Monday, January 23, 2017

Seizing Power from the Gaslighters

After a weekend taking to the streets with so many incredible sister warriors who refuse to any longer tolerate a culture that asks us to sit down and be quiet, that tells us we have to endure disrespect of our bodies, that says we should be grateful for the strides women have made even if we're still not making the same money as a man for the same job (women of colour have an even larger wage gap), I'm more ready than ever to push back.
Let's start, shall we, with this notion of "alternative facts".
How many of us were treated to "alternative facts" in our marriage? Such as, "you're being ridiculous. We're just friends." Or "I was at the office. I can't believe you're giving me a hard time for putting a roof over our heads." Or "you're acting crazy. There's nothing going on." Check out our Stupid Shit Cheaters Say thread for plenty of "alternative facts".
But though we can sometimes laugh, let's not overlook how dangerous and destabilizing this behaviour this. Gaslighting is emotional abuse.
It creates an alternate reality in which one person is told that they can't trust their eyes, their ears or, especially, their intuition. It is crazy-making and I can remember wondering if I was, literally, losing my mind. Because what was coming out of my husband's mouth just didn't match up with what I was seeing play out in front of me.
The gaslighter knows we want to believe that we're wrong. We want reassurance that things aren't what they appear to me. We want to be told that, despite evidence or intuition to the contrary, everything is just fine and the person we trust most in the world is, in fact, worthy of that trust.
Some of us do sit down and be quiet. We endure the disrespect we get in our own homes and the larger world. We swallow our resentment and try to be grateful for the strides women have made.
But then we reach a tipping point and we just can't tolerate it any longer. Not in our homes. Not in our culture. Not in the world.
I'm having a visceral response to the public gaslighting we're seeing because it has triggered that same sense of helplessness and frustration, that fear that I'm the only sane one. Or am I the crazy one?
There are times, of course, when we're wrong. When the lunch with a co-worker really is innocent. When coming home late really is because of an accident that tied up traffic.
But there are times, oh don't we all know it too well, when we're right but being told we're wrong. When we're told that those texts don't mean anything when they clearly do. When we're chastised for being nosy even as we're turning up proof that he's lying. When we're told we're the crazy ones.
Challenge that with every ounce of strength you have. Challenge anyone who responds to your suspicion with empty platitudes or who turns it against you. Challenge anyone whose response to your genuine fear of betrayal is anything other than, what do you need from me to trust me? Let's work together to build trust of each other. 
And watch carefully what's playing out in front of your eyes on the public stage because it gives you a gaslighter's playbook. Watch provable facts become twisted. Watch as people who know better change the subject or turn the question back on the questioner. Watch as self-righteous indignation – "how can you even suggest such a thing" – is employed to imply that WE are the crazy ones for questioning any of this. Watch as "fake news" is used as a shield against any information that the gaslighter doesn't like.
Watch as "alternative facts", which are, of course, lies, are presented as simply a difference of opinion. Facts aren't opinion. They are facts.
And then refuse to tolerate it in your marriage.

36 comments:

  1. Elle, I love that you use your voice. I love that you wear your life experience and that you do not let it control the life you live.

    Thank you for this page, thank you for this post.


    Thank you for giving us a place to feel, a place to be true. While I will never know you, you have helped me. And for that I will always be grateful.

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    1. Anonymous, Thank-you for your incredibly kind words. This site has shaped me, as it has helped others.

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    2. You! All of you, are doing a great job!
      I wish somebody would tell me what to do! I am scared and alone! I don't want to tell my family about the fact that he cheated on me with a prostitute, just because we had a bigger fight, and I haven't spoke to him for two days but we were still in the same house. He says he was at a very low point and that he regrets doing it and that it was only physical and nothing else. And that he doesn't wants to lose me. I found out today! I am embarrassed to tell my friends. I don't know where to go! I love him so much and I thought we will be together until we die. He is so good to me tho, always caring and loving me but if he is like that why did he cheated on me? He says was last month when he did, which it means he cheated on me just before our anniversary.

