I have mentioned a few times that I found a website called www.survivinginfidelity.com that is a great resource for everything that I have been going through. Not only do they have forums and support groups, but they also have resources and FAQs that are packed with great information. As I was browsing through the FAQ I found one on what they call “gaslighting.” The first part of the answer describes this behavior perfectly:
“This term is taken from the movie “Gaslight” where the husband (Charles Boyer) tries to make his wife (Ingrid Bergman) think she is going mad by convincing her what she thinks she is seeing isn’t real. When the WS is either caught or suspected, he/she may try to convince the BS that they are not seeing what they think they see or that something didn’t happen, even though everything points to the fact that it DID happen.”
I have never seen the movie and I hadn’t heard that particular term before but it is SO accurate. I even tried to find the movie on Netflix or cable so I could watch it, but 1944 movies don’t seem to be in high demand. Anyway, it is something that my husband did to me early in our relationship. It is really hard to accurately describe how it feels to be on the receiving end of gaslighting. It is disorienting. It reeks emotional havoc. It is a terrible, self-doubting experience. It is incredibly cruel in the way it turns your own mind against you.
Let me give you just one excruciating example from my life. A few months after my husband (then boyfriend) moved in with me (about a year into our relationship) I started feeling very uneasy about his behavior. I won’t go into all of the reasons right now because they aren’t really pertinent to this particular story. I will say that I had already experienced gaslighting on a smaller scale, and I was starting to see quite a few signs that things weren’t quite right. Around the same time we moved in together we also decided to combine phone plans (actually I added him onto mine). One day when the anxious feeling was especially strong I decided to log into the phone bill online and do some peaking around.
I don’t know what I expected to find. Most of me was hoping that all my fears would be assuaged, and I could get on with my day blissfully. Part of me knew that there was nothing good waiting for me on the other end of the “Call and Message Details” link. I clicked bravely and held my breath as the data loaded… and felt it all knocked out of me when I saw page after page of calls and texts to a number I didn’t recognize. Still, I tried to rationalize, go through a list of possible reasons in my mind, try to convince myself one of his friends or brothers got a new number without me knowing (after all, they are his friends and family, so its possible). I did a reverse phone lookup (those things are quite amazing), and I could feel my stomach winding up into a tight knot – it was a cell phone registered to someone in Madison County. As far as I knew, he didn’t have any friends or family there. I called the number trying to get more information and got the voicemail for some woman. A woman I had never heard of.
I don’t even know how I got through the rest of the day. It was all a blur of mind-numbing pain, confusion, and deep hurt. When I got home from work that night he wasn’t there yet, and I found myself pacing and restless, unable to sit down or stop my racing thoughts. I decided to go to a local park. I had an overwhelming need to get out of the house – away from all the walls that seemed to be closing in on me. While I was driving there he called me. I managed to answer the phone even though my hands were shaking from a combination of anger and anguish. He was cheerful, called me “baby,” and said that he was on his way home to me and couldn’t wait to see my face. I remember just feeling shocked that he would sound the same – that he could seem as loving and happy as he always did – when my world had just imploded. I don’t know what I said, but I know that he caught on very fast that something was wrong. I told him that I needed to talk to him, and I told him the park where I would be. He acted like he was completely unaware of what could possibly be the matter, but he put on the concerned, supportive boyfriend voice and said he would meet me there.
Those first few minutes alone in the park were surreal. I went over to the swing set and just started swinging. I wasn’t crying. I wasn’t planning what I was going to say. I was just sitting there, swinging between two worlds – the one I had in my mind where I had a loving, devoted boyfriend and the real one that I was about to confront where he had been cheating on me. The motion and breeze on my face were comforting, and the calm and still of the park at night were a direct contrast to the swirling madness going through my head. All too soon his headlights cut through my reverie, and it was time to face reality.
- You are NOT crazy ma’am!!! Message to Women from Men (vimbaik.wordpress.com)