We had another fight. I still fight to be heard and understood. My fighting, this war to save my heart and mind, is what sabotages my efforts to end his gaslighting (read The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive the Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life by Dr. Robin Stern).
For whatever reasons, including my desire to be heard and understood, I react to his gaslighting abuse in unhealthy ways. I still think that if I rephrase what I’m saying, if I talk over or yell, if I interrupt the gaslighting abuse with words to correct him, … if I still think that I can end his gaslighting abuse and manipulation with logic or persistence, then I am misleading myself and encouraging him to keep trying to gaslight me.
For some reason, my husband will not respond to me as if I am capable of being different from him. For some reason, when I am different from what he thinks I should be, he is threatened. And when he is threatened, he tries to regain control and comfort by putting me in my place. The place I “should” live in his mind. The person I “should” be in his mind.
Why Can’t I Be Different from Him?
I have no problem with the fact that he is different from me. Some of his opinions and beliefs really baffle me, but they are his and I cannot change them. (I’ve tried and only made our marriage worse because I did to him what he’s done to me – make him feel unworthy and unloved.) Even though I’ve tried to change his mind about some things, I’ve always known that it may be impossible to do so. I’ve always known that at some point, it was time to live and let live. But I think that the “live and let live” idea is foreign to him.
Perhaps I am so important to him that he feels we should be as one mind. Unfortunately, this thought seems to translate into we should be of his mind … and my mind should disappear and stop causing so many problems.
Anyway, it’s my fighting his control and manipulation which allows the gaslighting abuse to continue. Sometimes even flare up uncontrollably.
There are ways to defuse the behavior without fruitlessly fighting it. There are things I can do and say to control my reaction to manipulation, nastiness, intimidation, threats,…, and the whole abusive bit. Notice I said I can control my reaction; I cannot control his behavior.
And the ability to control my reaction to him is what I will work on now. He may hear me say things or see me do things that he doesn’t like as I control my reactions. He will see me enforce personal boundaries that I never had before (after I tell him what those boundaries are). And he’s probably not going to like the fact that I am using boundaries to “lock him out” of my heart and mind – the two places he relies on having free access to get what he wants from me.
Gaslighting Abuse Because I Won’t Skype
For example, Skype. I recently cut off that source of contact with my husband. He can still Skype our boys on their computers. He can still call me and our boys on our cell phones. But he cannot Skype me on my computer. He cannot interrupt me as I work via Skype; more importantly, I don’t have to worry that he will interrupt me in any way while I’m working (or relaxing) on the computer.
He reacted very angrily to my refusal to use Skype during the cell phone call I received from him today. He acted like there was no possible way to contact me or the boys (even though he can call our cell phones). He acted like I was taking away all communication with us, period. He seemed to forget that I was, in fact, speaking with him on the cell at that very minute, or that he can email me, or in a pinch, have his chain of command or the Family Readiness Group get in touch with me. He seemed to forget that he could write a letter and put it in the mail (for free!).
He was angry because I turned off Skype. How dare I?
Eventually, I hung up the phone on him. I felt out of control. I didn’t know whether I was coming or going. I didn’t understand why he brought up the idea that my writing these blogs meant that I would be fucked in front of any judge. I was upset hearing that he would never reply to my emails (meaning verbal conversations, if you can call gaslighting and abuse conversations, were my only option when it came to communicating with him). I felt confused. Why did he think he had no way to contact me in an emergency?
I was tired of hearing that I was making it obvious that I didn’t want our marriage to work, that it was my way or the highway. I was tired of having the subject changed and tossed back and forth like a dinghy in an open water storm. But most of all, I was tired of reacting to him angrily and hearing myself decompose intellectually, emotionally, and mentally to the point of shrillness and inability to remain calm.
I was tired of the same old shit, so I hung up the phone. I didn’t do it to punish him, I did it to regain my sanity.
But “my sanity” sometimes seems a long way off.
Featured photo by Renè Müller