      I love him more than anything and I don't want to start over but how can I trust him? He said he went during working hours, so not even at work won't be right to say he is safe. How could I get back with him and not fear of cheating on me again?

      And more important, what will happen if I forgive him, and in 5 years time when we will have our kids already and family he will do it again? How hard will that be then? What if he thinks I will always forgive him?

      I am going crazy right here! Would appreciate any advise! I just need somebody to tell me what to do! I never been so weak in my life. But now I am helpless!

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    3. Ellen
      I'm so sorry you are in so much pain and confusion. You are just beginning to understand how hard and painful this is. You begin this journey by taking care of you the best you can. This was nothing to do with you as he explained, he's the broken one even though it's your heart that's broke. There are no guarentees for anyone of us here that our h won't do it again. Take it slow! Hugs!

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  2. Wow, this is great. I also honed in on "alternative facts" and just could not believe it! So I marched in my town that had over 5,000 people who said they were going but over 10,000 showed up! It was amazing. It wasn't until yesterday that I realized that the 21st of January was the two year anniversary of my husband's last visit to the Erotic Review hottie in Waikiki. I dreaded that day and last year I was a mess. (I knew because I looked up his phone records and googled the number. Stupid I know.) Anyway, I had such a great day with my family and I did not think about him or his past actions at all. I feel like I've turned some elusive corner in my life. I know and believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am going to be OK, that if he slips once we get divorced and I am not going to let his past define my future. I can't exactly explain how this new reality came to be but I do practice yoga, mindfulness, meditation and a lot of soul-searching daily. I feel sad for the life I thought I had and I've been able to rewrite my story to better reflect a positive me and positive outcome. I'm not going to think about or worry about what choices he might make from here on out. I actually feel like I've forgiven him but we have not had that conversation in awhile. I actually think I have 95% trust in him again and I've not shared that. He desperately wants my forgiveness and trust. We are doing well, we are happy and we are committed to living in harmony for the rest of our days. I recognize that we both made that commitment once before and he broke it regularly. I know he recognizes how broken he was and how screwed up he was in his head and he never wants to go there again. We are both cheering for his success but in the mean time, I'm going to enjoy my life, my sisters here and all around me and work for a better world. Our children and grandchildren deserve so much better that what it appears they are going to get. Peace and love to all.

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    1. BeachGirl, I think that when we re-engage with our own life, other people's actions have less impact. And it reminds us that as long as we live our own lives with integrity and true to our own values, we will be okay.

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  3. As I started to read this about "alternative facts" in my mind I say to myself "lies". Funny you end with that. Since the debates I have struggled to watch so much of this. Many people are appalled some think it is funny. I hate watching it and so does my husband. I wonder sometimes if it is what is being said or if it reminds me of any shred of how he acted. Who knows. My husband lied directly to my face when asked questions for years and always had an excuse to general wanting to devote more time and effort to our marriage. It was always work, parents, kids... Granted he never spoke negatively of me to anyone. The one thing that always stuck with me was he would say you are always tired, sick, complaining. Or I did not do things right. Of course he was an expert as a mental health professional but the funny thing is when I would ask his opinion since he was an expert he hated that. Now I see he was lost and unsure of everything in his life.

    As related to our current times I have chose to repeatedly call my Senators related to the cabinet hearings and by speaking up I feel better. For me this makes me feel I am doing my part. I cannot sit idle. I think for too long I accepted a narrative I was given. Not anymore. And in our marriage I am very direct with my husband. He will never not know where I stand.

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    1. Hopeful30,
      As I just wrote to BeachGirl (above), it's important to note how much better we feel when we're living our own lives with purpose and integrity. There are things we can control and things we can't. To focus on what we can't is disempowering. To expend our energy on things we CAN do is empowering.

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  4. So very well-said as usual. The news of the day is very much related to what happened in my marriage and to my soul. I do plan to address it in the world and in my home.

