Tips On Divorcing a Gaslighting Spouse
How To Divorce From a Manipulative Spouse In Arizona
The Arizona Family Lawyers from My AZ Lawyers take a look at how to handle a spouse who Gaslights you. Our Phoenix divorce lawyers have helped thousands of people in Maricopa County and throughout Arizona file successfully for divorce. We have dealt with many types of spouses; from narcissists to gaslighters. Our attorneys have the ability to get positive outcomes regardless of your spouses shortcomings.
If your spouse ever makes you question your perception, memory, and your experience of the world around you, your spouse might use gaslighting. This psychological phenomenon got its name from the 1944 film Gaslight. It depicts a husband manipulating his wife into believing she had psychotic symptoms by dimming the gas burners in their home. There are several methods one can use to gaslight someone, but generally is meant to make the victim feel anxious and insecure. Gaslighting is typically thought of in the context of romantic relationships, but this technique can also be employed by doctors, politicians, and even parents. If you believe your spouse gaslights you, you should take every step to fully prepare yourself for divorce.
What Is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a method of psychologically abusive manipulation that includes several behaviors, including:
- Denying- Your spouse could deny their statements and actions. An adamant refusal of the truth could cause you to question your own reality. This has negative psychological consequences, which is why gaslighting is so harmful.
- Distraction and misdirection- This is a gaslighting technique that allows the gaslighter to avoid uncomfortable subjects while turning the blame back on their spouse. For example, if you bring up an issue you have with your spouse, they may accuse you of bringing it up due to your parents’ interference or jealousy of your friends.
- Damaging your credibility- Without even realizing it, other people may be manipulated into your spouse’s gaslighting. When other people have confidence in your spouse, this can contribute to the feeling that your perceptions and emotions are unstable. It can also make you less likely to speak out about your experiences after the relationship ends.
- Ignoring you- Refusing to acknowledge you, or pretending not to understand or hear you, are common techniques employed by gaslighters. When combined with other gaslighting methods, it can actually be an effective way to avoid negative conversations with their spouse.
- Minimizing your emotions- Making you feel like you are overreacting is a way a gaslighter will make you question your own stability. It will also detract from the seriousness of their own actions.
- Relying on stereotypes- A gaslighter may tell their spouse they are acting like a stereotype to turn the blame back around in uncomfortable situations. For example, a gaslighting wife may tell her husband a man shouldn’t show his emotions, or a gaslighting husband may tell his wife that she is too emotional.
- Questioning your memory- Your spouse may deny things that have happened in the past, or accuse you of misremembering events. Your spouse may even take further steps to bolster their own version of events.
How To Protect Yourself Against Gaslighting
A gaslighter’s goal is to get you to question your memory and perception. That’s why preserving evidence of your interactions is one of your strongest defenses against gaslighting. Keeping a written journal is a way to write down your memories of events, hopefully before your spouse has had an opportunity to influence them. More concrete evidence, like voice recordings, pictures, and videos can help you retain your memory of events. Digital versions of these files should be kept somewhere safe, i.e., somewhere your spouse can’t access. Once the files have been transferred somewhere safe, you may want to consider deleting them from anywhere your spouse may find them.
You may find it helpful to discuss these events with other people. Depending on who you’re comfortable with, this could be a friend or loved one, or a mental health professional. It may also help you solidify your memories to say them out loud to someone else. In case things don’t go well when you leave your spouse, it’s good for your social safety net to be ready to catch you.
How To Respond To a Gaslighting Spouse
There are various methods that can be used against manipulative personalities, such as the “grey rock” method. A therapist or other mental health professional could help you work through ways to address your spouse’s tactics that will work for you. This will also help you validate that you have experienced abuse, and will help you recover from your relationship to move on to healthier ones in the future. You should also consider contacting the 800-799-SAFE. This organization can be contacted free of charge, and outside of normal business hours.
Why Would Someone Use Gaslighting To Manipulate a Loved One?
While every situation is unique, gaslighting is a technique that is commonly associated with narcissism. Those with narcissism, or narcissistic personality disorder, feel a constant need for superiority, attention, and respect. They have a hard time seeing situations from others’ perspectives, and may frequently become involved in interpersonal conflicts. However, they can also come off as charming and charismatic, adding to your doubt that the person could be abusing you. Gaslighting isn’t exclusive to narcissists, but can be a sign that someone has narcissistic personality disorder.
Signs That a Person Is Experiencing Gaslighting From Their Spouse
Whether or not you’ve experienced gaslighting yourself, you probably want to make sure your loved ones aren’t experiencing the same thing. If you suspect that someone you care about is being psychologically abused through gaslighting, there are certain signs for which you can observe.
If you’ve experienced gaslighting, you may have an easier time identifying when your friends are having a similar experience. Whether or not someone has gaslit you, you should look out for the following signs if you suspect someone you love is in a relationship with a gaslighter.
Signs of being in a relationship with a Gaslighter include:
- Increased social isolation
- “White lies” to friends and loved ones meant to cover their spouse’s actions
- A sense of dependence on their spouse
- Constant apologizing for their words or behavior, especially if they believe they are being “too sensitive.”
- Difficulty making decisions, including hesitation and second guessing
- Expressing feelings of depression, despair, worthlessness, hopelessness, etc.
- Questioning themselves and their own perception
- Taking blame in all disputes with their spouse
Tips On How To Divorce a Gaslighter
Careful recordkeeping is a key part of divorcing a gaslighter. Keeping notes- and keeping those notes in a safe place- will help you remember events more clearly. This documentation can later come in handy during divorce proceedings. If a friend or relative is aware of what is going on with your spouse, they may be able to hold onto physical records for you.
Another thing to keep in mind is that your spouse probably tries to alter the past and manipulate your perception and memory. This opens up the possibility that when your spouse makes promises during the divorce process, they may renege on them. Don’t agree to anything in writing if your spouse’s portion of the agreement is only verbal. In fact, all agreements should be reviewed by your attorney before signing.
Another reason it will be advantageous to hire an attorney while divorcing a gaslighter is the barrier your attorney will form between you two. Once you hire an experienced Arizona divorce attorney, any correspondence about your case must go to your attorney first. Automatic filtering of messages from your abusive spouse will help you traverse the divorce process more smoothly.
Contact Tucson’s Trusted Family Law Attorneys
Most of the time, it is advisable to retain an AZ family law attorney to represent you in your divorce. This is especially true if your spouse is a frequent gaslighter. Gaslighting is a serious form of manipulation that can cause long-lasting damage. You may need professional help getting out of your marriage. While mental health care professionals can help you recover from the trauma of your relationship, a lawyer will act as your legal advocate to support you in the meantime. To learn more about how an experienced divorce lawyer will assist you in a divorce from a gaslighting spouse, call (480) 263-1699 or use our online form to schedule your free consultation today.