manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.
A couple blogs ago I mentioned that I was in a toxic relationship... and when I say toxic I mean the term 'gaslight' was created for my ex—because of my ex. At the time, I didn't think I was in a toxic relationship, but I did think I was crazy.
But isn't that love? Love makes you do crazy things. Love is hard. Love requires compromise. Love conquers all. Love means never having to say sorry.
Starting to sound familiar? They're the cliches we're told about love and relationships when we're growing up. They're the reason so many of us accept and justify toxic behavior in a relationship. We think it's normal. But don't be confused—just because something is common does not make it okay. Again: just because something is common does not make it okay.
Please don't take this as me passing judgement towards anyone. Who am I to judge? I've walked there in my own shoes, and you're the only one in your shoes. I justified every last bit of toxic behavior because I loved him. I let him tell me how terrible of a partner AND person I was until I believed it. I became a shell of myself and it took me almost three years to come back to life.
I will give you an example. He was sending inappropriate DMs to a "family friend" at 2 am. I saw them and called him out. Instead of apologizing and taking responsibility, he turned it on me. Why were you looking through my phone? You can trust me but I can't even trust you with my password. You are overreacting. You know she's just a friend. Why are you being so crazy right now? I immediately felt bad. My intention was not to be the crazy girlfriend... perhaps I did overreact...
NO. NO. NO. NO. STOP!!!
(In the spirit of all the people who are going to defend him, I will happily admit that I've definitely grown a lot since this relationship and I did act in ways that I am not as proud to admit. Guess what? Doesn't change the fact that he's a gaslighter.)
If there's one positive thing that came out of this relationship, though, it's my tolerance for disrespect and bullshit (hint: the threshold is getting lower every day). I feel like I leveled up from Del Taco to Finney's (still working on getting to Mastro's level—nobody's perfect).
I can now categorize guys (this can apply to anyone though) on the first date: red lights, green lights and yellow lights aka gaslighters.
Red lights: From the start you know this isn't an actual match—vibe is off and energy is bad. If they're sending you texts BEFORE THE DATE that sound like: "Send me a pic of your beautiful face so I know you're real ;)" followed by a mirror selfie of them in just their underwear... I promise they're not your dreamboat.
Green lights: Is tomorrow too soon for another date? You are attracted to them—emotionally, intellectually and physically. You're having fun. They’re genuinely asking questions AND interested in your answers. They're not looking at their phone. Even if they have a different opinion on a subject, you feel respected and safe.
Yellow lights aka gaslighters: This ones hard to tell because they usually seem like green lights... until they say something. All it takes is one thing—the one thing that makes your mind do a quick rewind. But you decide to ignore it since it's the first date and you've really enjoyed yourself thus far. You think to yourself: "I can look past that. They'll change their mind down the road. It's not THAT important... is it?" Yes it is. Walk away now. This person will cause nothing but unnecessary pain and turmoil in your life. More examples? I'm so glad you asked. Here are some potential early dating scenarios:
1) You say that you love baseball—you played growing up and go to as many games as possible. They then spend the next ten minutes talking about why baseball is a terrible sport, they never go to games and you should watch hockey... Aside from the fact that you don't have a major interest in common, they're already talking poorly about something you love (aka they don't respect your opinion) AND they're trying to convince you that what they like/want to do is better. Walk away.
2) You make a joke to the waiter. (Happy waiter = better service, amirite?) They make a pointed "joke" about you flirting with the waiter. Five minutes later, the waiter comes back and they make another joke about your new lover and whether you're going to hang out with them after the date is over. It seems harmless, but it's a neon sign for WALK. AWAY.
I can hear the naysayers now: "Opposites attract. My S.O. and I love to banter. That happened to me and we're still together." Great! Please throw a party for yourselves and then don't invite me.
I'm not saying you can't be "opposites" or have different hobbies (and if that's all you got out of that then we really should talk...) because what those scenarios are showing is a difference in character, not interests. What that person is really saying is that they don't respect you nor your opinion, they're selfish, don't actually want to be in an equal partnership and think they can change who you are and what you believe.
For context, here are "green light" versions of both examples:
1) You say that you love baseball—you played growing up and go to as many games as possible. They laugh: "Noooo! Just when I thought you were perfect. Baseball is soooo boring." They argue that hockey is way more exciting, but they'll go to baseball games to hang with you and eat hot dogs if you promise to go to hockey games with them. Still opposite hobbies, but much cuter intentions. See?
2) You make a joke to the waiter. (Happy waiter = better service, amirite?) They also laugh at your joke. Perhaps they join in? That's it. Nothing else is acceptable here.
Life can be hard, but your relationships shouldn't be; but if your relationships are hard, then your life definitely will be. Pickin' up what I'm puttin' down?
I'm not saying it's always rainbows and sunshine or that there's not going to be times of darkness or compromise, but what's important is that you're with someone who understands you, respects you, and listens to you.
Even if you’re currently saying: "But I really am crazy," I promise if you surround yourself with different people, you will see those changes reflected in yourself. We surround ourselves with how we see ourselves and vice versa. Level up. You deserve it.