you (which by the way was IMPOSSIBLE to meet) to keep u confused, controlled and always submissive-in their mind-while they did what THEY WANTED TO DO (screamed at me by my husband when the walls came crumbling down!!) So much for Empathy heh! There is the very deep dark place that u stay in until u can start separating what u were told vs what u know happened. TRUST YOURSELF… Remember the lies then speak Truth to each thing..I used a line from the movie Divergent (when a mind altering substance was used to create very real looking & feeling scenarios as a test for survival). The character repeated “This Isn’t Real” and Survived & Thrived!! I am still “married” but detached from the Insanity of his personality disorder..NOT EASY! However I have found ME again bcause I have a deep desire to LIVE and meet My Lord & Savior..Battle scarred but Intact!! My deepest thoughts and prayers to YOU this Day..YOU R LOVED❤

    • FMR – you are most welcome. It’s a slow, slow process of unraveling all the damage done by gaslighting. I am so very sorry! But you are right – understanding helps! Having a name for it helps! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you’re interested in going through my gaslighting course to discover/unravel even more of this, and in doing so, find yourself again (or maybe, like me, for the first time!)

  2. Is the only way out divorce from this type of abuse? I’m currently married to a man who I believe to have narcissistic ways – he uses gaslighting a lot!! It’s my second marriage, we have a blended family of 5 kids. I’m so scared my kids are going to be scarred from him and his verbal ways!!! I don’t know what to do?! Things are usually very very good or very very bad, there’s rarely any in between.

    • Jules, I don’t think so. Divorce will apparently give up some temporary relief, although, the problem will stay there. Don’t you think there is something missing in this article about gaslighting? What is the role of Jesus in such situation? How can one overcome the situation by the power of the indwelling Holly Spirit? You are right asking about a way out, however, divorce will leave you both with the scars, while in Christ there are more: an abundant life one can enjoy after healing, true deep healing.

    • Jules – First let me say I am so sorry you are currently experiencing a marriage where there are narcissistic ways, and enduring gaslighting. And the swing from very, very bad to very very good is SO confusing! It can play games with our mind and make us feel like we’re going crazy! It’s hard, because gaslighting is such a complex issue, there’s no way to address even a quarter of the information I think is necessary in an article like the one I wrote – it was simply a starting point for conversation. I’ve been reading a book on boundaries lately, and the author talks about our “authentic power”, and what that is. We have power over ourselves, and that’s it. We don’t have power over other people. We can hope, pray, work hard on ourselves, and the other person may or may not heal with us. I think that is the answer to your question about a “way out”. If your husband is remorseful, wanting to become more healthy, working on his “stuff”, praying, etc… then there is hope that he will change his ways and not be abusive. If not, then the question becomes, “is his behavior hurting me and the children, or harming me and the children?” I think that distinction is important. We can move through hurt – especially if amends are made by the one who did the “hurting”. Harm… that’s a bit different. And, repeated hurt with no mending can lead to harm. I would strongly encourage you to reach out to a trained professional (therapist, or life-coach like myself) to help you sort through the confusion of your situation, and help you figure out what you need to be safe in your marriage. My heart aches for you. I hope this has been helpful.

    • My husband would use gaslighting to cover his alchoholism. He felt he *needed* it to survive so he’d deny and then gaslight to get the attention off of himself. At first, I was confused and we saw a marriage counselor, but I was already doing everything they recommended. Finally, I set boundries and tried to hold them kindly but firmly. It got worse before it got better, but he actually respected me more for it. Understanding the “Drama Triangles” (easy to google) and reading through the Boundry books by Cloud were both helpful to me.

  3. I believe that gaslighting is happening culturally and interpersonally on an unprecedented scale, and that this is the result of a societal framework where we pretend everyone is equal while trying simultaneously to preserve inequality. You can see it in the media constantly.

    • Sir Ryan…Scripture teaches us..There is Nothing New Under The Sun. Human nature has Never Changed or Evolved it’s always been. We live in a Fallen, Sinful World period..sad part is it is Vomited Out to Us 24/7!

  4. This has caused destruction of my whole being. Most importantly my spiritual life. I don’t even know how to find Christ again. Can cause suicidal thoughts.

