Are you in a relationship with someone who makes you feel like you're constantly walking on eggshells? Do you think you can never do anything right and that your partner is always ready to criticize or accuse you of something? If so, then you may be experiencing gaslighting.
Unfortunately, gaslighting is a common form of emotional abuse. In this blog post, we'll discuss what gaslighting is, how to identify it, and what steps you can take to protect yourself from it.
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a type of emotional abuse in which the abuser subtly or overtly undermines the reality of their partner. It is a particularly insidious form of abuse done gradually, making it difficult for the victim to detect. Even if the victim is aware that something is wrong, they may doubt themselves, believing that they are being paranoid.
Signs That You're Being Gaslighted
Listed below are common signs that your partner is gaslighting you:
What Can You Do About it?
Recognize the problem – It is critical to recognize the signs of gaslighting. Common examples of gaslighting:
Practice self-compassion – You deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. Fill your life with people who make you feel good about yourself and who will support you during difficult times. Healing from gaslighting will take time, but it is possible. You are strong and capable of overcoming this challenge.
Confront your partner – Try to have a conversation with them about it. There's a possibility they're not even aware they're doing it, and simply bringing it to their attention may be enough to get them to stop. You can also put up boundaries. If your partner treats you disrespectfully, end the conversation and let them know that you’ll speak to them when they are respectful.
Leave the relationship – It's critical to take action if you're in a relationship with someone who gaslights you and won't stop the behavior. If your partner becomes enraged or puts you in danger, you should think about ending the relationship. Remember that you’re entitled to a healthy and secure relationship.
Gaslighting can be a sign of emotional abuse, and it can have a significant impact on your mental and emotional health. If you're in a relationship with someone who is gaslighting you, a therapist or marriage counselor can work with you individually or as a couple to give you ways to improve the behavior and possibly improve the relationship.
As you go through your divorce, imagining life post-divorce can be difficult. You can get caught up in the day to day challenges and lose sight of what your life will look like after you’re legally divorced. One of the best ways to make the transition easier is to set goals for yourself. Doing so will help you focus on what's important and keep you moving forward. Here are a few tips on setting goals during a separation or divorce.
Keep your goals focused on what you want your future life to look like
Give yourself some time to think about your future life - post divorce. Write down where you’d like to live, what you’d like to be doing, how you’ll spend time with your children, and anything that you can think of that will make the next chapter of your life what you want it to be. If you’re having trouble with this, enlist a friend, a therapist with expertise in divorce or a divorce coach to help you. A therapist with expertise in divorce and a divorce coach are specifically trained to provide you the space and the tools to help you determine what you want in your divorce.
This step is key because you need to know what you ultimately want in your divorce in order to negotiate with your soon-to-be-ex (STBX). Too many people hire attorneys and ask their attorneys what they should fight for. Attorneys are trained in the law, not in helping people develop their divorce goals.
Divorce goals to consider:
Your STBX can have different goals and that’s ok. You’ll need to compromise so that you both are able to meet your most important goals.
Set your personal goals
Through divorce you can experience personal growth in a profound way. Below are ideas for personal goals:
Set dating goals
If you’re interested in dating post divorce, you want to make sure that you are fully healed from the ending of your marriage. You don’t want to rush into another relationship before you’re ready. Also, your children need you so you need to be able to balance taking care of your children, work and all the other responsibilities of life. A new relationship will require your time and energy.
Think about these questions:
If you need support with this, consider seeing a therapist to work through all of the grief, anger, and other emotions that you've experienced.
It's essential to take time for yourself and do things you enjoy, whether new hobbies, travel, or just reading a new book. Take a break before dating again and think about what a healthy relationship means to you.
Once you feel like you have fully grieved and are able to have perspective about your marriage and divorce, starting to date can be a very healthy experience. Each person you meet is another opportunity to learn about what you want and how you want a new relationship to be.
