Gaslighting makes you question reality

by Lori Hoeck on March 31, 2010

AlteredRealityOptical illusions play with what we see. Gaslighting plays with what we think is real.

As I explained in my last post, Gaslighting is the use of psychological and manipulative abuse or intimidation to make other people doubt themselves or their version of reality.

If the Gaslighting is done by a full-fledged narcissist or other well-practiced, toxic individual, then look out! They can play a verbal game that will leave your head spinning — unless you know their game.

Proficient Gaslighters work their way up to full alterations of reality. The following three examples would only work on someone who values the person talking and wants to please them and get their approval:

“Only my ideas are valid.”

“There is only one way — my way — to run this company. I tried other ways (insert a long-winded, well-rehearsed story that *proves* his reality)…I know you think you have the right angle on this, but I did it that way, and it never worked…You are too inexperienced to understand. I’m just trying to help you avoid looking like a fool. Plus, I will not let this company be hurt by your attempts to change it for the worse.”

“I’m not what they say I am.”

“Why of course I’m not like that — your family is all wrong. They just want to separate us and control you. Didn’t they tell you they can’t stand me? Besides, Honey, don’t I love you in all the right ways? Sure, I do a little meth, but lot’s of people do and that doesn’t mean I’m mean…I only struck you once when I was drunk and mad at our neighbors. You can’t blame me for than, besides you promised never to bring it up again. I love you so much I can’t stand it sometimes… No, I don’t think counseling will help. Those guys will put their nose in my business. You know I don’t like that. We will be fine just you and me, you’ll see.”

“Your efforts are never enough.”

Why didn’t you volunteer to come in this weekend and work on the convention booth preparations?…Don’t you know others are looking to you for leadership and when you bail on something this important you look bad? You don’t want others to think less of me, this company, or you, do you?…What kind of signal does it send that your staff will come in, but you won’t?…It doesn’t matter that you think they are OK with this. It’s about perception…Of course they’ll say it’s alright for you to go to you aunt’s funeral, but you know deep down inside you need to be here for your staff or you aren’t being a good leader. And you know, I value leadership when it comes to promotions.

Gaslighters can be relentless when they invest fully in a certain *reality* and when they are a powerful person, emotionally engaged with you, or have authority over you. One way to handle the person is to set boundaries. Some examples of general boundary setting are here.

Best strategies against this:

  • Be aware that Gaslighting does exist and being on guard against it.  (Don’t think, “She’d never do that to me.”)
  • Realize you do matter! Your opinion, your worth, your perspective, and your choices are not for someone else to dictate. People pleasing isn’t a virtue.
  • Find other people who can give you a different view and listen to them. (If many people think your boyfriend is abusive, listen to them!)

If you have any specific ways a Gaslighter has tried to manipulate your reality, please leave them in the comment section so we can all know more about this subject!

UPDATE: You may also want to read this ezinearticle.com written by Trish Lambert, “Have You Been Gaslighted Lately?

Want to know more? Take a look at
The Narcissist — A User’s Guide

Thank you for visiting!

I offer free information on the abusers and users known as narcissists here.

Lori Hoeck

Photo: D’Arcy Norman

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Gaslighting, is an abuser using this trap on you?
April 4, 2010 at 3:01 pm

{ 16 comments }

1 Hilary April 1, 2010 at 12:37 am

Hi Lori .. good to read .. it’s always useful to know these traits – being strong in yourself is the most important thing – keeping your confidence up .. as you say realising your own worth. Thank you for the advice .. Hilary

2 Lori Hoeck April 1, 2010 at 8:49 am

Hi Hilary,
The less insecure we become, the less these types bother us. Until then, knowledge and awareness can go a long way in helping people avoid the Gaslighting trap.

3 Cyndi April 1, 2010 at 9:54 am

Oh. My. God. I could write a blog-length comment about all the gaslighting stories I have! :)

Here’s a recent one from work in response to my assertion that although my staff is aware that working weekends is required on a fairly regular basis, they should not be required to work Easter weekend (you know, being a family and religious holiday and all):

“As I mentioned last week, you have to manage the team through production times that meet the client’s needs. I had suggested that you break the teams into an A and B to alternate time off; however, weekend work is part of our contract when it comes up with the client. In the past, we have always committed to a full day’s production for the two day weekend.”

This insinuates that I am not living up to her expectations in managing my team despite her instructions and helpful hints and that previous managers in my position have done a better job at living up to those expectations. She completely ignores the facts that I have lived up to those expectations each weekend thus far and that this is not just any other weekend.

Just to add to the joy….she herself will be out of town for the Easter weekend. You know….visiting her family.

4 (Name withheld) April 1, 2010 at 12:53 pm

One of my siblings and their spouse ‘jokingly’ try to force their version of my past onto my children. Because my mom’s no longer alive to set the record straight, it’s my word – and will – against theirs. Luckily, my children believe my version of events, because I’ve shared stories, good and bad, about when I was growing up.

5 Davina April 1, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Hi Lori.
I’m suspecting that another way this can be done is when you have a communication with someone where you bring up certain points and make observations, (both negative and positive), and the other person tries to throw the negativity right back at you in a rage; completely ignoring the positive things that were said.

