Gaslighting is a way of manipulating a person by forcing them to question their thoughts, memories, and the events occurring around them. It is both subtle and potentially very damaging to the targeted person, sometimes causing them to question their own sanity.
In a divorce or custody context, a gaslighting partner often also attempts to manipulate others (family, friends, co-workers, judges, etc/) into questioning the stability of the other party. They may make false statements in an attempt to create a damaging impression of the targeted person and gain an unfair advantage in the divorce or custody case.
Unfortunately, it is often difficult for a court to identify as a person as manipulative, especially when the judge has only limited exposure to the subtleties of the manipulative parent, who may superficially be quite charming. In some cases, this may lead the court to focus attention on the reactions of the targeted parent rather than the gaslighting behavior of the other parent.
Below are some suggestions for dealing with a gaslighting partner:
1. Do your best to control your emotions when being gaslighted. It is common (and understandable) to become angry or frustrated, but it important not to overreact as these overreactions can then be used as “evidence” of the targeted parent’s alleged mental instability in court. Limiting interactions or using a program like Our Family Wizard to communicate may be helpful.
2. If you intend to file a court action, do not inform the gaslighter of your plans until you have to. There are a number of issues that must be addressed before filing for divorce, and alerting the gaslighter to the fact you intend to do so simply gives that person more time to target you and convince you that everything is your fault.
3. Hire an attorney and, if possible, a therapist before you tell your partner of any plans to separate or divorce. Doing so will give you support and assistance is dealing with your partner.
4. If you are being physically abused consider seeking an Order for Protection (OFP) or, if the other person is harassing you (such as constantly calling you after you have asked him or her not to do so), you might seek a Harassment Restraining Order (HRO). An attorney can advise you regarding these actions.
5. Keep a journal of all attempts to confuse or belittle you. In addition, keep all abusive or harassing texts, emails, or other messages. These records will be helpful later if you need to convince the Court that your partner has been behaving in this way.
6. Seek support from family, friends, or other people in your life who can validate your experiences, and, if necessary, ask them to be a witness or file an affidavit. This can be very helpful in proving your case.
7. Finally, and perhaps most critically, do what you can to protect your emotional well-being and the emotional health of your children. A gaslighter will often play on your emotional ties to your children as a very powerful way to control you. Unfortunately, children, particularly younger children, can be very susceptible to manipulative behavior. Keep an eye out for any signs of alienation and ensure that your children that you love them and are there for them.
For more information or to discuss any family law issue, contact Kruse Family Law, PLLC at 612.231.9865 or email email@example.com.