Are You Dating A Gaslighter? Here Are 6 Ways To Tell.

"Gaslighting, at its core, is a form of emotional abuse that slowly eats away at your ability to make judgments."—Aletheia Luna

Love & Relationships

I gotta admit that, right as I sat down to start writing this out, I found myself getting a little triggered. Even though I've been a marriage life coach for quite some time now, it wasn't until a couple of years ago that I really started studying the kind of mind games that narcissists and gaslighters play. And boy, are they doozies! When it comes to my own journey with these types of people, there is one guy, in particular, who was a master gaslighter in my life for many years. It wasn't until I stepped back and looked at the relationship from more of an outside-looking-in perspective that I saw just how emotionally abusive and manipulative he actually was. That's what's a trip about gaslighting. It can mess with your mind, heart and spirit so subtly yet so destructively that it will literally have you out here wondering if you're the crazy one.

Uh-huh. Did you just read that sentence and already feel a couple of knots forming in your stomach? If so, I'm going to share with you some clear-and-in-present-danger red flags that I experienced while being involved with a gaslighter. If you happen to see any of these in your own situation, please get out—or at the very least, some serious therapy—as soon as possible. Gaslighters tend to not be happy until they have felt like they've burned your entire soul to the ground. Even then, they will keep coming back to do more damage…if you let them.

GASLIGHT SIGN #1: He Doesn’t Take Responsibility for His Actions


First up. A gaslighter is a master deflector. No matter what promise they've made and broken, no matter what they've done that is straight up wrong, no matter what words they've said that have hurt you to the core, if you confront them about it, they will A) act like they don't know what you are talking about; B) try and make you feel like you are exaggerating or that you're being childish or petty and/or C) find some kind of excuse to make you feel guilty for bringing the issue(s) up in the first place. What all of this basically boils down to is they refuse to take responsibility for their own actions. The main problem with this is, anyone who doesn't want to be held accountable in life is someone who is not only not emotionally mature enough for a real relationship, but they're also someone who will probably hurt you over and over again. The reason why is it takes seeing and acknowledging what someone has done wrong in order to change one's behavior. You can't do this for them. They have to want to change all on their own. Gaslighters are so arrogant that rarely do they see the need to.

GASLIGHT SIGN #2: He Makes His Problems Your Fault (or Burden)


Something that a lot of gaslighters and narcissists have in common is childhood trauma and abuse, whether it be physical, mental, emotional, sexual or even spiritual (yes, there is such a thing as spiritual abuse; oftentimes, it's when one person manipulates religion in order to control someone else). When we don't heal from those wounds, we come up with cryptic and/or distorted ways to cope with our problems and issues. One way of doing that is to always make things someone else's fault.

When it came to the gaslighter that I was involved with, I remember one time when he lied to me about a relationship that he was having with another woman. When we all happened to be in one spot (a parking lot), this joker hopped into his car and drove off, leaving both this young lady and myself staring at each other. Because she nor I knew the history of our connection with him, she totally caught me off guard by telling me ALL of their business, including how he told her that they were going to get married and have kids someday. The next day, when he and I spoke, he yelled at me, claiming that I pressed her for the info (when really what happened was I got blindsided). He then told me that it was my fault that I found out that they were sleeping together…for years. Not once did he apologize for hiding the situation. He didn't address how getting ambushed like that hurt my feelings either. He just went on and on about how inconvenienced he was.

Sound crazy? Of course, it was. Gaslighters are crazy. Because their job is to alter your sense of reality and stability, they intentionally (and oftentimes aggressively) make it their mission to make you think that everything that is messed up in their world is somehow your fault. That way, you'll feel guilty to the point of believing that you should stick around to make things right…even when you've done absolutely nothing wrong.

GASLIGHT SIGN #3: You’re Always Justifying His Toxic Behavior


He hits me because he loves me. That is oftentimes the mentality of someone who is in an abusive relationship. Well, make no mistake about it, being involved with a gaslighter is definitely about being caught up in an abusive situation. He is unfaithful yet somehow you think it's because you're not cute enough or didn't please him enough. He does something wrong and you're the one who ends up apologizing. He doesn't meet your needs and so you find yourself doing more and giving more, hoping that it will motivate him to "show up" more often. Then, when your loved ones confront you about ish like this, you immediately get all sensitive and come to his defense. As insane as it seems, you actually find a way to try and justify why you are overextending yourself to the point of almost breaking. Meanwhile, the gaslighter is somewhere grinning to himself because he knows that, so long as you're taking up for his BS, you won't ever get around to calling him out on it—or better yet, setting boundaries, ending the relationship and moving on.

