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  • Writer's pictureSum Yuet Lee

🚩 Love or Manipulation? Spotting Gaslighting Behaviors in Your Relationship! 💔💡

If anyone here has ever watched the critically acclaimed Netflix tragicomedy, Bojack Horseman, you'd have come across this poignant line from the show: "You know, it's funny; when you look at someone through rose-coloured glasses, all the red flags just look like flags." Ignoring the fact that it was delivered by an anthropomorphic burrowing owl, it's the type of quote that you only really ever think about when you find yourself at the end of the line in a relationship. How many red flags did you miss, or rather, how many red flags did THEY hide from you?

Image Credit: Verywell/Madelyn Goodnight

What exactly is gaslighting?

Gaslighting: manipulating someone using psychological methods into questioning their own sanity or powers of reasoning

In this age of fake news and misinformation, gaslighting hits home just a little harder, seeping into everyday vocabulary and being spat out in the middle of arguments, mutating into a new strain of Machiavellianism. According to the South African College of Applied Psychology, gaslighting can be divided into the following four types: outright lying, manipulation of reality, scapegoating, and coercion. Often the experience is a combination of these four types and not just limited to one of them. Let’s take a look at each of them.

Outright Lying

Some people confuse gaslighting with lying, but what exactly makes them different? To put it simply, all gaslighting requires lying, but not all lying is gaslighting. Being lied to with a straight face drives a deep wedge in the trust of the relationship. After all, how could someone who cares so much about you, lie repeatedly to your face with such 'ease'? With that, you have fallen into the trap of believing their lies, like "I did not give my woman my phone number", even when you saw him doing it in front of you!

Manipulation of Reality

Has your partner ever told you something along the line of the statements below?

  • That never happened. Stop lying, you know that's not true.

  • You're being crazy. You're imagining things again.

  • Stop being so sensitive.

  • You always do this, you always make up some elaborate imaginary situation and then you get all hysterical.

  • Of course, you can't find your things. You really have a problem with your memory.

Faced with the constant onslaught above, indubitably, one would start doubting their own ability to discern reality from lies, and uncertainty and confusion set in. In this haze, the person would cling onto their one, 'stable' pillar: the gaslighter themselves. Such reality manipulation sledgehammers the partner's self-esteem, crushing their mental health irrevocably as they struggle blindly through the fog.


Scapegoating mainly takes two forms: picking a fight as collateral to justify wrongful actions taken later on, and overtly blaming the partner after taking the wrongful action. In the former, a man would purposely pick a fight with his wife to rationalise to himself that she is ‘emotionally unavailable’, and he is thus ‘in the right’ to seek comfort from other women. In the latter, the cheater might accuse their partner of not being sexy enough in an attempt to, once more, justify disloyalty. Such betrayal of the partner’s openness to take responsibility to make the relationship ‘work’ may result in the partner being forced to see themselves as having validated the cheating behaviours. It can even give the victim the detrimental impression that something must have been wrong with themselves to have ‘condoned’ such actions, when it had absolutely nothing to do with them at all.


A sliding scale, from over-charismatic behaviours to violent abuse, makes coercion particularly difficult to detect. Going with the example of infidelity, to keep their partners unsuspecting, the gaslighter might be extra affectionate to their partner, purchasing expensive presents as a way of ‘making up’ for being unfaithful whilst continuing to cheat. Interpersonal violence is another extreme tool used, as the cheater continues desperately to chase after their own gratification without a single thought about the damage caused to their partners.

Final Notes

Gaslighting is a detrimental form of abuse. Identifying such manipulative behaviours is critical towards protecting your emotional well-being and maintaining healthy relationships. By understanding the signs, trusting your instincts, and establishing boundaries, you can safeguard yourself from emotional manipulation. After identifying gaslighting, you should strive to have a serious talk with your partner and work through it with a therapist from our previous article linked here, if need be. Remember, you deserve to be respected, heard, and validated in your relationships, and no one has the right to undermine your sense of self-worth.

with Love,

The Dateideas Team

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