understanding gaslighting

This article will help you in understanding gaslighting more, as well as how to recognize and respond to it. If your wayward spouse is making you doubt your own sanity, there is a 99% chance he or she is gaslighting you.

By Sarah P.

While I have written about gaslighting before, I recently had an EPIC gaslighting experience and it was delivered by a seasoned, professional gaslighter. A gaslighter has NEVER won a match against me. EVER. (Unless I decided to walk away.)

But, this was an experience that needed to be written about because it will show everyone concrete examples and details; it will explore the fine art that is gaslighting.

Even though the gaslighting topic I am discussing was not related to infidelity, the tactics the person used were and are directly transferrable to understanding gaslighting within the context of infidelity.  During the experience I had, you could pretty much switch the word “vacation” for “affair” and it would work.

After I speak about this gaslighting scenario I experienced, I will talk specifically about affairs and gaslighting, but will just come a little bit later in the post.

Here is the thing: I know gaslighting inside and out.

If I were a racecar driver and gaslighting was a one lane road 2,000 feet above the Mediterranean sea—a road that included hairpin turns and thousands of blind spots — I would be able to speed right through that road and arrive fully intact in Monte Carlo.

Quite literally, I have driven such roads in a convertible sports car about the Mediterranean during my 20’s—at a time where sheer hubris and the assured confidence that I would live forever literally and metaphorically “over-road” any sense of fear or common sense.

I know gaslighting like I know that dangerous road with hair-pins turns. One mistake and you car will plunge into the sparkling, blue depths thousands of feet below. (Not a terrible way to die really.)

A couple of weeks ago I had the very unfortunate experience of meeting a gaslighter that was able to cause my metaphorical sport’s car to plunge into the Mediterranean sea.

Or maybe it was more of an impasse that the gaslighter caused.

I am still not quite sure, but I ended up calling it quits. Toward the end of the conversation with the gaslighter, my 9-year-old autistic son figured out what was going on. My son got the last word and so did my bank, but you will hear about that soon.

Understanding Gaslighting – What is it?

First, I wanted to provide a very detailed definition of gaslighting so that we are all on the same page as to its meaning:

“Gaslighting is a malicious and hidden form of mental and emotional abuse, designed to plant seeds of self-doubt and alter your perception of reality. Like all abuse, it’s based on the need for power, control, or concealment. Some people occasionally lie or use denial to avoid taking responsibility. They may forget or remember conversations and events differently than you do, or they may have no recollection — say, due to a blackout if they were drinking. These situations are sometimes called gaslighting, but the term actually refers to a deliberate pattern of manipulation calculated to make the victim trust the perpetrator while doubting his or her own perceptions or sanity, similar to brainwashing.

The term derives from the play of the same title, and later, the film with Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer in which Bergman plays a sensitive, trusting wife struggling to preserve her identity in an abusive marriage to Boyer, who tries to convince her that she’s ill in order to keep her from learning the truth.

As in the movie, the perpetrator often acts concerned and kind to dispel suspicions. Someone capable of persistent lying and manipulation is also quite capable of being charming and seductive. Often the relationship begins that way. When the gaslighting starts, you might even feel guilty for doubting a person you’ve come to trust. To further play with your mind, an abuser might offer evidence to show that you’re wrong or question your memory or senses. More justification and explanation, including expressions of love and flattery, are concocted to confuse you and reason away any discrepancies in the liar’s story. You get temporary reassurance, but you increasingly doubt your own senses, ignore your gut, and become more confused.

The person gaslighting you might act hurt and indignant or play the victim when challenged or questioned. Covert manipulation can easily turn into overt abuse, with accusations that you’re distrustful, ungrateful, unkind, overly sensitive, dishonest, stupid, insecure, crazy, or abusive. Abuse might escalate to anger and intimidation with punishment, threats, or bullying if you don’t accept the false version of reality.

Gaslighting can take place in the workplace or in any relationship. Generally, it concerns control, infidelity, or money. A typical scenario is when an intimate partner lies to conceal a relationship with someone else.” (1)

Real Life Example

The following real-life gaslighting scenario contains extreme manipulation directed toward me in order to make me feel as if I were mistaken or wrong. The goal was to make me give up on my request, so that the company with whom I was speaking could steal my money.

The person with whom I spoke tried many times to make me feel like I misunderstood the situation to guilt or shame me, thus (attempting) to make me give up and go away. A gaslighter does not have to fit the comprehensive definition of gaslighting I provided above.

The litmus test for figuring out if you are being gaslighted is this: you know something is true, have proof something is true, and when you confront a person with evidence in order to rectify a situation, they use all kinds of tactics to make you feel wrong, ashamed, demanded, or even crazy.

The following article will contain the “f word” and it will contain this word several times because it was the word that was said and also a word that was thought.

Here is what happens to even the best of people in real life: people drop “f bombs.” There will also be a couple of “b-bombs” in this post since even the best of people are capable of saying these things when someone has broken their heart and crushed their dreams.

So, if anyone has the constitution of a Southern Belle who is prone to fainting when she reads the “f-word” or a “b-bomb,” then this article is NOT for you.

But, if can handle “f-bombs” and “b-bombs,” I say grab a glass of wine or a mug of beer, and kick up your feet, my friends. This way you can at least laugh at the gallows’ humor and some of the outrageousness that will be found in this post.

There will be a couple of moments that are not politically correct and I still encourage you to laugh, despite the fact that people are not supposed to find such things funny. However, the funny thing about humor is it does not really follow the rules people expect. That is what makes humor funny—the element of surprise.

The King Gaslighter

While I know many people may not be trustworthy with certain tasks or behaviors, generally, I expect established companies, based in the United States, to deliver the product that I have purchased.

In the cases when they have not been able to deliver said product, I simply call customer service and get a replacement or a refund, based on the situation. Sometimes I have to speak to a supervisor to rectify a situation, but it is always rectified.

In the past, we have purchased discounted vacations (sold via telemarketers) to far-flung places and these vacations have either met or exceeded our expectations. 

So, last year, when I got a call about a combination package that included a cruise with a waterfront room/balcony, a week at a 4-star waterfront hotel in the Bahamas with waterfront suite, and a 7-day Disney World package that included another 4-star hotel, all for about $3,000, I listened.

They told me the package needed to be used by the end of June 2018. They explained that if I had not used it by the end of June 2018, all I needed to do was make a phone call, prior to June 30th, 2018, and ask for another year to book the package.

They said there would be no cost or penalties if I extended the package and that I could book at any time without black out dates. They also told me I could use the package in separate pieces.

I could take the Disney World part during one part of the year and then the Bahamas part at another time. So, I purchased it and they sent me an email describing the package I had purchased and the terms we had discussed.

So far, so good.

But, life gets busy and so we were not able to schedule it.

Last month, I told my autistic son that we were thinking of using the package for either the Disneyland portion or the Bahamas portion. I showed my son all the hotels the package included, the cruise ship, and the glorious beach in the Bahamas. He said either one was fine and he was VERY, very excited.

So, the next day, I called the company to schedule it and I wanted to figure out if it would be better to go to Disneyland or the Bahamas (in late April, this month 2018).

I was told by a customer service agent in a foreign country that I could not split the vacation into separate parts.

So, I asked to book the entire vacation.

 The customer service person told me I needed to book and travel at least 60 days before June 30th.

I explained how I was at least 60 days from June 30th and how I would like to book the vacation prior to the expiration.

The customer service representative tried to tell me I was wrong—that I was less than 60 days out—and that she could not help.

I showed her I was within the 60 day window, per the calendar. She argued with me for a few minutes about how I was outside the window.

Then, I gave up and asked to extend the package for another year so that I could book that trip another time.

She said “No.”

I asked, “Why?”

She explained that the company had changed their policy and that people are no longer allowed to extend the package.

I said that was not the contract that I had agreed to or the vacation package that I purchased. 

I offered to email the contract. She then told me that my contract was invalid because of their policy change.

I told them they could not invalidate a contract. Additionally, they had not even notified me, their customer, of the policy change.

The woman I spoke with gave up and decided to transfer me to a manager, who was in Florida.

I went through the WHOLE story again with the American manager and the manager told me the exact same thing she had told me.

He told me that I could not use my vacation package because I was not “within” their booking dates and I could not “extend” it because they changed their policy.

Then, I told them it was my legal right to receive either the vacation I had paid for and that was specified in the contract OR they could issue a refund for $3,000.

The man refused to issue a refund.

I let the man know that although I was not an attorney, I had finished one year of law school. I let the man know that the company was not adhering to the terms of their contract and their duty to “perform” their service that I paid for—a service (vacation) they refused to render.

I let them know this was a violation of United States contract law, which states: “ Performance, in law, act of doing that which is required by a contract. The effect of successful performance is to discharge the person bound to do the act from any future contractual liability. Each party to the contract is bound to perform promises according to the stipulated terms.”

I explained to them that I had “the contract” in my email and I would be happy to send it to them and remind them of the stipulated terms.

I explained that due to the contact, they were bound to the act of permitting me to schedule and participate in the vacation that they hold sold me, since I performed my duty by pre-paying them in full for their services (vacation).

Again, I asked for either a refund or the ability to schedule and physically participate in the vacation that I had purchased.

Once again, he flat out refused to give me a refund for the vacation and kept saying he was “unable to help me.”

I would not give up and I kept explaining the ins and outs of United States contract law as well as consumer rights. Finally, the customer service manager got exhausted.

Enter The King Gaslighter

So it was, that the customer service manager decided to transfer me to the man I will refer to as “The King Gaslighter.”

Obviously, The King Gaslighter was this company’s “secret weapon” that they saved for people like me.

He was the guy who had studied Jedi mind tricks and had gone over to “the dark side.”

The King Gaslighter was obviously used to being able to use a myriad of gaslighting techniques to get people to throw up their hands and go away.

He was the guy who had studied The Art of War and probably got off on the idea that he could out-manipulate anyone who crossed his path.

Little did the King Gaslighter know that he was about to meet the woman who was an expert at battling gaslighters.

I told the entire story all over again to The King Gaslighter and asked to either:

  • Book my vacation
  • Extend my vacation
  • Get a refund for said vacation

He listened patiently and complimented me for my choice in choosing their excellent company. But, then I asked which of the three it would be—would we be booking my vacation, extending my vacation, or issuing a refund for non-performance on their part?

I asked if we could review the emailed contract together for reference.

The King Gaslighter merely said, “Hmm.”

This was the kind of dismissive and condescending “hmm” someone utters when they are observing a crazy person who is disturbing a public event, but they don’t have the time to even continue condescending to or looking at said crazy person. Said crazy person is such a waste of their time that all they can muster is a disdainful “hhhmmm” as they finish a cucumber sandwich.

Note #1: If a sane person talks to a gaslighter and brings factual and indisputable evidence to a gaslighter’s attention, a gaslighter’s first tactic is to make that person seem crazy by either ignoring them or condescending to them.

I said, “So, can you help me get this situation straightened out?”

Then King Gaslighter said, “Mam, I do not think you understand what has happened. We have clearly explained to you that our policy has changed and we are unable to meet your request for booking your vacation.”

Note #2: If a gaslighter does not succeed in making a sane person feel awkward and self-conscious by treating a sane person crazy, a gaslighter will try a different tactic. They will play the “you are too dumb to understand what you see” game. This is basically a doubling down on making you feel crazy while they provide so-called evidence that would imply you are crazy. They will make you feel like you are too stupid and crazy to understand. They want you to go away.

I said, “Then, I would like a refund, please, and it sounds like you are the person to authorize my refund, so can we work on that?”

King Gaslighter said, “ I am sorry that I cannot meet your request for a refund because your vacation package has completely expired.”

Note #3: If a gaslighter has not been able to make you feel crazy, he will play the “let’s move the goal post” game.

I said, “This is the first time anyone I have spoken to has claimed my vacation has expired. In fact, I have the original contract which specifies it does not expire until June 30th of 2018.”

He said, “Yes, your vacation has completely expired because you have not called in to book it at least four months in advance.”

Note #4: If moving the goal post does not work, the gaslighter will make up something completely new that has never been mentioned before. The new thing that they mention will serve the purpose of discouraging you and confusing you further. 

I said, “Actually, what you are saying is not only completely new, but it is nowhere in the vacation contract that your company sent to me.”

He said, “I really wonder about what kind of person you are. If I were you, I would have called our company several months ago to make sure there were no policy changes.”

Note #5: If a gaslighter has not made you give up by using tactics 1-4, a gaslighter will start to attack you as a person and imply that you are stupid, crazy, inferior, or any other number of things to take the focus off him (the gaslighter) and put the focus on YOU.

I said, “This is not about policy changes or my inability to call. This is about either letting me schedule and take my vacation or to issue a refund.”

He said, “But, I still can’t help but wonder what kind of person you are. It is completely obvious and common sense to someone like myself to call the company in advance to see if there are policy changes. What kind of person does not call the company for policy changes… I am just saying…”

Note #6: If a gaslighter has not been able to make you give up yet, he will ensure you don’t discuss the topic at hand by comparing your inferiority to his superiority. The gaslighter hopes that this will cause you to feel ashamed of yourself and give up. 

I said in a completely calm and matter-of-fact voice, “It sounds like you are trying to imply I am stupid to get me off the subject at hand. I would like to inform you that I have two graduate degrees and a year of law school, so I think it is time to stop wasting my time and to issue me a refund.” [Note to readers, I am not always that arrogant. I had been on the phone for an hour and realized I was dealing with The King Gaslighter. I decided to announce whom he was dealing with in hopes he would give up.]

He said, “Here is what I can do for you. We have a package at the Luxor in Las Vegas and it costs $1,500.”

Note #7: If all the other tactics do not work, a gaslighter will use the old “bait and switch.” He will say, “Hey look at that shiny thingy over there! Isn’t that shiny thingy interesting?”

I said, “I am not interested in a vacation at the Luxor hotel. It seems to me that you have not only stolen $3,000 from me, you are now trying to get another $1,500 for another vacation that you will not deliver.”

He said, “Look mam, I told you your vacation was expired and our policies have changed. The only thing I can offer you is another Florida vacation or a Las Vegas vacation for an additional $1,500. There is nothing else I can do for you.

Note #8: If you still will not go away or concede to whatever it is a gaslighter wants you to do, he will imply that you are stuck in a particular situation and that you only have the options he has given you. 

I said, “You are telling me that you are not only breaking the terms of the contract from your company and taking my $3,000, you still believe I am gullible enough to pay you another $1,500 for a vacation I do not want.”

He said, “Mam, I am really sorry that you do not understand. It’s not my fault that you did not call in to us “in time” and I have now “expired” your original vacation package. It is no longer available to you. If you would like to travel, I can only offer you my $1,500 package at the Luxor.”

Note #9: If you do not give up, the gaslighter will find a way to punish you by removing that thing you were asking for. In the case of an affair, it may be that you have not agreed to a cheater’s terms of how the reconciliation with go and so he withdraws himself completely from the relationship to punish you. But, in my case, The King Gaslighter decided to “expire” my original vacation to punish me.

Here is what happened next, I put King Gaslighter on speakerphone.

My two sons were in the room. My older son is an imp and likes to tell my son with autism all kinds of interesting swear words when I am not listening. I looked at my kids and pointed at the phone so they would pay attention and listen to what was happening.

I said to King Gaslighter, “So, I just want to reiterate. Even though I paid you $3,000 for a vacation, you are telling me that I CANNOT use the vacation. That means I cannot take my children to Disneyland and it also means that I cannot take my children to the beautiful beach in the Bahamas.”

My children’s eye’s grew wider because it was starting to register with them that someone was taking their vacation away.

King Gaslighter said, “That is correct. Your vacation has expired and you cannot go to the Bahamas or to Disneyland.”

I said to King Gaslighter, “So, basically you are telling me that you are taking the vacation away that my kids have been looking forward to for a very long time. You are taking the vacation away that I was reviewing with my youngest son last night and he can no longer go to the reach.”

King Gaslighter replied, “That is correct because our policy has changed. Your vacation has expired and you cannot use it.”

I said to my youngest son who is on the autism spectrum, “Hey son, you hear this man on the phone? Well, he just took away BOTH your Disneyland vacation and your beach vacation.”

My son, who had been listening and wanted confirmation from mom as if his vacation was being taken away let loose. He came up to my phone and roared like a dinosaur. Then he screamed, “You fucking man-bitch, you can’t take away my beach vacation you man-bitch!”

I asked King Gaslighter, “Did you hear that?”

King Gaslighter was totally silent.

I said, “Are you there?”

Dead silence, but I saw the call was still connected.

Finally, I said in a calm voice, “I guess that is what you get for stealing beach vacations away from little children.”

Then I hung up.

I called Bank of America and told the entire story to the Bank of America representative and asked to reverse the charge.

I told the representative that the call had been recorded by the fraudulent vacation company.

I told the B of A rep that if the company send tapes to Bank of America, they will hear my autistic  9-year-old son calling the man at the vacation company a “man bitch” and that I apologize in advance for that.

Of course, the Bank of America representative laughed and laughed and laughed. The B of A rep admitted that he would have both said and done much worse if he had paid $3,000 for a vacation that did not exist. Notably that he said he would have “opened up a can of whoop ass” on the company. Then I laughed and laughed.

Yes, this actually happened. And I still cannot believe it. But, that was what I got for making the mistake of buying a vacation package I thought existed but did not. If it seems “too good to be true” it is.

Was That Wrong?

I am sure you are thinking I must be some kind of horrible parent when you heard the outcome of that story.

Well, do you remember that old radio show “Kids Say the Darndest Things?” It’s 2018 and the things that kids say now certainly are the darndest of the darndest.

I did not even know my son knew the phrase man bitch and it is something I have never said aloud. It was not something we said as teenagers either, so I was taken off guard.

But, I was also angry at The King Gaslighter and I think The King Gaslighter received an “enlightening moment” in his life.

It is one of those moments where I hope The King Gaslighter took pause and realized he was at a crossroads.

Would King Gaslighter choose to keep knowingly, willingly, and smugly participating in fraudulent behavior?

Or, would that be his wake up call that he was truly and genuinely being the biggest man bitch on the planet at that moment in time?

Would this cause The King Gaslighter to drop to his knees, put his head in his hands and say, “Dear Lord, what has become of me? I used to be a NICE person. I am going to quit my job right now and start flipping burgers for a living. I don’t care how poorly I am paid, my integrity is NOT for sale.”

I can assure you that did not happen.

King Gaslighter is the head honcho of the fraudulent company for a reason. He thinks it is fun to steal money all day—selling false hopes and dreams to families– and to get paid for it.

Of course, there is still the matter of my oldest son; the orchestrator of the man bitch chaos.

When I hung up, my oldest son had a satisfied smile on his face, much wider than that of the Cheshire Cat himself, raised his eyebrows, and the confidence of a corporate mogul who had just accomplished his first takeover.

Then my oldest son pointed his thumbs towards himself while he reveled in his success. He had successfully gotten his brother to remember a shocking phrase and was there to witness the context in which his brother angrily and unabashedly uttered this horrible phrase to another person.

Yes, my oldest son was on cloud nine.

Somehow life takes dysfunctional paths, even in the homes of people where the parents are educated enough to know better. But, no matter how educated I become, I hope I will be able to look back at that moment with joy: the first time my child, dare I say “my little angel,” uttered the phrase man bitch.

(Cue laughter. That last paragraph was meant to be completely and totally satirical. So please do not send Doug and Linda hate mail on my behalf.)

My oldest son was watching New Girl re-runs last night and I saw a scene and took pause. Surely, this is who my youngest son will turn into twenty years from now:

 

Actually, I am kidding. I will teach my son to leave quietly and not engage evil people.

But, it reminded me that when good people are really angry, they can say some very shocking things. (In that clip, the young actor was angry because the old man asked the young actor if he could “use his girlfriend” for a night.)

King Gaslighter, Values and the Dynamics of Infidelity?

I disgressed.