    • I am so sorry you’re been through this. Gaslighting can be a terribly destructive form of abuse. I would encourage you to find a therapist who is familiar with emotional abuse, someone who can help you rebuild your interior sense of reality and create healthy boundaries for yourself once again.

      I want to tell you that you don’t need to worry about how to find Christ again. Christ is with you, always, and will never leave you or forsake you, no matter how others have abused you.

      Peace to you,

    • Dear, dear Destroyed. I want you to know you are not alone. So, so many people who go through this face a “crisis of faith”. It can be devastating, because for so many, their faith is connected to their identity. As a woman who has been on this journey for 6 1/2 years now, one of my most helpful mantras is, “Trust the Journey”. I am on a journey of healing – I am not “healed”… I don’t have to have all the answers right this moment. I am learning lessons as I go, becoming more connected with who I truly am, and healing bit by bit, deeper and deeper. You can find yourself, put yourself back together – you won’t be the same as you were – but in my experience, you will be “better”. You will have scars, but they will only highlight your beauty. I am very different than I used to be, and honestly, I like and love myself a WHOLE lot more! This can be your journey, too. Like Kay said, I encourage you to find support from someone trained – a therapist or life-coach. I hope this has been helpful.

    • Dear Destroyed,

      Call to Him.

      He never left.

      Ask forgiveness, and receive His instant forgiveness.

      Ask His help to forgive, and ask Him to take the pain.

      He will !!!

      Decide to do all the above all your life, because people hurt us so many times.

      Then turn from the past, and move forward in the Biblical path God begins to guide you into..

      You have SO MANY who will call you Sister, because we all need healing.

      Don’t give up. Relax…you are loved !!!

    • Thank you for helping me put a name to this behavior. It is not however limited to my porn addicted husband. Gaslighting has occurred in my life from my mother, employer and so called friends. I have learned,on my own, to maintain my boundaries with these individuals leaving me in a somewhat lonely position. Is there a way to put these people in place? My husband seems to be the only one willing to stick around and look at his behaviors.

  5. Though I was the porn addict in our marriage, my wife has used gas lighting on me ever since we got engaged. For a few years, I believed her and doubted myself intensely. The shame and self-hatred were factors in me giving in to looking at porn–but that justifies nothing: I sinned against God, myself and my wife when I chose to look at porn (or just to fantasize). About the same time I started getting help for my lust problem, I began standing up to my wife when she tried to manipulate me into shame. I did it roughly at first–I yelled–but with practice, I learned calmly to stop her in her tracks when she started this. Since then, it’s felt like four steps forward and three steps back–progress, not perfection. I agree with the author that my wife is totally oblivious that she does this; she probably acts this way reflexively as a defense mechanism so she won’t doubt herself, I guess. I just wish it didn’t create such loneliness. Godspeed to the wives fighting against this manipulation tactic.

  6. It would be good to acknowledge that the addict can also experience gaslighting by the offended spouse. The shame and guilt resulting from porn use may naturally override healthy emotions. If a repentant addict is not allowed to grow back into healthy emotions through being forgiven but, rather, is constantly reminded of their offense against their spouse, they lose touch with any emotion other than shame and guilt. By the grace of God, they can be healed inspite of the gaslighting. However, walking the road of healing alone is much more painful and the healing will feel surreal when it should feel like being set on a new foundation.

    My sense is that this may not always be one sided. Before jumping too deep into feeling like a victim, evaluate whether you do the same thing to the other person, talk to them about it, and repent of it. Treat them with the dignity and respect and love you desire. With that said, if you are in an abusive situation, or suspect that you are, get help. Seek help from a trusted friend, pastor, mentor, family, church member, or even the police.

    • That’s what I saw…i was doing it, too !

      So im trying to be very careful in my response vs reaction.

  7. Is gaslightighting an exclusive male technique or do female employ this to cover their emotional outbursts, their harsh retorts or expressions of victimhood. Or to rephrase the question can this technique be blended with other plays to control obfuscate or misdirect attention?

    • Douglas, good question – this article was meant to be a conversation starter, and barely scratches the surface of the complex topic of gaslighting. Personally, I say everyone gaslights – until they know about it. When I first started studying gaslighting, I realized I gaslit my kids when I told them they were “over-reacting”. I told them their feelings weren’t valid. This is one aspect of gaslighting. Was I being malicious or intending to harm? Of course not! But I was causing my kids to doubt the validity of their emotions. Once I understood what I was doing, I completely changed the way I interacted with my children.

