What is Gaslighting? Examples of Gaslighting in Relationships

Learn common examples of gaslighting in relationships and how to cope and rebuild a positive sense of self after experiencing gaslighting.


Does your partner ever leave you second guessing yourself and wondering if you're, well, losing your mind?

You may be experiencing gaslighting in your relationship.

Gaslighting is a form of subtle manipulative behavior that can often go unnoticed. Even though it's perhaps less obvious than other forms of abuse, it has serious psychological effects.

We'll walk you through common examples of gaslighting, and how to cope with its effects.

What is Gaslighting in Relationships?

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse. It involves lying to manipulate someone into questioning their reality, and it can happen in all kinds of relationships (including romantic relationships, professional relationships, friendships, and family relationships).

For example, you may confront a loved one about a comment they made that hurt your feelings and they may repeatedly respond "I never said that," invalidating your concerns and leaving you even more confused and frustrated. This is a classic example of gaslighting.

The term "gaslighting" comes from the 1944 film Gaslight, in which a man convinces his wife she is mentally unwell and seeing things by dimming the gaslights in their home and telling her she is imagining it.

Gaslighting allows the gaslighter to gain control over the victim in the relationship. Over time, the victim may become so insecure, confused, and uncertain that they can't trust themselves and begin to dismiss their own instincts.

This puts the gaslighter in a position of power to always control the narrative of what is happening in the relationship.

Examples of Gaslighting in Relationships

Learning to recognize examples of gaslighting is the first step to dealing with gaslighting in relationships.

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, there are 6 main examples of gaslighting: withholding, countering, diverting, trivializing, denial, stereotyping.

1. Withholding

One example of gaslighting is withholding. The abusive partner will refuse to engage with the victim's concerns, or pretends they don't exist. This may look like statements such as "I have no idea what you're talking about", or "You're just trying to make me confused".

2. Countering

This example of gaslighting happens when the abusive partner tries to "counter" the victim's concerns by questioning their credibility. They may say things like "It sounds like you're imagining things again," or "You always remember things wrong".

3. Diverting

In this example of gaslighting, the abusive partner diverts attention away from the victim's concerns by blaming someone else (often the victim, or the victim's support system). They may ask things like "You're just always trying to make me the bad guy" or "Who told you to ask me that, your friends? They don't want you to be happy with me".

4. Trivializing

This example of gaslighting involves diminishing the seriousness of the victim's concerns and trying to convince them they don't matter. The abusive partner might respond by saying things like "You always get upset about nothing", "You're so dramatic",  or "You're overreacting".

5. Denial

In this example of gaslighting, the abusive partner simply denies that the victim's concerns are real (like in the movie Gas Light). They might say things like "That never happened" or "You're making things up".

Effects of Gaslighting

Gaslighting can have severe negative psychological effects for victims, like increased anxiety and depression, low self-esteem, and extreme self-doubt.

Learn how to cope with anxiety and depression through journaling ->

You may be experiencing gaslighting if:

  • You always end up apologizing when you confront your partner
  • You are constantly questioning yourself and don't trust your instincts
  • Conversations with your partner make you wonder if you're going crazy
  • You often create excuses for your partner
  • Your relationship has caused you to feel more insecure, confused, unhappy, or isolated

How to Cope with Gaslighting in Relationships

Luckily, there are ways to deal with gaslighting in relationships. If you suspect you may be a victim of gaslighting, try:

1. Lean on Your Support System

Gaslighting can sometimes make it tempting for victims to isolate themselves from their support system during a time when it's hard to know what the truth is from inside the relationship.

Lean on trusted loved ones or a mental health professional to help get a more objective point of view, validate your concerns, and figure out your next steps.

2. Speak Up

Though it may seem impossible, it's important to try to call out this behavior when it happens and set boundaries with your partner.

Stand firm in what you feel and believe to be true. In response to gaslighting remarks, you can lean on phrases like "I know how I feel" or "I need you to listen and take me seriously".

3. Create Distance

If your partner continues gaslighting behavior even after you've tried to call it out and speak up, it may be time to create some distance - whether this means walking away from a conversation, or spending less time with the person in general.

4. Heal Your Relationship with Yourself

Gaslighting can be really damaging to your sense of self. Make sure to treat yourself with kindness, and make time for self-healing activities like journaling.

Journaling can help boost self-awareness and self-confidence, and allows you to work through however you're feeling "on paper". Try a journaling app like Jour for personalized journaling prompts that will help you combat negative thoughts from the comfort of your phone.

Learn more about the benefits of a daily journaling habit ->

Trust Yourself

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse where lies from the abusive partner causes victims to question their reality.

It's important to be familiar with common examples of gaslighting so you can identify it when it happens. Examples of gaslighting include tactics like withholding, countering, diverting, trivializing, or denial.

To cope with gaslighting in a relationship, make sure to prioritize self-healing activities like journaling to help rebuild self-esteem and work through negative thoughts.

And if you ever need support or a listening ear? The Jour app is always waiting for you.