Even though King Gaslighter was the head of the fraudulent customer service department, he has a lot to teach us through his behavior. In fact, he gives us a terrific example of how to mess with people’s minds through the art of gaslighting.

The King Gaslighter was obviously skilled at crushing people’s hopes and dreams both at his job and in his personal life.

No, his bad attitude and manipulation skills were not saved only for work.

People do not go to work, turn on manipulation and gaslighting techniques, and turn them off again. Au contraire, mes amis. If someone is a gaslighter, the burner is always lit.

Let me summarize the techniques The King Gaslighter used:

  • Make your victim feel or look crazy, especially when the victim presents the gaslighter with factual and indisputable information.
  • Make your victim feel as if they simply do not understand the complexities of a situation and that the victim is merely mistaken about what he or she has observed. (i.e. “Go away, stupid.”)
  • Move the goal post
  • Dissuade, evade, change the subject
  • Make the victim feel inferior as a person by pointing out the victim’s personal flaws
  • Shame the victim and make the victim feel ashamed of himself for thinking/doing/saying something that would implicate the gaslighter
  • Bait and switch: if a victim wants, expects and needs one thing, the gaslighter will offer something else that the victim does not want/need/desire. The gaslighter will present their own option as the only option the victim has.
  • Back the victim into a corner by implying the victim only has the choices the gaslighter wants.
  • If the victim does not “behave,” the gaslighter will take away something important to the victim—generally the most important thing the victim wants at that moment in time.
  • If the victim still does not “behave,” the gaslighter will remove all of their so-called “chips from the table” and refuse to dialog with the victim until the victim concedes to the gaslighter’s false reality.

Now, those are just the tactics that The King Gaslighter used in his conversation with me. This is in no way an exhaustive list in terms of the tactics gaslighters use.

By the way, some gaslighters will play the victim – they will say you are victimizing them – or they will pretend to be innocent and benign.

Gaslighters play only one game—that game is to “fuck people over.”

Speaking of fucking people over…

My husband and I watched a movie recently called Downsizing, starring Matt Damon. In this fictional world, people are able to be physically downsized to 5 inches tall. By paying a company just over $100,000, they can be shrunk and then sent to live in tiny cities where they live a lifestyle only accessible to multimillionaires.

At 5 inches tall, they get to live in the equivalent of a 12,000 square foot house, drive many luxury cars, wear diamonds, the best clothing, stop working, spend their days golfing and pursuing leisure activities. Matt Damon’s character had a wife who was spending beyond their means and so the solution he finds is to have them both “down-sized” so that she can live the life of a multi-millionaire.

What’s the catch?

The couple is separated during the downsizing procedure and she decides to bail at the last second. After he wakes up and is 5 inches tall, she calls him and tells him she decided to stay tall and is serving him with divorce papers. (It is implied she had or has a back-up person in mind, which makes leaving her husband easy-peasy.)

Wow, right?

During the movie, he meets a Vietnamese woman who was downsized by her government against her will. She was a political activist. Instead of putting her in jail, they downsized her as punishment. She cleans the houses of the rich people in the new 5-inch tall communities.

She meets Matt Damon and they develop a friendship. At one point in the movie, their relationship turns sexual. After it turns sexual, Matt Damon decides to go live underground in a community of other people 5 inch tall since they believe the world is ending. As he is leaving to join the underground people, the Vietnamese woman angrily confronts him and says the following in her thick accent:

“What kind of fuck you give me?”

He gives her a bewildered look indicating he does not understand.

She continues, “In America people have eight kinds of “fuck.” They have love fuck, hate fuck, the sex only fuck, the break up only fuck, the buddy fuck, the drunk fuck, the make-up fuck, (and finally) the pity fuck.”

She angrily asks Matt Damon if he “pity fucked her” since he was so willing to go on to the next thing and leave her on the surface. He said he gave her a “love fuck,” but then continues with his lame excuse about going underground.

She calls him on his selfishness and tells him off. Finally, at the end of the movie, his character decided not to go underground and instead decides to stay on the surface and “serve” all of the people in their community that have been unwillingly downsized such as the disabled, the ill, the old and infirm.

Yes, I digressed.

But, watching that actress explain the “eight kinds of fucks” that occur in the United States was worth it. And telling the story of her talking about the eight kinds of fucks was also worth it because it tells us so much about American culture and our so-called values.

We have a Puritan façade, but underneath all that hypocrisy, we have a variety of ways to “fuck people over.” Gaslighters are the Kings of Fucking People Over.

[Once again, please, don’t send hate mail to Doug and Linda for the swear words in this post. We are talking about an ugly topic and for such topics clean words may not suffice.]

BIG NEWS FLASH: We live in the real world and not inside a self-help book where all of the scenarios are neat, clean, and tidy. We do not live in a self-help book where if we say the right thing at the right time, the gaslighter or the narcissist will come to their senses and say, “Wow. You are right” and then become a great person.

In the real world, relationships are complicated.

It also turns out there are a lot of people who have “character disorders.”

This is the new catchall term for all of the personality disorders as well as for people who are extremely selfish, egotistical, outright mean, complete jerks, or the biggest assholes on earth. (Because being the biggest asshole on earth is not a formal mental health diagnosis in the DSM-V).

Statistically speaking, there are A LOT of people with character disorders. Where there are character disorders, there will be gaslighting.

Gaslighting and Affairs

But, beyond that, where there are affairs, there will also be gaslighting.

Because life is not perfect and many of us cannot disappear into the ether or completely sever ties with wayward, gaslighting spouses, we NEED TIPS on how to defend ourselves. 

It’s really quite simple. More simple than you think.

The first step is that you must recognize gaslighting.

The second step is that you must have concrete, indisputable facts and keep returning to those facts when speaking with a gaslighter.

The gaslighter’s tools are “world salad,” guilt, and shame.

The gaslighter’s goal is to get you lost in the dizzying maze that has been born out of the gaslighter’s manipulations.

If you are lost in the maze, you cannot remember what you wanted to address, you cannot get your emotional bearings, and at worst, you start to feel as if it is time to check yourself into an insane asylum.

If someone has done factual things to hurt you—that is if they have cheated and you have proof of it—and if you confront them and end up feeling as if you need to be sent to the looney bin, you are dealing with a master gaslighter.

 In fact, you are dealing with a King Gaslighter only he is the King of his territory: you.

King Gaslighters exist everywhere.

The only way to deal with them in factual information and solid and indisputable truth.

Once you have the concrete proof in front of you, metaphorically nail a gaslighter’s foot to the floor, and keep repeating the truth over and over again.

Confronting a Gaslighter – An Example

Here is an example on how to confront a gaslighter about their affair. I am using a scenario where a wife catches her husband, but a husband can use this same tactic against a cheating wife:

You: When I got home last night, you were in the kitchen and your dick was in Jane. “Run Jane, run!” And run away she did.

Gaslighter: You know what is wrong with you? You always bring up the past and you nag, nag, nag about the past.

You: When I got home last night, you were in the kitchen and your dick was in Jane. I want to talk about that.

Gaslighter: God, you are seeing things now. Jane and I are friends and we are working on a project together. You just don’t get it.

You: I want to talk about how you stuck your dick in Jane.

Gaslighter: Have you looked in the mirror lately? What the hell is up with your hair anyway? Have you seen your muffin top? And now you are blaming me???

You: You broke our marriage vows when you stuck your dick in Jane. I can no longer trust you and that is an issue for me.

Gaslighter: All you do is bring up negative things about our marriage. Don’t you hear yourself? You should be lucky I am still married to you.

You: You still stuck your dick in Jane and that is a fact. You broke our wedding vows and I want to talk about what to do next.

Gaslighter: What?? What do you mean by ‘stuck dick in Jane’—are you reciting children’s old children’s books now? Wow, you really are crazy.

You: You stuck your dick in Jane. Here are the divorce papers and you will find the proposed settlement that my attorney put together in this envelope. Now, I am giving you permission to take the next half hour to pack your things and leave MY HOUSE.

Gaslighter: Come on!!! Now you really ARE crazy!! You know, my dick just slipped. I do not know WHY it happened. It just did and now you want a divorce? Now you are going to destroy everything we have built? YOU ARE THE PROBLEM.

You: The moment your “dick slipped” and “fell” into Jane, you broke our marriage vows. As a result of your actions, you have destroyed everything we have built as a couple. You have intentionally made the choice to render our marriage null and void. You have proved to me that I made a terrible decision by trusting you in any way—as a husband, a friend, and a father. Now, please get your things and leave.

Gaslighter: No, you are not allowed to kick me out of MY HOUSE and I am staying.

You: Would you like for me to get the police involved? Or how about our kids? How about the neighbors and my parents and your parents and everyone you work with? I have the National Enquirer on speed dial. Please leave MY HOUSE now.

Gaslighter: I refuse to leave MY HOUSE.

You: I will pack my things and bring the children. You will receive instructions from my attorney tomorrow. The house will be mine, so do not get too comfortable. This is your last chance. You can talk to me now about your affair, you can tell me everything now, and you can cut all contact with Jane now over the phone while I listen.

Gaslighter: You are crazy. You are having a mental break down and I think I need to call 911. You need to be hospitalized because you can no longer see reality.

You: Come on, kids. Let’s grab our clothes now. We are going on a long vacation because your dad wants to have another mommy in the house.

If your gaslighter continues to stall, turns everything back on you, blames others, or does not want to talk about his affair or break it up, you leave.

You get a suitcase, you get your children, and you start packing. You go and stay with friends, family or even at a shelter if that is where you have to stay. You send a word through an attorney about your terms: Jane gets dumped, wayward spouse goes to individual counseling and marriage counseling, wayward spouse takes full responsibility for his or her actions.

There will be NO hysterical bonding because that is the fastest ticket to STD land. Furthermore, hysterical bonding gives the wayward spouse a power high that cannot even be achieved on drugs. He (or she) will go back to the other person, you will find out, you will hysterical bond.

He will be The King of Cake Eating.

He will get such a rush over all this attention and drama that he will NOT give it up.

Ahhh… but you might say this is “real life” and you cannot just remove your clothes and your kids from the house and leave for a month. It is not realistic.

But here is the thing—anything is realistic if you have the self-esteem and self-resolve.

Many betrayed spouses thing they can control others, especially their wayward spouse.

They think they will succeed at what The Chump Lady calls “the pick me dance.” Engaging in the pick me dance only stalls the inevitable.

One day, everyone will have to wake up and FACE what has happened. A wayward spouse has been careless, selfish, cruel, and could care less that he or she broke their marriage vows.

It’s a terrible thing to face.

But, it has been shown time and again that the ONLY way to make a wayward spouse wake up (if there is a chance that a wayward spouse can wake up). Here is the swiftest way to do it:  you (the betrayed spouse) look the wayward spouse in the face, announce that you and the children will have a good life without him or her, and then you physically remove yourself from the wayward spouse, and file for separation.

That is the SWIFTEST way to find out if you can recover your marriage.

Men and women get so frightened that if they do this the other person will “win.” In most cases, this wakes up a wayward spouse. But, let’s say the other person “wins” and a wayward spouse chooses her/him for the long-term. Your wayward spouse and the other person will now be introduced to “real life” which is very different than the “fantasy life” that was contained in the affair bubble.

The wayward spouse will look at the other person and secretly say to himself/herself: “If she/he was willing to break up a family and obviously feels no remorse, I wonder if I can trust her/him.” Then, the other person will secretly think, “If that is all it took for me to break up a marriage and family of 15 years, I wonder when he/she will do the same thing to me.”

You think these two will be happy?

It does not matter if they smile when they are out in public, these are the thoughts that will keep them up at night. Such thoughts will start to poison whatever “luv” and “soulmate connection” that they believe they had.

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When Gaslighting Is Deadly

Chronic gaslighting can either shorten lives due to stress or cause suicide.

I have a story about what a neighbor experienced first-hand due to gaslighting. She moved away several years ago and I do not believe she is alive any longer or that any of the people involved are alive either. (I know three of them have passed away.)

One day I started talking to a wealthy, female retiree in her 70’s who lived several houses away. We had the same dog breed and our dogs loved to play together. So, we would talk as we watched our dogs play together.

She was a non-Jew who told me about her experience with being secretly married to a Jewish doctor. She was married in secret because his mom was profoundly mentally ill and he did not want to cause further problems. Since his mom lived in another state, this woman was introduced as his wife in our community—the fact that they were married was just hidden from his mom and brother.

Even though his mom did not know he was married, his mom meddled in his life each day. His mother called both he and his adult brother daily on the landline phone.

They all lived in different states and places, but that did not prevent his mom from keeping in touch. But, this was not a nice mom who talked about gardening, baking, and inquired about her son’s health and wellbeing.

No, this was a MEAN MOM.

My neighbor told me his mother would spend an hour on the phone each evening calling him a “piece of shit” a “worthless human being” and telling him he did not even deserve to be alive, among a variety of other mean things.

This neighbor told me they chose not to have children because her husband “did not want to continue the family line” because of his mom.

The neighbor told me when her husband was alive, his mother would reduce him to tears on a daily basis. She said her husband was a gentle giant of 6’5,’ beloved by his patients, and the community, and she said it crushed her to see this hulking and gentle man reduced to nothing – in a puddle of tears – right after phone calls. She would spend an hour hugging him and attempting to rebuild his self-esteem after these daily phone attacks.

Some might ask why this adult son did not go no contact. Well, the Jewish community is very different from other communities. Jews have developed a closed culture based on thousands of years of persecution.

At that point in the in the Jewish community, it was unheard of to go no contact with elderly parents. It did not matter if the elderly parents spent their days throwing plates and hurling insults at their adult child. The adult child had a duty to be tolerant of their abusive parent, per Jewish culture. Thankfully, things are now changing as the Jewish community becomes aware of every individual’s right to basic respect.

My neighbor’s healthy husband had passed away suddenly due to too much stress. He was out on his fishing boat and had not come home. Someone found him on his boat, dead from a heart attack. He was young and healthy (early 50’s), but the stress of those daily calls had killed him years before he should have died.

The woman told me that just before her husband died, her husband’s brother had committed suicide. Her husband’s brother left a suicide note detailing the physical and emotional abuse he had faced at the hands of his mother for his entire life. He also wanted to ensure the family line did not continue—he said so in his suicide note—and he hung himself.

She asked me if I had ever heard of a mother so cruel because none of her friends believed her. I told her, yes, I had certainly not only heard of a mother so cruel — but I had met a mother as cruel as that — a mother that continued to be as cruel as that. (This cruel person is thankfully NOT a blood relative of mine, but a family member through marriage.)

My neighbor’s husband’s death haunted her, but she said the cruelty of his mother haunted her more. She said the worst part was that his vile mother was still alive into her 90’s, while all the people she harmed were long dead.

Emotional abuse and gaslighting are often one in the same. Or rather, someone can be emotionally abusive to another without using gaslighting as a tactic. But, anytime gaslighting is used, it is emotional abuse.

Gaslighting is emotional abuse, so do not forget that. No one deserves to be abused.

Even evil people do not deserve to be actively abused.

We can certainly go no contact with evil people forever and ensure we cut them out of our lives forever, but we do not need to actively harm them the way they have harmed others.

So, evil people deserve to be abandoned, but not actively abused.

And if a truly evil person is in your life, it is time to think hard about your life and your wellbeing. Keeping malignant people in your life is not worth it.

Are Gaslighters Evil?

One thing people ask me is if gaslighters are evil. Well, gaslighting is one of many abusive behaviors. It is a behavior that “evil” people use and it is a behavior that not-so-evil people use.

For example, the mother-in-law of the former neighbor qualifies as an evil human being because of the way she intentionally used gaslighting as one of her many abusive behaviors. She is an evil human being because she knew what she was doing and she took pleasure in knowingly destroying her children. That’s extremely evil.

However, there are other people who use gaslighting too. Many people use it as a defense mechanism when they are flooded with shame. Some use it when they are flooded with guilt. Others use it because they cannot face cognitive dissonance. 

Almost all of us face cognitive dissonance at one point or another. Most of us like to believe we are decent people.

For example, a man might spend his weekends building houses for Habitat for Humanity, like my ex did with me. Maybe he takes a new tool home each weekend and does not return it.

In his mind, he might be borrowing the tools and perhaps he has convinced himself he will return them. What if someone figured out that he was responsible for all the missing tools and called the police so that the man could be arrested?

The man would probably be shocked.

In his mind, he is an awesome person who spends all of his free time helping others. He has convinced himself he will use the tools to help people on other jobs and then bring them back.

In his mind, he DOES NOT steal and he is most certainly NOT a thief.  But, the people who found out he took the tools home might tell everyone he is a thief and not to be trusted.

Even if people think of him as a thief who belongs in jail, he will never think of himself that way. He is a nice man who spends his weekends helping others.

If someone confronted him and asked him how it felt to be a kleptomaniac, that would cause cognitive dissonance. In his mind, he is not a thief and definitely NOT a kleptomaniac. He will feel defensive and he will feel ashamed and because he is the nice guy who spends all of his free time building homes for the poor.

This example I used above was inspired by an article I read in the Daily Mail.

A 38-year-old man, who had been a professional burglar for years, broke into the wrong house and was stabbed to death by the owner.

By day, the man who had been stabbed worked on various construction projects and even built houses for the poor, he went to church, sometimes taught Sunday school, and ensured that his children were well taken care of. He was highly regarded in his community and by his family.

It’s just that for the past 20 years the majority of his income had come from breaking into people’s homes and stealing anything he could find (not from the construction jobs).

His family, church members, and friends put out a huge memorial on the front lawn of the person who killed the burglar.

Obviously the homeowner and the neighbors were offended.

The person who killed the burglar was a man in his 70’s and he had literally needed to act in self-defense and was terribly troubled by what happened. The burglar had made it clear to the retiree that he was going to be killed, so the retiree acted in self-defense. The retiree was not put in jail or on trial since it was an open and shut case.

But, that did not matter to the church and all the people this professional and violent burglar knew. They put up memorials on the victim’s lawn and spoke about what a Saint this burglar was. They were all convinced of it too.

I am sure that the burglar saw himself as a great guy too. It did not matter that he made the majority of his money beating up homeowners and stealing their things, he went to church and bought lots of stuff for his kids.

He did everything RIGHT in life except for being a career thief. I am sure in his mind, he had the best intentions.

That is cognitive dissonance. Everyone on the outside can see what is happening, but the person who is doing something terrible cannot believe he is a “bad” person.

That is generally where and why gaslighting starts.

Someone got caught with their hands in the cookie jar and they just cannot reconcile that they have been a “bad boy.” Maybe mom thinks they are a “bad boy,” but they were just hungry.

Mom cannot blame them for eating. Geez.

Sure, mom said NOT to have cookies because they were for grandpa’s birthday, but a few cookies doesn’t make a ‘bad boy’ especially when that ‘bad boy’ was starving.

It did not even matter that the ‘bad boy’ had a refrigerator full of food. To the ‘bad boy’ he is still a ‘good boy’ and does not know what all the fuss is about.

He was hungry!!

People eat when they are hungry!! And that does not make him a bad boy!! Confronting such a child would result in lots of gaslighting.

He might say, “Mommy you should have fed me later in the morning or I would not have taken that cookie. I am not a bad boy.”

Mommy says, “But, you took 10 cookies that were for grandpa’s birthday.”

Boy says, “But, you never make me cookies, you don’t even love me.”

If mom falls for it, she has just fallen for gaslighting and the gaslighting started not because the child was inherently “evil.”

It started as a defense mechanism.

He wanted cookies, he ate them, and he just cannot believe he is a bad person or why mom is angry.

So he uses guilt as a gaslighting tool so that mom will leave him alone. No child wants mom to nag and so once again, the gaslighting begins as a defense mechanism and not because of inherent evil.

The child probably does not even know it is called gaslighting. He knows he wants what he wants and does not want to be punished, but he is too young to know what he is doing is called gaslighting.

On the other hand, adults know what they are doing.

Childhood is the time when people are supposed to “internalize” moral values. If adults have not truly internalized moral values, they will not be trustworthy adults.