Achieving your goals
Write down your thoughts related to your goals in a journal. As you write your thoughts, you’ll process your feelings and learn more about yourself and what you want. Then you can run it by a friend, therapist or divorce coach and refine your goals to make them specific, measurable and achievable. You want to put a time frame on each of your goals so that you can be accountable to yourself. These steps will help you develop a well thought out plan to achieve your goals for your future post-divorce life.
Is your marriage a mess but you’re afraid to get a divorce? Are you scared of being on your own? Are you staying together for the kids? There are so many things to think about before you decide to get a divorce. The average person thinks about divorce for 7 years before taking that step. So it makes sense if you’re stuck and not doing anything about it.
If you’re feeling that you don’t want to stay married but you don’t want to get divorced, you’re not alone. Many people stay in their marriages because they’re scared of the alternative. It feels better to be together because your children are in an intact family. And staying married feels safe and stable. But if you’re unhappy, depressed or anxious, that’s not really stable. And if your children see conflict or tension, that’s not good for them.
If you’re unhappy in your marriage, it’s taking a toll on you. Even if your marriage looks ok from the outside, you know what’s really going on inside. If there is no connection, no communication, no partnership or respect, it can feel horrible. Maybe one partner shows their rage toward the other in private but everyone outside the family thinks he or she is a great person. Maybe one partner isn’t willing to work on the marriage and expects the other to accept it as it is. Being in an unhappy marriage can have emotional and even physical consequences. I understand; I was there too. I started having optical migraines and acid reflux which are both physical conditions that stem from stress.
Once you realize that there are serious negative consequences to being in an unhappy marriage, you can start to get closer to a decision to divorce. Understanding that you deserve to be happy, and your children deserve to have happy parents, provides you with the courage to overcome your fears of getting divorced. Millions of people have gotten through divorce, you can too.
Get support as you go through this very stressful time - get support from family, friends, a therapist or from my group coaching program – Thriving Through Divorce. If you know it's the right decision, you can find the courage to do this. You can build an amazing new post-divorce life for yourself and your children.
When I was going through my divorce, I didn’t know what to say to my kids. I was doing my best to protect them so I didn’t share much with them about the divorce. I assumed they would open up to me if they needed to talk. Knowing what I do now, I would do things differently. Following are some key points to help kids open up during divorce.
1. Start things off with honest communication.
How you are going to communicate with your children during divorce starts when you tell them about the divorce. It’s important to tell them together - with both parents if possible - without blaming either parent. You don’t have to give too many details, but answer their questions as they come up.
Kids are focused primarily on themselves and mostly care about how the divorce will impact them. They’re typically not thinking about their parents’ feelings too much.
You can give them information like:
It’s so important to be available to your kids when they want to talk. You can intentionally create situations where they’re relaxed such as when you’re driving in the car or before they go to bed. Here are some ways to encourage them to open up with you:
Kids live in the present moment - they’re much better at doing that than adults. When they don’t like what’s happening, they may say hurtful things to their parents. Try not to get caught up in the things they say during a stressful moment. They may seem extremely upset one day, but that doesn’t mean it’s how they’re going to feel the next day or next week. Do your best to let little things go and not to take it personally. As a parent, it’s devastating to know they’re hurting, but kids are very resilient. Their moods will not last forever.
However, there are times that you should consider reaching out for help. There are some clues to show if your child is simply upset and processing their feelings or if they are having deeper struggles. Here are some examples:
These behavior changes are signals that your child isn’t coping well with the divorce and may need extra help from a counselor or professional.
The great news is that the most stressful parts of your divorce will not last forever, and that there are clear ways to keep the lines of communication open with you and your children. Many times, parents can have even deeper relationships with their kids after divorce when the strain of the marriage isn’t a part of the parent/child relationship. In the meantime, these strategies can give you a positive direction for how to get your kids to open up.
Divorce is a painful experience that can leave you feeling lost. No matter how many years you’ve been married, your identity has been impacted by being a married person. When you lose this identity, it can send you reeling. Acknowledging all the big and little losses is an important part of healing. Take some time to journal about this loss of identity and talk about it with supportive friends and family, a divorce coach or a therapist.
