Getting Divorced From a Gaslighting Husband Or Wife

Divorcing a Gaslighter In Arizona: Identifying Your Spouse’s Manipulative Behavior

Gaslighting is a difficult phenomenon to describe to someone who has never experienced it. The term comes from Gaslight, a film that was released in 1944. It is the story of a husband who manipulates his wife into believing she is experiencing psychotic symptoms by dimming their gas burner lights. It is a method of control used by manipulative partners, making them feel unsure and anxious. A gaslighting victim may start to question their perception of interactions with their partner, and the world around them in general. Gaslighting isn’t limited to just spousal relationships, but can be used by parents, doctors, and even politicians. When divorcing a spouse who employs gaslighting techniques, it’s important to recognize the signs and anticipate their behaviors during the divorce.

Gaslighting, Your Arizona Lawyer, Divorcing a Gaslighter In Arizona: Identifying Your Spouse's Manipulative Behavior

What Is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is psychological abuse that can encompass several types of behaviors, but the following are common examples of gaslighting:

  • If Your Spouse Denies Something They Did Or Said

Your spouse may deny they said or did something, or that events occurred as they actually did. They will refuse to acknowledge the truth until you question your own view of reality.

  • If Your Spouse Is Questioning Your Memory

In addition to denying something you remember, your spouse may accuse you of constantly misremembering and forgetting. Your spouse may lie as to how events occurred to bolster their argument that your memory is failing you.

  • If Your Spouse Minimizes Your Emotions

Your spouse may be gaslighting you if they accuse you of overreacting, being too sensational or irrational when you are upset by their actions. Gaslighters also frequently rely upon stereotypes to strengthen their arguments. For example, gaslighters may accuse women of being mentally unstable, or minorities of being overly angry. The victim may feel more pressured to stray away from society’s stereotypes due to the gaslighting.

  • If Your Spouse Is Discrediting You In Front Of Others

Your spouse may even involve other people to build up the notion that you are mentally unstable. Your spouse may spread rumors that either subtly or clearly allude to your mental state. Those who believe your spouse may struggle to believe your side of the story when you tell it.

  • If Your Spouse Is Refusing To Engage

Your spouse may pretend not to understand you, or completely ignore you when you try to discuss important issues in your relationship. This allows them to avoid answering your questions and avoid conversations they don’t want to have.

  • If Your Spouse Is Changing The Focus Of The Discussion

Your spouse may accuse you of bringing up an idea due to your parents’ prodding, or of comparing your relationship to your dishonest and unrealistic friends. Then the discussion can change topics to be about the applicable scapegoat instead of the actual issue at hand.

How To Defend Against a Gaslighting Spouse

A core part of defending against gaslighting by a spouse is preserving your memories. You should keep a journal so you can write down how events happen before your spouse has the opportunity to convince you otherwise. Pictures, voice memos, and videos, are even more concrete evidence of how events occur, and harder for your gaslighting spouse to dismantle. Make sure to create duplicates of these files, and keep them in a safe place that your spouse can’t access. After securing these files, delete them off your personal devices in case your spouse gains access to them.

You should also be sure to discuss these noted events with friends, family, or a mental health professional. This will help solidify your version of events and give you a third party perspective. It can also benefit you for someone else to know what is going on in your marriage, especially when you decide to leave.

What To Say If Your Spouse Is Gaslighting You

There are no magic words you can say to make your spouse stop their gaslighting behaviors. Once you recognize that you are a victim of gaslighting, it becomes more about who you say things to than what. One of your first calls should be to a mental health professional or organization. A therapist can help you validate the abuse you have experienced, as well as support you through ending the relationship and your recovery. This will help you recognize the signs of psychological abuse in your future relationships as well. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 800-799-SAFE during non business hours and doesn’t require payment or insurance.

Reasons a Person May Use Gaslighting To Manipulate Their Spouse

Gaslighting is a technique whose use is commonly associated with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Narcissists have an inflated self view, constantly need attention and respect without giving it to others, and overall lack empathy for others. Narcissists always have to be right, and enjoy feeling a sense of authority over others. It makes perfect sense that narcissists would frequently have gaslighting as a tool in their arsenal for manipulation. Narcissists aren’t the only people who gaslight, but frequent use of gaslighting can be a possible indicator of narcissistic personality disorder.

Read more on Narcissistic Personality Disorders and Arizona Family Law.  Seeking to divorce a Narcissist in Arizona?  Click here to learn more. Our Arizona Family Law Lawyers discuss:  Divorcing a Narcissist, What you Will Need to Know.

Indicators That a Person is Experiencing Gaslighting

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.

Signs of a Gaslighting Spouse include:

  • The person becomes socially withdrawn
  • Dependence on their spouse
  • Seemingly harmless lying to loved ones to cover for their spouse’s behavior
  • Repeated apologizing for their own words and actions
  • Hesitation or difficulty executing decisions
  • Stating repeatedly that they are too emotional or sensitive
  • Taking blame in all disagreements with their spouse
  • Questioning their emotions and perceptions of events
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, despair, and depression

Helpful Tips On How To Divorce a Gaslighter

Because you can expect your spouse to try to alter your perception of the past, a key part of divorcing a gaslighter is clear and careful recordkeeping. You should include the date and time of any incidences if it will help you remember them better. You may want to keep a journal or other physical records at a friend or relative’s house so that your spouse can’t tamper with it.

Remember that no agreement with a gaslighter is iron-clad until it is made in writing. Your spouse will likely make promises to get you to compromise on other issues, and deny these promises when it comes time for their turn to follow through. Don’t make any agreements based on verbal promises by your spouse, and ideally, all agreements should be reviewed by your own Arizona divorce attorney before signing.

If your spouse has been making you question your own sanity, it will probably serve you best to retain an attorney to represent you in your divorce. When you have an attorney, the other party is not allowed to contact you directly. With your attorney as a barrier between you and your abusive spouse, the gaslighting will be prevented from spilling into your divorce proceedings.

Seek The Assistance Of An Experienced Arizona Family Lawyer

Having an attorney representing you is always helpful in a divorce, especially when your spouse frequently gaslights you. Gaslighting is a serious form of abuse that can take years to heal from, so you will probably need professional help to escape the situation. A dedicated legal advocate will sort through fact and fiction so your spouse can’t continue to gaslight you through divorce the process as they did in your marriage. To learn more about how our experienced AZ family attorneys can help you through a divorce with a gaslighting spouse, call to schedule your free consultation today at (480) 833-8000.


Contact Professional Family Attorneys In Arizona

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Mesa, AZ 85202

Office: (480) 448-9800

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Phoenix, AZ 85003

Office: (602) 609-7000

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Glendale, AZ 85308

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Tucson, AZ 85701

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Avondale, AZ 85392

Office: (623) 469-6603