I have come to the conclusion that the reason I will never cheat on my husband is NOT due to my upbringing, it’s NOT due to the way I am ‘wired’ or due to my personality, and it is NOT due to fear or guilt.

It is because I INTERNALIZED moral values when they were taught to me.

The Ten Commandments were and are sacred to me.

They are The Laws you never break, no matter how you are feeling.

God said NOT to do it—ever.

He had it written in stone and not on paper. That means the Ten Commandments are serious business.

I probably did not live up to them as a child — what child doesn’t covet another child’s toy/house/pet/backyard—or grab that cookie from the cookie jar. But, I sure live up to them as an adult.

On the other hand, I do understand there might be exceptions to the rule and I make room for that. But, it better be an exception due to GENUINE life and death situations or suffering.

Gaslighting, Trauma and the Mind

One important thing to be aware of is that when infidelity occurs and a betrayed spouse wants answers, there will be many times the wayward spouse will lie. But, there will be times when a wayward spouse does not remember. During these times, a betrayed spouse will believe their spouse is gaslighting them and they will become very angry.

But memory loss has to do with how events that occurred during an experience that ends up being traumatic can cause holes in memory. They have also showed that when people are going through traumatic and life-altering situations, they are not capable of learning and retaining information well. If someone is going through a contentious divorce and taking an academic class on a topic they have never studied, they will have a terrible time focusing on and retaining what they have learned. This has been a recent focus in psychology journals because the nature of memory and recall is not at all what we believe it to be. It is not straightforward.

I have a story about the nature of trauma and how it affects the mind. This is a personal story everyone can understand. Since it is not related to adultery or internal harm, there will be no triggers. But, it is a perfect illustration of how trauma affects the mind, even of the most stable people who have excellent memories.

 Our children wanted exotic goldfish as pets.

I had hesitated to have any fish as pets because of what happened when I was a child. No matter how well we cared for our fish, and we did, I could spot when they were getting sick before my parents could. And so as a 6/7/8 year old child, I would kneel besides my bed and ask God to heal my pet fish because I could see it was sick.

And I would cry and plead with God to tell me the right healing prayer to pray, so that my fish would be okay. But, I saw the fish get sicker. So, each time, I would tell my mom and we would get to work changing the water and doing absolutely everything we could for the sick fish.

But, the fish would always die.

We went through several fish until we just could not take it anymore. My favorite fish of all had died.

It was the size of a goldfish, but it had metallic silver and alternating purple coloration and patterns on its body. It was very interactive and friendly. I cannot remember that fish’s name and when it died, that was it.

My mom decided it was time for longer-lived pets that could visit the vet. There were NO vets for fish—at least not where we lived.

So, we got dogs and cats and they were and have been always such great comfort to me.

I am someone who must have pets because I love animals. I love all living beings — even things like sharks that most people do not like. They have their place, I have mine, and hopefully we will never meet on an occasion where said shark is hungry and mistakes me for a seal.

If anyone out there hates sharks or is frightened by them, go look at what the Chicago Shedd Aquarium has done with sharks. They have tamed them and can train them the same way they train dolphins. They have trained one small breed of shark to bark like a dog after they remove it from the water for a couple of seconds. It’s adorable.

So it was my children wanted and demanded fish because the dogs were not enough for them.

My husband and I were determined to do it right.

I told him my “fish tale” from childhood and I did NOT want a repeat.

I cannot handle pets or people dying. It does not matter if it is a fish, or a cat, or my dog. (All spiders go outside and garden slugs get moved away from my strawberries). If I have a pet and if it dies because of something I could have done better, I cannot stand the guilt and pain I feel.

We spent hundreds of dollars on the right tank and the right filter and the right plants. We read everything there was to read about caring for goldfish. Once everything was set up and we had allowed the tank to have 7 days without fish, we got several beautiful exotic goldfish that had long, elegant tails that fanned out.

Each one had a name.

My favorite one was a dark, charcoal color. He was more alert that the others and very interactive with me. He would follow my finger all around and come to the surface to be gently petted when and if I opened the aquarium top. He was a gorgeous fish too—just stunning looking.

He had a name, which I cannot remember. I cannot remember any of their names and I will tell you why.

It is because of the trauma that was to come. Something happened that traumatized me. While it may not have traumatized others, it was my brand of trauma and sufficiently shocking enough to cause memory loss.

We interacted with the fish daily (all of them would follow a finger and interact to some extent) and they were in an area of our home where we saw them all the time. We cleaned the aquarium and took the best care possible. We took lots of photos as both the fish and our children grew. We took photos of our children playing with the fish and watched YouTube videos on people who trained goldfish to do cute things.

After many months, my husband was concerned their filter might need a deep cleaning. During a water change he cleaned a part of the filter so that it looked as good as new.

We put the tank back and everything was fine, or so we thought. After a few days, the fish started looking listless and odd spots were showing up on the bodies of the gold ones. My black fish was out of it and would not follow my finger. I knew what sick fish looked like and I was not going to have more fish die on me.

I went out to a very good aquarium store that only sold fish to ask questions. They asked me about how we were caring for them and said the filter might be the problem.

When I came back, I looked in the tank and I saw a chopped up ball of black and one eye staring at me. It was located in the area of the filter that sucked in water for recycling. I had no idea what I was seeing. I looked for the black fish in the tank and he was not there.

I looked back at the one eye staring at me from part of the filter. No black fish… parts of black something in the filter and a dead eye looking at me from part of the filter… hmm… why was that?

It took a about 10-15 seconds for my mind to put the puzzle together and when it did, I FLIPPED out.

I realized somehow the fish had become weak and my favorite black fish had it’s tail sucked up into the filter, then its body, which was completely chopped apart, and all that was left was something unrecognizable with one dead eye staring at me.

Then it hit me how PAINFUL that must have been since it was tail first and not headfirst. (There would have been no shutting off the brain and a quick death. This would have been very painful.) Then I double FLIPPED out. The woman who is normally as calm as a basset hound on the front porch began acting hysterical.

All I remember doing was screaming and turning off the filter so that the other fish would not have their tails sucked in too.

I could not stand what had happened to my favorite fish. I knew what happened, but the emotional requirements I needed to process it were absent.

I broke.

I remember calling my husband and crying.

I do not remember much after that.

I remember a few days after that, but I cannot tell you what happened in between those days.

My husband had found out what had happened. He had accidentally cleaned a part of the filter that had amassed all the GOOD bacteria the fish needed for a healthy aquarium. He had removed the good bacteria without realizing it. The fish’s bodies were being burned from the outside in by the ammonia in their urine and it made them too sick to swim and caused the weird burn spots on their body.

Several of the fish died by the time we found out and we had three left. We decided it was best to let them go in the 20-acre neighborhood lake (which had a thriving and healthy ecosystem and a constant supply of fresh water from a creek) and we lived on that lake. We took them down to a quiet area with tons of reeds and tons of food and let them go. We threw the aquarium and all reminders of it away. I loved all of those fish.

But, I have holes in my memory. I cannot tell you any of their names. My husband does not remember their names either and neither do my children.

We have many pictures of the kids playing follow the finger with them, but still no names. I have tried to remember, but I cannot remember. These were pets we had for several months and we had carefully named each—yet none of us can remember.

This is highly unusual for me.

I can remember long number sequences, old phone numbers and addresses from childhood and minute details from years ago. My husband does not understand why I do not write passwords down anywhere.

I have twenty complex passwords in my mind. That is the only place they are to be found so that I can assure my email and all my other methods of communication are private. It’s also the way I ensure complete and utter privacy for the people with whom I work.

But, a traumatic situation wiped out the areas of my memory that are usually the strongest. I am the last person to forget a name, even if I spent very little time with someone. I remember the names of other people’s pets, even if I have not met their pet. I remember the names of people’s family members.

This is highly disturbing to me because I cannot recall the names of any of these beloved fish who were family members for many months.

But, it is real. No matter how much I try, I cannot recall the names of these fish. I cannot remember the days between when black fish died and we let the other fish go in the clean, freshwater lake. I cannot remember when or how the other fish died, how we disposed of them, or anything from those days in between.

This story is excellent because it shows how memory loss works when trauma is mixed into a situation.

This is not a story about a cheater who “conveniently” forgot all the names of his mistresses or how many people he slept with or if he used condoms.

This is a story about a family, their beloved fish, and how the family cannot remember the names of their fish family members due to the trauma of the situation.

 I WANT to remember the names of my fish, but I cannot.

A long time ago, I wrote an article about how some people who commit adultery have holes in their memory. Someone had written a book about the topic.

My first reaction was that it was such a great cop-out.

Someone has an affair and they just cannot remember any details!

It is always the cheater’s biggest excuse: they do not remember even if they literally could not forget it for the life of them. That is true, people do remember cheating, the names of people, and exactly what happened.

But if trauma gets added into the mix, sometimes there will be legitimate holes in the memory of the person who has cheated. Sometimes the subsequent pain of the situation causes holes in memory. But, this is only in very specific situations. 

Male and female wayward spouses, this is NOT your new “get out of jail free” card. I am pretty sure you can remember that night with Amanda on the kitchen counter or that night with Carl in the back of his flatbed truck. You still probably have the indentations on your back if there was no blanket in said truck.

In Summary

I hope that this article has caused you not only to understand gaslighting more, but how to recognize and respond to gaslighting. Gaslighting is really a broad topic, so this article is in no way conclusive.

Still, let’s reiterate the most important parts of this article:

If your wayward spouse is making you doubt your own sanity, there is a 99% chance he or she is gaslighting you. So, when you suspect that someone is gaslighting you, ask yourself if you are feeling crazy and as if you can no longer trust your intuition or your own reality. If you feel crazy and cannot trust your reality, someone is gaslighting you.

There is one surefire way to deal with any and all gaslighters:

Obtain concrete proof of something that is in dispute. Is your spouse cheating? Have a private detective obtain pictures of your spouse cheating.  Show those pictures to your spouse and ask your spouse to stop having an affair and to enter marriage counseling. If your husband or wife agrees, stops the affair for good, and humbly schedules an appointment with a marriage counselor, then all is well as long as it continues on that path.

But, if your spouse denies, blames you, minimizes what you see, promises to do better, seduces you and says you are the only person for her/him, you are being GASLIT. Your wayward spouse is using diversion tactics to make you forget that she/he is having an affair.

But, here is another problem, seasoned gaslighters will go to great lengths to fool you even if you have proof. For example, one woman walked in on her husband having sex with another woman and he yelled out that she needed to leave because she was hallucinating events that were not actually happening. (I have no idea what that woman ended up doing, but if she believed her husband, she is a lost cause).

Another woman found her husband in bed having sex with a woman. The husband said he thought the woman was his wife because he was not wearing his glasses. Still another woman walked in on her husband having sex in the marital bed and he yelled out that the “woman fell from the ceiling” and somehow very mysteriously ended up in his bed. Yes, real people actually said these things when caught having sex with someone else.

It is pathetic, isn’t it?

If you walk in on someone having sex with your spouse, take a page from the book of a true leader. There was the male, Microsoft manager who threw a naked man from his second story balcony after he walked in on his fiancée and a stranger having sex in their “marital bed.” Then, he ordered his fiancée to move out and he immediately moved on. He went no contact and never spoke with her again. Then he found an excellent woman whom he married and with whom he had a beautiful family.

He did the RIGHT THING. He did not wait for tearful explanations from his fiancée. He did not wait for bogus explanations from the other man. Nope, he physically pulled the strange man off of his fiancée and threw the naked man out a window without even throwing down the man’s clothing. I am sure that was an EPIC day to remember for the naked paramour who had to walk home completely bare in broad daylight. No, the paramour did not call the police because he knew the former military man who threw him out the window would do it again. I had the pleasure of shaking this man’s hand—the man who threw the paramour out the window.

With gaslighters, the only thing you can do is to keep bringing up the facts of an event, without embellishment. The male wayward spouse chose to put his dick into another woman. That is the fact of the matter. Or, the female wayward spouse chose to let another man put his dick inside of her body. Those are the hard, cold facts. A betrayed spouse must keep returning to those facts, get the spouse to admit those facts, and then ask the wayward spouse his or her plan to restore the marriage.

Because if the spouse does not want to restore the marriage by going no contact with the other person forever and get counseling, then you as a betrayed spouse have nothing to work with.

It is time to leave.

Otherwise, your wayward spouse will stall, stall, stall for as long as possible to obtain the high he/she gets from having two people fight over him/her. If you think hysterical bonding will help, you only expose yourself to STDs while providing your wayward spouse with LOTS of cake.

If your wayward spouse were a dog, providing a dog with filet mignon every time it pooped on expensive carpet would be called “positive reinforcement.” There is no dog out there, whether canine or human who will cooperate with you if you keep providing him with positive reinforcement for the behavior you want him to STOP doing.

I want you to read that paragraph again. If you want your wayward spouse to STOP cheating, you do not give him “cake” in the form of hysterical bonding or in the form of the “pick me dance.”

That is called having one’s cake and eating it too.

I apologize to everyone who has hysterically bonded. This is NOT an attack on you and there was a good reason you were doing that. Many people participate in hysterical bonding thinking it will win their spouse back. I understand why people do that and I am very sorry that hysterical bonding generally delays a spouse making a decision on whether to stay or go.

I am NOT here to shame people who have done it and I understand WHY people have done it. It is a perfectly human reaction to a very traumatic situation – a situation where a betrayed spouse wants to keep the marriage at all costs. I am only saying that the thing that a betrayed spouse does to keep the marriage is the very thing that will delay a wayward spouse’s decision.

I am not trying to be moralistic—I am trying to inform the betrayed what NOT to do IF they desire a certain outcome. So, do not participate in any behavior that inadvertently causes positive reinforcement for a cheater. (There are many non-sexual things such as the pick me dance that cause positive reinforcement.)

Unfortunately, we are all human and we all do human things in traumatic situations. So, I have great compassion for anyone who gets drawn into the dance where a wayward spouse keeps two men or women fighting over her or him at the same time. It is a terrible position for a husband or wife and feels like a life and death situation.

I understand why a person would hysterically bond. So, this is merely a point I want to make so that betrayed spouses can decide if they want to continue doing things that cause positive reinforcement. I am NOT judging betrayed spouses. When someone is betrayed, the best people in the world are capable of doing ANYTHING on D-Day and the months after D-Day. Extreme trauma causes people to act out of character.

Back to the topic of gaslighters…

The only way to deal with a gaslighter is to keep returning to the hard, cold facts, for which you have concrete and indisputable truth.  The gaslighter goes off topic? Return and keep returning to the facts.

If the gaslighter keeps going off topic for several hours? Well, then I guess the only thing you can do is metaphorically call the gaslighter a “man bitch” and hang up or walk away.

Do not talk to a gaslighter UNTIL they are ready to look at the hard, cold truth and do something about it that is in line with your needs. This is the bottom line. If they are incapable of doing that, it is time to make some big decisions and then carry them out.

Finally, there are gaslighters (even family members) with whom you will need to go no contact. For example, earlier I discussed the situation where a mother was abusive to her children when they were small and continued to abuse them daily into adulthood. It is impossible to have “functional relationships” with such people. These are the times when you must go no-contact.

I hope this article has been helpful to you. Please let me know if you have any questions or examples of situations where you feel you are being gaslit. Or, please share any stories of how you have successfully confronted a gaslighter or abusive person. Finally, leave a question or comment that is off-topic if you need guidance on something this article has not mentioned.

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Sources:

Darlene Lancer, LMFT, JD. How to Know If You Are a Victim of Gaslighting. From https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/toxic-relationships/201801/how-know-if-youre-victim-gaslighting

Photos:

Benjamin O’Reilly

Global Panorama

Wayne Grant

Amy Roy

 

 

    67 replies to "Understanding Gaslighting: A Brand of Jedi Mind Tricks"

    • TheFirstWife

      Your next topic should be on stonewalling.

      That is my legacy – and HIS whole family does it.

      • Sarah P.

        TFW,

        It’s one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (as in utter marriage destroyers according to The Gottman’s) so stonewalling in definitely important.

        Doug, do you have a link to that article I wrote a while back on stonewalling by any chance? No rush!

    • Nearly Normal

      I am pretty sure that my wife was gaslighting me while she was dallying with another man. I was not aware enough of the phenomenon at the time to recognize it. I never had any proof of anything. If I had known what was happening, maybe I would have tried harder to find truth. They were careful enough that nothing ever fell in my lap.

      I remember her (about 20 years ago) saying things like, “Oh, we would never do anything to hurt you,” (even though their behavior was hurting me already by spending lots of time together, being who knows where, etc.) “We are just really close friends because we share lots of experiences in common and have personalities that click,” etc.

      I don’t think it was really strenuous gaslighting on her part, mainly because I was stupid. I let myself be caught in a bind between trusting her and acting on my gut. Stupid. How do you prove it’s gaslighting when you don’t have any hard facts? Still stupid.

      Nowadays, she deplores her former behavior. But gaslighting leaves a scar, doesn’t it? Self-esteem takes a major hit. Trust is always damaged – could it ever fully recover? Doubtful.

      Maybe I should have caught the two of them and thrown him out of the (alas, merely one-story) window. But that was not in the cards.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Nearly Normal,

        I think it totally would have been okay to shove a naked man out of a one-story window without his clothes. The drop may have been less distance, but someone walking home in broad daylight completely naked has the exact same effect.

        May I ask if you had children at the time?

        My rule has always been that if someone cheated on me (as long as no kids were involved) I would leave and never look back.

        I have a friend who I have known since high school and she and I are very similar. We have traveled the world together and studied in foreign countries together. We also have a couple of eccentric “issues” in common. Neither of us are attracted to about 90% of the single men that we meet. (She is still single and after I got married, I made a choice to shut off my radar for attractive people. That is, I do not intentionally scan a crowd for attractive men since I am married.) Here is our second issue: if someone we are dating or engaged to cheats on us, something inside of both of us breaks. It doesn’t matter if we were with that person for several years. The moment either of us find out the person we love has had dalliances and we can prove it, we both have an “off switch” in our brain. Infidelity flips the “off switch” and we lose all respect for that person and look at that person as if they are the most hideous person to have ever lived. Once the “off switch” has been triggered, there is no way to go back. We lose all respect for the cheater and we move on. I have never successfully, been able to turn the off switch on again and neither has my female friend.

        When people do not have children, I am completely anti-reconciliation. That is me. But I understand a lot of people are NOT like me. They do not have that “off switch” and their feelings are a mix of love, hate, grief, fear, terror– they wonder if they can ever trust again and they want to try to make it work.

        My parents told me a long time ago that if someone shows you who they are (that is in the important things in life such as infidelity,) I should believe that person is showing me who they are. They have told me to look for actions and not words.

        I thank God every day for giving me that ‘off switch’ in my brain for the time when I was single. It saved me from marrying people who “told me who they are.”

        Now that I have kids?

        Well, it gets crazy complex.

        If I were to find out my husband had a sexual affair, I know I would lose all respect for him. I don’t think I would be a fun person to be around any longer. I would become condescending and snarky. I don’t think I could be able to turn of the condescension and snark long enough to talk to a marriage counselor. I would seek an individual counselor, but not a marriage counselor.

        Am I a bitch?

        Well, for those who are close to me and really know me, the answer is no. I am the person who takes off my expensive coat in the dead of winter and gives it to a homeless woman and tells her how beautiful she looks. Then I go on my way. (Yes, I actually do that.) I am the person who if I see a homeless person suffering, I will figure what is wrong and go and get medical supplies at the grocery store and help tend to their wounds. One time, I was at a bakery and a woman who clearly had signs of dementia was lost. The cable company had turned off her cable. I had her follow me to Comcast, which was on my way home and then negotiated her bill into a payment plan. And then I paid the first installment, made sure she knew how to get home, and left. One time I was at the grocery store and an elderly and infirm couple was there. The wife could hardly walk. The wife wanted to buy the potted hyacinths and her husband said they did not have the money. They needed to focus on food. So, I bought the potted hyacinths and gave them to the woman. She did not quite understand what was happening, but the other customers did, and when she realized a total stranger had purchased her flowers, she burst into tears. She said she had been feeling unwell and down for a long time. She said she believed God had forgotten her and no longer loved her and she had believed this for quite a while. Then she said, “Now I know God has not forgotten me and I am so thrilled that he still cares.” Yes, that really happened and the Christian customers who saw it all starting saying “praise Jesus” very loudly and formed a quick prayer circle in the grocery store. Literally.