6 Lori Hoeck April 1, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Hi Cyndi,
Tough position to be in! Ouch.

“She completely ignores the facts…” I had to nod knowingly when I read this because it aptly describes one way they avoid losing arguments outright.

Hi Name Withheld,
Ah yes, the “joking.” I had one narcissists ask the craziest things, and then look innocent and say, “I was just asking” with hands wide, as if that somehow mitigated what he’d said earlier.

Hi Davina,
As Cyndi said, “completely ignores the facts.” Or they ignore anything at all if it suits them. I’ve likened this to fighting a multi-headed monster that grows another head when one is lopped off. The person simply comes back with more convoluted and emotional attacks no matter what facts you throw at them. That’s why I like the term “crazy-maker” to describe them.

7 vered April 2, 2010 at 8:08 pm

“or have authority over you” – must be really tough if you have such a boss!

8 Lori Hoeck April 4, 2010 at 11:51 am

Hi Vered,
OH YES.

9 zaelyna April 7, 2010 at 6:19 am

Lori said:
“Or they ignore anything at all if it suits them. I’ve likened this to fighting a multi-headed monster that grows another head when one is lopped off. The person simply comes back with more convoluted and emotional attacks no matter what facts you throw at them.”

In one ear, out the other. That’s how I describe the main gaslighter in my life. Thankfully, time spent at uni has helped me develop a shield against it, so it’s not as dampening to my ego to receive such treatment. It’s just vexing to be stuck hearing it day after day knowing there’s nothing I can do to make the person in question change. Or at least stop the negative behaviour.

The worst part is, my gaslighter says I never listen/never communicate what’s going on in my mind or my life. I have to laugh at this because I’ve tried several ways and methods of explaining why I can’t tolerate this person’s behaviour/reactions to anything about who I am/what I do and therefore remain reserved. Gaslighter nods agreement, but five minutes later, it’s like all discussion/conversation never happened and the negative attacks continue.

10 Lori Hoeck April 9, 2010 at 9:33 am

Hi Zaelyna,
“In one ear and you the other…” certainly nails it, too.

I knew a narcissist who insisted on “communication,” but it was simply a ploy to get inside my head more and find more points of vulnerability to exploit. My husband says that the best way to answer a narcissist is to provide just the answer to their question with no emotion, embellishments, or personal issues entering the conversation. They hate it when you don’t give them ammo or narcissistic supply.

11 Paul April 13, 2010 at 6:36 am

Hi Lori, thanks for helping me understand what gaslighting can actually involve. It is very manipulative and it is abuse by stealth.
I was in a relationship with a narcissist for about four years on and off and she made me question my belief in myself. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling so low for so much of the time – it was gaslighting for sure (along with the cheating and discarding etc.). I then got a temporary job as a college lecturer and was subjected to gaslighting abuse by an established colleague. He was telling me to take it slowly with the students in the first term (”you could teach them the whole course in a week” – yeah, sure). After Christmas he was telling me they were all going to fail if I didn’t move through the curriculum faster.
There was gossip, “knowing glances” and from other colleagues, shunning, withholding of information, being told not to trust other teachers. My own work – notes, drawings, went missing (stolen!) from my desk.
There was a culture of ambient abuse in the college and a tolerance of cheating by students. When I mentioned my concerns to the course manager at the college, I was told to report my concerns to the the very person who was the abuser and just do as he told me!
It was a very toxic environment. I left and I have not returned to the college. I am still getting over the relationship with the narcissist, but it is taking time. I am more aware now of the forms such abuse can take. These abusers want to trample good people to bolster their own fragile sense of self worth. Thanks again for helping me see what was happening and also for those valuable tips on setting boundaries.

12 wagdog May 16, 2010 at 3:32 am

You should read the work of Dr George Simon. He refers to these narcissistic characters as disturbed characters and covert-aggressives. His blog is http://www.manipulative-people.com/ but he has also catalogued the manipulative techniques at http://counsellingresource.com/features/tag/series-on-manipulation-tactics/

13 Lori Hoeck May 16, 2010 at 8:47 am

Hi wagdog,
AWESOME site and resource! Thank you!

14 brokenca July 26, 2010 at 3:48 pm

I really need you to pray for me and my children. This is a very long story but please read it to try and have some understanding of what I have been going through. I have prayed each and every day just to get through the next. I need to find comfort in the thought that there are others who might feel compassion for my situation and pray for us as well.

I am a broken woman who is on her last breath to fight. I am so distraught so I am here writing to you because I have no one else to talk to.

