10 Signs of a Gaslighting Husband (And How to Respond)

Updated:

Sadly, some guys are raised to believe that their level of masculinity depends on how much they can control and dominate women. To do so, they’ll use different tactics to exert and maintain power.

Gaslighting is one of those tactics. It’s simple, but it’s effective for a husband to gain control of his wife through manipulation and emotional abuse. Typically, you won’t even realize he’s doing it until his toxic behavior breaks you down and affects your mental stability. 

Because gaslighting is an intentional yet subtle technique, your manipulative husband can get away with plenty of his wrongdoings. While your confidence and self-esteem dwindle, he gains the upper hand in your relationship. 

Because they usually do it intentionally, gaslighting is a systematic method to weaken a person to the point of becoming co-dependent on their partner. You can always tell from the signs whether or not he’s gaslighting you.

The good news is that you can stop his bad behavior by using the guide below.

Gaslighting: What Is It?

Gaslighting is a form of mental and emotional control. It is a tactic usually employed by people with a personality disorder, like sociopathy, psychopathy, or narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

By gaslighting you, they’ll say or do manipulative things that cause you to question your perception of a situation. They typically systematically and deliberately feed you incorrect information to make you believe their version of events is accurate and yours are wrong or mistaken.

Unfortunately, these acts may force you to question your sanity and memory. It’s also important to note that not all gaslighting tactics are intentional. 

Mental Health Consequences of Gaslighting

Mental health experts agree that gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse. The feelings people can experience may be similar to those in abusive relationships with a physically violent or verbally abusive individual. 

Regardless of whether or not gaslighting has occurred at work, in a marriage, or within a friendship, the effects are commonly harmful. 

Regarding a husband, he may slowly, intentionally, and gradually create circumstances that make you doubt yourself. You start feeling like “something is off” or wrong. Consequently, you can begin to get anxious or feel worried and depressed. 

It’s typical for gaslighting victims to experience a lack of self-worth and self-esteem after being made to feel as though they’re unstable and overly emotional. Other psychological effects include:

  • helplessness
  • post-traumatic stress
  • hopelessness
  • codependency

You may find it extremely difficult to leave an abusive relationship when you become co-dependent, so the cycle continues. 

The psychological and emotional effects are usually the same, regardless of whether the toxic behavior is unintentional or intentional. 

10 Indicators of a Gaslighting Husband

An individual who gaslights in their relationship does it because it keeps them correct while keeping their partner wrong. To many, it feels like a sense of betrayal when we discover our partner is taking advantage, whether by gaslighting, lying, or cheating. The following indicators can help you understand if your spouse is gaslighting you. 

1. He Constantly Denies Things

When you deny what was said or what happened, it’s the alternative to flat-out lying. He might say things like, “That doesn’t make sense? That never happened. Why are you always imagining?” Sometimes, he’ll act like he doesn’t remember the past, so he can’t be held accountable. 

2. He Pretends to Forget Constantly, or Flat-Out Lies

Deception is another manipulative method to maintain or gain control over you. Your husband may tell you lies to get you to believe you can’t rely on your memory. Gaslighting and compulsive lying often are the same.

3. He’s Always Deflecting from the Issue

Deflecting is an old-school tactic that gaslighters and narcissists use to get you to change the subject. When you change the topic, you’re attempting to divert the target’s attention from a specific issue. Your husband may turn a discussion about him into a dispute about your behavior.

For instance, you may tell him you don’t appreciate how he speaks to you. Instead of receiving your message, he’ll turn it around and say something like, “You’re always so sensitive whenever I say anything.” 

The minute you address his statement to defend yourself, “No I’m not!” he has successfully changed the topic and placed you on the defensive. 

4. His Gaslighting Causes You to Question Your Memory

In most cases, the perpetrator denies things purposely to cause you to second-guess your actions. Your husband may alter the details of what happened and persuade you to accept their version of circumstances as the truth. 

