How to Deal With Narcissistic Gaslighting

You don’t need to be a mental health professional to know when you’ve encountered someone with narcissistic traits. One of the hallmark traits of a narcissist is gaslighting people close to them. Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that can leave victims full of self-doubt and questioning their own perceptions.

Perhaps you have been a victim of gaslighting. How can you protect yourself and preserve your perception of reality in a relationship with someone like this? 

Narcissism and gaslighting

We hear a lot about narcissists today. The current definition of a narcissist is “a pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and lack of empathy.” And while narcissism is a very real personality disorder that requires a formal diagnosis, one thing is certain. Narcissistic behaviors, whether clinically diagnosed or not, are manipulative and emotionally abusive. 

One of the tactics narcissists use to control others is gaslighting. The term comes from a play about a man who gets his wife to question her own sanity by causing the gaslights in their home to flicker. 

And that’s the basic modus operandi of the narcissist. By getting others to question themselves, their worth, and their sense of reality, the narcissist gains and maintains control. On a broader scale, narcissists use the same tactics to protect their ego, maintain superiority over others, and keep others from challenging them. 

Signs of narcissistic gaslighting in a relationship

Narcissists typically inflict this abusive behavior on those who are closest to them. This makes romantic relationships at high risk of manipulative gaslighting by a narcissistic partner. If you’re in a relationship with a narcissist, you may recognize these signs of being gaslit.

You doubt your reality

Your partner denies your memories of an experience. They may deny that it happened at all. You begin to doubt yourself, even if others can corroborate it. Eventually, you start to doubt the overall reliability of your own perceptions and interpretations of events.

Victim blaming and shaming

Your partner refuses to take responsibility for their own actions or words. When cornered, they blame you for their behavior, claiming you caused them to do it. 


They have no problem with outright lies, causing you to mistrust anything they say. When they’re caught in a lie, they often double down on their version of the “truth” and blame others for lying. 


The end game of the narcissist is to get their way and maintain control. Coercion is frequently how they do that. Their tactics range from feigning caring in one moment to being hostile the next. 

Belittling you and trivializing your opinions

Your narcissist partner exerts control by making you feel less. They do this by making you and your opinions and needs seem small and inconsequential. 

Gaslighting techniques are a form of abuse. If you recognize any of these signs of gaslighting in your relationship, consider getting help from an outside party. It is very difficult for someone in an abusive relationship to get out without help.

How gaslighting can “sneak up” on you

Gaslighting is an insidious and often covert type of controlling behavior, making it so effective. 

Your narcissistic partner can be attentive and charming at first. Their controlling comments begin subtly and may even contain seeds of truth that can make you consider their validity. As you get further into the controlling nature of the relationship, their behavior can become more overt and even physically abusive. Unfortunately, by then, you may already be questioning your own sense of reality. 

How to respond to your partner’s gaslighting behaviors

Being in a relationship with a narcissistic partner is exhausting and confusing, and it can even be emotionally and physically dangerous. Breaking free from their control requires focus and restraint on your part.

First, trust yourself

You’re not crazy. You are being maliciously manipulated. You must first trust yourself enough to focus on removing yourself from their control. Keep your guard up so you don’t fall back into their manipulation. 

Put distance between you and the gaslighter

You may need to physically and emotionally remove yourself from the situation. Refuse to engage. The more you engage with a gaslighter, the easier it is for their manipulation to continue. 

Read: Setting Firm Boundaries in Your Relationships

Set firm boundaries

Setting boundaries is critical when dealing with a narcissistic partner. But the most important boundaries are the ones you set with yourself. Recognize their behavior for the manipulation it is, and stop defending yourself to someone who will merely turn it back on you. Stand your ground, and promise yourself you will no longer be intimidated. And finally, get support and help.

Disengaging from a narcissistic partner is difficult. While you may still care deeply for them, you need to recognize their ability to throw you off guard. When you’re in over your head, getting the help of a therapist, a support group, or even couples counseling can ensure you have what you need to stay aware and focused instead of remaining vulnerable to further abuse. 

Relationships are complicated. If you’re married to a narcissistic spouse, divorce may be on your horizon. At Hello Divorce, we understand that a bad relationship can affect everything around you. We offer online divorce plans and other related professional services as well as a library of resources to educate you along the way. 

Suggested: 7 Signs of a Toxic Marriage

Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.