I met a charming, silver tongued sociopath 17 years ago. Sociopath, at least I now know the name of what or who he is now. He fit all the traits to a tee.
He swept me off my feet and convinced me to marry him. Before him, I had a career, a life, and friends. But soon all that changed when I found out that I was pregnant with our first child. He was overjoyed but let me know right away that no mother of his children would be a “working mom”. He immediately told me I needed to stay home and prepare for the birth of our child. At first it seemed like he was just overly concerned about me, I was actually flattered at his requests that later turned into demands. Those demands soon turned to absolute control of everything, where I went, who I saw. He began to have episodes of what he called “venting”. He would come home from work and if the house wasn’t clean or dinner wasn’t prepared he would “blow up”. He would start by telling me that he deserved to come home to a clean house, laundry done, and dinner on the table. After all I had nothing to do all day but take care of these things. When he was angry, he would say things like how he passed up on so many wonderful women he could have been with to be with me and that he wasn’t planning to spend the rest of his life with someone who didn’t appreciate him. I would always be shocked and devastated by his tone and comments. I would say to myself that this was not right, that this felt like abuse. However, I didn’t dare say this to him. He wouldn’t stop at that, he would start in on how he no longer found me attractive during my pregnancy weight gain. I would break down and cry. I would tell him I was sorry that I had done these things to make him unhappy. He always seemed so pleased to see me break down. He would always leave the house and me in tears. Sometimes he wouldn’t return until the next day. When he would return he would act as if he were going to leave and I would just break down, it was pathetic and only then would tell me that he wouldn’t leave and how I shouldn’t question him. I guess it was his way of apologizing. Only when I would tell him how sorry I was would he say he was also sorry. He would say that this was his “venting” and that if he couldn’t vent he would have a heart attack and die. He would tell me that having an aneurysm ran in his family and that his father and his father’s father died both this way at young ages. He would say things like he wouldn’t want to put me through his dying, leaving me alone to raise our child. I needed to know that he needed to vent or he might die. Then somehow he would turn everything around as if it were my entire fault. After all, he was now the only one that was the “bread winner” of our family and that I needed to appreciate all the pressures he faced bearing such responsibilities. With all this being said I would swallow any words that I thought of ever saying. I was pregnant, now living in a town where I knew no one and lived about 20 miles from another house. I convinced myself that somehow if I tried harder to be a better wife that things would get better. Soon my husband asked me to convince my family to give us money to start a business and additional funds to purchase our first home. He decided that doing all this in the state that my family lived in would take us closer to my family which he felt would make me happy, and that they could help us. My father agreed to help. Shortly before we were to close on the house my husband announced to me that he was facing IRS issues and that in order for us to survive this we needed to quickly get a divorce while he worked things out. This would mean that the house and business would go in my name only. He also asked me to keep this a secret from both my family and his. I felt I had to agree with whatever he said. What could I do? So with reluctance and sadness, I signed the divorce papers. This later turned out to be the biggest mistake of my life. Soon my husband was taking long business trips all during my pregnancy. He would turn off both his cell phone and even the phone in his hotel room saying he needed his sleep and didn’t want to be disturbed. Then the calls began from an assortment of women. It was always the same; they would call the house looking for him. When I would ask to take a message they would ask who I was. When I identified myself as his wife they often hung up. Other times they wouldn’t hang up but would make such comments as, “he didn’t mention a wife.” I would confront him about this and he would always deny everything. This would always trigger “venting” and him telling me how I was insecure and that I needed psychological help, from that point the vicious venting cycle would continue until again I would break down and cry. I would cry so hard and for so long that my head would ache so bad that I thought I would die. I didn’t die but often felt as if I would. One day he returned from a trip and I had unpacked his suitcase to find a pair of worn women’s underwear. I brought them to him and he immediately blamed it as a prank from one of the guys he had seen during his trip and then would turn things around as if this were my fault. He would point out my in securities and would drive me to tears. He would tell me that I had issues and baggage that I was obviously carrying from a bad childhood. He would then begin to attack my family and turn things in such a light that he was practically doing me a favor to be with me. He would then suggest that now he was only with me because I was pregnant with his child. If he had known that I would be such a burden to him in the beginning he would never had considered having a child with me. I grew increasingly depressed. I had no friends, as any I made he put an end to for one reason or another. The only interaction I ever had with anyone was at his own arrangement. I soon came to understand that he was only ever “friends” with people who could benefit him in some way. He would invite people over and expect me cook such impressive dinners and plan events to include them for what he explained to me would fund our future. Mostly these people were wealthy or had connections in some way that he felt would benefit him. However, in the end, if wasn’t benefiting in some way, he would end the friendships if they didn’t materialize into whatever he expected. Many times these friends were either much younger than us or single. It added to my worries as my husband would often go out or on road trips without me saying that I needed to stay home because I was pregnant. Many times there were other single women that were included who would blatantly flirt with my husband right in front of me and would act as if they had some knowledge of our relationship and treated me in such a way to make me feel as if they understood him in a way I could not. If I ever questioned him about any of these people or complained it would always upset him and drive him into a venting episode. Once, I became so distraught that I found out on one of his business trips that he was going to have dinner at a certain restaurant with another man. He told me this to make sure that I didn’t try and call him that evening because he would not be available to take any calls because this was an important meeting and didn’t want to be disturbed. I was as distraught as I was just sure that he was seeing someone else that I boldly called the restaurant and convinced the manager to find my husband (which was not hard to do as he stood out in a crowd). I told the manager that I wanted to surprise him and his dinner guests with a round of drinks on me and would provide a credit card to him along with a generous tip. The manager was all too eager to find my husband. As soon as he located someone who fit my husband’s description he returned to the phone to get the order. Of course I gave him the card number and asked how many were in the party. He confirmed that it was my husband and a woman. I asked the manager to send the drinks over and let both of them know that these were from his wife. Shortly, after I hung up my husband called. He was angry and said that I had embarrassed him that he was waiting to meet with the gentleman he was to have his meeting with and the woman that he was