As incredible as my bacon is, I can be a real idiot at times. And that’s okay, because just like all bacon, I’m still learning. And learning is the key to (imperfect) perfection. Bacon never stops learning.
I’ve talked about Anti-Bacon before. But there’s a particular kind of Anti-Bacon that is quite detrimental to your mental health. The Anti-Bacon I am referring to is that which uses gaslighting. Gaslighting, as explained by the National Domestic Abuse Hotline, involves the abuser causing a victim to question “their own feelings, instincts and sanity, which gives the abusive partner a lot of power.”
Gaslighting is particularly harmful because it’s sneaky. It’s difficult to identify, especially if you’re an empath or a particularly sensitive person (i.e. a Sensitive Sizzler). When someone uses emotions to manipulate you into questioning your own sanity, it can really mess you up mentally, sometimes requiring years of mental recovery, depending on how long you are involved in such a relationship or situation.
I’ve been involved in such relationships. And I’m still recovering from them, which means I’m very much still susceptible to gaslighting behavior. I’ve recently fallen into the same trap once again, although it’s getting easier to identify.
According to the National Domestic Abuse Hotline, common gaslighting techniques that an abuser might use include:
Withholding: the abusive partner pretends not to understand or refuses to listen. Ex. “I don’t want to hear this again,” or “You’re trying to confuse me.”
Countering: the abusive partner questions the victim’s memory of events, even when the victim remembers them accurately. Ex. “You’re wrong, you never remember things correctly.”
Blocking/Diverting: the abusive partner changes the subject and/or questions the victim’s thoughts. Ex. “Is that another crazy idea you got from [friend/family member]?” or “You’re imagining things.”
Trivializing: the abusive partner makes the victim’s needs or feelings seem unimportant. Ex. “You’re going to get angry over a little thing like that?” or “You’re too sensitive.”
Forgetting/Denial: the abusive partner pretends to have forgotten what actually occurred or denies things like promises made to the victim. Ex. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” or “You’re just making stuff up.”
Abusers might also try to tell you that you remind them of an abusive partner they once had, tell you that you’re irritating them by confronting them, or, if you’re in a romantic relationship, try to use the fact that you don’t have sex with them as an excuse for their behavior.
You’ll find yourself constantly asking yourself; “Am I crazy? Am I an abuser?” or, “What am I doing wrong?”
Oh, honey… There is nothing wrong with you.
You just need to look at the situation from a confident perspective and see it for what it really is: emotionally abusive.
If you’re coming from a place of insecurity, it’s either because you need to recover from a past trauma (perhaps a past gaslighting or other traumatically abusive experience), or the gaslighter is making you question your self-confidence. In either case, you should consider professional assistance, whether it be therapy, a psychiatrist, or online resources. You also want to GET OUT of that abusive relationship, if you’re still in it, RIGHT NOW.
It will suck (because you’ll question whether you’re crazy and just projecting things), but even if that were the case, you should not, under any circumstances, stay in that relationship. Even if it’s simply a matter of you needing to build up your self-confidence and address some deeper issues: TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF BEFOREHAND IF YOU WANT TO GET INTO A SERIOUS RELATIONSHIP. You need to love your bacon before you can love anyone else’s bacon with all your heart.
Gaslighting is a Tricky Business
It’s common for a narcissist to gaslight someone. According to Mayo Clinic, people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder have:
- An inflated sense of their own importance
- A deep need for excessive attention and admiration
- Troubled relationships
- A lack of empathy for others
“But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism,” says Mayo Clinic.
Gaslighters are extremely charming at first. Eventually, their charm wears off behind the scenes, but continues to hold up around others, to save face. So you end up feeling very confused, unsure of what you did wrong. Why are they suddenly treating everyone else better than you?
The most difficult part about gaslighting is that it makes you question whether you’re the one in the wrong – pretty much all the time. You’re constantly asking yourself, “Am I crazy?”
You’re not crazy. The fact that you ask yourself that is a major sign that you’re NOT (I am not a therapist, so I’m not an expert; I speak from experience).