      So, to try to answer your question, it’s important to understand that: 1) there are a number of reasons people gaslight; 2) There are varying levels of awareness when a person is gaslighitng; 3) there are a number of tactics people use to gaslight; and 4) the harm/impact of gaslighting could be assessed on a scale – some gaslighting behaviors have low impact, while others are extremely damaging/harmful.

      I hope this helps a little!

  8. Jesus was not mentioned. I am not saying there is not a manipulation setting happening when someone tries to misdirect the focus from own sin to something else… but, what about our faith? How useful is to be a Christian in facing such case? Which tools for healing and facing the problem Christian faith can provide for someone experiencing gaslighting? Just to give a name helps?

  9. I lived this for 20 years, and have been happily divorced for 7. It has taken a very long time to trust myself, my own feelings since the split with him. I had never heard this term during my marriage, and even in the therapy i had throughout the divorce, i don’t believe this term was used, but i had a wonderful therapist who validated my feelings. I am so thankful for her, for the Grace of God and His unchanging promises!

    • Sara, I am so glad you were able to escape this kind of abuse. Thank you for sharing your story of hope, and I’m so glad your therapist knew what was happening and could help you take a stand for yourself. Peace to you, Kay

    • Hi Sara,

      I’m sorry you lived this for so long, but glad to hear you have found peace. I’m sure it wasn’t easy to end the marriage, even when you knew it was what you had to do to end the abuse and find safety for yourself. Hopefully having a name for what you experienced will bring even deeper validation and healing!

  10. Seems to be that both men and women employ this tactic. Satan did it to Eve in the garden when he suggested that she didn’t really understand God’s command… “did God really say…?” Eve did the same when she turned to her husband to eat of the fruit despite the fact that God had specifically forbidden it, Adam did it to God when he said “This woman you gave me, she gave me this fruit”

    Cain tried it on God when he said “I don’t know where my brother is, am I his keeper?”

    Of course, God wasn’t fooled then and He isn’t now. He didn’t point His finger at Cain and condemn him as a liar (or a gaslighter). He simply spoke the truth to him. “Your brother’s blood cries to me from the ground” and then proceeded to unwrap the curse that Cain brought upon himself (though, God had warned him ahead of time, and even told him how to prevent it).

    Not sure I like the term gaslighting though. To be honest it is just a new definition for an old sin: Lying.

    Giving old sins new names doesn’t seem wise or profitable. How bout we all just stick with the old word? Lying.

    • The difference with gaslighting is that the perpetrator attempts to deny reality: you didn’t see what you saw. The victim knows what happened, but the perpetrator denies it. In that way, it’s different from lying, when the victim may suspect, but not have any evidence of the perpetrator’s actions. In gaslighting, the victim saw and knows, but the perpetrator denies reality.

    • Hi John,

      So, this article is meant to be a starting point for a conversation – to bring awareness to a form of abusive behavior. Gaslighting is a very complex thing, and this article just barely scratches the surface. Lying/deception is just one tactic people use to gaslight another person. There is also coercion, manipulation, brainwashing, etc. So those of us who are trying to educate about gaslighting have not just renamed lying. It’s way more complex than that. And, it may be difficult to convey in a short response, but gaslighting is the RESULT of the tactics, not the actual tactic. For example, if someone tries to manipulate me, but I can see what they are doing, and I stay connected to my truth, I was not gaslit. However, if someone tries to manipulate me, and I do NOT recognize they are being manipulative, and my reality gets distorted, I have been gaslit. Hopefully that makes sense.

  11. Gaslighting — what a great new word. It’s more than heart breaking to read what is happening because of a spouse emotionally developing a problem that doesn’t really exist. I’m coming back to one point we can easily over look while facing this problem. Evil forces are at work here doing all they can to make a ship wreck of our marriages. Pornography in all its forms is a most powerful weapon used by Satan to destroy all who succumb to its siren call. Your article will give help, hope, and healing to many who truly believe they are going crazy.

  12. Thank you for this article. I finally have a name for the process my “devoutly Christian” wife has used for over 30 years to accuse, manipulate, and reject me.