with was a friend of the man he was to meet with. He again turned it all around and brought me to tears on the phone. Once again, I was the one apologizing, begging for his forgiveness. He told me that I was crazy. I began to think that perhaps I was. Things continued to go downhill. Even with his family. Apparently he had borrowed a large sum of money from his mother long before I was ever in the picture and she and his whole family would treat me horribly justifying their actions by stating that our home, business everything was because of money they had given him. I knew this wasn’t true. However, he would never allow me to defend myself to them and told me that I could never tell them that all the money had come from my father. I also found out that he had borrowed money from others as well and had not paid them back. So I was just miserable. I felt so alone. It was a very difficult pregnancy. I always felt alone, my husband would never even come with me to any of my appointments or Lamaze classes. He was always busy or playing golf with people that he said would somehow benefit him with his business. We didn’t have insurance because he said we couldn’t afford it, he said that the business was not making any money. However, he always had a roll of 100 dollar bills in his pocket. He would always say that this was for show to the people he needed to impress which was how he was going to create a business for us to live. Whenever any bills came in for the business or if taxes were due he would pass this on to my family and tell them that there was no money in which to pay for them. Since everything was either in my name or my father’s credit my dad always felt obligated to pay the debt. This created such a rift between me and my family. My father began to ask my husband about the books. My husband would become enraged and take it out on me. I didn’t know what to do. I became so stressed out. I didn’t have anyone to talk to, no friends, I couldn’t tell my family. I was so ashamed. And my husband’s “venting” became worse. I cried so hard one night that in the morning when I woke and looked at my face and it was so red and swollen. The left side of my face didn’t look right nor did it feel right. My face was numb, I was uncontrollably drooling and my speech was slurred. Something was wrong. I woke my husband. I was panicked. He told me that it was my own fault for being so ridiculous and crying so hard. He told me to get dressed and drive him to the airport for a planned business trip, and that if I was that concerned I was a big girl and that I could drive myself to the doctor. I remember continuing to cry and begging him not to leave. He told me that he needed to go on this trip; he scolded me saying that this is how he pays our bills and how he would only be able to pay for my hospital bill to have the baby if he left on this trip. So, after I had dropped him off. I went to the doctor to find out that I had “bells palsy”. They said that stress could have brought it on but no one could really be sure. The doctor told me that my blood pressure was out of control and that I needed to take it easy until the baby came. I was two months away and no one could possibly be aware of the sadness and stress that I was feeling. I no longer recognized myself when I looked in the mirror. I had become a shell of my former self. I tried again to be a better wife. I tried to make sure that everything was just as he wanted when he would return from his trips. But to no avail things would always be the same. Sure, there were moments of happiness. I would hang on to these moments. If you could believe it I still loved this man with all my heart and hoped when things were going well that this was the break I had prayed for. This was the thing that would turn us around. But something would always happen and again, I would always find myself crying and begging. I had become sad and pathetic to be around. Finally the day came for the birth of our first child. I will never forget it. I was not due for another 3 weeks but my water broke and I had to get to the hospital. My husband initially came but when the hospital attendants told him that they were going to try and stop the contractions. That it would still be too soon for me to deliver. He decided that he would wait it out on the golf course. He told them it was already scheduled and they could call him if anything changed. I remember the look on the nurse’s face. I remember the tears whelping up in my eyes. But I didn’t say a word. I just kept my mouth shut and closed my eyes and drifted off, zoning to escape the pain and sadness. Later I remember how they weren’t able to stop my contractions and that my husband only showed up right at the moment the baby was taken by c-section. I remember how he came up beside me and told me what a wonderful job I had done and how much he loved me and everything would be perfect from now on. I remember how I believed him and wanted that all to be true. However, that would not be. After the birth of my daughter it was discovered through a negative pap smear that I had stage 3 cancerous growths on my cervix. Of course we still didn’t have insurance and my husband told me to work the state system and apply for free health care. After all, I was a single mom and didn’t make anything. I reluctantly did everything asked of me. I felt humiliated and sad. I was put through 7 leap procedures, all done without him beside me. I was on my own. His excuse was that he didn’t deal well with any of this. I was scared and felt so alone. He was always away on a trip or golfing. During the last procedure, the doctor was unable to stop the bleeding. I had to be admitted to the hospital where tests were run. This is how I found out that I was pregnant with our second child. I almost collapsed when the nurse broke the news to me. At first I thought the baby was possibly hurt because of all the procedures that had been done. However, they did an ultrasound and confirmed that the baby was unharmed. Then I was overwhelmed with the thought of going through another pregnancy recalling all the difficulties I faced alone during my first. Of course my husband was thrilled. He told me that I was fulfilling all his wishes of family. I was happy to be blessed with another baby but felt sad at the same time. It is difficult to understand if you couldn’t put yourself in my shoes. Again, I faced all the same issues with his venting, his family, my insecurities and my sadness. Again, I went through another pregnancy alone without the support I felt I needed. After my second child was born my days were consumed with raising two small babies. I found such joy in our two daughters. I would try and submerge myself into being the best mom. However, the happiness was always short lived.
Our business supposedly continued to fail; at least that is what my husband kept telling my family so not to give them a single penny. I endured ridicule from my husband’s family at what they viewed as my inabilities to contribute financially because they saw that I stayed home with my children and didn’t work. Again, I was told to keep quiet about the money that my family continued to give. My husband insisted that we always go to his family’s home during the holidays as if my family did not exist. I had to endure snide remarks and sometimes blow ups from his mother and sister during our visits. I endured my husband’s repeated infidelities that I was never able to concretely prove. I endured his venting that had escalated to suggestions he made of killing me, and that he would get away with it as no one would ever find my body. He often made jokes about Scott Peterson who was convicted of killing his pregnant wife. Her body was found in the ocean. He would often joke saying he was going to take me for a boat ride seeming to enjoy the rise he would get out of my reaction. I became so distraught. My husband of course would always apologize.
