If you’re like many people getting divorced in Stockton, you’re all too familiar with gaslighting – that’s when someone manipulates you psychologically so that you end up questioning your own sanity.
And unfortunately, gaslighting is pretty common in divorce and child custody battles.
Here’s what you need to know about this harmful psychological warfare.
Related: 5 signs you’re in a toxic marriage
What is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting is a manipulation technique that some spouses dive into when a marriage starts spinning out of control. Narcissists commonly use it, but some people don’t know they’re doing it – they’re just doing it unconsciously.
The term gaslighting comes from a 1944 film in which a woman falls madly in love with a man. The man starts to display pathological behaviors and tampers with the gas light in the attic; that causes the lights in the house to dim. The woman tells her husband that she heard footsteps in the attic and the lights dimming, but he tells her it’s all in her mind. The woman begins questioning her own judgment.
Whether your spouse is gaslighting you intentionally or unintentionally, it’s a form of emotional abuse.
Sometimes a spouse who’s gaslighting you doesn’t realize he or she is doing it – but the behaviors are the same. These are some of the most common behaviors a gaslighter exhibits:
- Denying that he or she said something, even when you have proof
- Mismatching actions and words
- Projection (accusing you of what they’re doing)
- Telling blatant lies
- Telling people – or you – that you’re “crazy”
- Telling you everyone else is a liar
- Trying to convince you that others don’t care about you, or that you can’t trust others
- Using your personal characteristics to tear you down
- Wearing you down over time
During a divorce, these behaviors can even extend to family, friends and coworkers – meaning that the gaslighter will contact these people and provide them with false information about you. The idea is to turn other people against you when it comes to your divorce and possible custody battles.
Sometimes, the gaslighter even tries to use the legal system to his or her advantage by filing false police reports against you or trying to make you appear as if you’re mentally unstable by pushing your buttons repeatedly.
This commonly happens in custody cases where one parent wants to push the narrative that you’re the “unstable” parent, and that the kids are better off without you. He or she may try to alienate your children from you. In cases like these, the gaslighting spouse knows better, but he or she is out to hurt you.
What to Do if Your Spouse Engages in Gaslighting Behaviors During Divorce
The best thing you can do if your spouse engages in gaslighting behaviors during your divorce is to stay away from him or her. Keep your communication to a minimum, and if you must communicate, work through a third party or get everything in writing (such as by communicating through email or text messages).
Let your Stockton divorce attorney know what’s going on – and that your spouse is doing his or her best to make things harder on you. By telling your lawyer that your spouse is being manipulative, you’re enabling her to protect your rights in court.
Do not allow your spouse to bait you. Even if you know you’re being gaslighted and your spouse is trying to alienate you from your children, you cannot overreact – if you do, your spouse will use your reactions against you.
Keep making efforts to maintain a meaningful relationship with your children, and document everything. Make sure you keep your attorney in the loop, too – she’ll be able to fight for what’s best for you and your kids when she knows the whole story.
Do You Need to Talk to a Stockton Divorce Lawyer?
If your soon-to-be ex-spouse is attempting to gaslight you during divorce or to bring about a custody battle, we may be able to help you.
Call us at (209) 546-6246 or contact us online to schedule an appointment with an attorney.
We can answer your questions about whether you’ll be required to pay or entitled to receive spousal support, how to figure out child custody and the division of property, and any other questions you may have. We may also be able to refer you to a therapist focusing on divorce issues and toxic relationships.