    Ever since we married, she has:

    * Falsely accused me of all sorts of things, including having affairs and stealing money.
    * Impugned my motives — supposedly everything I do is motivated by selfishness and insensitivity.
    * Told both me and our children that I am an untrustworthy and unloving man.
    * Distanced herself from me emotionally and relationally because I “can’t be trusted” and “don’t deserve intimacy” with her.
    * Claimed that her life was perfect before we got married and I ruined it.

    Depending on the day or her mood, after she does such things she will, variously:

    * Deny she ever said any of those things — and if she did say them, then they didn’t mean anything.
    * Accuse me of being overly sensitive — or else of being mentally ill.
    * Claim I do the exact same things to her, so I have no basis for objecting.
    * Blame me — that is by asserting I was the one who caused her to say the hateful things she said or to engage in her bad behavior.

    For years I fought to ground our marital relationship and the things that happened between us in reality. She has either sabotaged or flatly rejected every effort I have made to bring accountability to our marriage, such as by working transparently with a counselor, pastor, or other clergy member.

    Only in the past 3-4 years have I given up. I now realize she is fundamentally committed to her false reality and to the false narratives she creates and projects on me. God could of course change her, but it would take a major crisis, miracle, or both.

    Thank you for pointing me to gaslighting. It is a very accurate description of what happens between us.

    • James – I’m so sorry. I can hear your pain in your response. I am glad that connecting with gaslighting has helped you identify things in your marriage that were harming you and the relationship. I hope you have had/will try to get help from a professional that can help you work through the pain and damage done by all those things you listed. My heart is heavy for you.

  13. I suggest that the old movie “Gaslight” by Alfred Hitchcock be viewed! It features Ingrid Bergman, and is not offensive at all. I watched this movie and cried, because I experienced a few of these things with ex-husband. While it won’t apply to all situations, it defines the term, “gaslight”.
    God sees it all, and you are never alone. All I can say, is look up! Thanks to everyone for input, it is so important to know we are not alone. Despite our hurt and pain, we must never forget that men and women caught up in sexual addiction are also in pain. Christ is the answer for all of us :)

  14. Where do I start. My husband chose his porn and internet affairs over our marriage. My only family for several years have been my Lord and Savior and my sweet dog kids. I struggle to remember who I am in Christ when my emotions say I’m an old, ugly, unlovable, burnt out and broken down wreck, too damaged to be of use to God or trust people anymore. He refused to ever admit his porn addiction even when it was obvious he was caught. Tried to blame the garbage he brought into our home on his own sons, my stepsons. All I can do now is pray that they all will accept Christ as their savior because I don’t think they have. I was a baby Christian when we were married and as he hid behind being a PK it took years for me to learn how unequally yoked we really were.

    • Hey there. I hope you’ve gotten good support thorugh this sad time? A counselor who can help you process your emotions and heal would be great. You might also look into the online resources at Bloom for Women, where there are opportunities for community and healing. While it’s great to do the cognitive work of reminding ourselves who we are in Christ, most often we need the experience of loving human community to help us truly take those concepts and live them out in real ways. Therapy and groups are a great place to get started. Peace to you, Kay

  15. After reading the article I am ashamed, because I know my wife has told me many time that she feels/has most of these indicators. I have struggled with pornography for most of my life, sometimes winning, sometimes loosing. It was always a very shameful thing that I tried my best to hide. I had no idea that I was manipulating her in the process of my anger/guilt. By the grace of God, I was caught by her again. She left with the children but thankfully we are on a path (a long one) to reconcile. I read almost every article I find on how to overcome a porn addiction but I have not found one to stop “gaslighting” (seriously, who came up with that name). I believe that most of it will stop the more we have honest open conversations, but I want to make sure. Are there any steps that I can follow or signs to look for that would let me know that I am doing this to her?

  16. Indeed. Gaslighting or any kind of manipulation or lie can create issues in the relationship. Respecting each others opinion is very important in any relationship. You must know how to say no and mean it without harming your relationship to live better more fulfilling life.

  17. So much response to this article! I was gas lighted by my former husband, who got his friends to help him. They have spread the word that i am crazy to everyone who will listen. I am now homeless, and when I go to a shlter I am mistreated because they somehow have me on file as seriously mentally ill, If This has been going on since the ’80’s, and I have not harmed anyone, been in jail, done drugs or alcohol, simply tried to clear this up with no result, how crazy can I be?

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