In a healthy partnership, your significant other should make you feel safe, seen, appreciated, and loved. When you experience an emotionally abusive relationship, however, these positive traits can quickly turn sour. Feelings of insecurity, instability, and fear often arise when you’re a victim in this type of partnership — especially in the form of narcissistic gaslighting.
There are subtle forms of emotional abuse that are difficult to detect at first, and these situations are more common than you might think. In a report by international research data and analytics group YouGov, one-third (33%) of females surveyed said that they had been called “crazy” or “insane” by a romantic partner in the past. As a textbook example of gaslighting, having those insults hurled at you by the person you love can leave you feeling confused. And when the partner who gaslights you is a narcissist, this behavior has a whole other layer of complications.
Narcissistic gaslighting in a partner can be insidious and hard to pinpoint, especially masked under the cloak of a charismatic, charming person, according to licensed psychologist Dr. Stevie Stanford. This can make it difficult for you to realize when the behavior is happening, so it’s important to understand what it really looks like. “Narcissistic gaslighting is when a person intentionally confuses or manipulates another person into believing something untrue for their own gain,” Stanford tells Bustle.
The most critical step to take when you’re experiencing any kind of emotional abuse is to separate yourself from the relationship to begin your healing process — of course, in order to do so, you must first recognize that it’s happening. Here, Stanford shares five common signs of narcissistic gaslighting to look out for.
If you are able to recognize the signs of narcissistic gaslighting in your own relationship, Stanford urges you to seek support from a mental health professional or trusted loved one in order to check in about what is happening and get help to remove yourself from the situation. With the right support system and motivation to leave the abuse behind, there is hope and healing on the other side.
Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800) 799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.