The next step towards healing from this loss of identity is clarifying who you are and where you’re going. When you got married, you may have lost your identity as a single person, but didn’t realize it because it happened slowly. When you’re going through divorce, you get the chance to find yourself again and learn how to be happy in an authentic way.
Finding yourself is simply knowing yourself, what matters to you, and what makes you happy.
One painful part of divorce is that it shakes up our lives and we aren’t sure what will be left when the dust settles. But you get to choose who and what you want to keep and what to release and leave behind in your old life. You get to rebuild your self-esteem and confidence by knowing that you’re strong enough (you are!) to come through this even more healthy and whole than you were before.
One of the positives of divorce is the opportunity to find who you are and develop a future that aligns with that.
Start with remembering what you enjoyed before you were married. Write down answers to the following questions:
Take some time to think about these questions. Get to know who you are, what your priorities are and how you can move forward committed to living in a way that is fulfilling to you. This journey of finding out who you are can be exciting. Do you want to take up a new sport or other hobby? Do you want to volunteer and help others? Do you want to change careers? You have the opportunity to learn and grow from your divorce and the power to live in a more authentic way. Grab this chance and just do it!!
Parenting is difficult when you have a good, strong marriage. When going through divorce, parenting has additional complications. In order to co-parent effectively, you need to have mutual respect, strong communication skills and a willingness to compromise and work together for the good of your children. It's extremely difficult to have all of the skills necessary to co-parent effectively when you're angry at one another and are in the middle of divorce negotiations.
After a marriage ends, there can be a lot of built up anger and resentment. Sometimes attorneys can exacerbate those negative feelings as they try to get the best deal for their clients. Meanwhile, if you have children together, you need to interact with each other to discuss parenting schedules and various issues that come up with your children. This can be a recipe for disaster because the children see and feel the tension between their parents. Children can be significantly impacted by this tension.
Co-parenting counseling can help. Co-parenting counseling enables parents, with the help of an experienced professional, to work together to build communication and other skills so that they can work together productively. The professional can be very clear about where the boundaries are - what's acceptable and not acceptable for the parents to say, email and text each other. For example, one of my clients thought that it was fine for her to ignore the other parent unless it was an emergency. The other parent would get frustrated and would lash out. Obviously, these are not ideal ways for co-parents to communicate.
When I work with co-parents, I encourage them to think of each other as colleagues or coworkers. This enables them to take the emotion out of their communication with each other. I work with them to be respectful of each other, use I messages, listen to each other and come to compromise. Throughout our work, I stress that they're doing this for the good of their children and although it can be difficult, most of my clients are successful. When my clients develop strong co-parenting relationships, they're giving their children the gift of a better future life.
Divorce and separation are challenging no matter what, but when you have a difficult ex, the challenge increases exponentially. However, it can be managed, with the right perspective and some proactive strategies.
Your ex may have made you feel bad about yourself during your marriage/relationship so your self-esteem is low. You may be exhausted from years of dealing with your ex’s difficult behavior and you can get triggered by this. How do you co-parent when it’s so hard to control your emotions? Follow these 5 guidelines to make co-parenting with a difficult ex more effective:
1. Build your self-esteem and be patient with yourself. Treat yourself as you would treat a friend. Be patient with yourself – if you mess up, recognize that you’re learning how to deal with a very difficult situation. Change your self-talk from “I can’t believe I let her get to me.” to “I’m doing the best I can and it’s ok.”
2. Don’t get triggered by your ex’s provocative remarks. This is easier said than done. If you can take a pause before you respond, you’ll give yourself the time to think through how you’d like to handle the situation. A pause enables you to respond rather than react. Take a few deep breaths, meditate, call a friend – anything that helps you calm down.
3. Seek a parenting coordinator through the courts. Courts can appoint a parenting coordinator to coordinate scheduling and communication issues between the parents. It’s helpful to have a professional who is trained to deal with high conflict divorce handle these issues.
