Gaslighting: A Follow-Up

I am astounded by the success of this week’s column, A Message To Women From A Man: You Are Not “Crazy”.

Thank you.

Even if you didn’t agree with what I had to say, I am simply grateful to have the opportunity to start a debate on this issue.

In light of the dialogue that emerged from my piece, questions and issues came up over the past week that I want to address.

First, I do not believe, as some readers felt, that I am here to “save” or show women the way. I made it clear in my first piece for The Current Conscience, My Feminist Re-Birth(s), that women have shown ME the way. I derive my sense of resolve and my strength from them. They are my heroines. I am have no interest in being a savior, especially since women don’t need saving–even though they save us men, on a daily basis.

In my mind, women need support. And they need support not because they are women, but because they, like us men, are human beings. The kind of support they deserve is not different from the support they give men every day. There just exists a great deficit between the support women give to men and the support men give to women.

I feel it is my life’s calling to address gender inequality. The same women who show me the way in all areas of my life, spend too much time supporting me and other men in their lives. And sometimes, they don’t see in the imbalance in their lives when it comes to giving and receiving support.

In terms of my writing, I will work very hard to avoid savior syndrome or being overly prescriptive (especially in an unhelpful way). And I have no doubt, if I ever falter in my efforts, that the women in my life and the women readers of this site will have no problem pointing out the problems. I welcome this.

There is also no doubt that men can and do face gaslighting. I have faced it strongly during specific moments in my life. But adult men (including me) do not face gaslighting as a result of our gender, we deal with gaslighting by landing in a specific circumstance (a relationship, a parent).

The whole point of my work is to point out and address the obstacles and inequities women face because they are simply born women. I cannot address individual relationships nor do I attempt to shine light on them. My job, in my mind, is to shine light on a pattern of behavior that exists because women are born with a different set of chromosomes. It is unfair.

With respect to the men who were frustrated that I didn’t include them in my piece…I know that a woman’s struggle is often diminished by our society. Either these struggles are completely ignored or men jump in and say, “We have it hard too.”

This isn’t a competition or a gender war. It’s about balancing the scales.

Women don’t often have a chance to fully explore their struggles—struggles that outnumber ours on a level that is shocking, because too often, we men ask, “What about me?”

It’s time for us to say, “What about you? How can I support you better?”

And this is what I am trying to do. I won’t always be perfect, but I am going to keep trying.

Thank you, again. I hope you will continue reading my work and continue educating me.

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29 Responses to “Gaslighting: A Follow-Up”

  1. Avatar of theJoygal
    theJoygal December 20, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

    Reading thru the comments on this article I just wanted to see if I could add something to the talks.

    Talking to some of the men that said they were turned off to this term or that they couldn’t see past the fact that both genders face this gas lighting,I ask the following questions not to pin you into a corner, but simply with a heartfelt inquiring mind and heart, asking you to take a moment to take some real reflection on this and let me know your answers: How did you feel when this happened to you? What emotions were raised up in you? What did you do about this being done to you? What do you think is acceptable in society for you to do? How did you react back to the one that was doing it to you?

    What do you think a woman who is several inches shorter and obviously not as strong as you might feel? What do you think is acceptable for a woman to do in this situation based on society norms? Have you ever seen this happen to a woman? And what did she do?

    Furthermore, I think as a society – if we really care about moving forward – we HAVE to start asking ourselves tough questions as individuals: Do you know what the rates of domestic abuse are in this culture? Do you know the 21 different ways individuals can use in order to control and manipulate a situation in order to have power and dominance over another? Do you know the rates of divorce? Do you think the rates of domestic abuse have anything to do with the rates of divorce? Do you know the emotional, physical, spiritual effects domestic abuse is having on the next generation? Do you know the rates of who dominates who in domestic abuse? Do you know the rates of change for abusers to become non-abusers?

    I will answer the last one NOT as a “I told you so” but because I am a survivor, a thriver a domestic abuse relationship. Predominately, it is men that perpetrate domestic abuse on women. The sad and unfortunate, cold hard facts is that about 1 in 10 men will actually become a non-abuser. There are GREAT programs out there that help people uncover how they have become involved in this type of relationship…just as Life Skills, Int’l and Lundy Bancroft has one over on the east coast.

