“Gaslighting” in Divorce and Custody Cases

Gaslighting is a technique where a person can manipulate you into causing you to doubt something that you otherwise know to be true. You see this in situations where two people are engaging in an argument where one is most certainly in the wrong and the other one has the upper ground in terms of making an argument. The person who is on the losing side of the argument could start to engage in gaslighting behavior to do their best to convince the other person that they are wrong, and the other person is right. While gaslighting doesn’t always work, when it does, it could be extremely detrimental to the mental well-being of the person who is being gaslighted.

Manipulative people are very difficult to deal with in social settings and at work period, however, it can become even more difficult to deal with a gaslighting person when you are married to him or her or engaged in a child custody case with him or her. The reason is that the subject matter that you may be gaslit about is extremely important and includes your children, your property, and your well-being after the family law case. You want to be as careful as possible when it comes to dealing with a person who may be gaslighting you.

It is sometimes difficult to identify when you are being gaslit especially if you are not all that good at picking up on social cues and tendencies of other people. You may be very good at things like parenting, other social skills in a wide range of topics. However, if picking up on the tendencies of a person who engages in gaslighting is not one of those skills that you have you may be susceptible to being gaslit and not even know that you are being put into that position by a person that you would otherwise trust.

How can you identify whether you are being gaslighted? This is an important question for you to ask at this stage of your case. The faster you learn how to identify gaslighting the more ready you can be to defend yourself from it. Additionally, if it comes to a situation where you need to prove that gaslighting has occurred you can work to be able to produce evidence of it in case you need to present that evidence in a courtroom. For now, let’s walk through what are some common signs of gaslighting that you may have experienced in your family life.

One of the things that people who engage in gaslighting are very good at is convincing you to ignore your instincts. This could mean that when you feel like something is wrong the person who engages in gaslighting behavior can convince you that nothing is out of the ordinary. This will leave you second-guessing yourself and being unsure if you can trust your instincts. From there, the person who engages in gaslighting will be able to convince you of things that you might otherwise not believe. The only reason you are doubting yourself is that the gaslighting person has been consistent in trying to show you that you were wrong about something and that he or she is right.

The easy piece of advice for me to give would be for you to always trust your instincts. I know that it is easy for me to say this and sometimes difficult to put into practice. Your spouse is someone that you are supposed to trust with your entire life. That can leave you susceptible to being fooled or manipulated for a period. hopefully, that period is relatively short, and you are quickly able to learn when you are being manipulated. However, you can nip that in the bud by being vigilant regarding gaslighting behavior. All it requires is for you to cast a discerning eye on your spouse more frequently and to trust what you see and experience rather than what any other person tells you is the truth.

Part of the gaslighting process is casting doubt on your actions in response to your spouse. If you find that you have been second-guessing your actions towards your spouse in terms of being too demanding or disrespectful then you should determine whether or not you have been demanding or disrespectful or if your spouse has made you feel that way by manipulating, you and your emotions. Making you feel guilty about your actions towards him or her is exactly what your manipulative spouse wants you to think. This will cause you to think more about your actions and or her bad actions. In the end, you need to look at yourself carefully and determine whether you have been acting appropriately towards him or her.

Many people in your position also try to rationalize the behavior of their spouse. The rationalization process helps to maintain their sense of sanity while keeping a hold on a somewhat stable life. Once a person understands that they are being gaslit and then try to do something about it that could mean that a divorce is not far around the corner. When you move towards divorce your life will be thrown for a loop. The consistencies in your life will be taken from you as soon as you try to confront this person. While this may be necessary it may not be something that you are comfortable with. For that reason, it can be easier for you to rationalize the bad behavior if it keeps you in a mental space that is free of upheaval. However, your life may need some upheaval to be in a better place in the long run.

Talk with your friends and family

If the only person that you are talking to about the problems in your marriage is your spouse, then you may have a problem on your hands. Your friends and family are good sources for you to be able to bounce your ideas off in terms of finding out if you are being unreasonable or reasonable when it comes to different issues in your marriage. These are folks that know you well, in some cases have known you longer than your spouse, and can help you to see if you have a reason for concern with your spouse’s behavior.

Having this support system available to you is crucial if your spouse is engaging in gaslighting behavior. It can be frustrating, to say the least when you feel like everything in your life has gone from bad to worse. When your spouse is doing their best to convince you that you are losing your mind that only stands to place even more stress on your shoulders. Your friends and family are available to help you learn more about yourself and to confirm with you that your spouse is not being fair and is harming you. Without a support system like this, you may seriously have doubts about whether you can make good decisions for yourself.

Do not feel embarrassed by what is happening in your personal life. The people that are in your support system will not judge you or think less of you for going through a divorce. Most of the time these folks will want to do whatever they can to help push you towards people and resources that can help you during a time of need in your family. Everyone needs help at some time in their lives. Your time is now. Lean on your support system and be available for them when their time comes. It will help you to come to grips with the divorce and to understand better the limitations of your marriage and how to prepare for the divorce.