        That is what my daily life looks like. It is how I have lived my life for a very long time, even when I was a poor student. No one taught me to be this way, I was born this way. It’s as natural to me to live this way as it is to breathe. It’s hard to explain. It’s just what I do. I don’t do it because I think God will give me kudos. No, God loves all of us and loves the so-called prodigal sons the best. So, no kudos from God. I live from the heart when I see suffering and I do whatever I can do in that moment and most acts are anonymous. I don’t tell people my name or anything. I just help and then walk away.

        Am I better than anyone? No.

        I am also the person who enjoys watching South Park and Jessica Jones (especially Jessica Jones). Talk about cognitive dissonance! I am the person who thinks it is a little bit of justice when a professional con-man gets called a “man bitch” by a child. I also talk great pleasure when I hear about particularly evil people being jailed or taken to task.

        So, I am not a bitch or an angel. I am somewhere in between.

        So, here is my roundabout point. I have enough of a self-esteem to know that since I am not some kind of selfish narcissist going around and caring only about myself and hurting people, I should be treated according to the 10 Commandments since that is how I live my life. I am a very good wife and mom. I take time to tend to my relationship as a wife and do dates nights and ensure that my husband is happy in the way that pleases husbands and I take time for my children and make sure they get mom time and let’s do board games with mom etc. I also have a rescue dog who needs a lot of tending and care because of how SEVERELY he was abused. I also take time for this blog. (I am a VERY fast writer so I can turn out reams of content in minutes.) Because of all this, I think I deserve a lot better than to be betrayed in the way that will cause profound and endless hurt. Actually, everyone deserves better than that– some have a higher tolerance for it than I do.

        So, Nearly Normal, you asked about trust and whether you will ever recover. The crux of it is, I need to know how you define trust and recovery. What does that look like for you?

        For me, trust looks like this: if someone had an affair on me and I stayed, trust would be the absolute surety that I would never be hurt this way again and that the person who cheated on me took active and constant ways to make amends. It would mean that I have such confidence and surety in that person that I am absolutely certain that person would never (under any circumstance) break my trust again.

        For me, because of what my ex did, I will never fully trust romantic relationships/marriages again. I am incapable of doing it because of my almost nightly dreams of being abandoned and discarded over and over and over again. These dreams feel so real and they set me back in my thinking. There will be no way for me to trust any romantic relationship until I stop having these dreams.

        I spoke to a local sex therapist and I want to interview him. He is close to 80 and retired. He is also a Christian. After working for almost 60 years as a sex therapist and helping people recover from infidelity he says this: over 90% of marriages will be affected at some point, depending on how you DEFINE infidelity. Define is the operative word. That’s a very sobering thought that in his definition of infidelity, 90% of marriages will be affected in some way. I am glad I did not know about this before I got married. I would have NEVER gotten married.

        So, Nearly Normal, what would recovering trust look like to you?

        Also, (on Jessica Jones) how do you like that bit with The Purple Man getting into Jessica’s head and taunting her? You said you watched it, Right?

        Sarah

        • Nearly Normal

          Hi, Sarah. Thanks for the reply.

          Although cheating happened as early as 2 children (that I suspect), I only had certain knowledge by 4 children.

          Also, I sympathize with the need for snark. (not so much condescension on my part) The sarcasm sometimes goes off the charts.

          I liked the Purple Man in Jessica’s head, but mainly because I love David Tennant.

          As to your REAL question: What would trust look like? I guess in the context I was writing, I was thinking about, “Will I ever fully believe her and not think that she is just saying what I want to hear/saying what will make life easier for her/etc.?” Will I ever fully trust that she will keep a promise. That gets at what trust really is, I believe: to have confidence that once she’s promised, it’s a done deal.

          I think these are not realistic levels of trust for someone who has been betrayed.

          On the other hand, I trust her in that I do not think she is looking for another man to get her jollies, nor do I believe that she has been trying to do that since d-day. I have that much trust, which is pretty good. yet there have been times in non-sex-related issues she has said she would do something or not do something and then broken that promise.

          So I think this rambling description may possibly give a little glimpse for what I want, or maybe just add more words with little illumination.

          must run. have therapy soon.

          • Sarah P.

            Hi Nearly Normal,

            I am really glad that you are seeing a therapist regularly. That is great and I hope it helps.

            I think you might be dealing with a passive-aggressive, keep-the-peace-at-all costs wife.

            I will tell you a little about what many women do. But the huge caveat is that these people I am thinking of have never been unfaithful. We ladies have a busy life and sometimes husbands will say “can you call so and so now and get that done?” Wife will agree to it and then something will happen to get wife off track. The usual– siblings having fist fights, or someone letting the dog chase the parrot, or whatever. Then a husband will ask about it again and a wife will say “I am getting to it.” Sometimes a husband gets mad and so wife will say “I am in the process.” Then wife will go and do the task she promised.

            Since I am not talking about women who cheat, those bids at deferring an argument can be taken at face value. A wife will not explain the whole 30-minute explanation about why she did not do that thing when H asked her to (and she promised to do) because EXPLAINING the sidetracking events will waste a lot of time and sometimes lead to an argument. Most moms know they need to get through a lot of things including a huge to do list on top of the thing the husband asked them to do. They get it done, but sometimes it is not when the H wants it to be done. (Now, these are NOT life-threatening things. These are paperwork tasks that are not immediate or other things that are not immediate.) They are not bad people. They are busy moms who don’t have time for an argument about why that thing on their to-do list did not get done that VERY moment that their husbands asked them to do it.

            So can you tell me more about your wife’s promise breaking and the context? Was she doing the thing that many wives do (when it comes to these to-do lists) because they are overwhelmed and need peace in that moment OR is it bigger than that?

            You don’t have to say ‘the thing’ she did but maybe something comparable.

            I love David Tennant too. That Ulster-Scot face needs to be on the BIG screen. (One branch of my dad’s side is Ulster Scot and we are all related in one way or another.) I can imagine David Tennant can get snarky in person. He just seems like he could do that. I wonder why he does not have more offers for American TV shows. The guy is a genius! And of course I love, love, love Kristen Ritter. It was excellent casting for whoever cast those two together. Finally, the “Patsy” character is a write off. Each time I see that part of the story I cannot imagine why the writers even waste their time. It is just NOT interesting. Or maybe it is the actress that makes it NOT interesting. I can tell she is trying, but she just cannot hold her own to Kristen Ritter or David Tennant or the lady from The Matrix. The lady who plays Patsy has acting that is so contrived and banal, that I am ready to go and edit out all the scenes that contain that part of the story. BORING story. No wonder they have to have Patsy walking around in skimpy clothes these days. They hope it will distract the audience from the bad acting while I have taken to cringing every time it cuts to that part of the story. I understand they are implying it is a Miley Cyrus type who got a talk show, but Miley Cyrus and those types are BORING. I can’t even bother to read real-life tabloid stories about them. So why make it as a side plot that takes screen time away from the good actors?

            Sarah

            • Sarah P.

              PS-

              If I say I am “in the process” it is because I am in the process. If I forget something, I say so. But, not everyone is like me. And also NOT everyone who says they are “in the process” is lying or that “they are getting to it” is lying. Just a clarification. Liars and non-liars say the very same things. Sometimes it is difficult to tell if a person is being honest when they say it or deferring. The best way to know is to ask them directly.

            • Nearly Normal

              Sarah,

              I’m not sure about the passive aggressive. Maybe. I’ll need to think and observe for a while.

              Therapy was good. We are working toward some EMDR sessions, which brings up my new problem – how do I bring up the words “trauma”/PTSD and EMDR with my wife? She can quickly become defensive or self-pitying when she realizes how badly she hurt me. I don’t want to shy away from the truth, but she has trouble handling everything at once. She’s just gotten used to the idea of me going to a therapist, and I told her I was going for depression, mainly from her infidelity, which is all true. But I haven’t hit the big words like trauma yet. Any guidance on how to approach her would be great.

              Here’s a broken promise: My wife’s sister was wanting to come and stay with us for a while, maybe weeks or months. My wife asked what I should say to her sister. Now, understand that the sister had stayed with us before, and it was not a pleasant situation for me or the rest of the family, nor even a good experience for her. (I don’t want to get into the sister’s personality or other factors that made a stay difficult.) But we had helped out, it was over, let’s move on with our lives. So I told my wife, just say no. My wife agreed to that.

              Guess whether the sister came? You betcha. And yes, it was difficult for the whole family.

              My wife did not exactly say, “I promise I will not invite her to come.” But she came to me to discuss it, I gave her an answer, and my wife agreed. That’s a promise in my book.

              Gotta go. Thanks for all you do.

            • Nearly Normal

              Sarah / Doug / Linda,

              I accidentally put my wife’s name in my post. Would you please change that to “her” please?

              Thanks

            • Doug

              I think I got it changed. Let me know if not

            • Nearly Normal

              Looks good, Doug. Thanks so much!

              Just one more in a month of clutsy mistakes.

              But seriously, you’re a life saver. Big load off my mind.

            • Doug

              Happy to help out. Hang in there!

            • Sarah P.

              Hi Nearly Normal,

              If you are worried about what your wife will say about PTSD, I think you could tell her my story. She may not knows you read this blog. But, you could say you were reading an article by a woman with a psychology degree who was talking about her frequent nightmares due to PTSD. (That would be me.) Even though everything went down about 17 years ago, there will be large stretches of time, likes weeks at a time, where I will have the same nightmare over and over again, every night. The nightmare is about him breaking it off and suddenly I am abandoned into a black abyss. In this dream state I do not realize that it is 17 years later, that I have a husband and a family. For whatever reason, the nightmare takes me back to that place in time and wipes out what happened after the abandonment. During these nightmares, the level of panic is through the roof. My husband says sometimes I scream so loud or start crying and mumbling and he has to shake me awake. I just got of a three week course of those nightmares. I have learned to shake them off once I am fully awake. However, I never know when or why they will return. They are traumatic beyond belief. The trauma has been seared into my brain and even though in my waking hours I feel okay, the nightmares continue. I am a fan of EMDR, but please research it thoroughly because some therapists will say they are EMDR experts and they actually have no idea what it is. People think EMDR is only a series of eye movement. (The eye movement part is very little of it). EMDR is actually an entire psychotherapy methodology on its own and they have found that a good EMDR therapist does not have to do the eye movement. The key is in the therapy methodology itself. They covered extensively at one of my Gottman trainings. So, if you find a therapist who says “think of your moment of trauma and move your eyes twice to the left,” run FAR AWAY. That is not EMDR. Anyhow, explain to your wife that you were reading an article by a woman who still has traumatic dreams 17 years later and how she says unless someone has had the right kind of therapy, the trauma will persist.

              I can tell what your wife’s fear is about. She is worried that the therapist will say something to this effect:

              “Don’t you deserve someone better than your wife? Why would you stay with a cheater who becomes defensive and self-pitying when you want to talk about your pain? Why is your wife ALWAYS about her and HER pain instead of actively engaging you and reassuring you when you need comfort? Why is everything about your wife and her instead of your healing and what you need? After all, your wife is and was the perpetrator and your wife needs to own up to it by talking about it openly and in ways that make YOU feel safe and heard. So you need to go home and tell your wife life is NOT all about her and that she needs to face what she has done as an ADULT and not as a defensive and self-pitying child. You need to put this behind you once and for all, but until your wife stops her manipulations, you will not be able to.”

              That is what your wife is afraid a therapist will say. And if the therapist says that, then it might make you look at the big picture of your life. You are probably at an age where your kids are older or grown and if you were to “part ways” you would have the opportunity to start over with a woman who is not only crazy about you but one who will not cheat.

              On some level, your wife has got to know this.

              Now, you may not like what I am going to say, but it is okay for your wife to hurt. She caused the whole situation and freely she choose to do something that has consequences. It is not up to you to save her from her pain — it is up to her to save you from YOUR pain and if that means getting the support of an excellent therapist, then your wife should be all for it. I know you love your wife, but you have basic rights as a human being. Everyone does, whether a male or a female betrayed spouse. The wayward spouse should support the betrayed spouse in whatever it is they need to do to heal.

              And generally speaking… for everyone (not just for Nearly Normal)…

              Wayward spouses know that if betrayed spouses talk to therapists, wayward spouses can no longer effectively manipulate and “pull the strings on the puppet.” Wayward spouses know this. Wayward spouses know a betrayed spouse might heal, be empowered, and leave. And a wayward spouse does not want a betrayed spouse to leave unless the wayward spouse wants to break up. But, think about it this way: That is the same selfish thinking that got the wayward spouse into the affair. Everything is about them and their needs and never truly about the betrayed spouse.

              So if a betrayed spouse feels good and leaves, the wayward spouse will pitch a fit because the world is ALL about them. They should be able to do whatever it is and have the betrayed spouse pander to them.

              This is how many wayward spouses feel deep inside. They have some kind of internal justification narrative that allows them to believe they deserve to cheat and to have a supportive spouse. (Again, I am talking about wayward spouses generally, not any particular situation.)

              So, Nearly Normal, it seems to me you have the same lingering PTSD that I have but it presents differently. Explain to your wife that you need to be mentally whole and need to get treatment for PTSD. If she gets defensive and weepy, tell her that it is not about her. Ask her why she would NOT want you to be mentally whole. Ask her why she would rather have you suffer than find healing?

              I will say something about women and now I am going to probably be accused of being a woman-basher. But, hey, it is coming from a woman.

              There are some women who very intentionally AND specifically use crying to manipulate. They know that if they start crying, the other person backs off and apologizes. Many men believe the tears are genuine. Women have the act down: they cry and if the man doesn’t buy it they say the man doesn’t love them, care about them, or a number of other things. Basically if a man likes to see himself as a good and caring husband, a woman will cry and say he is NOT a good and caring husband. And she knows exactly what she is doing.

              Don’t believe me?

              Have you ever seen a 3-year-old girl pitch a fit in order to get what she wants? I mean she will REALLY turn on the water works and say mommy and daddy don’t care or mommy and daddy don’t love her. If mommy and daddy fall for it (and many do) the little girl realizes she just has one of the most powerful tools ever: Crying and accusing the other person of something the other person is sensitive about. She will carry it right into adulthood and be a very dysfunctional person and God help anyone who has a close relationship with this type.

              Not all women do this. I DO NOT DO THIS and I never have. I believe it is HEINOUS behavior. Does anyone remember this so-called “adult woman” crying and yelling to get her way:

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AXf5vjQV-w

              Is this how adults act?

              NOT in my world.

              I have NEVER in my life acted this way. This woman is a nut and I am glad her husband videotaped her.

              I have seen adult women act this way and this is the BIGGEST and BADDEST manipulation in the book.

              Everyone has extremely stressful moments in life. I am thinking back to some of the most stressful situations I have been in and I have never acted like that. (If I do need to genuinely cry for real because something terrible happened, I will excuse myself and go somewhere private.)

              Let me make it clear that when people are cheated on, they are going to cry a lot, especially women.

              What I am talking about very specifically is using crying solely as a manipulation. It’s actually a form of gas-lighting.

              There is nothing wrong with genuine crying because something terrible happened. Cry all you want. I sure did. But it was because I was in extreme pain and wondering how someone I loved could be so cruel. And it was also in the privacy of my room with no one to see. I do not cry in front of others.

              Let me give one more real life example– a true story from my life. Actually I have several of these. This is a minor example.

              I have no siblings and my husband has a brother. My BIL married someone who is a piece of work. When they were getting married and when wedding photos were being taken, the photographer had been given a list of who to photograph, in what order, and who to include when.

              My husband’s brother (aka the groom) had the absolute audacity (sarcasm) to add about three photos he wanted to be taken to the photography list.

              My husband ‘s brother (groom) wanted a photo of me and my husband taken on its own, and then another photo with my husband and his brother together, and then another photo with me, my husband, and brother (the groom) together.

              BIL’s wife did NOT want these photos taken. So she started yelling “NO”, crying, and literally stomping her feet in front of 200 wedding guests all because she did not want these photos taken.

              My BIL started to tell her he really wanted just one photo of each set he had requested to make a total of three photos on a digital camera. He said having these photos meant a lot to him.

              The bride (aka SIL) literally kept stomping, crying, and yelling, “No, no, no, no, no…”. I took my husband and BIL aside and said to them to let it go to keep the peace. So, SIL got her way and my husband’s brother did not get the photos that were meaningful to him.

              Oh, by the way, the second she heard me say, “it’s okay, we don’t need these photos,” her face immediately went back to how it was. No tears to wipe. Nothing. Smile returned. And yes, she did this is front of 200 people. We did not take it personally because we witnessed how she treated her own sister that day, which was embarrassing and terrible. Since then, the truly heinous personality of SIL has come out more and more. I feel sorry for BIL, but he was STOOOPID enough to get married. But, most of all, my heart BREAKS for their child. She (SIL) did something horrendous to him when he was 8 days old and it was on video. It got forwarded to us by my in-laws. I cannot tell the story because it is so off the wall and so specific. But, as I think about it, I want to cry. I sure cried when I saw the video and said I wished there was some way we could get custody of this child. He looks like my youngest so he would fit in perfectly. I just cannot stand that SIL is an abusive, raging alcoholic and that my BIL is a REALLY NICE person and will not know how to hold his own.

              I know, that was so much rambling. But I really hate people who manipulate. If I want something, I ask nicely. If someone does not want to meet my request, I ask how we can work on it. I never raised my voice at the King Gaslighter on the phone call either. I stayed very matter-of-fact and kept bringing him back to the point. It was my child who roared like a dinosaur and that was funny.

              So, I really felt I needed to talk about how some women use crying as the ULTIMATE form of gaslighting. So, be aware. If you ask for something reasonable and a woman starts crying, know it is a manipulation.

              Nearly Normal, I hope you find a way to explain to your wife in a direct and matter-of-fact way that you feel you have been suffering from PTSD and that it is affecting your quality of life. It’s nothing against her, you just need to get your mind sorted out.

              Blessings,
              Sarah

            • Nearly Normal

              Sarah,

              thank you for your sympathy, yet your ability to say hard truths.

              My wife said something very much like the “The Therapist will tell you to leave me,” speech. Yet she also turned around and said very supportive things to the effect of “I hope you get the healing you need.” So she is kinda all over the place.

              There is a lot of good stuff you wrote for me to digest, Will think seriously about all of it.

              Thanks again

            • Sarah P.

              Hi Nearly Normal,

              There is always a way to work out a marriage as long as both people are equally engaged in it. Right now the focus needs to be on you and your emotional wholeness. Tell your wife that your healing does not mean divorce. It would also be nice if your wife saw an individual counselor.

              Also, that thing with her sister coming when you said, “No,” I am feeling like the sister is probably a borderline personality disorder or some other kind of person who does NOT take no for answer. And your wife was probably trained on some level NOT so say what is her Truth and to keep the peace at some level. There are definitely some strange family dynamics going in with your wife’s family.

              But, there are no excuses. All of us must own our behavior and I have found that no one is an adult at 21. People are varying degrees of “adult” and some need their whole lives to grow up. Others never grow up. Then there is me and one of my female friends (not my best friend.) Both of our parents told us separately we were ‘adults’ our whole life. Yes, we were innocent children, but we could talk to adults on their level and be peacemakers on the playground. We always behaved at the dinner table. My parents could take me anywhere, even out to expensive restaurants, and I would behave and listen quietly. Who knows how that happened? I am truly starting to believe nature is stronger than nurture. But, even if we have a nature that does not serve us well, we must overcome ourselves.

