I didn’t think I’d ever been a victim of this but after reading the post by Swirling Fire and looking at the image included (below) I realised I had actually been a victim of this 3 times….
The First Time
The first time… that started when I was a child. With my mum and stepdad. To this day I say “sorry” for everything.
If you bump into me, I say sorry.
If you get angry, at anything, I say sorry.
If you are tired, I say sorry.
It drives MrH nuts!!!
They always contradict my memories of events, even though my brothers both say my recall is correct.
I spent a lot of time biting my tongue and not speaking because I didn’t know how they would react.
I was often told I was being irrational, hysterical, or silly.
I grew up in a world of “if I want your opinion I’ll give it to you,” and “do as I say not as I do.”
I’ve written about the other mental and physical abuse that accompanied this in my post Count yourself lucky.
The Final Straw
It continued after I left home. I moved in with my boyfriend (whom I later married) who continued the gaslighting.
He would tell me how lucky I was to be with him. No one else would want me.
He would tell me not to speak when we were out with people because I embarrassed him. In truth it was because I made him look stupid.
He would tell me what to wear – usually selecting inappropriate clothing for the event and leaving me feeling uncomfortable. I usually looked like a prostitute.
If he didn’t get his own way, he would sulk and stop talking to me. He would go out and not come back for hours. He always left me long enough for me to worry about him not coming back. That way when he turned up I was ready to tell him it was my fault and he was right.
He eventually had an affair, and told me I was to blame for being cold and not wanting to have more sex.
After our son was born, I woke up. It’s the only way I can describe it. I realised I wanted a better environment for him and I stopped bowing down to his tantrums. I had a child, I needed a husband.
He couldn’t do the job of course he was a boy playing grown up. We divorced before our 2nd wedding anniversary.
I met MrH two and a half years later. I still live with the effect of this gaslighting
MrH has suffered from the effect of this.
Despite his constant reassurances, his steady nature, his love and sheer amazingness, I still react with the learned behaviour. He’s never sulked. He’s never left. Well he did once for 15 minutes because he felt we needed to calm down (this was about 18 years ago) and when I told him how it made me feel he has never done it since. Having said that we’ve never actually argued since.
I apologise. All the time. For anything. For everything. Even the weather. As I said before – it drives him nuts. As he says “did you make it rain??”
I worry about upsetting him with my words and edit myself or say nothing. I bottle things up instead of dealing with them.
I fear judgment for my wants. I think sometimes this is what I struggle with when I try to talk about what I want sexually. That he will reject me. Which he doesn’t. But that fear is still there.
I fear him withdrawing his affection and because MrH means so much more to me than my first husband did that scares me more than anything.
There are days when I am not gripped by these fears and worries. There are days when I feel amazing. Slowly these good days are outnumbering the bad. Maybe one day MrH and I will banish the bad days to a tiny corner of my past where they can’t hurt me or anyone else.
To see more posts about Gaslighting and Ghosting for the Sex Bloggers for Metal Health project click the link above
The image “Gaslighting Red Flags” was taken from https://introvertdoodles.com and is used in accordance with their T&C.