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    1. Ann,
      There are many many of us who have found this so difficult. Difficult to see such disrespect rewarded. Difficult to see women's voices marginalized. Difficult to watch a brilliant woman reduced to her husband's infidelity. And difficult to see brazen dangerous lies presented as truth. This isn't partisanship at all. But it is especially frightening to those of us who've seen similar behaviour play out in our own homes.

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  5. One aspect of this personal and cultural gaslighting is that we are told what we are feeling is wrong. Learning that my feelings are mine and I get to have them and that others have them too. Our feelings of hurt, injury, betrayal, resentment, and anger are okay to have. They are the normal byproduct of what has happened. We don't have to act out in unproductive ways, but we can use them to learn and speak what is true. Sucking it up and "pulling up your big girl pants" are ways to shut down yourself or ways for others to shut you up. Don't know if you folks saw this but this song has gone viral since the march--MILCK's song "Quiet". I love the lyrics: I can’t keep quiet For anyone "
    Anymore."

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    1. In so many ways, our society encourages us to be "quiet", doesn't it? Put on your big girl pants, stop being a "snowflake", etc. are all ways to quell dissent and encourage disrespect. We need to advocate, even only in our homes, for ourselves. We need to use our voices, always, to insist upon our place at the table.

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  6. I remember the day I made a conscious choice to believe what I knew was a lie. Something that, all evidence to the contrary, was not truthful. And the reason I chose to believe this was exactly as Elle has said, I did not want to believe that the person I trusted was capable of what I knew was happening. His gaslighting had been so successful that I felt that I was crazy. I always had my feet on shifting sand. No more. I call him out now all the time and I have demanded more - more respect, more presence by him in our marriage. He is desperate to please and for me to see that he is, as a result of this terrible situation, a better man.
    I wanted to share something I read that has helped me when I sink to the depths and feel that revenge would be a great alternative!! It comes from Navy SEAL training and I found it profound when I read it. "Men training to be Navy SEALS have to be able to swim under ships at night and they do this with only a depth gauge and a compass to find their way. The closer they get to the ship, the darker it becomes, and when they dive beneath the ship, all ambient light is gone and it is completely dark. It is at this time when the diver has to be at their very best -calm and composed, bringing all their strength (mental and physical) to bear in order to get through the darkness'. In our darkest moments, we need to be the best version of ourselves - whether we stay or leave. And it's so bloody hard!! It's counterintuitive. In the darkest moments, I have wanted to spit bile, to rant and rave and punish and destroy my H and the OW. It is then I have to dig so deep - be strong, act with dignity and respect for myself - so that when I look back on this time, I so not do so with terrible regret. So now on my healing journey, I think - in the darkest moments, that is when I need to be the best version of myself. I know I'm not crazy - I never was.

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    1. Wow, Marti, this gave me chills. And, to expand your metaphor, we need to remember that the darkness won't last. It's temporary. And if we can hold still through it, it's likely to be even shorter. I'm happy for you that you're able to call a lie what it is. You're right -- you're not crazy. And never were.

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    2. Marti, your words are powerful and your story so deep. I find that I can dig deep and rise above my husband's actions now. His shame will not become my shame. I'm working on becoming the best version of myself and so is he.

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    3. In order to get through the darkness, we have to be our best selves. Thank you Marti. Beautiful and completely true, our best selves, someone worth loving and taking care of.

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    4. Marti,
      This was exactly what I needed to read. I'm not acting on my desire for revenge but it's definitely on my mind more than I wish it was. I'll keep working at being the best version of myself. I want to come through this without compromising my own values. Thank you for sharing it!

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    5. Marti, that is great. I really felt like on dday I was just going to die and not be able to move forward. Of course the shock and pain was incredible. But as crazy as it sounds making it through this has been the most empowering thing I have accomplished. I never ever thought I would feel this way. And not that I am happy or wish that it had happened to me/us but in the end I have learned from it. I feel like how I feel about myself and the pride I have in myself is the silver lining. That is something I have done and it took a lot of work. And in the end no one can take it away even if my husband cheated on me again. That is really empowering to make it out from the deepest darkest place.