              Nearly Normal, did you say you were a minister? If you are, I can point out Bible verses to work with and I can also give some insight that most Christians may not have. I have started studying Judaism and Hebrew ever since I found out my mom’s side (via a DNA test) were the descendants of Middle Eastern Jews of the Bible. Grandma kept the secret and I understand why she did. She had to. But, modern technology is amazing. I would recommend everyone get DNA tests. More people are surprised at their DNA test results than not. Anyhow, learning the context in which Jews wrote the Bible is often very different than what we learn in church. I have had so many “aha” moments with the Old Testament.

              Sarah

            • Nearly Normal

              Hi, Sarah.

              What I’d really like to focus on is how to spot bad EMDR (what you were discussing two comments up). I’ve done some research, and so far what my therapist says sounds right. She seems to have a grasp on the neurological aspect of it. But I’m no expert. I am looking at having a first session of EMDR this week. Could you please give some additional concrete tips how to discern the quality of EMDR?

              Thanks

    • Hopeful

      Yes, have lived through it all with the king of gaslighting. Now he uses the word all the time even with our kids and it triggers me. I feel like it can be used too casually. He took it to an extreme level during the affairs.

      • Sarah P.

        Hopeful,

        He uses the word and concept you taught him on your kids? I dunno.

        My husband recently learned that word too and he said my oldest was gaslighting. I told him off and said there is a difference between being a stupid teenager and gaslighting. My son was not gaslighting. He was just begging for a video game. I know my husband does not like it when I take him to task, but for things like that, I WILL take him to task.

        Have you ever confronted your husband and if you do does he say, “I am the one who has been a practicing therapist for x,y,z years and I know what I am talking about.”

        How does your husband take it when you are triggered? Does he understand?

        Sarah

        • Hopeful

          Yes he used it the same way your husband did. I actually told him to stop using the word in front of them. He used it a few times in a row in the same conversation. I had never heard him use the word before. I did not go into details I just said to stop saying it.

          Later on I brought it up to him very calm. He defended himself saying that it was gaslighting. Well that was when I became very direct with him and said it is a known term related to infidelity and means mental and emotional abuse and repeated behavior etc… And I said the same thing that it was normal teenage behavior. I did not like using that label in that case. I also feel like it minimizes or normalizes the actual behavior he was so good at during those years. Trust me I was not happy about it.

          He does not talk about practicing in that way. However he does say things like “that is not what I have seen in the patients I have worked with…” if I bring something up.

          I would say my husband takes me getting triggered well. He does feel bad and to blame which he is and he owns that. He does not get defensive. He is very understanding. I think I help since I work hard to anticipate my triggers and know myself well. That way we talk about them ahead of time. When I make him aware it usually goes more smoothly. I think what is different or hard for him is that I am much more vocal than ever before. I would not say I was passive or backed down all the time but I was pretty easy going. Now I say whatever I want and not in a mean way but I say it and do not back down. For example recently we were going out to eat. I had said for the week or two leading up the restaurant i wanted to try. That night he asked me where I wanted to go and I just said wherever. I honestly had said it enough and felt like whatever. Probably reverting back to myself after two weeks of speaking up. Well he said he was tired of asking me what I wanted and me not having an opinion. Well that ignited something in me. I told him what I had said over the past two weeks and explained to him that he ignored that even though I know he heard me. When I said this it all hit him. For us I think this is a big issue how as a couple we grew to have a certain dynamic. Well now that has changed and I am not so sure he understands that in the moment.

          • Sarah P.

            Hi Hopeful,

            Well, I am going to say it once again. You sound a lot like me. Used to be easy going and you were probably extremely easily to get along with. That restaurant thing that you described happened to me!! The EXACT same thing.

            But, our crisis point that tore our marriage in half was not based on infidelity TO MY KNOWLEDGE. Statistically, they have found the majority of betrayed spouses never find out.

            Anyhow, I changed from this easy-going, easy to back down, easy to let others have their way, and always wanting to accommodate person to saying “hell no, I cannot do this anymore.” That is what I said to myself internally. Then, I decided I would calmly yet directly stand my ground. And I have been that person ever since.

            The exact same thing has been happening to my female friends who had good relationships or marriages and always accommodated. Then one day, they found their voice and decided to calmly stand their ground. And then men in their lives were NOT happy.

            Here is a wacky theory that I want someone to investigate. Of course, everyone is going to be angered and changed by adultery, but I know a lot of women who did not have bad marriages and who went from easy going to standing their ground. It dawned on me that this could (partially) be due to the changes in the body that occur during perimenopause and then end with menopause. Before perimonopause, we are flooded with estrogen and oxytocin which causes us to be docile and to “tend and befriend.” During perimenopause and after menopause we no longer have these hormones in the same large amounts as when we were younger. After menopause, many of us have excess androgens, which are the things (specifically along with testosterone) cause men to fight. We women have been socialized to be docile and tend and befriend and our hormones have helped us do this naturally. Then, there hormones go away. Well, not quite– they are still there but not in the same amounts.

            I cannot help but wonder if these “new attitudes” we get post affair or after 40 have something to do with hormones, especially since many affairs happen during the time women are going through menopause or who have already gone through menopause. During this time, our bodies get a boost from androgens that help us stand our ground comfortably. I cannot help but wonder how hormones support or play a small role in being assertive (not aggressive) for women who were previously easy going.

            I know my husband is wondering where that insecure, docile, nurturing, easy-going, easily controlled person is going. Because as each day passes, that woman is getting replaced by someone who sees through EVERYTHING and who does not allow herself to be lied to or gaslit without a big standoff. That conversation I had on the phone with King Gaslighter– that was NEW. In the past, my husband would have grabbed the phone and started telling such a person off. I had King Gaslighter on speakerphone and I motioned for my husband to come straighten the person out. He shook his head “no, no, no, no, no way I am touching that conversation.” That has been the first time since we have been married that he did that. So, I had to find my inner bitch. After I got off the phone my husband said, “Since when could you do that to people?” I don’t even know. It is a recent thing. Even last year, if that scenario happened, I would have cowered and cried and beat myself up for buying a fraudulent vacation package and then would have dreaded explaining to my husband that we had been conned. In other words, I would have either been intimidated by King Gaslighter or I would have been convinced it was all my fault and maybe I was too stupid to understand the terms of the package.

            So, I don’t even know where the assertiveness and standing my ground is coming from. I used to fear getting older and so did my best friend. But, now we are so HAPPY to be older because we are no longer emotional, we no longer get upset easily, we no longer cry, we no longer feel insecure, we no longer feel like life would end if we did not have a man in our lives. I was such an emotional mess on the inside during my twenties. I was crazy-successful on the outside and was a calm person. But, I had all this fear over never getting married and being alone and I felt like I would rather be dead than to not have a husband. I cannot believe I was that person.

            Now, I will have a man on MY TERMS. If my husband cannot be loyal, or becomes a flirt, or develops all these inappropriate relationships, I will make a scene. Plain and simple. And if he turns into a dingus, then I will find someone who wants a relationship on my terms– that is, if I chose to have a relationship at all.

            If someone could take a time machine and tell my 20-year-old self how I would feel in the future, I would tell them no amount of therapy, self-help books, motivation tapes, magic pills, talking or cajoling will allow me to be that person.

            Can anyone else relate to that? Did anyone else find their “inner voice” after they got older?

            Do you want to know the most insulting thing about this? I asked my husband why in the movies men go gaga over the totally STUPID and brainless women with big boobs. And the stupider the woman, the more the man goes gaga over such a woman. I asked him to tell me the truth about why some movies portray men this way. And he told me the truth.

            He said he would be betraying all makes by telling the truth, but here is what he said: some men will say they want an educated career woman who can hold her own. But, in reality, they do not because many men are so insecure that such a woman (a career woman) is completely threatening to them. Then there is the (obviously) stupid woman running down the beach with her giant boobs bouncing around so much that they literally hit in her in the face with each bounce. When she stops to talk, she talks like a baby and men turn to puddles of mush. My husband says these women hit the visual buttons a man needs and when they talk like a baby, they become completely non-threatening and the knight in shining armor inside a man kicks in. Oh my gosh, these women are not threatening, have all the visual appeal, and never make a man question that he is the Man of the House, the King of the Castle, and that he is in CONTROL. My husband says it is wrong and sexist that some men are this way, but the fact of the matter is, some men are this way and they will never grow up. And the me now would not be able to tolerate such a man.

            Men: I am not man-bashing. I am telling you what another MAN said and it is his OPINION. Note that my H said “some men,” you are probably NOT those men he is referring to.

            Boy, I went on such a tangent.

            But, I totally feel for you, Hopeful. I have a similar dynamic in my home and it is frustrating.

            Sarah

            • Hopeful

              Yes! Yes! Yes! I do think you are onto something regarding the stage in life. I am not sure if I would have gotten to this point without betrayal or some pivotal incident or not to this level.

              Here is another good story…Some I have known for almost 20 years not close but well enough. I would not call this person a friend. But she was asking me to help with something and do her a favor. I explained I could not since I had a conference call. She was confused and asked why I had a conference call. I explained for my job. She looked at me funny and said “You work??”. I explained to her what I do and how I have done it for 20+ years. She said she had no idea. Well I came home and was relaying this story to my husband saying that I am tired of these type of people. I am not one to walk around bragging talking about myself at all. However she has never worked since I have known her but I know the exact details of her past careers since guess what I asked her questions about herself. I was saying this to my husband that I feel it is a societal problem. Well this is where the conversation changed. My husband said to me ” I like it when people think you don’t work. It gives me 100% credit for all we have and do. It makes it look like I am more successful too.” It knocked the wind out of me. I still struggle with it. I am keeping it shorter here but it kind of went on and on. He was surprised this bothered me.

              I had to explain how it bothered me on the most basic level. Then I had to explain how that pain was even deeper due to the infidelity and the sacrifices I have made for our family and his career.

              I wish we lived near each other since I have a feeling we are very similar. I read your posts and feel like I am talking with a close friend or even talking to myself.

            • Sarah P.

              Hi Hopeful,

              Well, you should totally email me. I don’t know if you live in the United States. But if you live in the US and somewhere out West, we might live near each other. Who knows. My email is:

              sarah.emotionalaffair.org@gmail.com

              I still think TryingHard was on to something several months ago (via the comments) when she and I were talking about buying an old house in the French countryside and it could be the Hopeful, Sarah, TryingHard house or something to that effect. Tryinghard, if you are reading you can refresh my memory as to who said what about the French country house.

              Hopeful, don’t you speak French (as well) like I do?

              As for that comment from your husband and working, you had mentioned that a while back and it made me really mad. I did not tell you that. But his comment made me REALLY mad. It reeks of extreme insecurity on his part and how that insecurity is so strong that he would rather have people on the outside thinking you are the ‘dumb bunny’ and he is the King of the Castle who has done everything and who is responsible for all the glory your family experiences. (That is, you had nothing to do with said glory because you were not working. -Sarcasm-) And if everyone thinks you don’t work (even though you always have) well that just makes him look soooooo heroic. And he likes looking heroic and smart even if it (in a backhanded way) implies that you have been sitting around all these years. By gosh, he could be even greater if you had not sat around. Isn’t that heroic of him? (More sarcasm)

              I will tell you though. My husband does this in another way. When we first married, all my student loans from grad school were paid off, my car was paid off, I had NO credit card debt, AND a sizable retirement account. I did that ALL BY MYSELF. No wealthy family to help with college or cars or bank accounts or whatever. Plus, I owned that new house with my ex and it still had not sold by the time my H and I married. Anyhow, H was just over 30 and had enormous debt. Like the kind of debt people have that is a mortgage.

              On the other hand, there had been a guy who was a Microsoft millionaire that had wanted to marry me. He was older than me, looked good for his age, and he pretty much did everything under the sun to try to get me to date him. (I DID NOT date him. I was his friend and NOT a friend with benefits). He was a nice guy, He would have made a nice husband, dad, and he was rich. But, he was my friend. (There was a little more to it than I explained that was slightly cringey but that was NOT his fault. It had to do with his ex-wife (who cheated on HIM and even kept a journal about it) and our mutual friends in different states who knew about all of it since we had all gone to the same church long ago. LONG STORY. He would have made a nice husband. But, I did NOT feel it for him. I was a dog person and he was a cat person. He had a cat and he baby talked to the cat whenever the cat was around. And the cat had the WORST name. Like a 2-year-old named the cat. (And he had named it.) So, yes, he would have been a great husband for someone and I know he got married several years later. I am sure he found someone who loves all of his quirks and not his money. He deserved a NICE person- NOT a gold digger.

              Anyhow, I have no explanation for why I “feel it” for some people than others and money does not impress me. The guy assumed I was like a lot of women who basically wanted a paycheck and a wealthy lifestyle. That doesn’t matter, especially if a man spends an inordinate amount of time baby talking to a cat. Gee, that just WAS NOT a turn on for me. But maybe it’s because I am a dog person.

              Attention all cats owners: I did not just diss your cats. I like dogs because they don’t scratch and their behavior is predictable. I have met some very great cats who belonged to others, I just don’t happen to have one. If I were to find a great cat that was guaranteed never to scratch or bite and always be predictable, I would have one. But I have not found such a cat yet. If I ever find one, I will be both a dog and a cat person. (Note: I like predictability. If I feed something everyday, give it lots of care and love, and I am NEVER mean to it, I expect it NOT to scratch or bite me. It’s a great metaphor for how I also feel about infidelity too.)

              Anyhow, I wanted someone I clicked with and was really in love with. That was my husband and he also brought in all this debt.

              So, guess who the financial planner is in the house? Me. Guess who knows finance and investing in the house? Me. Guess who would have caused us to be poor if I he made financial decisions. He would have caused it. Every financial decision I have made, which has nothing to do with financial gurus or what CNN money has said, has allowed me to turn us from upside down couple to right-side-up couple in about three years. And then I just kept doing it and doing it. And I have given him long lectures on why we did what, when, and why some things are paid before others and what real estate investing versus the stock market is about. (And all the minutiae.)

              So what does he do? He will be on the phone to his brother or his male coworker and he will tell them all this stuff he has done to become this investing guru. And he parrots everything I say. Then he goes to work and parrots it. Never once has he told the REAL story. That is, I had my own money, I knew taking on Mr. Doctor with huge student loans (was a liability) and I figured out through all my financial knowledge to zoom light years ahead of his colleagues in the same situations. But of course, before we made such decisions, I would give him very long lectures about global economies, national economies, different investment types, why some are better than others at some times and why NEVER to listen to so called financial gurus. I have made decisions that often go against so-called financial gurus and I had to tell my husband to trust me. And he did. So now he gets to go and brag to his colleagues about every single thing I have said and pretends like he was the one who thought about it and did it. What has never crossed his mind is let’s say one of the poacher nurses breaks up our marriage one day. I will hire the best attorney, find a way to get more assets than I should get, and I would go merrily on my way re-creating what I did in my marriage. Then my husband and nasty nurse (two people who know nothing about finance) would be caught looking at each other and asking: “Where did the money go?” She would look at him and say, “you know investing and know how to make it all back, right? You constantly talked about it and that is why I took the trouble to break up your marriage.” And he would weakly grin. Then he would probably tell her to work more. And she would say, “But I married you so I would not have to work. Now go make all that money back.”

              And I will not tell them how to. Because the financial assessments I make today, may be different next week. I am the one who knows how to do all the complex research to cut through all the noise and figure out what to do. But since the world changes, anything I said even last year will not apply to this year. As markets and economies change, so do my financial analyses. My husband cannot wrap his head around how I do the things I do, no matter how I explain it. It is very complex.

              So, I too have an insecure husband who likes to puff up his chest and talks about how he did all of this and he did all of that and how he thought of this other thing when no one else was even considering it! (All me.) I just don’t get it.

              I do lots of medical research, but I know my husband is good at what he does. If my husband explains some kind of complex medical thing to me, and if I explain it to someone else, I will give the credit 100% to MY HUSBAND. Imagine that??? (I did not take credit for myself?)

              I know what I am good at and what I suck at. I would never take credit for claiming all this knowledge regarding something I truly suck at. If I learn something in a field I suck at, I provide a reference and tread carefully.

              But, Hopeful, you and I are not alone. I have heard this story so many times. Where the woman is the brains behind something or the woman is in the background working her ass off for a great income but the husband walks around and hopes everyone thinks it is ALL him. I have learned that many men are deeply insecure, but in a different way. I think it is why they have affairs. The other woman can pander to that insecurity and she can come up with outrageous lies she knows are not true, but the guy is too busy getting his er uh “ego” stroked that he does not even realize the OW is lying. He so wants to see himself in the other woman’s description and as long as she looks like at him like she is telling the truth, he can bathe in all of that ego-basting. But, like any turkey, he is being “basted” for a good poaching.

              Hmm… how did I get off on that tangent?

              Hopeful, I get it. It is infuriating when your husband condescends to you, an educated, savvy, and financially productive person and a MOM by hoping others think you don’t work. Since he also had an affair, it becomes even MORE infuriating. Not only did he have an affair (which he hopes no one ever finds out about) he hopes to keep this super image of himself going in the mind’s of others. “Look at him! He is the best therapist ever! He is so successful. She doesn’t work. Nope, he does it ALL! How unselfish! It’s like she is not even there at all.”

              It’s like this, I don’t care if he is a licensed therapist. He is a human being with all his human hang ups. My husband is the same thing. I know the people at my husband’s work think he should be knighted or sainted. That is his WORK face. Then he comes home and he is just another human being. There are no super powers. There is nothing mysterious. But generally the patients of therapists and doctors get caught up in the mystique since they can only see that person within a very tightly controlled and (image-managed) context.

              That’s my rant for the day. But, keep going off on him and telling him how sexist he is for saying he likes it when people think you don’t work. And if you come up with some psychology thing you have researched and he vaguely dismisses it, just ask me. I may not be licensed, but I did graduate with a perfect 4.0. And I can at least point you to the research of whatever it was you came up with so that you can show him and then ask him why on earth he did not know such a thing. (I am saying if you need to play hardball- NOT under everyday circumstances.)

              Hope your day is going well,

              Sarah

            • Hopeful

              It is crazy how similar it is. And what gets to me the most is he is happy I am working. I know he wants me to be happy and likes that I gain satisfaction and pride from my work. But he most likes the financial benefits. We both are similar financially and love to save. We both agree that having the same goals financially has saved us marriage wise. It would be one thing if he begged me to stay home and not work.

              For years my husband was the same way with finances. He had no clue. The joke was if I died he would not know where any of our money was or who handled it. I would get the “I am too busy building a practice” etc. Since dday he has taken a more active role. I think that has been good for him and us. It was a major burden. I loved learning and being in charge of it but what I hated is he would call and want to know the exact dollar amount in an account and it had to be exact. He never understood how I didn’t know and would need to look it up. When you only look at an account 4 times a year I do not retain.

              Trust me on this one I have not backed down much less on anything else. It still drives me crazy to this day. I don’t really care and tell everyone what I do and about my success not in a bragging way though. In the end working does make our lives more complicated but after dday I decided I am doing what I need for me and some of that is career satisfaction and security. I had no idea I would ramp up and be this successful.

              Also I can relate I paid for my own college and graduated with a sizable amount of money left over that I had earned all on my own during high school and invested. I had a great retirement account. I do credit my parents for teaching me how to save, invest and be responsible with money. My husband did not have that but he is in line with my thinking and without any push from me.

              I wish I lived on or near the west coast! I love it out there.

            • Sarah P.

              Hi Hopeful,

              Actually, I think you should totally brag about your success. All women should brag about their success and get genuine support from other women (with no jealousy.) When a good friend calls me to say something great happened to them, I get so excited and share in their joy. Not everyone is like that.

              The only place I am jealous is when someone is blatantly and obviously setting her poaching sights on my H. But, I am not sure that it jealousy– it’s more of an angry feeling.