That’s the main goal of the gaslighter: to convince you that you’re crazy. It makes them feel powerful.
If you ever ask yourself that even ONCE (whether you’re crazy or not), you STILL should exit the relationship, so that, even if you have some kind of mental disorder that you are unaware of, you can get the professional treatment that you need. Only then will you be able to build your self-esteem enough to find the most healthy relationship for you. If that happens to be a relationship you recently walked away from because of low self-esteem, that’s great. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. Never settle.
A Note About Gaslighting Relationships…
I’m about to get super vulnerable with y’all… I’m a virgin. YUP: a 27-year-old virgin. Not because I’ve never been given the opportunity (I dated a sex addict for four years, for Pete’s sake), but because I haven’t found anyone I can trust yet. (I’ve dated a few assholes, and my virginity is the one thing I have the most control over… but that’s a whole different blog post for a different time.)
My gaslighter boyfriends have used sex against me. EVERY. SINGLE. F*%$ING. TIME.
My first boyfriend used the fact that I didn’t have sex with him as an excuse for his sex addiction. The second boyfriend withheld all affection from me because I wouldn’t have sex with him. My most recent excursion tried the excuse, “The two girlfriends I’ve had wanted sex all the time, soooooooo… THAT’S why I’m being an asshole.”
For each one of those relationships (not that I didn’t have my own onslaught of issues, such as over-communicating, overthinking, being awkward affectionately…), I always questioned my sanity. I isolated myself as punishment, truly believing that I had no reason to complain or be upset. I was always in my head, trying to figure things out, believing that it all had to do with my mindset.
In a way, I was right. What I didn’t realize was that my mindset was skewed, always telling me that everything was entirely my fault.
Here’s the thing: it wasn’t my fault.
I’m not saying I was completely blameless in each relationship. But I wasn’t crazy, as my partners had me believe I was.
It wasn’t my fault that they withheld affection to control me.
It wasn’t my fault that they went from acting so interested to being completely uninterested.
It wasn’t my fault that they would go hours, even days, without responding to a simple “hey, how’s it going” text message.
It wasn’t my fault that one boyfriend intentionally didn’t show up when I asked if he would join me and a friend for milkshakes, because the friend was a guy and he was jealous, so I ended up cancelling because my boyfriend was supposed to be our ride.
It wasn’t my fault that my second boyfriend wouldn’t come get me when my car broke down in a parking lot, so I tried to sleep in my car most of the night.
It wasn’t my fault that the third guy I dated had gone through a physically abusive relationship before me, and used that as an excuse for making me wait three hours when he needed a ride home from work. (Yes, I legit waited in my car for three hours… until 5:30 in the morning…)
It wasn’t my fault that all three of these relationships used my virginity as an excuse for being emotionally distant assholes. (Me: “Why were you flirting with a girl right in front of me?” Them: “I’m used to girls throwing their vee-gees at me…” = POMPOUS, MANIPULATIVE DUMBASS.)
I’m not going to lie: I’m still emotionally struggling from my most recent experience, as it’s super fresh in my mind right now (like legit, I just went through it the last two months). My self-esteem is still pretty shot, and I’m turning to friends, family, and my therapist for reassurance and validation.
Because in just one night, he managed to shatter the connection to my bacon (i.e., my unadulterated, true, guilt-free self) that I had worked so hard to build over the past few years.
I want my story to help anyone who may suspect they are involved in a gaslighting relationship, so I’m going to share a brief overview of my experience…
A few months ago, I met this guy and we got along great. He eventually told me he liked me and we started seeing each other (unofficially, just spending time together). He was so sweet, respecting my boundaries, understanding my need to take things slow, and always reassuring me that he would be patient with my trust issues and my OCD obsessiveness.
When I felt he wanted things to progress physically, I set boundaries. He seemed understanding and agreeable.
