Gaslighting: How Does It Affect a Divorce?

How a Gaslighting Spouse Can Create Problems When Getting Divorced

Our AZ Family Law Team are experienced and have dealt with controversial spouses in many Arizona divorce cases. Let our experience be your advocate.

As mental health awareness becomes more and more widespread, terms like “narcissism,” “love bombing,” and “gaslighting” are being thrown around often. You may also be curious, after hearing these terms in context, if they apply to your situation. If you think you are experiencing gaslighting, read on to learn more about gaslighting and how it pertains to a divorce.

Arizona Family Attorneys Take a Look At How a Gaslighting Spouse Can Create Problems When Getting Divorced

What Is Gaslighting?

Without the proper information, it can be hard to identify gaslighting. There are several types of behaviors that qualify as gaslighting. Gaslighting can involve denying one’s own statements and actions to make the victim feel insecure, even unstable. It comes from the 1944 film Gaslight, which tells the story of a man who convinces his wife she is mentally ill, in part, by dimming the gas lights in their home.

What Is a Narcissist?

A narcissist is someone who has narcissistic personality disorder, which is characterized by an inflated sense of self importance, perceived superiority over others, and other negative traits that can make interpersonal relationships difficult. Narcissists tend to demean and disrespect others in order to inflate their own self esteem. All of this is actually due to gaping insecurities.

Can a Person Be Both a Gaslighter & a Narcissist?

Gaslighting and narcissism actually tend to overlap. Narcissists tend to employ similar patterns of abusive behavior, and gaslighting is one of these behaviors. Narcissists love feeling superior to others, and would enjoy the sense of being needed that instability from gaslighting could create. The narcissist can then neglect and emotionally withhold from the gaslighting victim. This type of control is the narcissist’s ultimate goal.

Steps To Divorcing a Gaslighting Narcissist

  1. Start documenting EVERYTHING. Solidify your memories of gaslighting events so you can clearly articulate them to your attorney and judge. Include dates, times, and other specifics when relevant. You should also keep track of spending, as well as begin gathering important documents that your spouse may destroy in a fit of rage if you try to leave.
  2. Find a divorce attorney and begin your divorce plan. You will want both an attorney who is skilled in handling Arizona divorces, as well as one who is skilled in working with a gaslighter as an adversary. Many lawyers know at least a few from law school and their profession in general, but a psychology or social work background can be especially useful.
  3. Leave your spouse and file your divorce petition. Depending on the plan you formulate with your attorney, you may need to do this in secret. Your AZ divorce attorney will draft and file your divorce petition for you, and a process server will serve it upon your spouse.
  4. Try to reach an agreement out of court. This should be done with your attorney reviewing everything before you sign, advocating for you and making sure you aren’t taken advantage of during negotiations. A divorce mediator might be able to help when negotiations between your attorneys fail.
  5. Finalize your divorce and move forward with your new life. You should consider therapy to heal from your abuse and help you foster healthy relationships in the future. You may also want to consider therapy for your children if witnessing the gaslighting and divorce could have been traumatic for them.

Tips To Prepare For Divorcing a Gaslighter

  • Build an emotional and legal support system. You shouldn’t go through a divorce from a gaslighter alone. Make sure you hire a competent family law lawyer in Arizona with the appropriate skill set to deal with your gaslighting spouse. You should also prepare for your divorce by building a supportive social network. Having a sympathetic ear from a friend or family member could be highly beneficial to you.
  • As much as possible, keep your kids out of it. Of course, you will need to explain that the divorce is happening and the lifestyle changes that are about to occur. If your children are younger than 18, you may also need to co-parent with your ex until your children reach adulthood. Do your best to remain calm in situations where you are required to interact with your ex, saving arguments for when your children aren’t there to witness. Don’t discuss financial aspects of the divorce with the children, or any other areas that the children don’t need to know. If you feel the need to vent about your ex, do it with a friend or therapist. Speaking negatively about your ex to your children is known as parental alienation, and can be used as a factor against you in custody proceedings. You should also avoid denouncing your ex on social media, as screenshots of these posts can be used in the same way.
  • Take care of yourself during the divorce process. Whether it’s a vigorous workout or a bubble bath with a glass of wine, don’t forget to decompress, especially after particularly stressful interactions. This will help you be a better version of yourself during divorce proceedings and a good example for your children.
  • Keep your plans to leave a secret until the last possible moment. There is a high probability that your gaslighting spouse will try to stop you from leaving. Gaslighting is a form of abuse, and it’s impossible to rule out the chance that your spouse may advance to more forms of abuse to make you stay. You should have important documents packed and ready like your birth certificate, passport, etc., and those of your children if applicable. If you are in fear for your safety, you should discuss an Order of Protection with your Arizona divorce attorney. You can also contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

How To Document Gaslighting In An AZ Family Law Case

There are several ways that you can document gaslighting, whether for your own psychological benefit or for evidence in court proceedings. Keeping a journal of instances of gaslighting will help you preserve your memories. Any physical documentation of gaslighting should be kept somewhere where your spouse can’t access. If you keep digital records, keep them password protected with a code that your spouse doesn’t know. A friend or relative’s house may be the safest place to keep these kinds of records. If your friends or relatives have observed your spouse’s gaslighting behavior, they can also be called as witnesses in future divorce proceedings, if necessary.

Video and audio recording can be solid evidence of your spouse’s gaslighting. Seeing a camera may get your spouse to temporarily stop their behavior, but a hidden camera may capture more candid moments. You can also check your doorbell camera and other security camera footage to see if any gaslighting incidents were recorded. In Arizona, only one party to a phone call needs to consent to it being recorded. However, these laws vary by state, so check before recording a phone call between you and your spouse.

Contact Our Arizona Family Lawyers For Assistance

Are you looking to get divorced from a spouse who gaslights and displays other signs of narcissism? Look no further, as our Arizona divorce attorneys are experts at dealing with high-conflict spouses that use manipulative tactics. Our consultations are free of charge, so you can hire your Arizona divorce attorney with confidence. To learn more about our dedicated staff and attorneys, as well as information about our affordable payment plans, call or use our online form to request your free consultation today.


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