              I have always believed that if I wanted something, I found a way to get it. I believe I was born with my own talents and others were born with theirs. Being competitive or jealous would be like an orange trying to compete with a banana. They are two distinct types of fruit and they are loved for what they are. So people should build up within themselves whatever it is they excel at and be the best versions of who they are rather than wasting time of jealousy or being someone else.

              I totally think you should brag about your success, Hopeful, and tell us how far you have come and what you have overcome to get there.

              It’s great that you and your H have similar financial goals. That keeps a marriage together. Here is a piece of trivia I learned from a book called The Millionaire Mind. I think everyone should read it. Really. Anyhow, they show that people who are not millionaires but who are working toward it will never have a chance at being a millionaire if there is a divorce. The book was speaking generally. Any divorce divides all those accumulated assets and each divorced parter has a lower standard of living and a possibly bleak retirement ahead. I read that book before I was married and realized I had to choose carefully. I had to find someone I wanted to be with no matter what the issue and someone who also understood that we will never divorce both for the stability of our children and for economic stability. That was extremely important to me.

              Hopeful, it’s too bad you don’t live somewhere around where I live. I live near a paved trailhead that stretches 30 miles through forests and over rivers. I like to walk it with my female friends. If you lived around here, we could totally go walking on that beautiful trail. 🙂

              Sarah

            • Hopeful

              Sounds like a dream where you live.

              I totally believe that fact regarding divorce. I did not want to consider divorce initially for many reasons. Number one my kid, number two I wanted to give it my all, number three for financial reasons. I was not working at the time so that was a factor initially. I also know that divorce no matter how easily everyone agrees would affect both of us and our kids for the rest of our lives. I even did make a comment when asking my husband if either of the ow had mentioned or wanted a future with him. He claims no and told me neither wanted to get married and that he never wanted to leave me. Who knows if that is true. But I told him that whatever they think he has forget that. I told him the reason why he was as successful as he had been was because of me. And I do not believe he would do as well if we divorced. I also paid for almost all of his graduate school and supported us during internships etc. I covered all those moving expenses etc. I have records since I was in charge of our finances. I know in our state it is 50/50 however I was prepared to make a claim for what I felt I was due. In addition giving up my career to support his with the intention that this would payout annually and over the course of our lifetime. None of this was lost on him. He did mention he would do whatever he had to for our kids to maintain their lifestyle. But in the end there is only so much money…

              I still wonder if these women had their eye on him for the money and success. He was so successful at such a young age. But they would have been in for a rude awakening that their life would be no where near what ours is.

            • Sarah P.

              Hi Hopeful,

              Wow, you paid for all that schooling and did so much for him. You have a very generous heart and I just hope that your husband appreciates all you have done for him.

              I am going to say something that I hope does not come off as arrogant, but it applies a lot of us.

              They used to say “behind every great man is an even greater woman.” That is so true in your case, Hopeful. I also believe it is true in the case of most of the female betrayed spouses I have spoken with.

              It’s almost cliche that a smart woman gets married to a man, builds him up and actually makes him who is is– who he would NOT have been without her — and then he becomes attractive to other women and they poach.

              I am thinking about my ex. When we met, he drove a junker car that barely worked. We went to the mall, got some amazing clothing, some extremely fashionable Italian frames (glasses),Italian leather shoes, and a fabulous hair cut. He was 6’3′ and I gave him the ultimate “metro-sexual make-over.” Then I helped him pick the perfect car. I helped him adjust to working in a very high-brow company and how to speak to managers in ways that make a good impression. I groomed him physically and mentally while also worshipping the ground he walked on. I wanted him to be successful and so I did all that for him. I made him so great that many single women were interested. But, he was “my creation.” Yes, I am in an ornery mood.

              Yes, those women had an eye on your spouse because of his success and money. Of course they did. They chased him. And if they had caught him, that man they caught would not have been the man they chased. You “created” the man they were chasing and if they caught him, they would soon understand he was another woman’s creation.

              That’s one of my pet peeves about affairs. If men are married to good women, the women will make them much MORE than they could have ever been alone. Then a spouse poacher comes along. Instead of a spouse poacher finding her own man and making him more than he could be, they short cut and try to take someone else’s.

              These spouse poacher’s are like burrowing owls. A burrowing owl is a species of owl that bullies and takes over the den of a prairie dog. The prairie dog takes a long time to make the perfect burrow and home for itself. Then the borrowing owl comes along. If the prairie dog does not leave, the prairie dog will be bullied, attacked, and sometimes even eaten by the borrowing owl. The owl does not just want the house of a prairie dog, it wants the prairie dog’s life.

              And this is exactly what a spouse poacher does. She finds the home of another and would just as soon have that other (the wife) dead if she refuses to leave nicely…

              Anyhow, these are not nice people– these spouse poachers. And they get to benefit from something another has built, that is fantastic for them and they could care less who they destroy in the process.

              Sarah

    • TheFirstWife

      That is what the CS doesn’t understand.

      When there is a behavior pattern during the A – it’s a problem. When it continued post A it is an even bigger problem.

      Struggling with that issue now. Last night conversation was more of the same. I asked a question as to why someone would do something that was requested not to be done. What is difficult about getting cooperation. I asked kindly and explained my reasoning.

      He agreed it was a good point.

      Unfortunately he turned around and did it. No discussion. Just did it (not cheating or A).

      So when I questioned the Choice – I was asked questions to deflect from the topic, I heard a stupid excuse I would have expected from my kids, and it escalated b/c he kept repeating himself over and over and I tried to correct him. I felt he was saying something inaccurate.

      I was trying to clarify.

      Finally he answered questions so I could clear up any ambiguity.

      But deflect and not stick to the topic is just how it rolls here.

      I made a point of saying to my H :

      You don’t have to agree with me. You can say I hear what you are saying but I disagree and here’s why. BUT do not agree with me to my face and then turn around and do it anyway.

      That is disrespectful.”

      Unfortunately that stems from years and years of the same behavior and now I no longer tolerate it. So it leads to arguments b/c I will not back down any Longer.

      I just don’t understand how the CS doesn’t see it for what it is. A huge trigger and unacceptable behavior.

    • Shifting Impressions

      I just finished rereading the book THE GASLIGHT EFFECT by Dr. Robin Stern. I found it to be an extremely valuable book. She talks about the three stages of gaslighting. So very informative.

      She also has a chapter THE GASLIGHT TANGO. In order for a gaslighter to gaslight he needs a gaslightee. This is where we need to find our power against gaslighting….in our own response.

      Another thing she addresses is the different types of gas lighters. Would you believe there is a GOOD GUY gaslighter!!! I would certainly believe it beacause that’s the one I am familiar with. In my case it was mostly to during the two EA’s but he does have a rather slippery way of getting what he wants. And yes it’s always cloaked in goodness….subtle and completly infuriating!!!

      It just happened again last night. Nothing to do with infidelity but all to do with slightly bending the facts and orchastrating events so he gets what he wants and I am left in the dust. I am left shaking my head wondering how I once again didn’t see that coming. I am so disappointed it feels like we just took two steps backwards.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Shifting Impressions,

        I need to get that book. By the way, if a gaslightee walks away, the gaslighter will say the gaslightee is not being cooperative and is stonewalling the gaslighter. Just wanted to add that bit in. What was your favorite message the book conveyed?

        As for your husband, you did not “see it coming” because you are NOT that person. It’s kind of hard for people who like straightforward communication to anticipate a gaslighters next move. To know a next move, you have to either study gaslighting tactics or be a gaslighter. I have studied gaslighting for a long time and gaslighters can still catch me off guard.

        What would happen if you pointed out step-by-step the process your husband used to bend the truth and manipulate? What if you told him “I know what you are doing. Here is what you are doing and here is how you are doing it. You like to use your ‘nice guy’ face to be a passive-aggressive manipulator. When you do that, I makes me wonder if I could ever trust you again?”

        What would he say if you did that?

        Here is what had to happen to me. I used to be very docile and NOT assertive. If it rained at someone’s wedding, I would apologize, even though I was not even there. (That’s an exaggeration). The point is, I constantly owned things that did NOT belong to me. As a result, I could be easily manipulated and shut down. Over the years, something in me broke, it was around the time I scooped up my kids and left for a month.

        I found my inner lioness during that time.

        Katy Perry explains it perfectly, but you need to listen to the words closely.

        All of us betrayed spouses must find our inner Katy Perry and ROAR. You know why? Because it is okay to ROAR when someone is doing the wrong thing and constantly trying to cover up what a dingus they are:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CevxZvSJLk8

        Sarah

        • Sarah P.

          PS-

          Dingus has many meanings. Some are good and some are not. Here is the definition I am using:

          “A person or animal that displays stupidity or does something disappointing. A different and possibly more polite way to call a friend, pet, or stranger a dumb ass, shithead or fool.”

        • Shifting Impressions

          Sarah
          I have never had a problem communicating what I think…..even when I was younger. We were allowed freedom of thought and ideas in the home I grew up in. Controversial discussions were welcomed and not shut down. My mother often lacked tact and said whatever she thought and was often somewhat hurtful. So I vowed early on to say what I think and feel but to do it in a kind and respectful way. I am not always successful but work hard at it…..it seems I also inherited my mom’s temper which I also work hard to keep in check, because I know all to well that words can be very hurtful and once spoken can not be unspoken.

          My husband on the other hand was a very “don’t make waves” kind of a guy. Please everyone and don’t be honest about what you are thinking and feeling. He has also spent years working with some difficult business partners (family business). He would soothe the customers and the staff etc. as the other partners can be fairly abrasive. So he is used to going behind the scenes and quietly making things happen as they should. He is a master at that. He knows how to bring to opposing sides together.

          He is not mean spirited but has a way of orchestrating events to work in his favor. Sometimes I think it’s habit. He’s smooth and sometimes it doesn’t hit you until several hours or days later that you have been had.

          Sarah I do talk to him about this kind of behavior…..but trust me, he’s good. And you are right , I don’t think that way. A confrontation with him on this stuff is like trying to catch a slippery fish. But trust me, I will keep at it. And if I used your sentence about him being a passive-aggressive manipulator it would not be pretty. A much softer approach is required. Ask me how I know that, Lol!!!

          About the book…..I really like how she breaks down the stages and gives many scenarios. Also I like how she focuses on the responses of the gaslightee. We often have more power than we realize. She also gets the gaslightee look at their own part and ask themselves the hard questions. Such a worthwhile read.

          • Sarah P.

            Hi Shifting,

            Actually ditto on growing up in a family where everyone was allowed to express their opinions and we were allowed freedom of thought and opinions. But, here was the catch, for whatever reason, both of a parents are so non-reactive to ideas that are different than theirs that they can listen and explore. No yelling. No hurt feelings. It is a perfect communication model since it was done respectfully. I was allowed to say anything to my dad. Like, “Hey Dad, all the kids at school are smoking joints. What do you think?” Dad, “Well, in my early twenties I hung out with all those people and I smoked all those joints. Do what you want, but don’t let your mom find out and DON’T drive of you do what you want.”

            Actually, that is an exaggeration– but there is an element of truth to it. But I was too scared to try drugs and I always have been. So nix that. I was allowed to say whatever I wanted at home or bring up whatever ridiculous thing my friends (in the public school) were doing. Then my parents would tell me the pros and cons of such behavior. Luckily, I always thought what my friends were doing was INSANE and there was no way I was going to do it. But, my parents pride themselves on being free-thinkers and First Amendment supporters to the death.

            But, here is what happened when I got into the world. “Hey friend, did you see in the news how our given authorized all those people being tortured that one time? Did you see all those pictures on CNN?” Friend, “Did you just say that? I happened to vote for “person who (allegedly) authorized said torturing” and I am highly offended that you would believe they did that because the people I vote for are veritable Saints.” Me: “I did not necessarily say I believed it. I just asked if you saw it in the news.” Pissed off friend would walk off.

            So, I turned into the docile person who never spoke her mind (for a while.) I figured out I did not like it when people yelled or argued (since we did NOT do that at home) so I would smooth things over. That docile person is now going away and I think it’s due to all the estrogen dropping off in my body.

            By the way, I never became passive-aggressive. I would just take the blame for something that was not mine in order to stop people from yelling. Not healthy, by the way!!! “Blame me, let’s move on now.”

            I know all about slippery fish. My ex-fiance was one. He was always friendly, always the smiling host, always laughing, always paying rapt attention to stories that bored him. Remember that song, “Master of the House” from Les Miserables? That is how he was, but I was not the ‘clued in’ person, so there was no opposing female character calling him on his crap.

            Anyhow, your husband is not a large-eyed, shivering chipmunk who is carrying cheeks full of several pounds stolen nuts and just got caught. The chipmunk knows EXACTLY what he is doing, despite those large, dark eyes with long eyelashes. Those chipmunk eyes that say, “trust me. I am just a shivering chipmunk. Look into my giant chipmunk eyes (instead of into my giant chipmunk cheeks) and know that I am a trustworthy chipmunk!!”

            I am not the only one to have been duped by chipmunks. They are just TOO CUTE, especially the huge eyes. They use those HUGE EYES and long eyelashes as distractions while they are doing whatever they want.

            I used to have to save them from my mom’s cat. (Yes, I lived at home, but it was still my mom’s cat. The cat was very nasty to me and my dad since we lived in its territory, that was our house.) I saved chipmunks and bunnies from Evil Cat all the time. And there was only one difference between Evil Cat and the forest creatures. Evil Cat was very direct in its intentions and did not try to hide what it was. But bunnies live in holes in the ground and sneak into people’s gardens at night to eat all the vegetables under the dark of night. Evil Cat was aggressive and Bunny was passive-aggressive.

            So, here is a serious question. I really do want to know what your husband would do if you metaphorically “nailed his slippery fish tail to the floor” and told him the gig was up. That is, you know all about his manipulations and his passive aggressive way to get what he wants. and give him the :

            “I know what you are doing. Here is what you are doing and here is how you are doing it. You like to use your ‘nice guy’ face to be a passive-aggressive manipulator. When you do that, I makes me wonder if I could ever trust you again?” speech.

            What would he do? Would he say:

            1) “If that is how you think of me, why are you even married to me? I don’t feel comfortable being married to someone who does not trust me.”

            2) “I cannot believe you said something so rude and UNCALLED for” and stomp off.

            3) Through tear filled eyes, “I just don’t know how to make things better. I am trying my best and you keep destroying everything by bringing up the past.”

            4) Call your children and say, “I don’t know what has gotten into your mom. Has she seemed as if she is getting senile? I am really worried about her…”

            5) “We have been through so much and this is all you think about? What about that great vacation in 1996 where we did x,y, z? Or what about our wonderful children? I don’t know how someone can be so ungrateful.”

            Or would it be something else? I really want to know what you think is the very, very worst thing that can happen if you were to call him out directly.

            Huge caveat: I am NOT asking you to call him out. I am just wondering what scenario comes to mind in terms of his reaction if you were to say to him what I said. What would he do?

            Here is my point. One of the ways for a gaslightee to take back their power is to run through all of the possible “worst case” scenarios in their head of what a gaslighter would do if the gaslightee explained clearly and brutally what the gaslighter was doing?

            This genuinely interests me because much of our experience is shaped by habits or fear of worst case scenarios. I like to go through worst case scenarios so that they no longer have power. See what I mean?

            I hope I have not been to forward in my comment– I just want to demystify the power that gaslighters have by running through all the worst things that could happen.

            Your situation can be instructive for readers married to Mr. Nice Guy’s and I want to get everyone on here thinking about the worst things that could happen if they clearly confronted their brand of gaslighter.

            Also, if anyone else wants to answer this please do. Then I can at least give everyone tips on how to react to specific situations.

            Thank you,

            Sarah

            • Hopeful

              Sarah, Again my upbringing was so similar. I was allowed to watch whatever I wanted, go to bed when I wanted, eat what I wanted. I am exaggerating a little but not much. I did have a curfew and basic expectations for being a member of our family and to contribute. Us too we could talk and debate, have discussions but upset. My husband had so many restrictions growing up related to tv, eating, etc. And who has issues now? He does. I never thought about that aspect of how we were raised. Even with all of the lax rules in my house I had many responsibilities. And yes I got paid for what I did but I did it to help out and contribute.I wanted to make my parents lives a little easier for how hard they worked. My husband never lifted a finger growing up. And what has he told me “you were not a normal teenager”. Maybe not but it was something I am proud of how I was raised.

            • Sarah P.

              Hi Hopeful,

              Wow again. That sounds a lot like how I was raised. I was my “own keeper” to some extent, but the world was different back then too. I would leave on my bike after breakfast, find my friends, we would go wherever and do whatever and come home. I also got paid for chores and was expected to contribute.

              I did not get into trouble because I watched people. I would watch someone to see if what they did helped or harmed. If it harmed, there was no way I would do that thing. If I helped, I put that one in my mind as a keeper thing to do.

              My dad was the most laid-back parent in the world but NOT stupid. He knew what was a real battle and what was not. Most of the time, there were no real battles so I did what I wanted. I treat my kids the same way, to a great extent. It’s like this. Kids will be offered sex, drugs, and alcohol. Do I want to be the parents so uptight that my kids lie? Or do I want to be the parent who tells the million stories I have about all the stupid things I saw people do when they were high, drunk, or having unprotected sex. I don’t censor it but I keep it age appropriate. We cannot be the gatekeeper of our children so they have to be our own. You and I learned to be our own gatekeepers. People in controlling house holds did not learn that so they learned how to act out and not get caught. VERY unhealthy.

              Sarah

            • Shifting Impressions

              Sarah
              In all honesty, that would be far to aggressive of a statement for me to use. The term passive-aggressive manipulator would immediately put him on the defense. Even saying “It makes me wonder if I can ever trust you again” is far to inflammatory.

              A lot our conflict over the years has been over the fact that he overcommits to things outside of the marriage. He is a caring and giving person….often to the expense of the marriage. So I am often competing with all of his volunteer work and his interests and hobbies.

              I love that he has interests and that he cares about people but it has a way of getting out of balance. Don’t get me wrong, he carries his weight at home and with the family as well. But the difficult conversations with the kids were usually left to me. The thing is, I am left on my own a fair bit. A one week out of town trip has a way turning into two weeks. The plans we have together seem to get set aside. Someone “needs” him for something and he drops everything. Exciting opportunities arise and he jumps on them and I get left in the dust.

              So yes, I do confront, but am trying to do it in a way that he actually hears me. So here are some of his tactics.

              1. He withdraws

              2. Says stuff like “I don’t know what you want from me”. Then goes on to list all the things he does for me.

              3. Says stuff like “I’m no good!!” I’m just a selfish asshole!! (Just a note…I have not said any of those things to him.

              4. Then loves to state how hard he works…

              5. If I am bringing up specifics he shifts into a more general mode.

              6. If I am speaking more generally he gets hung up on specifics and refuses to see the big picture.

              7.Gets emotional and tells me I have ruined the day or evening or morning, whatever time it happens to be.

              8. Leaves the house.

              Anyway, these the things that come to mind.

            • Sarah P.

              Hi Shifting,

              First of all, I am so sad to hear that you get left alone as often as you do. It’s like you are married to a ghost in some ways. You know the ghost exists, but trying to actually make the ghost manifest in front of you for long enough to get a good look at it is difficult. Please note, I am HIGHLY exaggerating and also using metaphor. I am also not trying to say anything bad about your husband. The problem with writing and commenting is that since no one can see me face-to-face and experience my sincere and genuine compassion and also my complete focus on whoever is in front of me at that moment, it’s hard for anyone reading to tell if I am being flippant, sarcastic, totally serious, metaphorical, and on and on. It especially becomes difficult because the topics we all discuss here involve our deepest wounds. Just wanted to clarify that before we get started.

              You should also probably email me because I have some questions that should not be put on the forum.

              Aside from that, I wanted to see if I can pin this slippery fish’s tail to the wall. I am going to use your list and give some ways you might be able to respond.

              1. He withdraws

              What does he do? Does he walk away? Pout? Give you the silent treatment? Stonewall? (Well all of that is stonewalling..) But, I was wondering about specifics.