To make you further doubt yourself, he might say something like, “You constantly tell me I say things I don’t say. You must have some memory loss.” 

5. To Him, Your Experiences Are Unimportant

One common pattern of a gaslighter is them telling you you’re overreacting to their toxic behavior. When they get you to think their wrongdoing isn’t such a big deal as you’re making it out to be, it gets you to lower your standards. Once this happens, they begin misbehaving even more. 

6. He Tells You How You Should Feel

Since we are all different, no one should ever dictate your emotional response to something. Unfortunately, gaslighters didn’t get that memo because one of their biggest go-to’s for controlling behavior is criticizing you for feeling like you do. 

No one should ever tell you how to feel. They lie and dismiss your feelings but then say you shouldn’t feel hurt or angry about the situation.

His invalidation causes you to question your emotions and think, “Maybe I am blowing this out of propotion.” or “Maybe I’m just too emotional today.”

7. He Projects His Errors onto You

A gaslighting husband habitually says you’re the one doing whatever you’re accusing him of. For instance, if you accuse him of cheating, he’ll come back with, “Me? But I saw you texting some guy the other day. You’re the one probably cheating.”

This is another type of deflection. This time, he shifts all the blame back onto you, and you don’t even realize it when you’re wasting your time defending yourself. 

8. Deep Down, You Know Something Isn’t Right

Your gut tells you something isn’t right about your husband, but you can’t figure out exactly what. So, you find yourself constantly walking around on eggshells, afraid to bring up important discussions for fear that he’ll criticize you or put you down.  

He may have criticized a shirt you like to wear around the house, so you make it a point never to wear it again. You don’t want to face his wrath. He mentions he doesn’t like your hairdo, so you change your style to avoid his criticism. 

9. He Calls You Crazy

Here’s another classic sign he’s gaslighting you. When he calls you paranoid or crazy, he’s attempting to make you question your mental state. He also wants to get a negative reaction from you with his statement. That way, he can accuse you of flying off the handle and having mental health issues. 

If he constantly pushes your buttons because he knows you’ll eventually break, he’s gaslighting you. 

10. You Feel a Disconnect with Yourself

Eventually, you’ll start feeling confused about what’s real and what isn’t. Reality seems like a distant memory. You feel like a former shadow of yourself because you’re constantly lonely, sad, or depressed. 

Ways to Respond to a Gaslighting Husband

Sadly, walking away from a gaslighting husband can be challenging, especially if you have kids together. As you’ll see below, the good news is that there are steps you can take to deal with the situation in a healthy, effective, and safe manner. Use these steps to make your husband aware that you know what’s happening.

Discuss how his behavior affects you and its toll on the marriage. This step-by-step guide is designed to help you figure out how to respond to your husband when he exhibits his toxic behavior. 

Step 1: Mentally Prepare Yourself

You’ve dealt with your husband’s toxic behavior for so long that there will likely be some pushback when you call him out on it. So, the first step is mentally preparing yourself for what’s to come. 

He won’t stop the destructive behavior just because you made him aware. Be mindful of him falling back into old patterns. If needed, call him out continuously until his behavior changes. 

Step 2: Point Out His Toxic Behavior

Remember, his behavior may be unintentional, so with this in mind, it’s best not to approach him accusingly. Instead, set up the right time and place to discuss the issue. 

Take some time to read up on gaslighting and manipulating techniques so you can give him specific examples of when he does it to you. Otherwise, he’ll claim you’re making it up and being over-the-top with your accusations–yes, that’s him gaslighting you again.

Depending on his attitude, he could see this as a teachable moment. He may regret his actions and apologize, promising to consider your feelings about his statements and actions. 

Step 3: Stick With Your Version of the Events

The basic foundation of gaslighting is to get you to doubt what you saw, heard, or experienced. This is precisely their goal. When they create doubt, it will ultimately cause you to lose faith in your ability to reason, think and make sound decisions. 