Not long after that, he started a new job and started struggling financially. This made him very angry and irritable. Suddenly, the guy I had grown to really like was a completely different person. Everything I did irritated him. I said I wanted to spend more time with him and that irritated him. I asked him if there was anything I could do to make things better for him, and that irritated him. When I started to feel neglected and jealous of the positive way he appeared to interact with every other person that wasn’t me, I was (admittedly, too much so) very communicative about my feelings. I explained to him my need for some sort of validation, as I didn’t even know if we were still seeing each other or not, or whether he was even still interested.
This REALLY irritated him.
Then he would start any serious conversation by saying he’s not used to dating a virgin and is used to his past girlfriends throwing themselves at him. I didn’t realize at the time that, although he acted like he wasn’t interested in that type of behavior, he was actually hinting that he DID want that from me.
My loved ones decided to do some digging and learned that he has an extensive history of aggressive behavior.
I didn’t want to judge him on his past, so I talked to him about it. He claimed his ex was lying about the things she had written online about him, and that she had physically abused him. He said the other stuff was because he was immature and that he had grown up since then.
I told him I wouldn’t judge him on his past and that I still wanted to continue seeing him. But then he continued to be irritated with me, claiming it had nothing to do with me and everything to do with his financial situation, yet he never wanted to spend any time with me. So I became desperate, trying to figure out where we stood. He said he was still interested, but that he was just going through a rough patch and that he basically wanted me to wait for him until he got through it. I told him it was okay if he wanted space, but that I couldn’t promise that I would just wait around for him since I had no idea when or if he would get out of his rough patch. He told me he would think about it and get back to me.
He continued to be irritable with me, so recently, I asked him again if he really ever believed he could commit to a relationship. He said not at this time, but he’s still interested. So I told him it was okay, and that he should take the time to focus on his job.
He was not happy with that response.
What transpired next unraveled like a freakishly surreal, nonsensical series of emotional attacks. He proceeded to tell me how he thinks about killing himself every single day. When I got emotional and told him he needs to seek professional help, he got irritated again and said I don’t understand, that he likes thinking about killing himself because it makes him feel in control. He accused me of not understanding his unique worldview.
This guy was a completely different person from the one I had originally gotten to know. I told him that, and I was in shock, so I told him how confused I was. He then proceeded to tell me that my understanding of what it means to invest in a relationship is “invalid,” and that I am rude, judgmental, and obsessive. He made me feel guilty for my feelings and reactions. He then started crying (whether they were real tears or not, I don’t know), said he was upset, and stormed off.
It was like all of my worst nightmares were unfolding in front of me. I was suddenly a terrible person. I was unlovable. I was disappointing. I was hurtful. I felt absolutely insane. I started asking myself: Am I narcissistic? Am I really that insecure to have let this happen? What is so wrong with me that makes me this unlovable?
In the beginning, I had only had one stipulation for the relationship: Please don’t break my heart.
He shattered it, and then some.
What’s worse is that I had confided in him about my past negative experiences with relationships. And he had promised me repeatedly, holding my hand tightly, that he would never put me through those things.
Boy, was I fooled.
Yes, I was fooled for the third time in my life. But third times the charm; that relationship only lasted two months, as opposed to three or four years (like my past two relationships).
I’m learning how to identify gaslighting behaviors. I’m learning that I’m not the problem in these scenarios. I’m learning that I am a naturally caring person, since those are the types of people gaslighters are drawn to. I’m learning to value myself enough to recognize that I deserve better. I’m learning to recognize when my bacon’s sad, and how to fix that. I’m learning that I am not a bad person; I’m just a badass that is becoming too strong for gaslighting assholes to handle. I’m learning that I’m the only one who can truly keep my heart from breaking.
I’ve also learned that I can squeeze a $60 fancy-ass steak dinner out of a guy before kicking him to the curb without feeling guilty.
So really, the lesson to take away from all this: only stay with a gaslighter long enough to snag an expensive meal. (How’s that for “rude”? Might as well own the title…)
Nothing about you is EVER “invalid.” If someone ever tells you that, they are not looking out for your best interests. They are trying to crush your bacon and piss all over the leftover bacon bits. DON’T LET THEM PISS ON YOUR BITS. Your bacon deserves so much better than that.
Now if only I can practice what I preach…