Dealing With Gaslighting & Mental Abuse in Relationships

Trigger warning: the discussion of gaslighting and mental abuse highlighted in this post may be distressing to some.

We are all currently coming out of an 18-month lockdown. I know friends and family who have had relationship breakdowns, break ups and have felt very isolated due to being unable to have contact with family and friends. 

I have come out of lockdown with a stronger relationship and closer family relationship ties. We have come to realise what is important to us having not seen each other for those many months. 

However, I haven’t always been this blessed and put up with mental abuse and gaslighting for 11 years. 

Dealing with mental and gaslighting

It took a lot for me to walk away from that relationship. I didn’t want my daughter being raised believing that was the right way to treat another person so I made the right decision and left that relationship.

It wasn’t without trial and tribulation. There was a lot of screaming and shouting at me for at least 3 years post break up, a small amount of stalking, then the abuse received when I first started dating another man. I have spent countless hours in mediation to force a house sale and access with our daughter where even the mediator could not believe the way I was talked down to alongside his assumption of everything being his and worked for by him. Basically, I could write a book on the whole saga but I would rather not. 

We are finally at a place where everyone is civil. I occasionally have to pull him up as he occasionally speaks to our daughter the way he did with me, the only difference is our daughter pulls him up and will argue with him about what has been said. 

It took me two and a half years to get my head straight before jumping into another relationship and there are still mental scars and I occasionally have to pull myself together and not make comparisons. 

Not just physical

Most assume that domestic abuse is physical, but that’s not always the case. Some just use the mental breakdown approach, gaslighting and mental abuse are just as difficult to overcome as that is not a physical scar, it can’t be seen. People may not always be as sympathetic.

Being chronically ill and having had my first stoma placed, I have been told that I am lucky that they are willing to take me on, who would seriously want me with a stoma?! 

My being ill is a burden, I am so lucky they look after me so well!

Having to sleep on a towel when my bag had leaked as I couldn’t risk waking the other person up because their sleep was way more important than my dignity, then getting shouted at because I had ruined another bed sheet and mattress. 

Not to mention the financial control where everything I earned went into his bank account and being left financially short and trying to explain to my family why I didn’t have any money.

My mum bought my second car, took me out clothes shopping and regularly dropped off boxes of nappies and baby milk to see me through as his lifestyle was more important than providing for us. 

Even now 8 years later he still tries financial control by not paying full maintenance payments and demanding all receipts for purchases by us made for our daughter. I eventually sent him a spreadsheet entitled the cost of our daughter and what his maintenance actually covered. Since that spreadsheet, he has not requested any receipts…

Signs of mental abuse

You probably know many of the more obvious signs of mental and emotional abuse. But when you’re in the midst of it, it can be easy to miss the persistent undercurrent of abusive behaviour.

Psychological abuse involves a person’s attempts to frighten, control, or isolate you. It’s in the abuser’s words and actions, as well as their persistence in these behaviours.

The abuser could be your spouse or another romantic partner. They could be your business partner, parent, or a caretaker.

No matter who it is, you don’t deserve it and it’s not your fault.

  • Name-calling. They’ll blatantly call you “stupid,” “a loser,” or words too awful to repeat here.
  • Derogatory “pet names.” This is just more name-calling in not-so-subtle disguise. “My little knuckle dragger” or “My chubby pumpkin” aren’t terms of endearment.
  • Character assassination. This usually involves the word “always.” You’re always late, wrong, screwing up, disagreeable, and so on. Basically, they say you’re not a good person.
  • Yelling. Yelling, screaming, and swearing is meant to intimidate and make you feel small and inconsequential. It might be accompanied by fist-pounding or throwing things.
  • Patronizing. “Aw, sweetie, I know you try, but this is just beyond your understanding.”
  • Public embarrassment. They pick fights, expose your secrets, or make fun of your shortcomings in public.
  • Dismissiveness. You tell them about something that’s important to you and they say it’s nothing. Body language like eye-rolling, smirking, headshaking, and sighing help convey the same message.
  • “Joking.” The jokes might have a grain of truth to them or be a complete fabrication. Either way, they make you look foolish.
  • Sarcasm. Often just a dig in disguise. When you object, they claim to have been teasing and tell you to stop taking everything so seriously.
  • Insults of your appearance. They tell you, just before you go out, that your hair is ugly or your outfit is clownish.
  • Belittling your accomplishments. Your abuser might tell you that your achievements mean nothing, or they may even claim responsibility for your success.
  • Put-downs of your interests. They might tell you that your hobby is a childish waste of time or you’re out of your league when you play sports. Really, it’s that they’d rather you not participate in activities without them.
  • Pushing your buttons. Once your abuser knows about something that annoys you, they’ll bring it up or do it every chance they get
  • Threats. Telling you they’ll take the kids and disappear, or saying “There’s no telling what I might do.”
  • Monitoring your whereabouts. They want to know where you are all the time and insist that you respond to calls or texts immediately. They might show up just to see if you’re where you’re supposed to be.
  • Digital spying. They might check your internet history, emails, texts, and call log. They might even demand your passwords.
  • Unilateral decision-making. They might close a joint bank account, cancel your doctor’s appointment, or speak with your boss without asking.
  • Financial control. They might keep bank accounts in their name only and make you ask for money. You might be expected to account for every penny you spend.


People who gaslight become experts at pushing your buttons, and they know your sensitivities and vulnerabilities and use that knowledge against you. They make you doubt yourself, your judgment, your memory, and even your sanity.

  • Trivializing how you feel: “Oh yeah, now you’re going to feel really sorry for yourself.”
  • Telling you that people are talking behind your back: “Don’t you know? The whole family talks about you. They think you’re losing it.”
  • Saying things to you that they later deny having said: “I didn’t say I’d take the deposit to the bank. What are you talking about? Thanks a lot for the insufficient funds fee we’re going to get.”
  • Hiding objects from you, and then deny knowing anything about it: “You seriously can’t find your sunglasses again? That’s alarming.”
  • Insisting you were or were not at a certain place, even though it’s not true: “You’re crazy. You never went to that show with me. I should know.”

I am hoping that this blog post will help those who may experience the above mentioned, it has taken me a long time to get where I am today. It is also why I am the way I am now. It has in a way made my approach to life and relationships slightly jaded. I have a big heart but have had it stepped on many times. I am less trusting with relationships as a general whole.

It took a fair amount of counselling, some fantastic support from my family and friends who could see from the outside in and could see what I was going through. 

If you are experiencing gaslighting or mental abuse, please seek help by visiting