    Yet, Lundy – who has worked exclusively in this field for over 20 years, cites the reason that so few men do the hard work of changing is because of those around the man that enable him to remain who he has become. That the society at large enables men to continue their practice of male dominance over both women, children and men…so if you are used to being in power or used to fighting to have it – why would you ever want to give that up if you can continue to find people to give that power to you? I, sadly, have seen this happen in my own life time and again and it breaks my heart.

    I do not pretend to know the answers on how to begin to heal this age old dilemma. Yet, as I continue to figure out what MY part was in getting caught up into an abusive relationship, as I continue to look at myself and work on myself…I continue to be convicted about how judgmental I am. The stereotypes I am trying to break free …I find myself trying to pin them on men. This will never bring healing and wholeness that I so desire for me and my kids.

    So, in a long answer, I think part of the answer is to teach people to get out of other people’s heads…for all of us to stop trying to think and feel for others…let them be who they are and focus our efforts instead on being who we are. Ask the age old question, “Would I like for someone to treat me the way I am now treating them?” Allow women to be individuals. Allow men to be individuals. Allow children to be individuals…allow the elderly to be individuals. While we all have similarities – we are ALL yet different.

    My last word to men – and women: I know for me, I do not wish to compete with men. To me, this is not the point of the feminist movement. I see the movement as one to say that you are you and I am me…please stop telling me how I feel or how I should feel…and start looking at how you feel instead. In the end, I just want to do with my life as I am called to do…and don’t want my gender to stand in the way of that. And I want you to do what you are called to do…and I don’t want you to waste your energy on trying to have power over me instead. I would like to work with you as a team player, using my skill set to lead and inspire, to direct and encourage – along with what ever skill set you have been given. Would you be willing to do that with me?

    These are all topics that I address on my blog at I am again glad that Yashar and others are also out there trying to turn the tide.

  2. Avatar of Famaroux
    Famaroux December 16, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

    This was such a great article – about time this stuff got a good airing. Thanks so much Yashar.

    Firstly – huge compassion for the posts just above me. Hope it all worked out ok.

    Yes Gaslighting goes on all the time, and yes, to a huge degree it is gender specific.

    The issue here is the construction of masculinity from the Dominator/Patriarchal system.

    If the Dominator System does not allow men to feel… to be sensitive…to feel vulnerable… how can he stay and listen to a woman doing that? Having feelings ( aside from anger) means he is a ‘girl’. He’s not allowed to feel such feelings, and now he’s expected to hang around and presence her when she is having those feelings…. the very feelings he has been taught to judge in himself??

    Interesting and terrible conundrum.

    No wonder so many men are rubbish at understanding and feeling compassion for women’s feelings !

    And as another responder here mentioned, we have ALL internalised this Dominator way of doing things, so women also tend to harshly judge themselves from the (unhealthy) masculine viewpoint. So when a guy is gaslighting her, she is doing it already to herself….. his comments have plenty of fertile ground in which to land and sprout.

    As a relationships educator I would love to see so many more opportunities for men to really experience what it is like to be a woman. ( and vice versa) Would love to provide something like the Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes experiment to create greater understanding.

    If anyone would like to talk to me further about this… explore funding options etc… pls contact me on

    • Avatar of theJoygal
      theJoygal December 20, 2011 at 4:39 pm #

      Hi Famaroux

      I couldn’t agree with you more about what you say based on my own experience as a woman….and even more once I decided to follow Christ and follow the teachings of the prevalent modern day Christian Church that subscribes to the Complementarism view. I keep saying that while the modern day world & church say that women are equal in ability…yet if the church and society directly and indirectly tell women they cannot run a church, have equal say in a business or the family – then subconsciously one cannot actually believe that women are of true equal ability and therefore not of equal value. This subconscious thought plays out all the time in the example of gas lighting: men feel they can do it because they feel they are really on top…and women have to accept it because they subconsciously don’t believe they are equal to men.