One of the major issues that I have observed in people who are the victims of gaslighting in their marriage is that they often approach decisions as being something that they constantly need positive reinforcement from their spouses about. This is true even after the divorce begins. You would imagine that if you are going through a divorce you would begin to care less and less about what your spouse thinks of you and what their opinion is. However, the gaslighting process can be so profound that it is hard to get away from it even as you go through a divorce. To be sure, when you are seeking the opinion and perspective of your spouse during a divorce that is usually not a great thing.

Why may this be the case? For starters, remember that a person who has been gaslit begins to second guess themselves. Not only when it comes to issues related to their divorce but also when it comes to issues related to their life in general and reality. Your grip on reality may be limited because your spouse causes you to believe that is the case. No matter how based you or your opinions are it is nevertheless important for you to understand that your spouse gaslighting you can be something that causes you significant issues in terms of your ability to make decisions independently from him or her.

What can you do to prevent this from happening to you? The first thing I would recommend is to continue to rely upon your support system as soon as the divorce has been filed. These are the folks that will ground you and help you to see reality for what it is- rather than what your spouse has convinced you of. I cannot stress how critical it is for you to be able to work with your friends and family to help you understand that you are not crazy, you are valued, and that you see reality on reality’s terms rather than as a person who has a weak grip (at best) when it comes to reality.

Next, it is extremely valuable to have an experienced family law attorney by your side if you feel that you have become co-dependent due to a history of gaslighting. The attorney can help you not get stepped all over in the negotiation phase of a case. Many times, a gaslighting spouse will assume that you will back down and not be aggressive enough to take your case to court for a trial if the situation would otherwise call for it. Rather than backing down from a challenge or choosing to avoid conflict, it may make sense for you to stand up to your spouse and go forward to a trial if he or she is being completely outrageous in their negotiations with you.

The attorney that you work with should be told about the kind of marriage yours is. Once your attorney learns about the kind of marriage yours is he or she will be better positioned to help you get past that kind of hang-up and move on towards a divorce where you can present yourself as a competent, independent party. The alternative is to appear weak, unwilling to decide on your own, and incapable of thinking for yourself. A spouse like yours can pick up on these kinds of signs quickly and this will impact how you can negotiate with him or her.

Think about the future after divorce- what do you see?

Most people going through a divorce begin to picture their lives after a divorce rather than focus on the minutiae of the case itself. This is understandable given that you likely have more to look forward to after the divorce than you do during the divorce. However, if you find yourself incapable of looking forward to life after your divorce then you may be the victim of gaslighting in your marriage. A future without your spouse is something that a gaslit spouse like you may not be able to tolerate.

By this time, you may be so worried about your tenuous grip on reality that you do not trust yourself to make decisions about major subjects in your life. This is a huge red flag. Thinking about how you are going to raise your kids in a co-parenting situation, where you are going to live, what changes you are going to make to your life, what short term and long-term goals are can be examples of worthwhile places for you to place your attention during a divorce. However, if these broad topics do not interest you then there may be an issue related to gaslighting in your marriage.

Related to this topic is being unable to find enjoyment in activities that you used to have fun doing. Whether it be going to your child’s sporting events, taking part in the neighborhood gardening club, or joining a group at church, if you cannot find joy in activities that you used to be able to then you may be in a gaslighting situation in your marriage. Unfortunately, there is no way out but through. This means- you are not going to be able to shake the problems in your marriage by sitting on the sideline and imagining that these issues are going to go away on their own. Rather, it is time for you to take concrete steps towards legally ending your marriage.

Divorce is the best thing for everyone involved…right?

Second, guessing yourself is a hallmark of a gaslit spouse. If you find yourself changing your mind seemingly every hour on the major issues of your life, then you may be gaslit. Trusting yourself is a very important part of being an adult. If you cannot trust yourself then you are in trouble. No white knight is coming to save you in your marriage. Rather, you are the white night who must take the steps to save yourself. When you think about divorce it may not give you the warmth and fuzzies, but it should give you a reason to consider why you are going through all the trouble.

This is where the support system that we were discussing earlier makes a huge difference. Even if you are not able to completely trust yourself and your judgment you can rely upon the opinions of your friends and family. These folks will not steer you wrong and will not lead you into a ditch. Do not be afraid to lean on these folks and to allow them to help you. Sometimes pride gets in the way. You are doing fine, you’ll tell yourself. You don’t need help from anyone. Consider whether these are true statements that you tell yourself or if you just repeat these mantras to make it to the next day. If learning more about the divorce process is what is holding you back from filing your case, consider the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan.

Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family’s circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.


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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding Divorce, it’s important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Child Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our Divorce lawyers in Spring TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Waller County.

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