Avoid their intentions by holding on to your recollection or version of events. You understand your husband is playing mind games with you at this point, so don’t fall for it! When he tries to gaslight you, remind him that your memory is intact.

Step 4: Don’t Stoop to His Level

When he goes low, stay high. In other words, confronting him by calling him out as someone who’s selfish, aggressive, or some other kind of toxic behavior won’t help. It will likely worsen the situation, putting them on the defensive right at the beginning. 

Always stick to your version of events and be prepared for his possible comments. If he possesses arrogant traits that most narcissists have, he might even call you “wrong” or “crazy” for even bringing up the gaslighting topic in the first place.

One effective response, in this case, is to refrain from engaging him in the discussion. If you need to, end the conversation or walk away. 

When he puts you down when you’re attempting to solve the issue only reinforces his gaslighting behavior and its negative effects.

Step 5: Never Second-Guess Yourself

One of a gaslighter’s goals is to confuse you so they can get you to second-guess yourself. They want you to be unsure of your memory, decisions, thoughts, and your reality. 

This would be the perfect time for your self-awareness to kick in. Instead of second-guessing yourself, question what’s actually going on. Doing so will allow you to catch yourself the second you start believing and accepting their version.

Do you ever wonder if your husband is intentionally giving you misinformation? If you still need clarification, talk to a third party who may have witnessed the event or overheard a piece of the conversation. They’ll be able to help clear up or confirm your version of the events. 

Step 6: Don’t Engage in Arguments

If you don’t want to fuel the fire, DO NOT argue with him. Narcissistic and arrogant gaslighters take drama and confrontation as fuel, so recognize when he’s shifting a simple disagreement into a full-out battle. He does this so he can insult, humiliate and put you down for pointing out his toxic behavior. 

Deflecting, defending, and countering are classic hallmark traits of someone who gaslights. They do this to put you on the defensive and to make you question yourself. 

They turn the discussion into who’s right and who’s wrong and who’s lying and who’s not when most of the time, they’re the ones doing the lying. 

They attempt to confuse you and eventually emotionally drain you. Ultimately, you get to the point where you want to throw your hands in the air and give up trying to resolve the problem. When this happens, they’re off the hook for the toxic behavior. 

Step 7: Don’t Make His Gaslighting Your Fault

Remember, a gaslighter is manipulative, and he knows exactly what he’s doing. Often he attempts to shift the blame on you, especially after calling out his toxic traits. For example, if you confront him, he may turn around and call you the gaslighter. Don’t believe the bullshit because it’s what they do. 

If he’s emotionally aware, he may hold himself accountable by seeing how his actions affect you. He might be more willing to cease his bad behavior when he witnesses how upset you are. But then again, he may not. Regardless, his behavior, in this case, isn’t your responsibility.

Step 8: Stay Grounded

The manipulation and mind games your husband does can throw you off balance and cause issues with your ability to carry out daily functions. Depending on the intensity and frequency of his behavior pattern, his gaslighting can cause a psychological impact.

It would be best to mentally separate yourself from what’s happening to maintain emotional balance. Constantly remind yourself that you are a sane, functional person and not someone who’s paranoid or suffering from memory loss, as he would like you to believe.

Step 9: Give Yourself Some Positive Self-Talk

Unfortunately, the effects of gaslighting may make you engage in negative self-talk, and you might not even be aware you’re doing it. 

You can begin to think you’re “crazy” or losing your memory. You can even believe that you deserve how your husband treats you. This is never the case.  

When your husband intentionally gaslights, he knows his manipulation is working when he sees you emotionally crumbling. 

Counter that with positive self-affirmations. Tell yourself you’re perfectly sane and that nothing is wrong with you. Remind yourself of who you’re dealing with and reassure yourself that you deserve a loving and caring partner. 

Step 10: Get Some Support

Since gaslighting is a form of psychological and emotional abuse, you may experience depression, hopelessness, helplessness, or anxiety. 

