Are you being Gaslit by your Narcissistic Spouse?
It can be challenging to identify narcissism and gaslighting because they overlap with typical arguments and misunderstandings between two people. Nevertheless, knowing the signs is essential so you don't get gaslit.
Is your spouse a narcissist?
The narcissist is inflated in their sense of self-importance, needs admiration deeply, and lack empathy.
Originally derived from a Greek myth about Narcissus, an attractive young man who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool, the term "narcissism" came into use in the 20th century.
People with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are often described as demanding, self-centred, and arrogant. However, they can also be charming and charismatic. They can make you feel special but are only interested in you if you reflect their sense of superiority.
Symptoms of this disorder include:
- An exaggerated sense of self-importance
- A preoccupation with fantasies about success, power, beauty, and love
- A belief that they are unique and only understood by other special people
- A need for excessive admiration
- A sense of entitlement; expecting unreasonable or special treatment without taking responsibility for their actions
- Exploiting others to achieve their own needs
- Having an inability to see the destructive consequences of their actions on others
You are likely married to a narcissist if you recognize these symptoms in your spouse. One of the other weapons in a narcissist's arsenal is gaslighting.
Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse in which the abuser convinces the victim that their external reality is inaccurate or that they are crazy. The term originates from a 1938 play called Gas Light, where the main character's husband tries to convince her that she is insane by distorting her perception of reality. The name describes other types of abuse, such as in personal relationships.
Many of the traits of a gaslighter and a narcissist can overlap.
How gaslighting and narcissism are linked
"Narcissists use gaslighting as a way to control people who are close to them. However, they may also do it for power or attention."
Denial: One of the most common tactics both gaslighters and narcissists adopt is denial. The abuser will deny that they said something, even if they did, or they will tell you that you are overreacting or being too sensitive. For example, they might say that your memory isn't accurate and that you imagine things.
Crazy-making: The abuser may also use a technique called "crazy-making" where they try to get the victim so confused and disoriented that they have no idea what is real anymore. This is done by telling blatant lies, making up fake problems, or creating distractions to keep the victim from addressing their concerns about what's happening in their relationship.
The abuse can be so subtle that victims do not even realize their spouse is manipulating them. A gaslighting victim will typically misinterpret events as being more upsetting than they were and may even believe that the abuser is right about everything.
Blatant lies: Both narcissists and gaslighters blatantly lie to their partners to get what they want. Narcissists typically lie about themselves, exaggerating their accomplishments. In contrast, gaslighters lie about the victim's character, sabotaging any achievement the victim may have. They may also reverse or invert the truth to confuse the victim. Inversion of reality is attributing what they did or said to someone else.
Trivializing: Narcissists and gaslighters both trivialize their spouses' emotions and needs. In addition to ignoring or invalidating their spouses' feelings, gaslighters often belittle them or turn them into a joke. For example, your spouse may dismiss your career or passion as just another "hobby or a waste of time." They may also compare your painful past experiences with other traumatic experiences to trivialize your pain.
Breaking free from spousal gaslighting
The first step to getting out of this abusive relationship is recognizing it for what it is. The second step would be talking to trusted friends and family members about the abuse you are experiencing.