A woman, for the sake of my story, is in a marriage with a partner who does not respect her. He insults her regularly, belittles her efforts to improve herself or her situation, and minimizes her feelings.
In fact, when she tries to stand up for herself, things get even worse. The partner calls into question her memories of the event. He dismisses the way things made her feel, calling the emotions "ridiculous" or "stupid." He convinces her she's overreacting and that he was only trying to do what was best for her. When she brings something up, he completely rewrites the event, causing her to doubt what actually happened because she's in a vulnerable state due to the constant abuse.
In a situation like this, the abused partner often feels powerless, confused, and unable to leave the situation. They are at a disadvantage because they've been influenced to doubt their own reality. This leaves them trapped deeper and deeper in the abusive scenario. They feel unable to escape because they're really not sure what actually happened. Were they blowing things out of proportion? Are they, in fact, stupid, forgetful, and inept?
Abusive relationships follow a pattern. There's a period of breaking the victim down, isolating them from their support systems, and making them dependent on the abuser. Then, the abused partner is maneuvered into the belief that she can't get by on her own.
This master manipulation is how people become trapped in abusive relationships.
And, as I'm about to show, not all abusive relationships are one-on-one romantic relationships.
What is gaslighting?
Medical News Today defines gaslighting.
Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which a person or group causes someone to question their own sanity, memories, or perception of reality. People who experience gaslighting may feel confused, anxious, or as though they cannot trust themselves.