      Thankfully, God Himself is showing me time and again this is NOT His thoughts or how He created man and woman thru some brave pastors and organizations such as Christians for Biblical Equality…as well as men like Yashar. This false doctrine (that men are really the “head” of women) is an old system that has prevailed from the beginning of time…yet this is not how God set up His Kingdom. He created man AND woman to reflect God – meaning we are both needed in order to see a full reflection of God. He wants us to work together, jointly using our individual gifts to make the “garden” flourish.

      Any who, I LOVE this topic and write about it a lot on my blog at I would love to talk to you more about this!

  3. Avatar of jclambake
    jclambake December 16, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

    Thank you for this article and the follow up. I have been on the receiving end of this behavior for at least 18 years. I knew something was seriously wrong but this type of abuse is so passive that I could never quite focus my thoughts or find the time to focus as to the true nature of what was happening. I knew I wasn’t crazy…but still. You made every thing much more clear, and I thank you that.

    The effects of this abuse will be hard to overcome. First it has to stop. Next….who knows, even now the thought that is running through my head is: I could go on but I feel quite crazy, if some one reads thing they will think I am overreacting!

  4. Avatar of debrajowen
    debrajowen December 9, 2011 at 12:40 am #

    thank you. this explains a lot of the “crazy feelings” I’ve had for over 30 yrs. The one, often used, that left me speechless, and crazy, went something like: “You can’t get the value of my advise because your mind won’t let you see it for what it is.” sigh…. I really really did try to stop my mind from doing that to me, because I really really wanted a shot at considering whether or not I should continue listening to him. It was an unfortunate catch22…. or the perfect crime. Now on my own and practicing the art of listening to myself.

  5. Avatar of jcwohl
    jcwohl November 30, 2011 at 9:24 am #

    I shared this on facebook in regards to your original piece. I do think your original piece on gaslighting has merit, but I do think you got one point wrong as follows:

    Unfortunately, the author fails to acknowledge the daily basis undermining and dismissal of women is in fact an institutional conspiracy against the gender. This undermining and dismissal of women’s opinions is one of the contributing factors to the inequity in pay for women and inequality in representation in business and government. The effect of the idea of women as “crazy” is far more detrimental than the author would appear to write it, and even as he writes it, it’s very scary. Consider, for a moment the way in which pundits, news anchors and detractors reported on the campaign of Hillary Clinton for president. There were terms used to describe Hillary that would never be used to describe a male candidate: shrew, castrating, shrill, panicky… These terms are all specifically used to undermine the female gender and they were allowed to be hurled at Hillary Clinton on network television for months. Had anyone referred to Obama in a derogatory manner that would equal those terms they would have immediately been labeled a racist and would have been made to make a public apology the next day. There were no outcries of “sexist” or “genderist” to these slurs on Clinton, no one was made to apologize for insulting a well respected Senator who had worked hard for her country for many years. And why not? Because women are considered to be worth 77% of what a man is in this country.

    • Avatar of missvonniev
      missvonniev December 16, 2011 at 3:39 pm #

      I think the author is doing just fine. However, I also think your comments about inequity for women are 100% right on. When we talk in my classes about language that degrades, we all agree and become incensed over racist terms or terms that put down most other people who are marginalized by our society. However, when it comes to words that say “women are weak” or “women are lesser” (e.g. calling someone a “girl” or a “pussy” as an insult) my students and others don’t seem to get it. When our society begins to realize that using someone’s very essence to insult someone else is unfair and inappropriate, then maybe we will be getting somewhere.

  6. Avatar of Inspir3
    Inspir3 October 22, 2011 at 6:42 am #

    This is the first I’ve heard about the term “gaslighting”, although I’ve heard of it before as “crazy making”. I like gaslighting much better. I’ve seen this done to men as well as women, although women probably do get the brunt of it. I’m looking forward to hearing more!

  7. Avatar of theJoygal
    theJoygal September 28, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    Yashar…you are AMAZING in your attempts to bring light to this subject. I really really would love to talk with you more for I too am having a “feminist” revolution of my own. Being a Christian female, I was taught to hate the word and all the imbalances it has brought to men. Complementarism permeates the Christian world – where men are to be “head of the household,” both responsible for the welfare of the family and having the “trump” card in decision making. However, I am seeing more and more how this is just an old line of thinking that has permeated the world since almost the beginning of time. As I research the Bible and spend time in prayer…I am finding that God does not find this the way – of men being “on top” of women – He would set up the family….that God was truly the first feminist in the sense that HE created men and women equal in abilities and gave them equal responsibility.