              2. Says stuff like “I don’t know what you want from me”. Then goes on to list all the things he does for me.

              I would say this: “I will tell you what I want from you. 1) I Miss you and I would like to set aside one night each week for a date night at a nice restaurant. 2) I know you love doing all kinds of great things for others and that is terrific. But, since you are my husband, it would make me so happy if our marriage could come first.” Then name a bunch of specific activities that could be done together that will make you feel like he puts your marriage first.

              When he starts to name “the list of everything he does” tell him you have always appreciated his dedication to you and doing all those things on the list AND it would be great if sometimes he could also do the things on YOUR list and make THOSE a priority.

              3. Says stuff like “I’m no good!!” I’m just a selfish asshole!! (Just a note…I have not said any of those things to him.

              “Now why would you be a selfish asshole? You do x, y, z for all these people all the time. That is certainly not the definition of ‘asshole’ and it is something I would never say or think. So why do you feel like an asshole?” (Said with calm voice and sincere demeanor)

              4. Then loves to state how hard he works…

              Well, that is called COVERT narcissism. It is much harder to spot. One time I worked at a non-profit. The kind where everyone goes “awww it’s so GREAT what that company does for all the children.” Everyday at that job felt VERY off. Every interaction felt like gaslighting and I had not heard of gaslighting at the time. I was there because I could put my values to work for a cause I believed in. Very few of the people there were there for that reason and they all had very big egos. After I left that company I read an article about how non-profits are like a rat’s nest for the narcissists of the world. And I have never met so many truly UNLIKABLE people in one company. It goes beyond personality. I has more to do with company says all the money is going one place and most of the time it NEVER gets there. But, aside from that, many people there were covert narcissists. Those of us who were not, clung together and used each other as “life rafts,” daily wondering why this company was so weird.

              5. If I am bringing up specifics he shifts into a more general mode.

              I would say, “I get what what you are saying and it would be great if I could talk about some more specific things I have observed. I do not want to shame you or have you feel bad. I just want to know if I am understanding what I see.” (Yes, it sounds like an invitation to invite gaslighting. If gaslighting starts, you just keep going back to specifics.

              6. If I am speaking more generally he gets hung up on specifics and refuses to see the big picture.

              “I see what you are saying about the details and I would like to contrast that with the bigger picture that I see. Do you see what I see and why not?”

              7.Gets emotional and tells me I have ruined the day or evening or morning, whatever time it happens to be.

              “I understand that you feel your day has been ruined, but it really has not. Everything is ok. Maybe you are uncomfortable with the conversation we had and so you feel your day has been ruined. But, really I have said nothing offensive and so your reaction is for YOU to own. Also, when you say these things to me, I feel very manipulated– as if you are trying to make me feel ashamed for asking for something I need. That does not feel fair to me. I want to be fair to you, but I would also ask that you are fair to me. Saying I ruined your day feels very manipulative and it makes me feel uncomfortable.”

              8. Leaves the house.

              Wait until he comes home. “I am glad to see you are home. We are both adults and as adults we both know leaving the house is unhelpful to whatever situation we are trying to talk through. It makes me feel very disrespected– as if you are literally saying “I don’t want to hear you and so I will punish you by leaving the house.” Is that the message you are trying to send, or is there something else? Can you tell me why you needed to leave?”

              ****
              On the other hand, I think you are dealing with a King Gaslighter, the more I think about it. I bought that book you recommended and I am glad that you are reading it.

              Your husband might be a covert narcissist but I think there are other things that are going on that I don’t want to discuss over comments. They are too personal.

              Just let me know if you want to continue via email.

              Many blessings and BIG HUGS. We are ALL here for you.

              Sarah

            • Shifting Impressions

              Yes, Sarah, feel free to email me….I left you an email saying that.

              I have become much more aware of these tactics in the last years. Maybe that is the upside of the EAs. I have started using many of the same responses you mentioned.

              Thanks for your response.

    • TheFirstWife

      SI

      I had the same experience last night as well.

      Must have been a full moon or a convening of Gaslighters Anonymous lol

      • Shifting Impressions

        TFW…you think!!! Lol!!

    • Rose

      Hi there, I’ve been gone a while because I took offense at something someone said to me here, but in the meantime I’ve been to therapy for 2 months and have learned a TON about myself and what’s going on in my life. If I want to comment, I will. I don’t care if you don’t like my opinion; it is strictly mine and what works for me. If you want to slam me, go for it. I have been through hell and back and feel like I’m getting back on track. Brief history: H has had 3 EAs. ‘MAYBE’ the first when he was much younger was a PA but I’ll never know. Doesn’t matter now. Over the last year or so, he’s been on disability and discovered Facebook, and has pursued a female former co-worker. She has not reciprocated. Oh yes, I did good surveillance (but I’m done with that…more on that later). When I confronted him with it, as well as wanting a “come to Jesus” meeting about unanswered questions, I was stonewalled. That was more than 8 weeks ago. When I specifically texted him to ask why he was such an a$$hole and was doing this again, his answer was “Well, I think Susie is gay.” WTF?? That’s when I left our bedroom. Basically we are separated in our house. I have a comfy bed in my office. We speak about bills and other crap. He hasn’t begged or pleaded for me to come back and seems to be fine with this situation. (The OA is a state away.)

      There are multiple reasons I haven’t left/cannot leave. I’m not getting into those now. We all have our own situations. I am working on getting my own act together because my therapist says that’s all I can do. I can beg and plead and cry but he’s not going to change, so I might as well put that passion into myself instead of the marriage. Plan B is in process. He has MANY issues I can’t fix.

      But the gaslighting struck a nerve. This was his absolute favorite UNTIL I realized it and called him on it. Here are some of the ridiculous ones:

      1. He is obsessed with my teenage past (I’m 58, married 34 years). He ransacked the garage until he found my high school diary (I didn’t even know I had it!), read it all, scanned it, made multiple copies, etc. When I found out, I burned it. He started to come up with situations and circumstances he says I did because I WROTE ABOUT IT. I wracked my brain about this stuff, including one supposed rape. I thought I was going nuts. None of what he said made sense.

      2. You know when you pull a shirt off a hanger, the hanger points up sometimes? He started pushing all my empty hangers up when I was gone, saying someone who was long gone was telling me to “hang up my past.” Seriously. I taped him and saw him doing it.

      3. Once when I had been gone working for a few weeks and came home, he had purchased a bag of sex toys (this was years ago). I had a laugh about it but didn’t tell him I knew (it was on his side of the bed). I was only home a couple of days. He emailed me when I left and asked where it was. I said I had no idea! I saw it, figured it was a surprise or something. Yes, he bought it for ME and why would I take it away? Honestly. He hid it somewhere and blamed it on me. I never heard about it again.

      4. Someone on here said their H said “What about you?? You had an affair 25 years ago!!” Yeah, I got that one too. I was working with a much older man as a real estate partner. He was a sweetie. Hugged me and put his arm around me all the time (in the 80s…a different time). It was NOTHING. Not even on the radar. H said he saw this guy pulling out of our driveway when he got home and that I was in the shower with the bed linens messed up. OMG. He said he kept this to himself for 30 years for God knows why but basically lived with this delusion all this time. He still believes I had an affair. To this day. I suppose that excuses all he has done, something I NEVER did.

      Those are just a few examples. I thought I was nuts. I went through EMDR, hypnosis, lie detector, multiple therapists…nothing. That’s when I realized what gaslighting was, and that’s when I accused him of it. It hasn’t happened in many years now. I have been solid and told him “I’m not the crazy one.” I told him I saw him lifting hangers. He is still delusional. There’s nothing I can do. But it’s SO important to your own mental health to understand what’s going on and to call your spouse on it. I don’t even think he knew the word or what it meant, but it has stopped.

      • Shifting Impressions

        Rose
        I’m glad you’re back. I think you would really benefit from the book THE GASLIGHT EFFECT by Robin Stern as well. Sounds like your husband is master at it.

        I love her book because she really does focus on different ways for the gaslightee to evaluate what is going (not always that’s for sure). And different ways to handle it.

        Like I said….glad you are back.

        • Rose

          Thank you. I will get the book. I’ve done a lot of reading on it (after I recognized what it was) but can always use more understanding. He WAS a master until I woke up and realized what it was and what was going on. It’s so important to say “Hey, WAIT a minute. I can’t possibly not remember any of this or have had so many things go missing!”

          • Shifting Impressions

            I think the book will be really helpful since he is such a master at it!!!

            Take care

            • Sarah P.

              I ordered the book and I say “ditto.” It’s a really great book!!

    • Sarah P.

      PPS-

      For those who are not able to watch the Katy Perry video called Roar, here are the lyrics:

      I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
      Scared to rock the boat and make a mess
      So I sat quietly, agreed politely
      I guess that I forgot I had a choice
      I let you push me past the breaking point
      I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything
      You held me down, but I got up (hey!)
      Already brushing off the dust
      You hear my voice, your hear that sound
      Like thunder, gonna shake the ground
      You held me down, but I got up
      Get ready ’cause I had enough
      I see it all, I see it now
      I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter
      Dancing through the fire
      ‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar
      Louder, louder than a lion
      ‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar!
      Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
      Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
      Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
      You’re gonna hear me roar!
      Now I’m floating like a butterfly
      Stinging like a bee I earned my stripes
      I went from zero, to my own hero
      You held me down, but I got up (hey!)
      Already brushing off the dust
      You hear my voice, your hear that sound
      Like thunder, gonna shake the ground
      You held me down, but I got up
      Get ready ’cause I’ve had enough
      I see it all, I see it now
      I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter
      Dancing through the fire
      ‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar
      Louder, louder than a lion
      ‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar!
      Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
      Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
      Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
      You’re gonna hear me roar!
      Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
      Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
      Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
      You’re gonna hear me roar!
      Roar, roar, roar, roar, roar!
      I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter
      Dancing through the fire
      ‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar
      Louder, louder than a lion
      ‘Cause I am a champion, and you’re gonna hear me roar!
      Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
      Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
      Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
      You’re gonna hear me roar!
      Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
      Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
      Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
      You’re gonna hear me roar!

    • TheFirstWife

      Hi Rose and welcome back!

      Good to see you here again!

    • TheFirstWife

      I like the points about the “new” M and how now when the BS stands up for themselves it creates a new set of issues.

      Don’t I know that situation well!

      I just can’t back down any longer and when I see things (behaviors or patterns of behavior) occur I just can’t let it slide.

      Hence the 2 hour “discussion” I had with my H last year trying to make him understand his responses don’t answer the question. I used to let it slide. Now I make sure I don’t leave a conversation until I am satisfied I have received answers.

      Last night when I explained to him the issues as I see them, I outlined the patterns of behavior that I witnessed during the A that are no longer acceptable such as repeating the same response when I indicate that the answer doesn’t make sense. Or sitting there and not saying anything is also not acceptable. And finally agreeing with me and then turning around and doing the opposite is no longer tolerated either.

      I resent – really resent – that too often I feel like I am not a partner but his parent.

      Still 🤦‍♀️ SMH

    • theresa

      This has been one of the best! The article and the exchanges had so mmany of the “ah ha” moments.
      A while back there was a term used that was a perfect fit for “gaslighting”. I’ll try to find it to give well deserved credit. It was MINDFUCKERY.

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Theresa,

        For those who don’t like swearing, please cover your eyes. But, if you are okay with swearing and it does not cause you to faint, please read on.

        Theresa, you have an excellent point that I wanted to expand upon. In psychology, we have all kinds of fancy words to describe diagnoses in the DSM-V (which is the psychology and psychiatry Bible). Diagnoses are usually based on Latinate words that make conditions sound more complicated than they ever should.

        For example, In the DSM-V people like narcissists fall under the category of “personality disorders.” Words/phrases like narcissist, borderline personality disorder, anti-social personality disorder, and schizoid personality disorder sound so academic that they in no way convey the actual severity or harm that people with these disorders can cause to themselves or those around them.

        I propose that the DSM-VI should make these conditions more immediately understood. I would suggest these changes:

        Personality Disorders = Types of MindFuckers/AKA All About Mindfuckery

        Borderline personality disorder = hot and cold mindfucker

        Narcissist personality disorder = God-like mindfucker with a constant need for ego-feed

        Schizoid personality disorder = a-sexual, hermit mindfucker

        Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder = repetitive mindfucker

        Dependent personality disorder = indecisive, child-like and extremely needy mindfucker

        Avoidant personality disorder = a disorder developed as a result of meeting a mindfucker

        Schizotypal personality disorder = the most paranoid mindfucker you will ever meet

        Anti-social personality disorder = The biggest Goddamn Mindfucker to EVER walk the earth; run far, far away, even if it means moving to Mars. That way you won’t be walking the earth with this Mindfucker.

        Wouldn’t that be so much easier to understand?

        Theresa, glad you liked the article. Believe it or not, gaslighting is a topic so vast that there will probably be more articles on it in the future. Gaslighting is like a chess game of life and the gaslighter is not there for the enjoyment of the game. The gaslighter is there to think several steps ahead of the gaslightee to act on his or her own sick pleasure to manipulate or need to control. So I am pretty certain I will write more in the future.

        One more thing. There is no making sense of why gaslighters do what they do. What I mean by that is– why on earth would someone intentionally try to make another person feel crazy? (That’s a pretty shitty thing to do, if you ask me. It’s an especially shitty thing to do to someone you love.)

        Trust that just as a scorpion stings indiscriminately, so a gaslighter gaslights.

        Sarah

    • Marie-Anne

      Hi Sarah P, I just love your article, the posts that follow and your choice of exotic words. In fact, I am your “twin” – we couldn’t be more alike. It’s uncanny. I speak French as my mother tongue, NEVER let gaslighters win (they end up red faced wanting to die, with the whole world laughing at them) and I often use F and B words in public when the occasion demands it. I feel great and the world has become a delightful place in which I am really thriving. Keep on writing. You are a whizz at it.

    • Sarah P.

      Bonjour Marie-Anne,
      Je suis vraiment content qu’un francophone ait lu mon blog. Puis-je vous demander si vous êtes du Québec, de la France ou d’ailleurs? Avez-vous une histoire que vous pouvez nous raconter (en anglais) sur «gaslighting»? Y a-t-il un mot en français pour «gaslighting» parce que je n’en ai pas trouvé. Veuillez commenter chaque fois que vous le pouvez. Je veux entendre plus de mon “jumeau” français. 🙂

      Also, your English is fantastic. Do you have an affair story for us? Are you a betrayed spouse?

      Many blessings,

      Sarah

    • Trusting God

      Hi Sarah,
      There is so much in the article and then the comments, I’m going to need to re-read it! I see so much of myself in the article, as the BS. The “pick me” mentality. Always hoping that tomorrow will be the day that things finally change. The hysterical bonding. Trying to save the marriage any way I can.
      I am in a blended family. which is presenting more complexities. I have felt, since the beginning of our marriage, that his ex has been the “OW” quite often.
      My H had an EA with a female, married (I found out after d-day that she is separated) coworker. To my knowledge, it had been going on for 1 1/2-2 yrs. D-day was this January.
      And I think he would fit into the category of the “good guy” gas-lighter.
      I can completely relay to Shifting Impressions’ description of her H about being overcommitted to the detriment of the marriage. How the marriage got pushed to the back burner. Plans would change.
      I could go on. Just can’t do it at this moment.
      Anyways. Thanks so much for the article. It was very helpful.
      Also, Sarah, you mentioned a number of times about having recurring dreams. I have been seeing a sleep specialist and she has greatly helped me with that issue. It’s called “re-scripting”, I think. Where, when you awaken from the bad dream, you tell yourself a positive ending. For example, a girl dreamt that she went downhill skiing with her friend. At the bottom of the ski hill she would find her friend in a pool of blood on the snow. It was a very traumatic bad dream. So she was instructed by my sleep specialist to tell herself that, instead of seeing her friend in a pool of blood, her friend was actually wearing a red scarf that day and had just fallen down, but now she got up and they laughed together. It was a very short time that the dreams stopped. Consciously changing the end of the dream broke whatever cycle of fear, anxiety, etc, the brain would get stuck on.
      It’s worth checking into.

      • Sarah P.

        Hello Trusting God,

        That is great advice about dream re-scripting!

        It’s interesting that the advice came from a sleep specialist and not a therapist.

        In fact, I have never heard a therapist talk about such a concept and I have not read about it in my school textbooks either. I have never never heard any family practice MD’s talk about this either.

        They usually just prescribe Ambien and call it good. One time I was given Ambien and it did not help. It just caused me to raid the refrigerator and eat bizarre things (like cold tacos and ketchup) in my sleep. (I am not a night eater.) So, I stopped taking it.

        After that, the doctor gave me a sleep hygiene sheet. That did not work either. Part of the problem is I am in perimenopause (which causes insomnia) and I also live with a chronic condition that can cause insomnia, especially during flare-ups of the condition.

        Off topic: I have believed for a long time that anyone who gets a therapy degree should have training in psychology, medicine, neurology, and psychiatry. Because of that, I have taken classes in different areas or do a lot of reading of medical journals so that I can have information that spans all of those fields. I believe puzzle pieces are scattered throughout those areas and instead of academic fields being myopic, they should focus on inter-disciplinary work.

        I assume your sleep specialist is a type of MD?

        I really like that idea of waking up and re-scripting. But, truthfully, I do not know how I could re-script it in a way that helps. Abandonment is the issue that terrible event has caused (among other things) so I am going to have to think about a plausible happy ending that actually gets to the root of the abandonment issue without it involving getting back together with my ex.

        Otherwise, I think re-scripting is great.

        Maybe all of us here should try dream re-scripting (for those with trauma dreams) and report back how it went. That would be a cool experiment and hopefully we could all be helped.

        So, thank you for that information, TrustingGod.

        I am sorry to hear about your husband’s EA.

        Also, it is interesting that you have felt the first wife has been the OW. I hate to tell you this, but my parents have a (male) neighbor who has been married five times. (He was actually a professional in a coveted position and his divorces reflected badly but he kept getting promoted, nonetheless.) My mom befriended wife #4 who was younger than him and who was my age. I also got introduced to wife #4 by my mom and befriended her. Wife #4 wanted to know if she could save the marriage because she found out he had a constant (sexual) revolving door of wives 1-3 and well as coworkers. Now, this fellow is not the norm and I believe he was a sex addict. After I taught wife #4 how to deal with his gaslighting and assert her rights (that was for him to be monogamous) he became violent. Finally she called the police on him and left the marriage. This situation is non-standard and pretty extreme.

        However, I hope for you that whatever happens with your H’s ex-wife is only a fear and not a reality. You don’t deserve that. No one does.

        Please tell us your story if you feel safe doing so.

        Many blessings,
        Sarah

    • TheFirstWife

      Speaking of dreams. I awoke from a dream that was very real. It didn’t suggest my H was having an A but the dream did predict around a certain date my H would tell me he no longer wished to be married.

      One month later the dream came true. And there was an OW involved. Except that part was not in the dream.

    • Sarah P.

      Well, TFW brought up a very interesting story about being warned in the dream about her H’s EA, so I wanted to tell everyone who is reading a story about my experience with prophetic dreams.

      Actually, that phenomenon is real– prophetic dreams. (Or the subconscious mind making us aware of things that it can see that we cannot.) I believe many dreams happen due to the subconscious mind being aware of things. However, there are some prophetic dreams that are so detailed or that contain information no one could have known that cannot be explained away.

      Here is my prophetic affair dream:

      One time, my boyfriend and I were separated for a summer. Not separated, but geographically separated. We had been together for about three months before I went 2,000 miles away to work in my aunt’s law office for the summer. Before we left, we sat by the river at night and we talked about how we felt about each other and if he and I were allowed to see other people during this geographical separation of 2 months. I told him that I did NOT want either of us seeing other people. He said it was such a new relationship that he would NOT seek anyone out. But, he could not say what would happen if someone pursued him. He said he was undecided. (This boyfriend never lied, even if the truth hurt me. At the time, it was hurtful. But as I got older, I learned that hearing a hurtful truth and working through it is preferable to being with a smiling liar.) So, I wanted monogamy, he said he would not seek anyone out and was undecided. He was not a flirt– he was very bookish but handsome– and he was introverted. I REALLY REALLY liked him and wanted to pick up where we left off after I returned home.