These are the same emotions seen in survivors of intimate partner violence, and these symptoms usually occur because of difficulty coping with the effects of the abuse. 

If needed, seek help from people in your emotional support system. Discuss your issues with someone who will listen to you with an empathetic ear. They can provide compassion and sound advice to your situation. Those in your inner circle have your back and can play a crucial role in helping you to recover from the abuse.

Step 11: Demonstrate a Little Compassion

First and foremost, show yourself some compassion by reminding yourself that what he does isn’t your fault. You deserve an empathetic and loving partner, not someone who tears you down and makes you feel awful about yourself. 

Start practicing self-love and self-forgiveness and reassure yourself that things will improve despite the bleak situation. 

As much as your spouse’s behavior might have taken its toll on you and your mental well-being, it won’t hurt to show him a little compassion. Your emotional support may even help alter his behavior. For some, gaslighting is a toxic behavior that’s learned and is a coping mechanism, so if it’s learned, it can be unlearned.

Step 12: Consider Getting Therapy

Talk or behavioral therapy with a licensed professional has many benefits. You’ll have a supportive and safe place to discuss your feelings without being judged. Your therapist can shed more light on his gaslighting effects on you and the relationship. 

A therapist can also explore coping strategies and provide tips on how to raise your self-esteem. If relevant, discuss safety issues if you decide to leave your husband. They can point you toward an appropriate agency to help make the transition smoother.

Step 13: Leave the Relationship

You may have said, “Til death do us part,” but you both only meant those words if your marriage was healthy. Unfortunately, your union is not. On your wedding day, you did not sign up for abuse, whether intentional or not.

However we all make mistakes, but it’s not anything you can’t correct. Based on his level of care, you can gauge whether you should stick it out or move on. It’s always your choice, so don’t let him suggest otherwise. 

Deciding to walk out the door shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially if you have children together. You must make the best decision for you, so prioritize your well-being and your needs (and the kids, if any) over his. Therefore, see this as your last resort if his gaslighting continues. 

If you decide to leave, you may want to consider someone more conservative. Conservative doesn’t equal perfect, but at the very least, you’ll know where their faults lie before becoming invested emotionally. 

Step 14: Start Rebuilding Your Self-Esteem

Restoring your confidence and sense of self-worth makes it more difficult for another person to take advantage of you. Over time, emotional abuse can chip away at your self-esteem. Try the following tips to help rebuild your self-worth.

  • Acknowledging the abuse
  • Forgiving yourself for remaining in the situation with the abuser
  • Practicing self-care to help boost your esteem

Also, create or maintain boundaries to protect your mental well-being. For example, if you leave your marriage, NO CONTACT with him is a solid boundary. When you draw the line, it prevents gaslighting from continuing, which can further erode your self-esteem. 

Final Thoughts

If your husband intentionally gaslights you, he doesn’t care about you or your well-being. Finding effective methods to cope with his gaslighting sounds daunting, especially when you add pathological behaviors like narcissism. 

However, once you recognize the manipulative pattern, you must deal with it head-on. These step-by-step actions will help you take back control of your life. If, after attempting a few of these strategies and they don’t work, it may be time to end your relationship. If this happens, don’t blame yourself. You did the best you could.

confused woman looking at phone with question mark background and a heart-shaped speech bubble with a surprised face emoji inside of it

Left Swiping My Way to Therapy | A Collection of the Most Bizarre Dating App Conversations

If you’ve ever been on a dating app, you know that it can sometimes feel like you’re participating in an advanced psychological study on human ...
woman looking through closet with question marks around her

The Do’s and Don’ts of First Date Fashion | Avoiding Common Mistakes

Want to be fashionable on a first date? Of course you do! Unless you are too “cool” to care about first impressions—which is not a ...
man looking out the window thinking with a brain and heart in head graphic

5 Must-Have Skills for Successful Dating

In a perfect world, every human being is kind, respectful, and conscious of the needs of others.  But this is in no way a perfect ...