Your partner is one of the few people who can have a major impact on your well-being.
After all, this is the person you’re spending most of your time with, the person you confide in when you feel rough, and the person you rely on for reassurance and emotional support.
Sadly, this also means that when your partner gaslights you, it can wreak havoc on your perception of reality and self-esteem.
Are your feelings really valid, or are you just overreacting? What if they’re right and you’re just being difficult? Do you genuinely remember what happened yesterday, or is your memory faulty?
Let’s stop these doubts once and for all. These are the 11 phrases that reveal your partner may be gaslighting you.
1) “I think you’re overreacting”
Let’s get the ball rolling with one of the most famous gaslighting phrases: “You’re overreacting.”
And why is this phrase so bad, you may ask?
Because it’s an excellent way to invalidate your feelings and shift the blame on you.
For example, let’s say that Joe says something mean to Clara. She reacts by getting offended and confronting him about the issue, only for him to roll his eyes and say, “I think you’re overreacting. It’s not that big a deal.”
…but it *is* a big deal. Clara’s feelings are valid, and the correct course of action is to apologize and avoid making those remarks in the future.
Instead, Joe gaslights her into thinking her emotions don’t count and she should just get over it.
2) “It was just a joke!”
Another way for Joe to gaslight Clara is for him to say, “It was just a joke. It’s not my problem that you have no sense of humor.”
But *was* it just a joke? Or was it A) an insult veiled behind humor or B) an insult that’s now being passed off as a joke to avoid taking accountability?
A joke is something both parties should laugh at. If only one of you is laughing and the other is feeling embarrassed, offended, or ashamed, chances are… it is not, in fact, a joke. And calling it that won’t make it so.
3) “Fine, I’ll just stop X altogether then!”
Imagine that Clara tells Joe, “You might find it funny, but I didn’t. What you said was offensive and it made me feel bad.”
Joe proceeds to throw his hands up in fake defeat and dramatically pronounces, “Fine, I’ll just stop talking altogether!”
Taking the request from 1 (“please stop insulting me in this very specific way”) to 100 (“stop talking entirely”) is a typical gaslighting technique that relies on over-exaggeration to make it seem like *you* are the one who’s making unreasonable requests, when in fact, it is your partner who can’t accept negative feedback with grace.
An emotionally mature partner would accept your critique, apologize for their actions, and promise to never insult you in such a way again. They wouldn’t escalate the issue just to make you look like the crazy one.
4) “Oh, because you’re so perfect!”
The next technique on Joe’s gaslighting list might be to use the so-called Ad Hominem fallacy, which occurs when you ignore the argument proposed by another person and instead attack the person themselves.
“Oh, because you’re so perfect!” Joe might say. “You forgot to clean the kitchen again last week! You’re so messy, I can’t stand it!”
By shifting the focus of the argument to Clara’s bad traits, Joe’s shaking off his responsibility for insulting her and creating a dynamic where both parties seem to be equally “bad”, which makes an apology seem redundant – they’re quits, after all.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t solve the issue at hand at all. It only makes the argument worse.
5) “After everything I’ve done for you? Really?”
If shifting the blame doesn’t work, Joe resorts to painting himself in a better light, reminding Clara just how much he’s done for her in the past.
“Look at how much I love you,” this particular phrase says. “Look at all the sacrifices I’ve made for you. Is this how you repay me?”
And that’s where the crux of the problem is: in the word “repay”. While Clara treats the relationship as something born of pure love and something where reciprocity is freely given yet not expected, Joe views their connection as a business transaction.
I’ll do X if you do Z. If I do Y, you’ll have to do Y, too.
But that’s not the inherent nature of healthy relationships. Those are built on selfless love and giving each other the benefit of the doubt, not keeping a tally of every single gesture of affection.
6) “You’re being really difficult right now”
As you can clearly see, Joe hasn’t been very easy to deal with throughout this article. He gaslights and gaslights and gaslights some more, while all Clara wants is some basic respect and a peaceful resolution.
Obviously, his reaction to the situation is going to be…drumroll…to gaslight again. This time, he’ll make Clara look like she’s the one who’s high-maintenance. She’s the one who’s making a mountain out of a molehill. She’s the whole reason they’re fighting.
What Joe isn’t saying is that Clara’s reaction isn’t the real culprit – it’s his action that she is reacting to, after all. She’s not being difficult. He is. But by twisting it around, Joe makes Clara doubt her own position in the situation.
Thus the art of gaslighting.
7) “If you really loved me, you’d do it”
Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to another marvelous technique that emotionally immature or narcissistic partners use to get what they want.
“If you really loved me, you’d do it” relies on the victim’s strong feelings for their partner, allowing the partner in question to emerge out of the conflict victorious.
For example, Joe might say, “If you really loved me, you’d get over it.” What he *doesn’t* say is that if he really loved Clara, he’d just apologize.
8) “I’m not angry, you’re angry!”
Now that the argument has evolved into a shouting match, Clara says, “Please, stop being so angry. I just asked for a simple favor.”
“I’m not angry!” Joe spits, all red in the face. “You’re angry! Stop raising your voice at me!”
Never mind that he’s shouting his brains out.
This phrase may seem so absurd that you’re probably thinking most people wouldn’t say it – isn’t it obvious that Joe *is* angry, after all? Wouldn’t he notice? – but you’d be surprised.
I used to have a friend who was exactly like that. He’d raise his voice and proceed to tell you that you are the one shouting. He was projecting his own emotions onto the person he was speaking to because he couldn’t admit them to himself.
9) “You remember it wrong”
Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without another hallmark of gaslighting – relying on the inaccurate nature of memory to do the job for you.
The thing is, our memory isn’t as correct as we’d often like it to be. Some memories are distorted, others take on new shapes once imagination plays its part, and others yet can be false.
That isn’t to say that every time your partner accuses you of remembering something wrong, they’re actually right. On the contrary – they’re most likely using the malleable nature of memories to convince you that what truly happened didn’t actually take place.
More often than not, you will remember things correctly. Even if you can’t recall it word for word, you’ll remember the basic message, or at least how you perceived it at the time.
If your partner simply says you remember it wrong and none of it happened, they may be gaslighting you.
10) “I’m doing this for your own good”
This one stings.
Because if you’re a kind person, it’s in your nature to want to see the best in people. You want to believe that they have good intentions and that deep down, they are just as kind as you, if not more.
If your partner does something hurtful and says it’s for your own good, you might believe that although their actions seem malicious, their intentions are pure at heart.
Sadly, this often isn’t the case. “I’m doing this for your own good” is usually more about control than it is about genuine concern.
11) “You’re crazy”
Finally, there’s the famous “You’re crazy”.
Once you tell someone they’re not acting sane, how are they to argue their point and actually convince you? You’ve already declared them nuts, so fighting with you is just futile endeavor.
If your partner ever accuses you of acting crazy, don’t buy into it. Instead, think over your behavior – is what you’re saying really so insane? Are your feelings really so overexaggerated, your reaction really so unreasonable?
For a reality check, you can also ask your friends or family. An objective input from an outsider’s perspective might help you clear things up and perhaps realize that your partner is, in fact, gaslighting you.