      So, during the time I was on one coast and he was on the other, I had an alarming dream. One Friday night I had this dream that he was kissing and rolling around on a couch with a faceless red-headed woman. She was saying they should really date and that she had a crush on him for a long time. I woke up VERY VERY upset and believed it was a subconscious fear coming out.

      However…

      I called him anyways. I wanted to see if there was anything to it because the bad feeling I had in the pit of my stomach would NOT leave.

      (Listen to your bodies, ladies.)

      I told him straight up about the dream I had, the contents of it, and I needed the truth, even if it hurt. Well, he told me the truth, as he always had. He NEVER spoke around the truth or told half-lies, he always told me The Truth, even if it hurt.

      I had no idea at the time how rare that quality was when it came to romantic relationships. It is an AWESOME trait. I have learned the hard way that I prefer the hard, cold truth to smiling liars, or people who tell half-truths, or who try to dodge the truth.

      He told me that there had been an attractive red head in one of his journalism classes who always smiled at him, but who never talked to him. And he did not approach women because he thought that was disrespectful. Anyhow, he was working in a mall somewhere (again summer college job) and he said the redheaded girl came into the store where he was working. She talked to him and asked him over to her house for dinner. So, he went and she ended up wanting to kiss at the end of the evening, but after making out with her and groping her for a while, he remembered me (as well as a bad night stand experience) and got up and left. She had told him during dinner she had always had a crush on him but he never approached her. And then it was dinner. Then it was making out on the couch. And then he left. Do I believe that?

      Yes.

      He was very open about his activities– almost too open. He also did not have one-night stands because of something that had happened to him in the past regarding a one-night stand. There had been a blond who had come onto him and they slept together consensually. (His father had told him to always let women make moves and control the pace of the relationship for his own protection. But his dad had not told him about having one-night stands with girls who led). So she wanted to have sex with him and he agreed. (Duh). He found out in the morning she was the campus junkie and so he did not want to date her. (He was anti-drugs etc and level-headed.) She did not like that he did not return her calls, especially after he told her why they could not date– he would not get involved with addicts. So she called his parents and said some nasty things then spray painted his car. He always let girls lead, but that experience made him realize he would not let girls lead him into a one-night stand. Knowing him, he probably left because he said this red headed lady came on as strongly as the blond and he did not want spray paint 2.0 on his car. (Selfish reason, but a smart thing.)

      So, I told him that even though we were apart, I really liked him. So, we talked again about whether or not he would see her again or if I should accept dates. I told him that I wanted to be with him, but that if he wanted to continue to see her, he needed to let me know because it was disrespectful to do it behind my back, especially if my dreams were going to inform me of the truth anyways.

      He agreed that we should be completely open and honest, even if it hurt.

      So he thought about it and then said he said he liked me much better and we also clicked as people and in terms of interests, morals, and the way we lived. Both of us were against using any kind of drugs, neither of us smoked, and neither of us drank all that much, not even socially. So, he said he could wait for me and we found long distance phone plans (in 1991) where we could talk to each other every day. So, we talked to each other for hours everyday after work.

      When I got back, he surprised me with seats in row 5 (on my birthday) to an outdoor Sting concert. We both loved Sting.

      We were together for about 2 years, but had to decide if we would continue after I went to live in France and he graduated. The answer was “no” and I made that choice because I would be gone for too long and since he never wanted to leave the United States (unless it was to see Scotland), and it would not have made sense. I thought we were too young for marriage as well. I was still in college and he was graduating.

      Anyhow… I the fact was I had a prophetic dream about him and a red-headed girl and it was 100% correct, down to the very details. I had never heard of this girl and did not know her name when he told me who it was. These dreams are real and I have had them my whole life.

      The worst one I had was about the 2004 tsunami in Thailand. It was the middle of the night where I lived and I had this dream of all these people floating in chaotic water. Some were holding onto wood– cars were floating by– houses destroyed. Some people were dead and wrapped in barbed wire. I woke up and the images literally continued for several seconds in the dark even though I was looking with “human eyes” and not my mind. The figures appeared as white, chalky looking figures in the dark. When I had my eyes open, one dead guy was wrapped in barbed wire and his body was in pieces. Others called for help and reached out through the darkness. I turned on the light and the images immediately left. I slept with the light on after that. Then when I woke up, that tsunami was the front page news and it had happened around the time I was asleep. I started clicking through pictures and I saw the same dead guy with barbed wire– the very same one from my dream. I saw the cars, the destroyed houses. All of those images I had already seen. (Also, the tsunami had not hit yet when we went to bed, so it was not something I read about before falling asleep.) It happened after we were asleep for the night. I was SO UPSET because it became very personal with these images showing up in my dream and in my bedroom as white, chalky figures floating in the dark.

      (A clarification: I have NEVER had an episode of psychosis at any point in my life. I have never seen or heard things that were not there. There is no schizophrenia or other serious mental illnesses in my family. I have never heard ‘voices’ telling me to do things in my head. I had to be psychologically evaluated as part of my degree– everyone did. I got a 17 page report saying I was one of the most grounded people the evaluator had ever met, that I had no evidence of any personality disorder, or anything other illness except for inattentive ADHD. He said it was the worst case of inattentive ADHD he had ever diagnosed and wondered how I functioned until he got my IQ test back. He said my IQ had helped blunt many of the effects of ADHD and the fact that I was also a coffee addict helped me function. (Now I am on medication for ADHD and I am very productive. Life is good.) Just had to say that in case anyone out there is wondering why on earth Sarah is “seeing things.” I had told the evaluating psychologist about these prophetic dreams. He was a Christian and wrote it off as an ability that some people are given from God. That was his explanation. But, he also said the subconscious mind is always telling us things too and that is it common for the subconscious mind to give us dream messages. The subconscious mind is always keeping track of the details we are not aware of. So, he said most dreams come from the subconscious, but when things like the tsunami dream occur, that was in his opinion “sight” given to people from God. This whole thing of “second sight” runs in my family on my mother’s line and my father’s line. I am the only one who is not frightened by it and who actively welcomes it, if it decides to manifest. Everyone else pushes their “sight” away. They do not understand it and it frightens them. My poor grandma is not religious and does not believe in any kind of psychic powers. She believes in science. If it can not be seen, understood and proved, it does not exist. (Her opinion.) She has had some really disturbing episodes for her involving second sight (all proved true, by the way) and does NOT welcome these experiences since she does not understand them.

      What is second sight? It is a concept from the Gaelic people and there are many Gaelic words for it because it was so common in their culture.

      The US government sponsored a top secret program to teach people to remote view (Project Stargate). Wikipedia articles claim the data was debunked, but I have researched Project Stargate myself in order to figure out if there was a scientific explanation for these things. I have come to the conclusion that there are some very strong arguments that conclude remote viewing is a real phenomenon and it probably can explain second sight. But, that is my opinion.

      I have no explanation for these things. All I know is that I have experienced such dreams my whole life. I am not what some would call a New Ager and I am not into things such as hypnosis or other some other things that have not yet been proven scientifically. On the other hand, Jewish mysticism teaches that reincarnation and second sight are very real. So, there is an actual religion besides the new age movement that accounts for these things and sees them as legitimate.

      If I had not had such dreams, I would believe they were fake. But, I have had them since I was a teen.

      There are some things we may never know and that is one of those things that lacks explanation.

      Has anyone else had prophetic dreams about a spouse’s affair or about another thing that came true? These dreams are more common than anyone might think. I would love to hear your stories about prophetic dreams.

      Sarah

    • Trusting God

      Hi Sarah, and others who have shared dream stories,

      So, yes, my sleep specialist is an MD and a psychologist. She is in her 60’s and has been in practice for a long time. I had not heard of re-scripting dreams before either. I used the technique once and I haven’t had my recurring dream in over a year.

      She has also been my therapist. She is familiar with relational abuse issues, DV, and has talked with me about personality disorders and even gas lighting. She has been an incredible help.

      Also wanted to add that I have also had a premonition-type dream. I dreamt that my H and I were standing in our kitchen, and I was bawling my eyes out, and he was leaving me, but he wanted to know here I hid the chocolate. He wanted half the chocolate! As I was begging him not to leave.
      Stranger thing about the dream is that I had it while we were still dating and didn’t live together yet. I still lived in my old house, so I wouldn’t have known what our kitchen would be, where we live now.

      And I would really like to share my story. It’s definitely a crazy-making story.

      Thanks for your concern!

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Trusting God,

        That really is an interesting dream about being in your “now” kitchen before you even knew it existed (if I read that right). That was a premonition about the future. But half the chocolate? The chocolate obviously symbolized no fault divorce and the splitting of assets.
        Geez. That’s a HUGE premonition.

        When did you two meet? Was he divorced or separated? When I met my husband he was divorced. But, I made him show me his divorce papers nonetheless. He was divorced 5 years before we met. (He had married at 23 and she left 6 months later.)

        But, I was always more “uptight” that anyone else I knew. If a guy asked me out, he had to prove he was single. That was after my first boyfriend, who cheated on me. Every subsequent boyfriend had to prove he was single and I would not even date guys who had casual girlfriends. Anyhow, with my ex-fiance… there was a part of the story I never mentioned. When he broke up with me and was trying to force me out, I decided to go through all his personal stuff. This is something I don’t do to people because it’s a violation. (I don’t go through personal stuff even if it is not locked up.) Well, he had not locked up his personally stuff so I went through all of his desk drawers. I found out he was carrying on two different long-distance relationships during the year we were exclusive. Basically, he had a French girlfriend he never broke it off with and then a girl from Texas he never broke it off with. So he had all these sexual cards from each one and each one obviously thought he was exclusive to them. Just as I did. I never confronted him about that. But it gave me an idea that he had no one else and was completely single. Well, he was completely single in our geographical location, he just refused to tell me he was still involved with two different women. I found evidence of the French GF visiting him when we were about 4 months into our physical relationship. During the time she visited, he had told me he was on vacation, so I never called him. I was not possessive or suspicious. (The old me was not.) I saw figured out that on a vacation he took to Texas to see some friends he was seeing that girl in Texas. Then I saw the angry cards he got after he had broken it off with both of them. (About 8 months into our relationship.) But, I found all of this AFTER he had broken up and would not tell me why. And I was so pissed off I went snooping, something I had never done because I felt it was a violation. But, he was being such a jerk, I didn’t care. If he was not going to tell me, I was going to figure it out. So, obviously, this guy had a pattern of having two relationships at the same time for a period of many months until he decided which one he would pick. It did not know I was in a “pick me” dance while I dated him since he did not live together and since he was not seeing anyone else in our area. And he lied about those long distance relationships. On the other hand, I was aware from co-workers that UNLIKE me, the OW knew he was engaged BEFORE she even introduced herself to him. She saw him across the room, asked about him, and a mutual colleague said he was engaged and talked in detail about the great life we had together in order to dissuade her. It did not, it made her chase him. He was a REAL JERK and a big liar and obviously as I found out too late, he was used to cheating on whomever he was in a relationship with for several months before he made a decision. NOT COOL. People are ALLOWED to date around, but they must be 100% honest with EVERYONE so that each person can make an informed decision.

        Can you tell us your story?

        Thanks,

        Sarah

    • theresa

      Sarah, I don’t usually use “colorful” language on here, but this one haas no polite translation,
      Maybe we could create an alert flag for posts that may offend.

      quik question

      Has anyone noticed that the responce of CS seems a little inconsistant sometimes? He goes from cool to hot in a blink. Does he get more incredulous, mean, shocked, hurt, more vehement, angry , loud? Do you see him going through more exceptional contortions that are sometimes hilarious? Could this be due to on how close to home the topic at hand is?

      • Sarah P.

        Hi Theresa,
        Sure, we can create an alert flag for posts that may offend people. What would you recommend?

        Also, I usually don’t use profanity in my writing either. This article was one of those topics where mere dictionary words epically failed to adequately describe gas-lighters. I usually warn people at the beginning of an article or comment if there will be profanity. But, would you suggest creating a visual flag that allows people to scroll past? Or what would you recommend?

        As for the responses and inconsistencies of cheating spouses, they are definitely like that song: Hot and Cold by Katy Perry. (I am actually not a huge fan of current pop music but Katy Perry has a lot of songs that address dysfunctional relationships and she expresses these dysfunctional points well.) Most often, I have the contemporary Christian station on if I am listening to the radio. (Like K-Love)

        NOTE: ORIGINAL SWEAR WORD COMING (from this thread) that begins with an “M.” It will be used twice, but the rest is clean…

        Anyhow, cheaters not only “mindfuck” others, they also mindfuck themselves in the process. I would imagine it takes a lot of effort to remember every lie you told to someone and when and to keep all those lies straight– the lies told to the OW, the lies told to the wife– the lies told to co-workers in order to leave work early — the lies told to children. Then there are the reactions of the others. They must manage the reactions and the threats from the OW, they must manage the reaction of the wife, especially when the wife commits the sin of asking questions or messing up their plans. At the same time, the cheating spouse is trying to imagine himself as the victim of his wife and believes the OW is possibly a savior. Like a child, he is going to throw EPIC temper tantrums based on what he feels he deserves but what is actually happening in real life. That’s really a lot of pressure — all self-imposed — if you think about it.

        I don’t think cheaters truly understand all of the lies, charades, and everything else they must keep straight in order to carry of something they “think they deserve” but that they refuse to also tell their wife or husband about.

        I only had one boyfriend who admitted to cheating on me– my first boyfriend — and he acted really outrageous after things did not play out the way he wanted. He went really off the wall.

        Anyhow, here is the Katy Perry song:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTHNpusq654

    • Trusting God

      Idea for an alert:
      Trigger/swear word warning at the beginning of the article in bold red letter. Or at the beginning of the section that contains the potentially offensive content.

      So my H and I have been together for about 7 years. Our marriage is a second for both of us. I have 3 grown children and was a single mom for 8 yrs prior to meeting my H. Financially stable, hard working (too hard) I had to deal with a terrible situation with my former ex that made feel like literally hell on earth. Very abusive in most every way but physical. The problems with that relationship caused me to be estranged from 2 of my children for a time. But things with them are better now. My ex passed away 8 yrs ago.

      I don’t know what to say about my story. So much of what happens is subtle. Unseen to the public. I am so very confused and torn about what to do with my situation. There is definitely gaslighting. Even tonight I feel like I’m going crazy. And I know it’s from gaslighting, which seems like it makes it worse.
      Problems between us didn’t start until about 2 years into our marriage. There were little things before that, but every couple has things here or there so I didn’t think much of it. I am a Christian; I was very conscious of being selfless, of being respectful, being considerate, I didn’t speak up much, I bent over backward to accommodate his children (whom I love very much), I helped him with relationship tensions with his ex.

      I could go on.

      I can say that there’s been an emotional affair, there’s been hitting walls, there’s been emotional abuse, deflecting, setting me up for failure, setting me up as the mother (his “mother”), there’s been financial abuse. I’ve definitely been financially exploited. He told me recently that he is so scarred from the divorce of his first wife that he’s hasn’t been able to emotionally bond to me. He told me he married me for my money (he came into the marriage with lots of debt which I paid off). He says he’s never been happy the whole time we’ve been together (rewriting our history). We’ve been happy together…but in the back of my mind I would wonder if his interest in me was performance based or gift based.

      I struggle with low self esteem I think. And insomnia.

      I’m overwhelmed with the burden and responsibility of this marriage. And these 2 stepsons, who will be adversely affected if I separate. I know they aren’t technically my responsibly. But I do feel a responsibility toward them. I am a stable, consistent, loving parent figure in their lives. And we have a teen going trough the terrible two’s which makes it doubly hard.

      Sarah I don’t know if you and I could private message. If you are open to that I would be grateful.
      Thank you~~

      • Sarah P.

        Hi TrustingGod,

        I have extreme compassion for what you are going through. I am so sorry. That is a REALLY tough situation. Yes, you can certainly email me privately and discuss your situation. You can reach me at:

        sarah.emotionalaffair.org@gmail.com

        Many blessings,
        Sarah

    • TheFirstWife

      Trusting God. I have read your post. I am so sorry for you.

      I don’t have advice but I hope you know you deserve better.

      I’m a pretty darn nice person but I can tell you I would have to take revenge on someone who told me they married me for my $. That would be the last cent they ever saw from me ever again. No joke

      And I would figure out a way to remain part of the step child’s life. I would put it in the divorce or separation agreement some how or some way.

    • Rose

      TFW…I used to be nice. I told my therapist I don’t recognize the snarky bitch I see in the mirror in the last 6 years. I don’t think I can ever get “nice” back.

    • Sarah P.

      ATTENTION TO ALL BETRAYED SPOUSES:

      I started watching a brand-new show called The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Don’t get fooled by the 1950’s-style poster or the silly name of the show. It’s about a betrayed spouse re-inventing herself after her husband leaves her and her young children (without warning) for his 21-year-old and dumb as a brick secretary/mistress. Very funny, very TRUTHFUL, and inspiring. Yes, there are swear words and some crude humor. But, it is a really cool show and I am very picky about the shows I watch since I have so little time. This is a good one for betrayed women.

      https://www.imdb.com/title/tt5788792/

    • Trusting God

      Hi TFW,

      So yes, this week I separated our finances. And over the last year I have taken steps to protect the assets I still have. The house is in my name only- bought while single and never added him to the deed.
      I wish it were that simple for me to extricate myself from this marriage; it just simply isn’t. There are a lot of variables. I have somewhat separated myself mentally and emotionally. I am reading all the time from sites such as this one and others that deal with relational abuse issues. The more I learn, the more I see how entangled I’ve gotten. Fooled. Played. It makes me so angry at myself for allowing someone to take so much advantage of me.

      In our discussions about what to do going forward, separation has been on the table. We have a marriage counselor. Plus we have a blended family counselor.

      Things/issues have been snowballing and gaining momentum since January. Not just with my H. But with the teen that’s in his terrible 2’s again. And the ex-wife. Hence all the counselors.

      I mentioned previously that I’ve felt that the ex-wife has been the OW throughout my marriage. She is intimidating and knows it, and admits that she will use it to her advantage. She intimidates my H into silence. She will use the children as pawns to control my H. He wants to see his children more often; she has decided to be judge and jury and says no all the time. (He’s a good dad to his kids. Makes mistakes just like everyone else does, but he’s a good dad.)

      I had a recent candid conversation with her, planned, amiable. We are trying to communicate better. Eye opening in many ways. She told me how much she appreciates the stability I’ve brought into her children’s lives.

      I don’t know really what else to say. The things I have going on in my life are so convoluted.

    • TheFirstWife

      Rose. I agree. Sometimes I don’t recognize the witch I’ve become.

      And not just from the As but from his selfishness over 30 years.

      It took his last A to wake me up to see it.

      This past week we had 3-4 “discussions” where I had to stand my ground and not back down. Of course I get frustrated and end up in tears.

      So I have now decided to take a new approach and just back off. I have to step away from some issues for my own sanity.

      But believe me I understand where you come from.

    • TheFirstWife

      Trusting God

      You are a smart person – good for you for taking some definitive action.

      Is it possible the ex-wife has anger and resentment towards your H b/c of how she was treated during the M and she just doesn’t want to play nice with him?

      It is sad the kids become the pawns in the middle of the issues. But I just wonder if this is her way of exacting revenge against him – maybe he did the same thing to his ex-wife and said some nasty hurtful things.

      I hope you have a pre-nup. If not I suggest a post-nup if he wants to remain living with you. I have a post nup b/c I did not want to R at DDay2. So I demanded a post nup which my H willingly signed.

      It says that any assets in my name are mine and not part of any marital assets if we D for any reason. It financially protects me. And gives me piece of mind.

      I hope the teen wises up and sees that loving people and family surround him/her. And only want the best for them.

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