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What Does It Mean To Gaslight (And How To Respond To Your Coparent)


When someone attempts to gaslight you, this refers to a manipulative tactic where they deliberately distort or deny your perception of reality, causing you to doubt your own thoughts, feelings, or sanity. Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation a co-parent may use to gain power, control, or to undermine your self-esteem.

Gaslighting can take various forms, such as:

  • Denial or Invalidating: They deny or dismiss your experiences, emotions, or concerns, making you feel your feelings are unwarranted or invalid.

  • Distortion of Reality: They alter or twist facts, events, or situations to make you question your memory or perception of events.

  • Blaming and Shifting Responsibility: They flip the script, deflect, or place the blame on you for their own actions or portray you as the cause of their negative behaviors due to your reactions.

  • Creating Doubt and Confusion: They introduce conflicting information, contradictory statements, or inconsistent behaviors, leading you to question your own judgment and reality.

  • Projection: They project their own faults, insecurities, or wrongdoings onto you, making them question their own intentions or behavior.

Perhaps you’re wondering WHY a high-conflict co-parent resorts to gaslighting in the first place. Here are a few reasons why they feel the need to gaslight you or the children.

  • Undermining credibility: Gaslighting can be employed to undermine your credibility and reputation, particularly in the eyes of your children or mutual acquaintances. The gaslighter may aim to discredit your perspective, portray you as unreliable or irrational, and create doubt about your ability to make sound decisions.

  • Emotional manipulation: Gaslighting can be used as a form of emotional manipulation to elicit certain reactions or behaviors from you. By instilling doubt and confusion, the gaslighter may attempt to gain emotional leverage or control over your actions and decisions.

  • Maintaining a false narrative: In some cases, a co-parent may engage in gaslighting to preserve a false narrative or image of themselves. They may try to project a positive or blameless image while undermining your credibility, creating a distorted version of reality that serves their own interests.

  • Keeping the Upper Hand: In high-conflict co-parenting situations, the gaslighter might use gaslighting to ensure that their version of events is accepted as the collective truth, thus giving them an advantage in disputes and decision-making.

  • Diverting Accountability: Gaslighters may use this tactic to avoid accountability for their actions, especially when their behavior negatively impacts you or children. By making you question your own truth, the gaslighter deflects blame and avoids confronting their wrongdoing.

  • Jealousy and Resentment: In some cases, a co-parent may use gaslighting out of jealousy, slander, or resentment toward you, seeking to create conflict in the co-parenting relationship. They thrive on creating chaos due their unresolved wounds and to remain in control.

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Now, we wouldn’t leave you hanging without a way to respond to these abusive tactics. We truly want you to feel powerful, but also remain authentic to who you are. And, that means staying outside of the direct attack of gaslighting and keeping your composure. The whole goal here is not emotionally to react to their antics.

Here is how you can respond assertively and maintain your own sense of reality:

  • "I trust my own perceptions of what occurred."

  • "I will not respond to false accusations."

  • "An attempt to distort the facts will not work."

  • "I will not engage in self-projections."

  • "I am aware of your attempt to avoid integrity."

  • "I’m going to disengage now.”

  • "I have confidence in my own perceptions and trust my instincts."

  • "I am entitled to my own truth and won't let it be distorted."

  • "I value open and honest communication when you’re ready to address the facts.”

  • "I refuse to engage in conversations that undermine my perspective and value.”

  • "I will not be swayed by attempts to change the subject.”

  • "Let's focus on finding a resolution instead of trying to twist the facts."

  • "I won't accept blame for something I know I'm not responsible for."

  • "I believe in respectful and authentic communication.”

It's important to prioritize your own well-being and protect your sense of self in the face of gaslighting behavior. If you are struggling with coparenting communication, feel free to explore coaching services where we can assist with writing emails to your co-parent and shutting down their antics. Sign up for a consult to learn more here.


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