    Personally, I have had much exposure to what you are talking about as I unwind myself from my soon to be ex husband of 9 years…plus 2.5 years of dating. I had also had this done to me as a teenager by a woman…and continue to deal with people in the church – both men and women – who say I didn’t try hard enough or long enough to save a marriage. To this I have to metaphorically scream – “why are they pointing the finger at me instead of at him? Why do I have the burden of saving a marriage where the “love” i had for this guy was so thoroughly killed by his actions/words/thoughts/deeds over the course of 11 years? When I tried from day 1 almost to make the relationship work to the detriment of my soul, when would it be enough? When I stop being so sensitive?”

    Furthermore, I have another thought for you to research: the use of anti-depressants by women. It is sky rocketing and in my personal experience I know I stayed on the things in order to “save” my marriage..for every time I started to come off my marriage would get worse. Why? Because I would actually “feel” the effects of his gas lighting and abuse…so in order to try to save the marriage…I stayed on the things. No more!

    Patricia Evans in her book The Verbally Abusive Relationship talks about your thought in different terms and how this is just one of the many forms of abuse others use to manipulate and control others….and in her book The Verbally Abusive Man: Can He Change? she takes your thoughts a step further saying that this “dumping” of emotional baggage onto women is really what allows groups like the Taliban to do the things they do to wreak havoc on the world. Scary thoughts…but ones we NEED to address as a culture/society/world if we want to see any healing this side of heaven.

    Okay…lastly I am blogging about my journey currently over at and would love your thoughts, comments/ideas on how to get my message out there. I am going back to school (seminary) because abuse in our culture has taken my heart and my soul by storm and I am called to work in bringing awareness and healing where possible – especially within the Christian church. I can’t wait to read more of your awesome thoughts and hope that we can some how have a working relationship together!

    Thank you for your work…sincerely thank you from the bottom of my heart!

  8. Avatar of Ms. Daisy Cutter
    Ms. Daisy Cutter September 18, 2011 at 8:45 am #

    Thanks so much for these posts. I wouldn’t be surprised at the reaction you got — a lot of men simply can’t stand it when they and their concerns aren’t front and center, and they will rush to derail a feminist post with a metric ton of WAHT ABOUT TEH MENZ????

    • Avatar of joemanteras
      joemanteras September 18, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

      I think the issue here is that, while there are many issues out there that men simply cannot suffer from or fully understand, this is not one of them. In fact, given how we’re not supposed to know what the word “sensitive” means, it’s really incredibly easy to belittle, act passive-aggressively toward, and otherwise emotionally manipulate guys without consequence or even realizing that said male is even capable of being upset.

      I have no doubt this has a greater impact on women, and I can respect the author’s decision to put the spotlight on them, especially now that he’s explained it. But I think you can understand that many of us have experienced this sort of thing, and it was odd to see it painted as a gender-specific issue (again, prior to this addendum).

      • Avatar of dtkgreg
        dtkgreg September 19, 2011 at 10:14 am #

        I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the problem we tend to have with gender issues is that men *do* experience all the problems that women experience.

        Yeah, there, I said it.

        And that leaves an outlet every time a woman tries to raise an issue of widespread discrimination. The outlet is called “What about the menz?”

        Men *are* abused by their wives. Men get raped. Men get manipulated. Men get beaten up. The trick is to take a deep breath, hold back the impulse to shout out, “What about the men?” and try to listen to what the women are telling us.

        Because they’re telling us something important. They’re telling us that the way it’s being done to them substantially differs from the way it’s done to us. It’s the way the police investigate things; the way the media handles it; the way individuals are taught by their parents etc. etc.

        If we would listen and hold back on shouting out “What about the men?”, we would end up learning something. And that something, that’s sitting right there waiting for us to learn it, would improve our society for both women *and* men because it would liberate *all* of us from the stupid things our society puts into our brains.

