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.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here to receive our latest articles and news straight to your inbox.

Featured image by Shutterstock

We all know what it is to love, be loved, or be in love – or at least we think we do. But what would you say if I were to tell you that so much of the love that you thought you’d been in was actually a little thing called limerence? No, it doesn’t sound as romantic – and it’s not – unless you’re into the whole Obsessed-type of love. But one might say at least one side of that dynamic might be…thrilling.

Keep reading...Show less
The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

Idris Elba and Sabrina Dhowre Elba are gearing up for the second season of their podcast Coupledom where they interview partners in business and/or romance. The stunning couple has been married for three years but they have been together for a total of six years. During that time, they have developed many partnerships but quickly learned that working together isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

Keep reading...Show less

Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

Today is Malcolm X’s birthday. As an icon of Black liberation movements, his words are often rallying cries and guideposts in struggle. In 2020, after the officers who executed Breonna Taylor were not charged with her murder, my timeline was flooded with people reposting Malcolm’s famous quote: “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.”

Keep reading...Show less

As her fame continues to rise, Tiffany Haddish has remained a positive light for her fans with her infectious smile and relatable story. Since Girls Trip, fans have witnessed the comedian become a modern-day Cinderella due to the many opportunities that have come her way and the recognition she began to receive.

Keep reading...Show less
Exclusive Interviews

Exclusive: Jay Ellis Shares ‘Full-Circle’ Moment With His Parents & His Self-Care Ritual

Staying grounded is one of the actor's biggest priorities.

Latest Posts