“Gaslighting” in Divorce and Custody Cases

Gaslighting in custody battles is a manipulation tactic often used to sow doubt and confusion in the minds of those involved. It typically occurs when one party is in the wrong but seeks to shift blame onto the other by distorting reality and questioning their perceptions. This behavior can be especially harmful during custody disputes, where emotions are already heightened. Victims of gaslighting may find themselves questioning their own judgment and sanity, leading to significant mental distress. While not always successful, gaslighting can have severe consequences for the mental well-being of those subjected to it, making it a concerning issue in custody battles.

Dealing with manipulative individuals is challenging, whether in social or professional contexts. However, it becomes even more complex when such manipulation occurs within marriage or during a child custody case. The stakes are high, involving matters such as children, property, and personal well-being. It’s crucial to approach interactions with gaslighting individuals cautiously.

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. If you lack the skill to recognize gaslighting behaviors, you might unknowingly fall victim to manipulation by someone you trust.

Gaslighting: Recognizing the Signs and Protecting Yourself

Identifying gaslighting involves recognizing signs of manipulation in your interactions and relationships. 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.

Gaslighters excel at undermining your instincts, making you doubt your perceptions. They manipulate situations to make you question your judgment, leaving you uncertain and vulnerable to their influence. This cycle erodes your confidence, making it easier for them to manipulate you further.

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. Trusting your spouse with your entire life can leave you vulnerable to manipulation, which may occur for a period of time. It’s essential to recognize signs of manipulation promptly to protect yourself. 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.

Navigating Gaslighting: Recognizing Manipulative Tactics

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.

Moving towards divorce can upheave your life, stripping away its consistencies as you confront your spouse. 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, embracing upheaval may be necessary for a better long-term outcome in your life.

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. Lean on your support system during your divorce; they won’t judge you and can offer valuable assistance. Everyone needs help at some point, and now it’s your turn. Accept their support, and be there for them when they need you. This will help you come to terms with the divorce, understand your marriage’s limitations, and prepare for the future.


Gaslighting victims in marriage often seek constant positive reinforcement from their spouses, even during and after divorce. Despite the divorce process, they remain influenced by gaslighting, seeking their spouse’s opinion and perspective. This reliance on their spouse’s validation can persist, hindering their ability to break free from the gaslighting cycle. Seeking a spouse’s opinion during divorce is typically unwise.

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.

Tell your attorney about the nature of your marriage. Once they understand its dynamics, they can better assist you in overcoming any obstacles and transitioning towards a divorce where you can assert 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.

If you’re unable to enjoy activities you once loved, like attending your child’s events or participating in community groups, it may signal a gaslighting situation in your marriage. Avoiding the problem won’t make it disappear; instead, it’s crucial to take proactive steps towards ending your marriage legally.

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.


Gaslighting in custody battles poses a significant threat to the mental well-being of those involved. As a manipulation tactic aimed at distorting reality and sowing doubt, gaslighting can leave individuals feeling confused, invalidated, and emotionally drained. The impact of gaslighting extends beyond the immediate dispute, affecting long-term mental health and interpersonal relationships. Recognizing the signs of gaslighting and seeking support from trusted sources, such as mental health professionals or legal advocates, is crucial for safeguarding against its harmful effects. By raising awareness and fostering open dialogue about gaslighting in custody battles, we can work towards creating safer, more supportive environments for all parties involved in family law disputes.

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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