        • Avatar of Mersci
          Mersci September 20, 2011 at 8:58 pm #

          @dtkgreg – exactly! we all learn from this article that invalidating some one, especially in an attempt to manipulate them is an ultimate act of cowardice, which is how the author explains why the burdens or such behavior is more often used to deprive women of their humanity. I strongly feel that because of this pattern in our society, we have greater ills to rectify. The author is attributing a great deal of credit to the people in his life that have supported as a human being, and this is commendable in a world that seeks to deny the other side of the coins its just place. The gender issue only comes about when one gender is more willing that the other to inflict impersonal harm for their own gain – what ever that gain may be. Unfortunately, its causing huge social disparity to the extent that the US has still not ratified the UN Women’s Equality Act. Why? Because our country pays alot of lip-service to equality, but in reality does not support it or its women. Hence, GDP does not reflect the true and accurate value of their contribution, nor do the wages they receive for the labor.

        • Avatar of jeffreyjames
          jeffreyjames September 21, 2011 at 4:50 am #

          Calling men out for things that women do as well isn’t really going to catch on. If the article wants the MOST POSSIBLE MEN to change their behavior the best way to do so would to be writing about how people in general need to stop gaslighting. It is because of this that I think it reads like feminist academia for like-minded people to pass around with no actual positive change happening in the minds and hearts of men who do this.

          Being about equality takes a very serious commitment that I think feminism frequently abandons in favor of self-gratification.

          • Avatar of dtkgreg
            dtkgreg September 22, 2011 at 5:22 am #

            I get that. The get the idea that it’s hard to understand what the women are saying when we can all see examples – or at least hear about examples – of the same thing being done to men. It certainly seems like feminists are unfair when they want to focus on one side of the equation.

            But the thing to understand is that the equation is really unbalanced. When you and I get upset at work, people around us usually assume it must be something important. They occasionally think we’re overreacting. They *never* think it’s because we have a crazy uterus.

            So, yeah, “gaslighting” can occasionally happen to men – at work or in relationships. But it happens way, way more often to women and when it does happen, it’s part of this thing where we collectively ignore women *because* they’re women. That’s the part that feminists want to talk about, the part where the things we’ve been taught about gender decide our reactions.

        • Avatar of Dana
          Dana September 26, 2011 at 10:19 am #

          Men tend to rape and beat up one another more often than women rape or beat up men. On top of that, when a man rapes or beats up another man, the victim is ignored by other men because he should just “be a man” and “get over it.” Yes, women often echo that sentiment, but who gave us that idea? The entirety of modern society is based on the supremacy of men, therefore men’s values are the values upheld.

          Even when women are vicious to one another it is generally in the context of competing for male attention, because male attention is more important than female autonomy in a cultural sense. If we were allowed to make it on our own without suffering a cultural/social death, we’d have nothing left to fight about, except maybe customer markets.

          I’m really tired, as a woman, of being expected to mother men when men have problems. Only two people on this planet have any right to call me Mama, or to expect me to kiss their booboos and make it all better. If a dude finds himself the dubious beneficiary of some of the culture’s baser assumptions, maybe he should stop and ask himself whether all this male dominance really is worth it.

          Personally I loved Yashar’s essay. If my opinion counts for most folks, which is doubtful.

      • Avatar of Julie
        Julie September 29, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

        Yes, men experience this too, but as Yashar said, men experience it as a result of certain negative relationships. Women experience it because of their relationships *and* because they are women. Women are stereotyped as being crazy, emotionally unstable, b**chy, uptight, etc. So when someone does something to upset us and we react to it, all they have to do is pull out the undesirable stereotype and say “You’re overreacting!” “You need to have a sense of humor!” or “Calm down!” and we shut ourselves up because there’s nothing worse than being labeled as the crazy, uptight bitch.

        I think that since guys don’t have to deal with those stereotypes, gaslighting is still really frustrating, but it doesn’t have quite the same effect. I feel like it would be really difficult to convince men that they are being crazy and hysterical, but women have been taught that all their lives.

        I’m guessing the main ones that happen with guys is “Learn to take a joke” or “Man up!” I think the main difference is that through gaslighting, women are warned to stay away from a completely negative stereotype for having a natural emotional reaction. Whereas men are told to stick with a stereotype that isn’t really negative. Men are supposed to be funny and tough. The only reason this is a bad stereotype is that not all men fit in it and some feel like they don’t belong. I feel like the basic message to everyone, male or female, is “Be a man! Don’t be a woman.” Or, Be tough and funny! Don’t get angry or upset at anything, ever.