Then suddenly, he would tell me that I and the kids were his world, and that everything he did was for us. He would write me beautiful cards and sometimes letters professing his love. I wanted to believe him but over time, I just felt numb to his words. I really tried hard to make our marriage work. However, I had no access to the business, the bank accounts or really anything. Whenever I wanted anything he would tell me that I needed to come to him with a list and why I needed anything. It was so humiliating. So I tried to get creative and find my own ways to make spending money on ebay. I successfully sold several items and soon had a small enterprising business. It wasn’t allot but with all the money I made I took the kids on many trips. Trips that he would never come on saying that he was busy with work. I even made enough to purchase a foreclosed timeshare that was close to our house that the kids I would use to go swimming at. I really tried to make things work. I thought maybe we could be happy.
Then came the day that my father’s health rapidly deteriorated to lung cancer. Within 30 days he was moved to hospice. He called me to come. I remember asking my husband to care for our young daughters so I could go and be by my father’s side, he refused saying that he had an important golf game. So I loaded up the children and drove to where my father was 2 hours away. I will never forget seeing him for the last time, lying in that hospital bed; he was dying right before my eyes. He looked so frail and sad. He was holding all the bills in his hands that were due because of the business my husband had created. He was so concerned about what would happen to my mother. He was so afraid that my husband would simply walk away from all the debt that was created and leave my mother in financial ruin. I was filled with grief and yet couldn’t bring myself to say a word to him. I was so ashamed. I felt that this was my entire fault. I just kept silent and told him that I was going to get the kids situated with my mother and then I would be back. I called my husband crying. I told him we needed to make this right that we needed to take all this debt over. I asked him to come down and be by my side through this. My husband became enraged, he told me that I was just as responsible for the debt and that it was I who convinced my father to give us the money. He said that my father was a grown man and that he gave us that money without a gun held to his head and that if he didn’t have it to give he shouldn’t have given it in the first place. He then hung up the phone. I was crying once again. I never got a chance to say goodbye to my dad. He had a seizure right after I left. I returned to the hospital that night and lay in the bed next to him hearing his labored breathing until he took his last breath. I called my husband and told him that my father had passed away. I told him that I couldn’t deal with all this by myself that he needed to come down and help me. He refused telling me that he didn’t deal with these type of things well as his father died when he was young and just couldn’t be there as this was just too much for him to deal with. He left me with my children to deal with everything. He showed up the day of the funeral with a well written poem about my dad and proceeded to act as if he were grief struck. He managed to charm everyone. Everyone that is except my mother who was devastated. My husband did exactly as my father thought he would. He walked away from all the debt. After all, it was in my name and my father’s name. This of course ruined both my dad’s credit and my own. My mother continued to pay all the bills as long as she could. Eventually, she had to file for bankruptcy so that she wouldn’t lose her home. This cause a rift between my mother and myself for many years to come. The creditors continued to call and harass me. I found it very difficult to deal with. I became more and more depressed. I was told by my husband that we would simply change our phone number. That eventually the creditors would give up on me. He became angry with my concern and told me that I was being selfish. He said that I needed to get over my guilt and start being a better wife and mom or that he would leave. So I tried. For a short while it seemed we would again be alright.
Since now my father had passed it didn’t take long for my husband put up both the business and our home for sale. He took all the money proceeds and said we were going to get a fresh start in another state. We moved to California, the state in which my husband grew up. That now we would be closer to his family. This time however, he purchased our home in his name only. He said now we couldn’t put my name on anything as now I had all these creditors after me. He assured me that one day when he had the money to fix my credit he would and then he would fix everything. Confused I asked him why we simply could not get married again now if he was able to put the home and cars into his name. If he could now do this he must have addressed his IRS issues. He became angry at my questions. He told me that he couldn’t put the assets in my name and that he was not yet completely cleared with his IRS issues. I was so confused. But what could I do? So again, I allowed this man to manipulate and control me. I went along with everything as he instructed me to do. He put the home, the cars in his name. However, he still put bank accounts, business names in my name. I watched as he masterfully forged my signature on all the checks written on the bank accounts to pay all the bills. He even bragged about how good he felt the signature looked. It was all too confusing to me but whenever I would question him he would become enraged and have a “venting” episode.
You may be saying, “why didn’t I just leave?” If not at least for the sake of my children. I asked myself the same question time and time again. I felt hopeless and terrified. Besides, he seemed a perfect father and husband to everyone around. I will credit him as being a good father, he loves the children but he was not a good husband.
Since my father had passed and my estrangement from my mother was taking a long toll, I felt I had no one, and nowhere to go. I tried repeatedly to reach out and find other moms to be friends with but he would always squash those friendships. So again I hoped and prayed and just tried harder to be a better wife, a better housekeeper, a model mother to our children. However, I never measured up for my husband.
Sure we had intermittent moments of happiness. But when it was dark it was black and empty. My husband would tell me that he just didn’t find me attractive; he pointed out my loose skin on my stomach and even claimed that he didn’t have any desire to kiss me because he said I had bad breath. What little of my self esteem was left was now gone. I would look at myself in absolute disgust and wonder what happen to the strong, beautiful woman I once was. I tried to exercise while caring for the children. I tried dieting. I tried everything. I was just so sad and depressed. My husband said he was so sick of me.
I was desperate. Finally, I convinced my husband to allow me a night a week to attend a belly dancing class through the city. He agreed that I could go as long as the dinner was done along with the house work and that the kids were bathed and in bed before I went. I happily agreed. I began attending the class. It was so nice to have adult conversation with other women. I enjoyed my moments to myself. One night while driving home my car broke down as it often did. I tried to call my husband to help me but of course as always had his phone turned off. I sat there in the dark not knowing what to do. Finally, a car stopped and a young man got out and offered his assistance. He helped me get the car started, I thanked him and I drove away. The next time I went to class I saw the same young man who had helped me with my car. He was playing basketball at the same place I was taking my class. He recognized me and said hi. I thanked him again and went to my class. After class that evening sure enough my car would not start, this time that young man was right there to help me again. This soon became a ritual which led to a friendship, which led to a brief affair. I didn’t plan this; I was just so sad and didn’t feel good about myself. This person made me feel worthy like I hadn’t felt in a long time. He thought I was beautiful and enjoyed having conversations with me. I felt happy but at the same time was overcome