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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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
In xoNecole's series Dope Abodes, we tour the living spaces of millennial women, where they dwell, how they live, and the things they choose to adorn and share their spaces with.
Annisa LiMara has called this space her home for two years. Her Atlanta sanctuary, which she aimed to give the look and feel of something you'd see in the glossy pages of Architectural Digest, embodies her vision of "stunning, yet functional and cozy."
"My home is a reflection of my brand, The Creative Peach Studios, and I am the 'Creative Peach,'" Annisa explains. "It was so easy to reflect who I am and my personal story in my space. When you walk into my home, you know that it is Annisa’s home. I’m so proud of that. So grateful."
On the journey to becoming a homeowner, Annisa looks back on her experience as a "rough one," detailing that she officially started house hunting in March 2020. It had become so expensive to rent, and the 30-something lifestyle influencer decided she would rather invest the money she spent renting into owning a home. However, nine days into house hunting, her search was put on hold for a year. The following year, in 2021, the process of finding the right home and going under contract took a total of four months.
"The resell route didn’t work out, so my realtor suggested a new construction home, which turned out to be the better option," she tells xoNecole of her experience. "Although it requires more patience, it turned out to be a much easier process and a lot easier to maintain since it’s brand new."
As it turns out, the open floor plan three-bedroom two-and-half-bath would prove to be a blank canvas for Annisa to flex her creativity and design skills.
As a new construction, she watched the townhome get built from the ground up, and due to the "cookie-cutter" nature of new builds, Annisa knew immediately that she would change everything about it. The best part about it? All of her updates were cosmetic, so transformation could occur without having to do major renovations to achieve the look and feel she desired.
"The first things I updated were all the lighting, adding built-ins around my fireplace, and installing wallpaper in my bedroom, office, and dining room! I also had board and batten installed in the upstairs loft to make a statement and the kitchen island," Annisa details.
"Lastly, we painted the loft a soft blush pink, the kitchen island is a gorgeous terracotta, and added contrast with black on the doors, fireplace, and stairwell banisters."
In total, she spent $15K in renovations (plus the cost of furniture and decor). And although she says the second level of her home is a "work-in-progress," two years in, she considers the transformation nearly done.
Annisa defines her decor style as "organic modern meets midcentury modern with a touch of boho," and with thoughtfully placed touches like plants, warm tones, and organic textures, her perspective can be felt throughout. "I found my point of view as a designer in my work and as I worked on my home, so it all came together organically based on what I was naturally drawn to."
"The organic modern meets midcentury modern with a touch of boho' is definitely my signature style. You’ll always see greenery, warm tones, brass, and rattan or wicker in just about every room. My color story is based on my brand [The Creative Peach Studios] colors: blush pink, ivory, olive and sage green, terracotta, and nudes," she adds.
It was her brand colors that would be the jumping-off point for her approach to decorating and styling her space. That, and a picture she had of what would become her sofa from Albany Park. She recalled her decor decisions, "It was their olive Park Sectional Sofa, and I knew instantly I wanted it, and it aligned with my brand colors naturally, so it was a no-brainer."
By drawing inspiration from Pinterest, favorite design brands like CB2, Arhaus, and Souk Bohemian, and through her work, Annisa allowed herself to be guided by her signature style as well as her instincts when making decor and color choices for her own home. "Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason; it just feels right."
Some of the aspects of her home that she regards as her favorites include her bedroom and its little nook where her bed is positioned, the open upstairs loft, and the open concept because "it really allows you to see all of the details I put into the design all at once." Another of her favorite finds is a purchase she copped from the thrift store years ago.
"I have this little brown and gold chair that I picked up for $6 at a thrift store in Jersey six years ago. I couldn’t afford much in my little studio, but the chair was beautiful and unlike anything I had ever seen."
In addition to accent walls featuring blush pink and terracotta tones throughout the space, her gallery wall is another element that immediately draws the eye of any guest who enters. Annisa recalled a fond memory of a fine art piece she purchased from a Black woman artist when she first moved to Atlanta that she now prominently features in her living room. "It was a Black villager from her travels in Africa, and I fell in love with it because it felt like an ancestor I never met. I later found out that she was the sister of one of my very first design clients two years later," she shares. "Talk about a full-circle moment!"
Cultivating a space takes time and patience, and that is a sentiment Annisa echoes when advising people who are looking to infuse more of themselves into their own dope abodes through design. "It is not a race, and you’ll spend more money if you rush into designing without really being intentional about the vision for your space," Annisa concludes. "You just need creativity and patience to do it! And most of all, make sure you feel like it’s an oasis for you!"
For more of Annisa, follow her on Instagram @annisalimara.
Tour Interior Designer Annisa LiMara's Modern Meets Midcentury ATL Home | Dope Abodes
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Over the years, actress Keke Palmer has maintained a steady ascend in Hollywood from child star to a blockbuster “Big Boss.” But for her next act, the Nope star is considering the possibility of retiring from showbiz.
Keke Palmer recently discussed her thoughts on a potential retirement from the big screen in an interview with Teen Vogue. With a career spanning 20 years, Palmer feels that the timer for her retirement has officially started, though she doesn't know exactly when it will happen.
"I don't know. I think the timer has started," Palmer shared. "I think it's because I just haven't felt it yet. But the timer, I know that it's around the corner. I don't know when exactly, but it's around the corner."
For Palmer, the notion of exiting a front-facing career in Hollywood comes from her desire to build a long-standing legacy for her son, Leo, and open the door for future entertainers. This includes her media company, KeyTV Network.
"The main thing I want those legacies to be is [a call] to use your power for good, to use what you have to create spaces and systems for other people to thrive," Palmer said. "I just don't believe in holding everything. I don't believe in gatekeeping. I'm not a coward. What would that do? I think it's based in fear. If I'm speaking on it from a compassionate place, I think people, that gatekeep are afraid. So I'm not scared."
Palmer shared that in the past, she’s experienced anxiety related to performing and questions the longevity of a career in the entertainment industry.
“When I was younger, I used to have so much anxiety," Palmer says. "I love to perform, but is that something that can last forever? I think I always would wonder, 'Is it something that times out?' Obviously, you have people that have been acting their entire careers…but I just never knew how I could scale myself."
The Emmy-award-winning actress celebrated the arrival of her first child, Leodis "Leo" Andrellton, on February 25, 2023, with her ex-boyfriend, Darius Jackson. As a new mom, Palmer, 30, reflects on raising her son without fear, establishing boundaries, and cultivating a balance between awareness and innocence.
“I think about my son. I don't want to raise him to be afraid,” Palmer says. “I don't want to raise him to have no boundaries or for him to be naïve either. But I want to raise him to know that if life is a school, get out there and learn.”
She continues, “A part of learning in this place, I think, is to love and to know how to first be unconditionally loving to yourself, so that you know how to love others and be of service to others in a way that doesn't disadvantage them but instead empowers them. That's what I would hope that the legacy is for me. And for anyone that wants to follow me, I hope that's what they see too.”
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