  9. Avatar of wfoconno
    wfoconno September 18, 2011 at 8:41 am #

    Seriously enjoy your blog and glad the gaslighting article showed up on feministing! As a male feminist, it can be difficult to find males willing and able to so eloquently voice a perspective on gender issues. Keep up the good work!

  10. Avatar of ivaa
    ivaa September 18, 2011 at 3:10 am #

    One reason for unconscious gaslighting might be the difference between being in personal or impersonal mode. There’s an article about this here:

    Quoting an excerpt: “Generally, Personal selves are those parts of us who are oriented towards establishing and maintaining a sufficient level of connection, warmth, proximity and togetherness while Impersonal selves are those parts of us who operate to establish and maintain sufficient distinctiveness, respect, boundaries, and autonomy (self rule).”

    It can be devastating to reach out to someone in a personal mode and be met with impersonality. I’m finally learning to register that “He/she is being impersonal” instead of the gaslit gut reaction of “I did wrong/I am defective”.

    And the other way round: It’s immensely frustrating to try to communicate logically with someone who is awash in emotion. The difference here, is that our society considers the impersonal to be the norm, so the gut reaction is “S/he did wrong/is defective”

    The only way to connect in situations like this, is to start by using the mode the other person is in.

  11. Avatar of beckycaret
    beckycaret September 17, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    Dear Yashar,

    In your original article, I didn’t even know which gender you were until the last few paragraphs. I had assumed you to be a woman until then, which probably means you did a very good job defining the problem and not presuming to personally “save” women.

    I found the article very enlightening. You put into words what I had a general feel of, but couldn’t quite describe. I’ve shared it with some friends and hope they find it similarly eye-opening.

  12. Avatar of Charlie1368
    Charlie1368 September 17, 2011 at 10:47 am #

    It’s time for men to be part of the solution, not the problem. Do you have any charities that do this type of work on a large scale and could accept donations?

    • Avatar of sdmonty
      sdmonty September 17, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

      Charlie – Yes! several men’s anti-violence groups do community outreach and education with boys and men to try to turn the tides of violence; I myself have been working in this capacity for the past twenty years through Men Stopping Rape, Inc (, as well as through the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault (WCASA).

      Yashar – thanks for a pair of very thoughtful, heartfelt articles; too often these issues are reduced to a “he said, she said” mentality; it’s not that women don’t have some work to do, but they’ve been on the path for several generations now while most men have languished practicing the same old, tired sexism, locked in a misogynist mindset which causes them to be separated from their own humanity (and too often perpetrate violence against the women in their lives as a result).

  13. Avatar of Boaoinn
    Boaoinn September 16, 2011 at 11:47 pm #

    I clearly identified with the “gaslighting” technique as I am currently living in China where the men use this abuse on the women regularly. You want to incite rage/disgust in a Chinese man? Shed a tear.

  14. Avatar of Ms.Gom
    Ms.Gom September 16, 2011 at 9:28 pm #

    I am hoping (perhaps against reason) that you might consider the struggles of genderqueer, intersexed and gender transitioning individuals during the course of your life’s quest. There are many people, who, when faced with a forced choice of male or female (i.e. a box on a form, or restroom), haven’t got an option that works for them.

    I just wanted to throw that out there.

    Carry on!

    • Avatar of marissam
      marissam September 17, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

      (TW for sexist and anti lgbtq slurs)
      Even if lgbtq oppression falls outside of the focus of this blog (cos sometimes it is good to have seperate venues for seperate issues) femme people and trans* women should be included at some point. The oppression they face also shows the social attitudes toward women (cis and trans*) in a more transparent way. It also illuminates the way femininity is weakness in our society. For instance how when you are insulting a woman (quick, think of the worst gendered insults!) you get words like slut, cunt, bitch, and when insulting a man you get (think of what you would say if you had no filter to insult a man) … fag, pussy, bitch.