4. Develop your divorce strategy. What are your priorities? What kind of life do you want in 6 months or 1 year? Without a strategy, you can get derailed by your ex’s behavior. Remind yourself why you’re leaving the marriage and what kind of life you want going forward. This will give you perspective beyond the current struggle.
5. Don’t make your child the middleman. Don’t use your child to send messages to the other parent, don’t vent to your child about the other parent and don’t ask your child for information about the other parent. Let your children know that it’s not ok to do those things and if either parent tries to do any of those behaviors, they will know that it’s not ok. They can learn to set boundaries with their other parent.
The life you want is waiting for you. Ignore the noise that’s coming from your ex and celebrate that it can’t control you anymore. Focus on the present moment, breathe deeply, notice nature, appreciate freedom. Once you recognize that finding your peace has nothing to do with anyone else, you’ll have the life that you’ve been dreaming of.
Moving on from divorce isn’t easy for most people. You may feel overwhelmed, angry and sad and not know how to deal with these intense emotions. It’s difficult to start to find a new path for your life after you’ve spent many years building a life with someone and that person isn’t a part of your life anymore. But you will be able to recover and there are several things that you can do to build a happy and fulfilling life after divorce.
The first step toward moving on is to understand what went wrong in your marriage. This doesn’t mean that you assign blame, in fact it’s the opposite. Reflect on what was wrong in the relationship in a non-judgmental way. What was the relationship lacking? What needs weren’t met for you and for your partner? The more you understand your past, the easier it will be to start the process of letting go and moving on.
It’s normal to feel grief when you’re going through divorce and it takes time to process those feelings. Processing feelings involves thinking about them, talking about them and possibly writing or drawing them. It involves feeling the feelings which is difficult and many people avoid feeling the feelings for good reason. Although it can be painful, if you don't process your grief you can get stuck and you won't be able to build your new life.
Grief is processed by going through the following stages:
Journaling is one tool to help process grief. Writing down your feelings enables you to get out what you’re feeling so that you don’t stuff them. Stuffing your feelings can lead to anxiety, depression and physical illness. Also, counseling, divorce coaching and divorce support groups can be really helpful. I run a divorce group coaching program which helps people going through divorce find support from others going through similar experiences in a safe environment.
Another way to move on is to set small, achievable goals each day. Maybe it’s a chore that has to be accomplished or starting a new project at home or work – what is your first step towards that goal? Setting small, achievable goals, builds your confidence and enables you to start a process of moving in a positive direction.
These techniques take time and work. Having support while you go through this is one of the most important things you can do to get through this process so that you can move on in your life. But if you get your team of support behind you and work at this moving on process, you will be able to develop a happy and fulfilling life for yourself. It’s definitely worth it!
Sometimes you may feel your relationship is going well and other times you may be worried about the strength of your relationship. It can help to take a step back and see what’s working and what’s not. Here are some areas to look at:
These five areas are important when assessing the strength of your relationship. If you’re doing most or all of these, you’re probably doing pretty well. If you need work on one or more of these areas, don’t be discouraged. These skills can be learned. You can improve the strength of your relationship yourselves or you can always try couples counseling.
Many clients seek counseling because they’re having difficulty with combining two families after divorce. They have children who are different ages, have different needs and personalities and they find it overwhelming and stressful. It’s not surprising considering how difficult it is raising children in intact families where there hasn’t been divorce!
Despite the difficulties, it is possible to have a happy family even if you have children from two different marriages. Some of the ways to make this situation successful are as follows:
These suggestions will help you develop a closer family when you have partners that have children from previous marriages/relationships. If these techniques don’t work, family counseling with an experienced therapist is an option. However, if you make children and your relationship a priority, respect boundaries and communicate effectively, you’ll be far along the way to having a happy blended family!
Jill Barnett Kaufman, MSW, LCSW and Certified Parent Educator is an experienced clinician who helps clients discover new ways to resolve a variety of challenges and bring more happiness and peace into their lives.