Divorce is a difficult prospect to face even under the best of circumstances when spouses agree to part amicably. But when one spouse has been the victim of years of gaslighting by the other, leaving a toxic marriage becomes even more challenging. Victims of gaslighting may not live in reality to the same degree as people outside of the marriage. Instead, they might have many false ideas about the world, how they’re perceived by others, and whether or not they can function effectively outside of the marriage.
The term “Gaslighting” comes from the 1938 London theater production, Gaslight, and then a later film released by the same name in 1944. The film, Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyner, focuses on a husband’s attempts to drive his wife to insanity by convincing her that she’s imagining the dimming of the gaslights in their home as well as the sounds she hears in the attic at night, while also playing tricks on her to convince her that she’s a kleptomaniac. “Gaslighting” has become a way to describe the deceptive process one person uses to convince another of untruths, erode their confidence, and manipulate them into psychological dependence.
Gaslighting is a common tool used by abusive and often narcissistic spouses as a powerful mechanism for control. During a divorce, a gaslit spouse may make poor legal decisions and accept property division and child support arrangements that are not in their own best interests.
When one spouse is the victim of years of gaslighting, it may take years for them to look back clearly and recognize the manipulation that took place during their marriage. Some signs of gaslighting in a marriage include the following:
While many victims of gaslighting don’t fully realize the way they were manipulated until years later, in some cases, a person might grow and mature during the marriage to a point that they begin to suspect what the gaslighter is doing.
Some signs that you might be the victim of gaslighting include the following:
Many victims of gaslighting never file for divorce because they’ve been manipulated into accepting a situation that’s bad for them and they’ve been convinced they can’t get by on their own. It often takes a very serious incident of abuse or other egregious behavior to cause a gaslighting victim to seek a divorce. Once they do, they may not argue for what they deserve because the power balance in the relationship has been tipped one way for so long.
If you are a victim of gaslighting, a strong, dedicated attorney can passionately defend your interests throughout the divorce proceedings despite attempts at manipulation from the other spouse. By using a third-party advocate to communicate with your spouse during the divorce process, you can take the first important steps toward regaining independence and self-confidence.