Gaslighting: Something strange is happening and I can't put my finger on it

“Something is wrong here, but I can’t put my finger on it.”

“Something is off.”

This story may be difficult for some women to read. It may hit too close to home and the ending might be too terrible for you to accept.

Others may not believe this story. But having listened to the same story told over and over by my clients and friends — and after having experienced it myself — the truth about these men cannot be denied.

This story is about the man in your life who is making you feel crazy, whom you can’t trust, and whom you suspect is cheating. This man crafts his lies to make you believe that it is you who are wrong, insensitive, and guilty. He has probably scammed you financially, physically, and emotionally, but smiles and charms as he does it. You can’t seem to pin him down to tell you the truth.

You’re not quite sure how he spends his time away from you. His phone is a source of contention, his texts, contacts, emails and social media are suspect. When confronted, he treats you like you are stupid, as if you are not a thinking, feeling human being. You feel bewildered, frustrated, and feel like you are going insane. In fact, he reminds you that indeed, it is you who are crazy. He cares nothing about the pain and suffering he has inflicted upon you, but instead reasons it away with lies.

How did you get here? When you met, you felt as if you knew him. Chemistry. Attraction. His attention was a breath of fresh air, the very thing you have wanted. He was good looking, said what you wanted to hear, and seemed like a good catch.

Over time, little things started to pop up. You’ve discovered he lies without end, sometimes even without purpose. If you point out  a contradiction he may change the subject, blame you, or deny what he said. During your confrontation, he remains completely in control and unflappable, with a smooth lack of concern at being found out.

Obligations and commitments mean nothing to him. He said he would meet you at a certain time and was hours late. You asked him to pay rent, but never seems to have the money. He borrowed a friend’s car and accumulated parking tickets, but neglected to pay them.

He overrides reality even when confronted, and exhibits a spectacular ability to contradict himself from one sentence to the next. You vacillate between believing, disbelieving, believing, trusting, and not trusting. He has seemingly believable reasons as to why it happened, or he’ll even deny that it happened at all. This is called “gaslighting” a favorite tool of his.

He distorts and molds the truth to suit his purpose. He manages your impression of him. After his lies are discovered he grooms you into trusting him again. He does this by telling you just enough truth or strings you along just enough so that you believe him.

During sex, he refuses to use a condom but unbeknownst to you he continues to have unprotected sex with other unsuspecting partners. It is my experience that these guys like to have at least three women among whom he revolves. Of course, none of them know about the others.

Financially, he probably is a mess but you find this out later. He probably has proposed moving in with you, but he doesn’t have enough money to get an apartment on his own. He talks about a “big idea” that he is going to make him rich or move him to the top of his field. He may talk about starting his own business. These are the reasons why he believes you should take him in.

Unfortunately for you, grandiose illusions are a hallmark for these disturbed characters. They have little understanding of what it will take to achieve these goals, they have little chance of attaining them, they lack the continued effort and attention required, and they cannot muster the sustained interest to propel them toward the finish line. He thinks big…usually with someone else’s money.

He may say he’s had a bad time with relationships but he wants to be important to someone, to finally find love. To have a family. With you. He might say he wants you to have his baby. He may even say his weakness is that he is too caring.

He sees himself as the victim. He has a chronically unstable and aimless lifestyle without a stable home, career, or family life. If he comes to you and laments his past, how he was been wronged and how circumstances caused his predicament, do not believe him. He is responsible for his past and he will continue to behave as he behaved in the past, the same behavior that caused his predicament in the first place. He does not have the capacity to learn from his past experiences.

Unfortunately, he has a stunning lack of concern for the devastating effects his actions have on you and others. He’ll cannibalize your life. These guys are not to be helped, cared for, nor are they victims of circumstances. They are rational, aware of what they are doing, and the reasons for which they do it. Their choices involve self-gratification at your expense, or at least without regard for you.

You are an object to sustain him financially and sexually. He needs your possessions, savings, and dignity, taking whatever it is he wants without regard for your physical, financial, or emotional welfare.

You are not a companion; you are a connection. You were chosen to provide shelter, clothing, food, money, entertainment, and sexual gratification. The devastating effects for you were never considered.  And when he realized he had exploited all he could from you (perhaps you discovered his lies and the truth), he will simply move on, coldly and without remorse. He will easily find another source for his self-gratification.

You’ll wonder how you could have been so stupid, how you could have trusted him so completely, but this is the work of an abusive narcissist. A sociopath. He has the upper hand and, if he ever senses he is about to be discovered, he’ll double his efforts to maintain that upper hand. I have described the experience to clients as trying to get out of quicksand — the harder you work, the deeper you sink.

You are not stupid. You are a caring, empathetic, warm, and loving human being. And that makes you a prime target for these guys. If you don’t know about how they operate, if you can’t identify them, you will be their victim. And if you become their victim, you will not extricate yourself from their grip until you realize the man you love doesn’t exist, but is instead a carefully crafted disguise designed to entrap you.

If you need help extricating yourself from the grips of an abusive narcissist, contact me at