      I really appreciate your articles and it makes me feel less hopeless, Yashar. Sometimes it seems like there is no incentive for people with privilege to denounce their privilege and if that is true it seems impossible to break the system of oppression we live in. Thanks for making my day brighter!

      • Avatar of 3plus14
        3plus14 November 6, 2011 at 8:52 am #

        Yashar…I read your article yesterday and it brought tears to my eyes.

        For the last 3 years, and specifically the last 5 months, my partner has been doing exactly as you described. When I read your article I thought, “He just doesn’t see what he’s doing or how much it hurts! Maybe another man can get through to him.” But I thought it would be passive aggressive to give him a copy of your article rather than ask that he consider what I had to say. After all, I’d always been confident and able to handle anything life throws at me. I’m nearly 50 years old! It’s just these last 3 years that have been uncharacteristic for me. I resolved to make things better, no matter what it took.

        We had a calm, pleasant afternoon. The evening began well too.

        Then he remembered something I did last week that irritated him and things began going downhill. Suddenly I was defending myself against accusations that I obviously didn’t respect him or give a damn about the anxiety he felt during the event he was remembering. When I tried to assure him that I did indeed care he said he had every right to express his feelings without dealing with my “emotional bull sh*t”. He told me to grow up and be accountable. He had, he said, every right to be angry that I hadn’t responded to his needs on that day last week and immediately dropped everything to help him search………for his lighter.

        An hour or so later, things had calmed down and we were watching television. I made an off-hand comment about a person in the documentary we were watching. He said he was thirsty. I went to get him water. When I came back he was irrationally angry with me. My comment angered him because, he said, he was afraid that our roommates had heard me…roommates who were two rooms and one closed door away from us, watching television themselves…and would assume that the comment I’d made was about him. It wasn’t a derogatory comment. Just an observation. And our roommates couldn’t have possibly heard me. When I tried to talk about it he became visible enraged and things escalated. That was at about 10 p.m. At 12:30 a.m. he was asleep and I was left thinking about your article.

        Early this morning I left home in the dark, with everything I could grab hold of stuffed into a backpack, because my partner barely restrained himself from punching me in the face last night. He lunged toward me, pulled back his fist, but then for some reason, did not hit me. He’s never been physical with me before. When it was all said and done, he blamed me for making him angry. He called me a “stupid c*nt” saying that if I hadn’t keep talking…hadn’t been trying to explain myself…he wouldn’t have acted as he did. He blamed me for his headache and the tension in his back and went on to say that life was “so unfair” and he was “misunderstood.”

        I spent the time after he fell asleep thinking, “I wish he HAD hit me. THEN I’d know what to do. THEN I’d leave.” But your article kept coming back to me.

        I’m not perfect. I never will be. I can be just as annoying as the next person. And my partner has made it clear that I am a disappointment to him in many ways. I no longer know if he’s right or if he’s looking for a scapegoat for his own depression and disappointment. I doubt myself at every turn. Half the time I don’t know whether what I feel is right, fair, real or even relevant. But when I realized that I actually WISHED that he’d hit me so that I’d have a REASON to leave…something shifted in my mind and I remembered your term…”gaslighting”…and I knew the truth.

        Now I’m sitting in a coffee shop waiting for a friend to pick me up and all I can think is thank you Yashar. I’m terrified, but thank you.

        • Avatar of
 November 10, 2011 at 10:15 pm #


          I registered just to be able to tell you this: You are absolutely right for having acted that way. If a hug from a complete stranger can possibly help, I offer you mine.

          I am a young woman, about three decades younger than you, but I have been in a scarily similar situation with my previous boyfriend. The snapping, the whining, the outbursts (and he had the gall to claim I was the one overreacting!) I went to the same dark corners of my mind as you did, trying to figure out that situation. I too wished he’d do something horrible just so I’d have a concrete reason to go. And realizing I really thought it was one of the worst times of my life. But when I finally had enough, when I told him goodbye for good, I was crying and I was proud.

          Be proud of you. Be proud of who you are – know that no other living being has the right to take your pride away from you. I hope that in the past few days you have had the chance to breathe freely again, to know you will never have to put up with that twisted, insidious, poisonous way of being and acting. My heart goes out to you, and I wish you good luck from here on. You did the right thing.

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