with tremendous guilt. I ended it as quickly as it began. I convinced myself that I would never tell my husband. But guilt had had the better of me and when he randomly probed me about something as he often would, I confessed everything. He responded by exploding and letting me know that he now would take everything from me. That I would never have our children that he owned our home, cars and that I needed to get out. He said I was a whore, and that he wanted me to now have nothing to do with our children or him. I tried to explain, but he said that I was dead to him. He told me to get out. I had nowhere to go. I realized I had nothing and that he was right, that everything was his and that I had no means or support to even fight him and that he would take our children and that there was nothing I could do. He told me that I needed to find someplace to go. He then left me in the front room and shut and locked the door to the hallway that led to our children’s room and ours. What had I done? I felt I no longer had a reason to live if I would be without my children. I went to the medicine cabinet and took a large dose of old pain killers I found. I just wanted to stop all the pain. I thought I would go to sleep. I was wrong. I remember waking up in an ambulance. The medics were pumping my stomach. It was an experience I would not wish on anyone. I remember being in the hospital room, my husband at my ear telling me to tell the police that it was an accident, that if I didn’t tell them this that they would put me away. I remember a nurse asking him to leave the room then asking me if he had hurt me and that I could tell her if he had. I was so scared. I simply told her everything as my husband had instructed me to. They released me from the hospital.
When I returned home my husband told me that he would now stay with me only because I tried to kill myself. He became more and more distant and the venting grew increasingly worse. Now, whenever he became angry it was my infidelity was used against me. He would scream at me and say that he was never unfaithful and that he had to put up with me because we had these children together. I blamed myself for everything. I tried to make things up to him. I tried to be the best at everything. It was at this time that I found the church and found Jesus. I took our children to church as well and asked God to forgive me for my sins. My husband would rarely go with us, he always had one excuse or another and when I pressed he would then turn against me and say that I was the sinner and needed forgiveness for my sins not him. I prayed and tried harder to be a better person, harder than anyone could imagine. But you just can’t be all that.
Once in a while my husband would be his charming self. He would tell me that everything would once again be alright; that he loved me and that would get through this. Sometimes it seemed like I was living with two different people. I wanted to believe this and would try and hope and pray. However, it would never be. The venting would always reappear. Now, at almost 40 years old I am still trying to hide the “venting” from my children. However, children always see the truth. My oldest came to me one day and said, Mommy, why do you let daddy make you cry? Why does daddy do that? I was horrified. This was the very thing that I thought I was hiding so well, and all along it was there for my daughters to see.
I thought about leaving. But again, I knew I had no money, nowhere to go, no one to help me. Then the last thing that I ever expected to happen did. I found out that I was again pregnant. How could this be? I was told almost 10 years earlier that I couldn’t ever have any children again after all my cervical surgeries. I didn’t even have a period. But there I was thinking of leaving and now pregnant with our third child. I thought that somehow maybe this is what I was supposed to do. I thought maybe this was divine intervention. I thought maybe this is right where I am supposed to be. There has to be a reason. So I put on my happy face and told my husband that I was pregnant. He seemed happy and said that this would be our new beginning. I told him that I too wanted a new beginning and asked that he show me that he was committed and remarry me. That this marriage would help me overcome my insecurities by making me his wife after all; we had been living as man and wife all these years and now we’re going to have three kids together. But he refused. He said that he could not get past my infidelity, and said that if he ever decided to remarry me it would be on his terms. So I just lived on. For the sake of my children. We had a beautiful precious son.
However, things never changed, they just got worse. The venting to me became a weekly thing. He made me wear my infidelity like a scarlet letter. I no longer knew who the woman was that looked back at me in the mirror. I just existed. I lived for the children and fleeting moments of happiness. My husband came home venting one day and I don’t know what was different but this time I stood up and said no more. I told him that if he was so unhappy that he should just leave. He told me that I was the one who would leave and reminded again as he had done so many years previous that he had everything and that I had nothing.
I started calling attorney after attorney. I soon found out he was right. All of them told me that they had never heard of such a thing. That there was nothing they could do as we were already divorced. The only advice they gave was that I could take the children and get child support. So I went home and asked him to leave again. He refused, he told me if I wanted out to leave. He said that he would go nowhere and that the children belong to him.
I tried to stay with him but I felt so empty, so sad. He agreed to let me get a part-time job. However, I was always expected to come home at a moments notice if he called. He made me miserable and always accused me of having an affair when I was working. So I looked at getting a place for the children and me. Again, I let him know that I would not stay with someone who would treat me this way. He told me I was crazy. He had already begun working on the children thoughts about possibly leaving with me. They were frightened and let me know that they did not want to leave their home to go anywhere with me. I had no money and now felt that the girls wouldn’t go with me. I thought of just taking my son and leaving but my husband talked to me and convinced me that it would be selfish and wrong to take my son away from his sisters and the security of his home. He told me that I was sick in the head and that the courts would see that soon enough. So I stayed and just kept my mouth shut and tried again to just be better. My husband continued to control me by making me spend any money I would earn on daycare for my son if I wanted to work. There was never much of anything left but what little I had left I planned trips together with my kids as my husband would never give me money to do anything. I started a small ebay business and again would spend all the money on adventures with my children. It was my escape. I thought that one day somehow I might be able to leave. Things never got better; I found it difficult to enjoy anything. My husband’s venting was a regular thing and he would continue to make comments about me disappearing on a boat ride or some other fateful demise. Of course he would always tell me he was joking. I never felt that he was joking. I often told people if anything ever happened to look under the house because he often commented that he could put me there without anyone noticing. I was so unhappy. I had thoughts of suicide. One day he came home venting and I just snapped. I decided I had to leave, I knew if I continued to stay that I would surely die. I told him I was leaving. He told me that he would not allow me to take the kids and that I should not inflict this on them. He told me that I was the one who was sick and needed to get help. So I sought help from a battered women’s shelter. They set me up with a counselor who tried to council the entire family. At first he agreed, I think out of shock and fear. But then he took the kids to his own counselor who he found through my church. I couldn’t believe it, the church that I had attended alone with our children. He somehow managed to turn even the place I found sanctuary against me. The counselor at the church determined that he was a fit parent and that the children didn’t need counseling. This was all determined without ever even speaking to me, the children’s mother? I was devastated to be given such news.
