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How to avoid grievances of gaslighting in relationships

Gaslighting is a common form of manipulation that is used to make others feel as if their story, emotions and/or experience is invalid. 

Recently, this concept has been played up in the media, from political matters to instances concerning celebrities, but it’s also something many have experienced in their daily, personal lives. 

It happens all the time. From romantic relationships to friendships to peers, many have been spoken over or invalidated in what they express to the opposing party. The use of dismissive language undermines their feelings and belittles them. Being gaslit can leave them feeling unheard and unseen, and if this occurs repeatedly in a relationship, it can become toxic and eventually end the relationship altogether.

Alexis Thompson, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, has faced the pressures of being in a friendship in which her feelings were manipulated and this constant state of stress led her to end the relationship. 

“When I was younger I didn’t have that many friends at my school. One day I met this girl, and it seemed like we really clicked. She was a little bit controlling, but I figured that that was just her personality," she said. "Eventually, I began to feel really uncomfortable about where our friendship was heading,"  

Thompson added: "We would constantly get into these little arguments, and I would always end up feeling really terrible afterward. She always had a way of turning everything wrong with our friendship onto me, and I always felt so guilty. I didn’t want to lose her as a friend, but I also hated feeling like I was always doing something wrong.”

Gaslighting can have an impact on a person’s emotional and mental well-being. It creates a scene of deception, making the person being gaslit feel as if they're repeatedly at fault. 

“I constantly felt guilty because I was constantly being told that I was the cause of all of the downfalls of our friendship. I didn’t really know how to act or what to say around her because I hated arguing. I let her manipulate me for so long because I thought that I needed her as a friend, but after a while, I just became drained," Thompson said.

In order to reduce the occurrence of gaslighting in interpersonal relationships, it’s important for those guilty of gaslighting to self-reflect and realize how their actions and words can affect a loved one. It’s crucial to make active efforts in trying to understand where the other person is coming from, rather than placing your feelings above in an attempt at superiority. 

Healthy relationships, romantic and platonic, are based on many factors, but the ones that will play active roles in reducing gaslighting are understanding and compassion. 

Allow partners and friends to be open and vulnerable about how they may feel toward you, as an open mind and mature conversation can aid in the betterment and strength of the relationship. Being self-aware about toxic behaviors will only help improve your relationships. 

Don't doubt the ones you love or dismiss their feelings, as it may encourage the other person to end their relationship with you and may negatively affect their mental state. Self-fulfillment should not always be a top priority in a relationship. 

Don’t let what you don’t understand stop you from allowing the other person to speak their mind. It creates holes in the foundation of the relationship, which will eventually cause everything to fall through and crumble. This prevents and silences people from speaking on their experiences and allows toxic behavior to continue. 

Gaslighting your partner or friend jeopardizes the solidity of the relationship and sets an unhealthy precedent. 

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