Boundaries with a Gaslighter
Updated: Jul 10, 2021
Boundaries with an Addict was one of my most read and referenced blogs. If you haven’t read it yet, please do so in order to better understand the concept of boundaries. Being able to set and keep boundaries will help you make and maintain healthy relationships.
But how do you do that with someone who gaslights you?
Great question!! Let’s start with what is most important if you are being gaslit.
First, you need to be able to be in a place of trusting your gut. What that means is that if you believe something isn’t right but the gaslighter is trying to convince you otherwise, believe you, not them. I know that this is hard. Their goal has been to convince you that you are not seeing things correctly and they need to help you see more clearly or better understand things you have taken wrong. But trust your gut.
What does that mean? It means that if they just said something unkind to you and you felt hurt, go with that. If they are trying to explain away what they said or saying that you are too sensitive and shouldn’t feel a certain way, trust you, not them. Why? Because no one gets to tell you how you feel. Please hear me.
No one gets to tell you how you feel.
This doesn’t mean that we live by our feelings. It does mean that when you feel hurt, you get to feel that. Know that there is a reason why you feel hurt. A person who gaslights you will try to tell you that there is no reason for you to feel hurt. Sounds crazy, right?? It is. And they want you to believe them, not you. Don’t fall for it. Trust your gut.
Second, know your own value and worth. As a believer my value and worth comes from my Creator. It’s not about what I do or don’t do, say or don’t say, feel or don’t feel. It’s about who HE says I am. Psalm 139:14 says that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I may not feel that…but remember, I don’t live by feelings, but believe it because He says it is true about me. And that is enough.
The reason I say that this is important is because when it comes to setting boundaries with someone who gaslights you, you need to be able to trust yourself and to know that you are valuable enough to be respected. Not someone who deserves to be tricked or belittled or made to feel crazy.
Please work through this for yourself. Be convinced of who and Whose you are. Setting and keeping boundaries will be so much easier when you know what is true about you versus what they want you to believe about you.
So then, what does a boundary look like with a gaslighter?
Let’s go back to them saying something hurtful and then denying they did it.
That’s what gaslighting is….a denial of your reality and causing you to question it.
When you tell them how you feel and then they deny, excuse or justify, either what was said or how you should feel, what will you do? You know what was said and how it felt. Trust that. Instead of engaging with them in conversation, because you won’t win, simply tell them again, that you know what they said and how you feel as a result and that you are choosing to not engage in conversation with them at this time. Then walk away.
This will feel hard because it feels like nothing is settled. But does it get settled when you stay and they try to convince you that you are wrong? Or do you end up just feeling worse and even more confused?
My guess is option two….which is not the option we want. We are wanting to grow and heal through this and engaging causes us to take a step back.
Here’s another one.
Your spouse is in a bad mood because of something that happened at work. He comes home and dumps his crap all over you….I don’t mean venting or talking things out, which can be healthy. I mean he takes his bad mood out on you. You may say something like, you are sorry that he had a bad day but you are not going to tolerate him talking to you like that. If he chooses to calm down and talk, you will be happy to listen. Otherwise, you are leaving the room. Then follow through.
A gaslighter will not own what he’s doing. He will turn it around on you and tell you that you’re making too much of it or you’re his partner and supposed to be there for him. Even if there is a portion of truth in what he says, he is trying to convince you that you are wrong for not accepting his abusive speech. Calmly stand your ground. Reiterate that you will be happy to listen when he calms down and can talk to you without blame. And walk away.
To reiterate. A boundary is like a fence. It’s what you will and will not allow in your yard. Often we think in order to be a good person or a kind Christian or godly wife, we have to take whatever is thrown our way. That is not true. It’s a process of teaching people what we will and will not tolerate in our lives. In order to do this correctly, we need to calmly, not in the midst of conflict, outline what we will accept and what the boundary will be if that line is crossed. When it’s crossed, we need to follow up on what we said by action.
A boundary is not used to control or manipulate or to punish another person. Boundaries communicate our own self worth and value to others because we are putting limits on what we will and will not allow in our lives. When we consistently follow through on the consequences to a boundary violation, others will begin to treat us with more respect. Sadly, it may not always bring about awareness in the one who gaslights. That’s when we have to decide if we will continue in the relationship and keep our tight boundaries, or if it’s time to leave it.
Only you get to decide.
What areas are you needing more help with in setting and keeping boundaries?
Since setting boundaries, what do you notice in your relationships?