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  7. I marched in my city as well. I live in the Midwest in a very conservative area and city and the turnout was way larger than expected. LOL matter of fact it was more of a stand than a march. But we all finally got to the end at the landmark that marks our city. I was so moved at the coming together of ALL women of different ages, races, ethnicities and backgrounds. I feel we betrayed are lucky in a way. We are well versed in gaslighting. We know a liar when we see one. We marched as the first warning sign that we WILL not let this happen. We WILL call them out for their lies. We WILL make fun of you when you use terms like "alternative truths" and deny real, genuine, researched facts.

    And yes I've been triggered so many times but I take pleasure in KNOWING I am right. I see right through the smoke and mirrors. Even my husband who has probably never voted other than conservative sees the lies and gaslighting coming from the current powers that be. It's a lesson for all of us.

    So I am grateful today for all the hard lessons I've had to learn. I am grateful that I KNOW I am smart enough and experienced enough to make good informed decisions about the policies and leaders of our country and to be able to see through their lies. So thank you infidelity you're a SOB but you've made me a marching, letter writing, phone call making tough, smart woman!

    Elle-I don't know if you've seen all the information out there today regarding DT treatment of his wife. It's amazing and also a lesson in narcissism and total disrespect for his wife. The focus is on the body language between the two and it is so telling. I'd love to see you write on this subject. I spot it all the time when in social situations and the first thing I think is, "he/she is having an affair".

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    1. Trying hard
      My mother and I were discussing the March and she's convinced it was because the government uses tax dollars for abortions and I tried to explain it was so much more than that. Bless her heart, she's almost 80 and she believes everything on fox, as well as the other republican sided news channels. So I will shelter her from most of this mess and try to get her back to the animal planet. As for myself, as well as my h, we both realized alternative facts is another way of saying lies! I'm still hopeful enough decent republicans will be there along side some democrats to help this man govern our country!

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    2. TH,
      The crowd in my city was huge, far far more than organizers expected. And I'm in Canada!! But any thoughts of "it can't happen here" vanished with the U.S. election.
      And yes, I've seen a few gifs re. Trump and his wife. I try to withhold judgement because I'm aware that none of us can ever know what goes on within a marriage. But it does give pause, doesn't it.

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    3. Theresa,
      Wouldn't the world be an incredible place if we all just watched Animal Planet??

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    4. I'm smiling Elle! Yes it would!

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    5. My husband has the same problem. His elderly parents watch a certain conservative news station 24/7. You can tell your mother that there is in fact a law already in place that forbids federal money to go to abortion. This is fact. Period. But I know there's no convincing so yes change the channel and just love her. I personally marched for many reasons not just reproductive rights. Can't wait to do it again. And thanks to our Canadian sisters for joining in on the fun!!!

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  8. Elle and all of you on here... I feel like I read so much last night between this thread and the last. Lots of comments. Lots of really good stories and thoughts. Thanks to all of you for keeping this active and not stale like other sites. I feel the need to return daily for your continued support and for that I'm thankful.


    I never really thought of the whole Gaslighting thing. It happened time and time again and I truly thought I was going crazy. I would find things out, they didn't make sense...confront and often times apologize (yes! I would end up apologizing. At about 18 months out I was like NO, this is truly not making sense and when actions don't add up, it means something is f'd up not me.

    I also feel like at every stage in my healing there is an odd song that comes on the radio timely....Girl Crush by (Little Big Town), Dirty Laundry (Carrie Underwood) and Better Man (Little Big Town). Does that happen to anyone else? Kind of surreal at times how this happens.

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    1. Heartfelt, Yes, I find it with all sorts of things -- songs, books, overheard conversation. Maybe it's that old adage: when the student is ready, the teacher appears. Helps us look at life or express our feelings in a way that moves us forward.