He then told me that I needed to just get counseling on my own and not drag the family through this. I just wanted to die. So I then decided my only choice was to leave. I thought that I would get on my feet and be able to share time with the children. I was wrong. It didn’t take long before my daughters refused to come and see me on the weekends. They began to refuse to take my calls. My husband then limited my visits with my son to only every other weekend. He told me that was more than any court would give a mother who abandoned her children. My husband had filled my children’s heads and the heads of our entire neighborhood with the thought that I had abandoned him and the children. Even the few neighbors and friends who I know had witnessed him berating me turned against me. I had no one. So I just continued my counseling and tried to put the pieces of my life back together again. I would never be included in any of the kids school activities. When I would try and attend on my own, I was told that the girls did not want me there. I was devastated. I did manage to keep up with my sons school activities, he still wanted very much to be a part of his mothers life.
All during this time my husband would tell me to come back. He said that he would now marry me. I was even more confused. How could I now marry this man who had devastated me in so many ways. I could no longer believe anything he said.
I was just beginning to see a glimmer of the woman I once was and somehow I thought with time, I would be able to get my children back. So when he realized that I would not return he took all my things, pictures, memories even my wedding gown and destroyed everything. Almost 4 years have passed since I left. I feel so alone. Things have deteriorated to almost nill with my oldest daughter. She now displays anger issues that I am told am the cause of. I still have never stopped reaching out. You cannot imagine the pain of not having your children. Simple things such as the pain of missing the smell of your child’s hair and the sounds of laughter in your home.
I pray to God everyday hoping that he will heal my guilt and pain and will open a window for a relationship with my children.
I still try and have some type of relationship with my daughters however; they often use their father’s words now and have no memories of growing up with me. Things have soften slightly with my younger daughter. However, mostly the relationships I have now had with them is only phone calls when they need money or I should say demand money. My oldest always start out by saying that dad pays for everything and that I don’t pay child support. It pains me greatly; I stay silent and refrain from saying anything negative about my ex. I always just say, I didn’t leave you, I left your father. I tell them that maybe someday they will understand and forgive me. What else can I do?
My son however, is now only eight and loves his mom. It is difficult to see him only every other weekend. I am missing out on so much. Without the means to fight my husband in court I must abide by his rules and allowance of time with my son. It is killing me to still feel afraid of my ex- husband. I often find myself arguing with him trying to defend myself and even now he still masterfully turns the tables and ends our conversation by telling me that he will not put up with my abusive tone and hangs up the phone. My ex-husband’s manipulation has never disappeared. He has manipulated me into giving and doing things for him saying that if I want to see the children I will. I have done things in order to keep the peace and because I still fear him and am intimidated by him. These things I have had to do have made me feel humiliated.
They had continued over the years until recently. My ex-husband met someone. He was quick to call me and let me know that he had met a single mom who was a widow. I knew right away that she must have money or something that he wanted or needed. He even made a strange comment that “she didn’t move him” which I know means that he is not physically attracted to her. I have learned that she indeed is financially well off. No doubt the reason why he is now moving so quickly. He has boldly been taking our son for sleep over’s to her house and now is bringing her to his house as well. He even has taken her to the very timeshare that I purchased (he has been trying to force me to sign it over to him, because he and the kids had been using it over the years and he started paying the yearly maintenance fees the last few years. I haven’t yet) No doubt is telling her that the timeshare is his all the while painting a beautiful picture for her of a wonderful man who was left by his wife to raise their children alone. I feel sorry for her. I know nothing about her other than what he has shared. I am sure that he will gain access to her money, her home and most likely any connections to people he feels will better him in some way. I am sure he has already recognized her weakness and knows how to control and manipulate her. She will be his next victim. There is a part of me that feels relief. Is that wrong? But then there is a part that feels sorry for her. I hope she is smart enough to get a prenup. However, now things have become increasingly difficult for me. It is clear that he now plans on making her his wife. And now that he has discarded me for any use at all he plans on making her the new mother in our children’s life. He has repeatedly tried to upset me in regards to taking what little time I have with my son away for one reason or another. He has told me now when he takes business trips that it will be this woman that he will leave my son to care for. He now demands more and more money from me saying that I need to contribute to all the bills that he pays to raise our children. All along I have given whatever I could. But now since he is in a relationship he wants more. He tricked me into a divorce so that he could take our children, home, cars, bank accounts, everything. I had nothing but the shirt on my back when I left. I have still had to deal with the debt he left in my name.
Just recently, I had to come to a settlement for a credit card bill that he took out in my name while we were together. When I called him on this he simply responded that if I hadn’t left he would have taken care of this. Over the years I managed to take a life insurance policy out for each of the children just in case anything ever happen to me. This is really all I have left to give, and that can only be accessed if I were to die. I often think now he is trying to drive me to the brink. He knows that the way to get to me is through the kids. If I were now out of the way he could start this new life with this new woman and he wouldn’t have to deal with any custody issues if I were gone.
I am really in a tough place mentally. I have reached out to lawyers who tell me that without allot of money there is really nothing I can do. I am on my knees, just trying to find the strength to get through each day. I keep telling myself that this too shall pass. I have lost everything. If I now lose my time with my son I am afraid that I will simply give up. I often think it just might be easier if I weren’t alive anymore. Sad to say sometimes the only thing that stops me is the thought of leaving my kids, going to hell for killing myself and giving by husband the satisfaction of becoming a martyr if I were to die.
So here I am. Broken, sad and still the shell of who I once was. I write you because I needed my voice to be heard. I guess in a way, I finally needed to be the one to vent. I hope you hear me and find compassion and can offer words of comfort and pray for me in my desperation. I have no one to turn to. I wish I could just find a way to deal with the pain? Can you ask God to help me? Please pray for me.

