Quarantine breakup? Me too, lol. It’s like a pandemic … oh, wait. It’s a weird time to be suddenly on your own. Even the most non-codependent people will feel rocked by the shock of separation while the world is on the edge of a multifactorial revolution. But if there is any time in our lives to shed what doesn’t serve us and evolve, it’s now.
During quarantine, we seem to be learning a lot about ourselves. Things bubble up to the surface and reveal themselves in a way we might not have been prepared to see. It’s ugly, it’s sad, but it’s crucial, and we may have avoided facing it otherwise—for who knows how long. While a breakup might seem like the cruel icing on the shit-pie that is 2020, it’s probably a gift. Mine was.
Don’t get me wrong. My breakup wasn’t anticipated. It wasn’t mutual. It wasn’t a slow burn that felt inevitable. In fact, everything was “good” up until the very last second, then it was very, very unpleasant. Some of you may be familiar with the term “gaslighting,” but upon having to define it for my ex, who admitted to not knowing, it’s become apparent to me that some aren’t clued in.
Gaslighting is a mode of manipulation. The gaslighter uses this tactic to manipulate their subject into questioning their own reality—what is or is not real. The point of gaslighting is to give the person in question total control, so that the other party feels like they are crazy, misinformed, unreasonable, or illogical. As one can guess, that doesn’t highlight our best selves as a result. Here’s what to look out for.
Oftentimes, we question friends or partners because we’ve seen these negative patterns of behavior in the past. When the person refuses to acknowledge or address these patterns and only isolates the immediate moment as a single instance, it’s easy to be gentle and forgive the moment. It’s important to trust yourself and keep a hold of the facts you’ve gathered and the previous times you’ve been burned so that you can keep a grip on reality, not the reality being painted for you.
The person in question starts asking the questions
When coming to your loved one with genuine concern, be on alert if they come back with, “What do you think?” Or, “Do you think I would do that to you?” When vague, unproductive questions follow yours, it’s only meant to obscure the spotlight from their own actions and misdeeds, and make you reflect on yourself.
When the party in question becomes very angry immediately, or exasperated at the very thought of what is bothering you, that’s a red flag. It’s the opposite of loving understanding when your loved one can’t give you the patience to hear out your concern.
Is extremely forgiving when the hurt party apologizes for questioning their intentions
Most of the time, you’ll find yourself at fault for inquiring of the gaslighter’s intentions. Their goal is to make you out to be unreasonable and in the wrong, so you may find yourself apologizing for “acting crazy” and questioning them in the first place, even when you have not received firm assurance. If they are extremely quick to forgive, and perhaps more understanding than someone who has been slighted might be, take note.
Denial in the face of proof
You’ve come to them with proof that you know they’ve been up to no good (in my case, it was messages with another person indicating a clear extracurricular relationship they were having in tandem with our monogamous six-year relationship), and they still find ways to deny it.
You may want to believe them, because you love them. But remember the tangible proof you have, and don’t let yourself be manipulated. It can be a challenge—they may look you dead in the eyes and lie to your face without flinching. Keep a grip on reality, not the narrative they are crafting.
This one is dangerous, but in many cases inevitable. They may stick to their story for such an extended time that it’s now the only story they know. They’ll tell others versions of this story, and the truth they want to hide from you may never publicly surface on their own behalf, no matter how nuanced or obvious. At this time, you can only get closure from yourself. Offer yourself this finality, and don’t expect it from them.
Remind yourself that you are in control, so that you can let yourself move on ASAP. Being gaslit is a lot to process, because this type of manipulation is usually built little by little, slowly and over time. It’s up to you to keep yourself in check, remind yourself of the facts, and let that person go. For all those 2020 heartbreaks out there, I see you. The new year is coming quick; time to barrel into the unknown without this year’s burdens. We got this.
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