GASLIGHT SIGN #4: You Never Fully Know Where You Stand


This one really pisses me off to no end. It can't be said enough that the root word for relationship is relate. To relate is "to bring into or establish association, connection, or relation". And you know what? There is absolutely no way that you can relate without having some open and honest communication with the person you are seeing. While I think it's another article for another time that it's a huge sign of insecurity if you need to ask your significant other, "What are we doing?" every other week, there is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking clarity in areas where you may not have it (check out "Three Dates In. Should The Two Of You Move Forward? Or Not?" and "The 'Pre-Commitment Interview' Every Dating Couple Should Have"). If you try to have this kind of dialogue with a gaslighter, they will try and make you seem silly, maybe even "crazy" or troubled, because, the last thing they want to do is get real with you (or really anyone else). In their mind, so long as they can "bait you" with an emotional carrot, they are perfectly content. Because so long as you're wondering where things stand as you stand around romanticizing the situation as you hope for more, the easier it is for them to keep you on their proverbial hook. For how long? Years, if you let them (trust me, I would know).

GASLIGHT SIGN #5: You Look for Him, the Gaslighter, to Validate and Affirm You


Something that my clients know about me is, I do everything that I can to avoid using the word "vulnerable" as it relates to their interaction with one another. Because I am a pretty word-literal person and I know that vulnerable means "capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon" and "open to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc.", the last thing I want couples to get into the habit of doing is thinking that one of the closest people to them should be seen as a weapon or an individual who constantly subjects them to moral attacks or constant criticism. Your partner should be a safe place and space. That's why I prefer the word, "dependent". It means "relying on someone or something else for aid, support, etc.". When you're dating someone who is healthy, you can be dependent upon them. But when you're with a gaslighter, vulnerable is exactly what you are, pretty much at all times.

In many ways, gaslighters are a lot like, as sex trafficking survivor and author Cyntoia Brown Long calls certain types of pimps, Romeo pimps. If you've ever read about a pimp's initial approach, he flatters and affirms a woman until she feels like she is precious to him; like he would never hurt or harm her. Then, once her defenses are down, he starts to tear her apart, bit by bit (although he wasn't exactly a pimp, Tank's character in the movie, The Preacher's Kid, depicted this pattern quite well). Why would any woman stay with someone who treats her that way? Because the guy initially built her up so high that she feels as if she needs his validation and approval in order to feel like she is of any true worth or value.

This is why gaslighters prefer people who have low self-esteem. In fact, you hardly ever see them with individuals who know they are the total bomb. When we recognize what we are truly deserving of, there is very little room for game-playing or emotional rationing. I know this because once I saw my own self, the gaslighter in my life ceased to hold much presence of even relevance to the point that, one day, he wasn't gone. I simply left. (Ain't heard much from him since either.)

GASLIGHT SIGN #6: You Feel Unstable, Uncertain and Unfulfilled Most of the Time


One more point about my former gaslighter. Have mercy, y'all. It's amazing—and in this case, by "amazing", what I mean is sad—how much your affinity for someone can cause you to overlook all kinds of toxicity. For instance, towards the end of my relationship with Sir Gaslighter, I said to him, "Don't act like our relationship was all in my head. Do you know how many times you've said I was 'the one' over the years?" Guess what he said back? "I mean, Shellie, I have the right to change my mind. Sometimes I feel like you're the one and sometimes I don't. It's still that way." This ninja.

Do you know what that translates to? First, a load of customized BS. Second, what he's basically saying is, "I'm going to say and do enough to keep you hanging on because I like how you benefit me. But I'm not going to give you what you deserve because I couldn't care less about your needs being met in return." Of course, he didn't care because gaslighters never really do. Gaslighters are selfish. Gaslighters are control freaks. Gaslighters aren't looking for love; they are, as I once heard Judge Lynn Toler refer to someone as being, "romantic criminals". And you know what criminals do—they do things that hurt others for the sake of personal gain, even if it puts normal morals and standards at stake.

Girl, I already know. If you just now recognized how much of a victim of a gaslighter you've actually been, it can be a really hard pill to swallow. Choose to see it as a supplement, though. Now that you see the manipulation and control for what it is, you can start taking steps to get control of your heart and even your life back.

Your gaslighter may be fine, charming and even great in bed. But I promise you, by design, he means you absolutely no good. All he's doing is abusing you and no good can ever come from that. Do your self-worth and his ego a huge favor—put the "fire" out. Let. Him. Go.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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