15 Lori Hoeck July 30, 2010 at 10:04 am

Hi brokenca,
There is a narcissism forum where you might find some folks to talk to called “Web of Narcissism.” Here’s the excerpt about the site:

“The Web of Narcissism is a peer-based support group for people whose lives have been changed by a narcissistic relationship. While providing information about psychopathology is the foundation to our organization, our main purpose & intent is supporting one another’s healing process. A healing process that may require professional counseling in addition to peer-based validation provided on the WoN message board.”

16 pddf December 5, 2010 at 2:46 pm

I have the “gaslighter” away from me, but I will never get over the damage from it. His real self (the other head of the double headed snake in a suit) started emerging in 2004.

At this time, I am trying to sort things out. My reality is gone and I need it back. I keep thinking and hoping that something is going to click with him and he going to be the person he pretended to me and we will all live happily everafter.

The children and extended family have now taken a stand. A year ago , he had them convinced that I was crazy and trying to blame him. Now they know the truth.

I have a list of way over 100 different incidents that happened to me by him. It ranges from him wrapping the spindle of a bathroom table in toilet paper and telling me the fan blew it;
and includes tampering with my medication, personal items and clothing missing, household items arranged in strange positions or places. & putting toenail clippings in my lingerie drawer. It goes on and on and on. MRI’s cat scans etc have proven there is nothing physically wrong.

He used several tactics to try and clear himself.
1. I was doing it, but did not remember it.
2. I was doing it and blaming him so he would get into trouble.
3. The neighbor was strange and somehow she had access to a key and was coming in while we were gone.
4. He wasn’t doing it but he admitted to it so I would not be so fearful.
5. Strange explanations was his number tactic. (Like the one about the fan blowing toilet paper around and aroun d a table spindle.

At the times he would confess (which included a priest, medical doctor, therapists, our son and the police) he would try and say he was in the beginning stages of dementia. He named the “personality” Henry said Henry was his alter ” Said he enjoyed giving it a name because he enjoyed seeing how much it frightened me.

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