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    2. Heartfelt
      Girl Crush I turned around as if the cow was singing about me! The others, they make my h squirm, as he's still dealing with his ever lasting shame. We're both working on this!

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  9. I was listening to Masha Gessen, the journalist, in an interview with Samantha Bee and all I could think was yes, yes, yes--this is how you deal with abusive behavior and partner control. I was especially taken by her statement: “The thing I think to do, and this is my recipe, is to actually continue panicking, to be the hysteric in the room who says, ‘This is not normal.’ Remember why you’re panicking. Write a note to yourself about what you would never do [to cooperate or fall in line with the gaslighter]. And when you come to the line, don’t cross it.”

    http://jezebel.com/sam-bees-interview-with-journalist-masha-gessen-is-abso-1791376170

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    1. Yes, I saw that too. This behaviour becomes significantly more dangerous when we begin to tell ourselves that it's okay, that it doesn't really mean anything, that he's misunderstood, etc. It's fascinating -- and frightening -- to see how much of this public behaviour we're witnessing mirrors that of an abusive relationship.

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  10. It wasn't my husband who lied so much because it just started when I found out. It was the OW and her friends who tried to make it sound like I was the one who was crazy. Attacking me through Facebook calling me a fucking dumb ass among other things. The closer I got to the truth of what happened the more filthy names I got called. I think that they thought that it was going to destroy me. They got fooled.

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    1. Anon
      I dint understand. The OW attacked YOU on social networks? How so? She's having an affair with your husband and SHE attacks you? How did you see it? What did your husband say and do to make her stop? What reason did she have to attack you? I am dumbstruck by this. What kind if nerve did she have to do that?

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    2. Anonymous, you should feel further comforted that the OW doesn't have any TRUE friends. A true friend would give you tough love if you disclosed an A with a married man.

      I had a married friend who started an affair about 5 years ago and let the cat out of the bag to 3 of us girls - we ALL tried to talk her out of it (she wouldn't quit). She had only been married 1 year and had reservations about getting married all along - we even advised her to file for separation/divorce INSTEAD of having an A. It tore me up to see what she was capable of. Her CH found out and it destroyed him for years. Ultimately it ended our friendship and we are all still friends with her BH.

      If OW has friends who would further hurt the BW, you can see how truly broken the OW is. She already has her karma. She will be alone even when she is not...

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    3. It was the OW's friend who came after me on Social Media. The OW is a coward and let's everyone else fight her battles. All of her friends encouraged her to go after my husband. When her little plan blew up in her face they gave her sympathy cards for not being able to destroy my marriage.

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    4. Anon-- I am so sorry that happened and it is awful.I think I would delete the FB account and not give them the satisfaction to think you even saw it. Sheesh, friends like that who needs enemies? Bottom feeders. Can't expect anything less from cockroaches like that. I'm glad you didn't stoop to their level.

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    5. Utterly appalling behaviour. I love what Browneyedgirl said, "she'll be alone even when she is not." Karma doesn't always look like we want it to. We want dramatic karma. But sometimes karma is what happens when we're focusing on living our own lives.

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    6. Anonymous,
      I'm sorry you had to go through that. It's crazy to me that anyone can attack a betrayed spouse or condone the actions of the cheaters. The OW in my situation went crying to her sister after I sent her a text message after our final D-day. This was when I found out that what I had been told was an emotional affair had actually been physical and was still happening. I was very straightforward, but didn't curse or call her names. Within a day or two, her sister e-mailed my husband saying she knew the OW had "done some bad things" but didn't deserve to be "attacked" by me. She followed it up with a threat toward both of us. Insane, given that this sister claims to have been cheated on by her ex-husband, so you would think she might have at least a bit of compassion for me or the OW's husband. Yet, she turned around and justified those same actions because they had been committed by her sister. Also ironic that these OW who are so bold in their actions with our husbands will send others to "fight their battles".
      When I get angry about it, I try to remind myself that these people are broken and expecting reasonable, rational actions from them is unrealistic.

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