Gaslighting

I remember when I was married how I knew to just acquiesce in a fight because I wasn’t going to win. As the ex-wife of a narcissist, before I knew what it meant, I instinctively understood that for my own sanity, I needed to bow out of a fight with him. What would start as a simple request on my part for something (like please hang up your suit when you take it off instead of tossing it over the footboard and then complaining about how it’s wrinkled) would escalate to a tirade of all of the real? (and his imagined) faults of mine until I would be practically cowering, defending myself and giving up because I had no idea what the hell was going on.

That, my friends, is a typical maneuver of narcissists and gaslighting. Gaslight: manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.

This happened often until I just relented and hung up the dumb suits because I didn’t want conflict nor to hear his mouth. Slowly but surely, I became the maid and a shadow of myself. And the worst part is I almost didn’t realize it because it was a slow controlling mechanism that he used in order to get his way and be the power figure in our relationship. Sadly, it worked. Sadly, I allowed it.

I walked on eggshells. I scurried and often tried to think steps ahead to make things nice so that we wouldn’t have those minefields to deal with daily. I knew the ex was unhappy so I gave him space and often took the verbal abuse because I didn’t want the kids to take it. I wanted to shield them. I could handle it; having grown up in a narcissistic family. I knew it would blow over if I just let it roll off my back and not take offense.

Getting off subject in a fight is a narcissist’s talent. He would zig and zag all over the place, dredging up past grudges, pinpointing my weak spots and vulnerabilities until I couldn’t remember what the start of the argument was even about at all. And yes, I’m a smart girl. But when you love a narcissist, they know exactly what can make your brain flood with emotion until you can’t think straight and cleverly, they manipulate you until you can’t think any longer. You can’t get a word in edgewise. You are shut down immediately when you try to defend yourself or tell them that they’re not right in their assessment. Because that is not allowed. They are never wrong. You are always wrong. And at all costs, they will win the fight no matter what – because they have to, their narcissism demands it.

Their narcissism is an aching hole of misery within them where they are never enough and the putting down of you, the winning of the fight, the power they feel when they are successful in demeaning you fuels them, calms them and fills that hole in them for a little while. All to cycle back again when the monster within them feels empty. They take from you in order to feed that emptiness inside of them. Your empathic self, your love for them, your willingness to do whatever it takes to make them happy feeds that monster within until they drain you of all self-worth. You’re nothing more than their punching bag of fuel when needed. Until you are no longer needed and then you are discarded like an old tennis shoe with a hole in the sole and soul.

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14 Responses to Gaslighting

  1. scr4pl80 says:

    Interesting! I think some of those things happen in my marriage too, but I’m not sure my husband is a narcissist. I think the way I was raised (“The husband is the master of the house”) is why some of these things seem similar. I enabled him by always putting him first and now that I see how damaging that was to both me and the kids when I try to push back it leads to arguments. The saving point for me is that he will actually admit when he is wrong and occasionally even sees my point of view.

    Liked by 1 person

    • janieleeds says:

      That’s awesome Janet! I agree about the way we were raised too and I’m happy that he sees your point of view. I think some people can have some similar to narcissistic traits but not be full on narcissists. Glad you have a good one. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. E.A. Wickham says:

    I’m glad you’re out of that relationship.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Beth W. says:

    Spot on, Janie!! That is a perfect description of living with a narcissist. And you’re right that you are a smart girl, but honestly, I have read a lot of things that say the narcissist prefers someone smart and strong. Whether intentional or just part of their sickness, I think they perfect the gaslighting, just a little bit at a time until you are second guessing yourself and spending more time than anyone else would believe trying to keep one step ahead of their moods and trying to keep life calm. Ultimately, there is no way to win with a narcissist. They could be with the ultimate perfect person and it still wouldn’t be enough. You are so completely right about them having a “hole of misery” and that, sadly, putting us down gives them power and helps to fill the hole for a while. I think anyone who hasn’t been in the midst of it could never understand what it is like. Even now I find myself analyzing those I’m, falling into old patterns. I worry sometimes that maybe I won’t be able to be in a “normal” relationship because I am too broken and look for meaning in every comment, gesture and look as I had to do with my narcissist ex. I was recently told that I need to stop letting him in my head, but it is easier said than done, not because I want him back, but beacuse I want to make sure I am never in a situation like that again. I think I have to replay the past because I don’t want to repeat it. Thanks for sharing. Hugs to you! Surviving that abuse and coming out the other side as the kind, empathetic person you are despite it is truly an accomplishment. We deserve a survivor medal!! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • janieleeds says:

      Beth, we do deserve a survivor medal for overcoming that power play in our ex relationships. And for being able to pick up the broken pieces in oder to move on and to be able to strengthen ourselves so that we are aware and don’t let it happen again. Thank you for being so kind! I feel the same way about you too! Big hugs…we made it. As for the not repeating it, I’m hesitant too. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Hard to ‘Like’ this post, as I feel for you, Janie, deeply. You describe what it is like to be in a relationship with someone who behaves this way, so eloquently. A heartfelt description that will bring comfort to many. ❤ xXx

    Like

  5. bone&silver says:

    OMG what a nightmare you were living! And your poor kids too, feeling that vibe… how amazing you got away, & did so much work, & have healed yourself so well. Full marks to you! May your life be peaceful & authentic from now on 🙏🏼❤️

    Like

  6. hbsuefred says:

    Amazingly there seems to be not a lot of difference between a narcissist and an alcoholic as far as being responsible for anything they do. It’s always somebody else’s fault. Pretty sure my ex was not smart or aware enough to gaslight me, but the result was the same. My thoughts and behavior became pretty much what you described as far as making the environment less overtly hostile by not leaving openings for his expected negative and hurtful words. Clearly removing and distancing ourselves from that space and time is the first step to getting back to the person we were before and improving on that going forward.

    Like

    • janieleeds says:

      Well done! Yes, I agree that after we leave, we have a lot of clean up of our own to do. Leaving behind the walking on eggshells and finding our own balance and power. Getting back to who we are (improved with experience of who we were) and moving forward with grace, experience and love.
      I think you’re right about the similarities in those types especially with the blame game they perpetuate. I’m sorry you went through this. Big hugs

      Like

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