Should I worry about his gaslighting or is it relatively harmless?

PreciousChild

MyPTSD Pro
Hi all. I haven't posted in a while. I've been feeling pretty healthy and hardly get triggered, which is what often motivates me to run here. I think my boyfriend has a lot to do with it. He has been a reassuring presence in my life. We've been together for over two years. When I get triggered by something he does, I will talk to him, let him know how I'm feeling, and also let him know details about my background that I think is shaping my reactions. He hears me, accepts me, and tells me that he loves me. It's been healing. But I've always known that he's not perfect. He can be a bit self-centered and selfish. Recently, he did something that hurt me. I requested a weekend where he and I would not have our teen boys to celebrate my birthday. He and I both try to do something special. It turns out, his ex needed that weekend, so he let her have it, and rather than talk to me about it or ask me if it's okay, he simply made the plans and proceeded to gaslight me. He has been trying to convince me that I was equally fine with two weekends. In the end, I'm okay with making a switch - I understand custody stuff and things come up. But I'm super uncomfortable that he resorted to trying to convince me to question my perception so that I could take part or all of the blame, rather than just discuss the situation with me straight up. We talked about it, and he did apologize for his part after I finally got him to admit that what he was trying to convince me of was not true. My question is, should I be worried? Should I put my trust in him on hold? Like many of us who have cptsd, I have a very diminished capacity to heed red flags.
 

Friday

Moderator
He has been trying to convince me that I was equally fine with two weekends.
How sure are you that
- he’s deliberately lying & attempting to manipulate you, rather than simply being wrong?
OR
- that he’s not wrong, but there was a misunderstanding between the two of you. (You thought you were clear on a specific weekend, he thought you were clear that either weekend would work.)

I know you said this..
We talked about it, and he did apologize for his part after I finally got him to admit that what he was trying to convince me of was not true.
But that can ALSO equate to simply being wrong and apologizing to you for trying to convince you he was right, now realizing he was wrong. Whether it was straight up he pulled the idea out of his ass (which can happen very easily, when there’s a history of being okay with custody aggravations & moving things around & then simply forgetting to talk to you about it, or assuming this time would be like every other time. Very much like zoning out whilst driving the same stretch of road, or automatically buying the kind of ice cream you know they like best and thinking you’d asked what kind they wanted, or forgetting they asked for a different kind... brains fill in the gaps with what they expect) / or whether it was a total misunderstanding.
 
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PreciousChild

MyPTSD Pro
Thanks for your question. I know it was gaslighting because I've seen him do this before to others. If something seems inconvenient, he'll tell a white lie/lie instead or steer you in another direction. It's usually nothing more malicious than that.

In this case, to add more detail, the weekend I wanted to celebrate my birthday is still "free" officially, but since his ex asked to take their son the weekend before that, he was steering me towards celebrating my birthday the weekend his son was going to be away. Convenience is very much his motivation. If he had said, "a situation came up and I'd really appreciate it if you would consider switching," I would have done it. He even says that I'm flexible. He calls me a "better person than Jesus." But instead, I learned about the new arrangement when him and his son had a conversation about not being able to do X this weekend because he'll be with his mom, so they will do it the next weekend. Clearly, my boyfriend never planned to celebrate my birthday on the weekend I requested. And he made planned that without even letting me know. I told him I was hurt that he did not discuss it with me, he didn't allow me to be a part of the decision process. His response was to say that I was equally at fault because I should have specified that "you did not want T. around". He put it extra harshly so that I would react with guilt. My response was that I clearly requested a weekend to ourselves, just as he had for his birthday, because it's rare that we get a weekend without his son. Why would I make a "special" request for a regular weekend? I asked my boyfriend 3 times within our conversation if he wanted to truly assert that by my request, he understood that to mean that I wanted to celebrate with T. around. He finally relented because it was illogical. But he never really acknowledged that he planned poorly or that he just got lazy. He gaslit me to turn the blame on me. I reminded him that I had his birthday plans laid out a month in advance and protected those plans and wanted to make it special. I felt like his plans for me were half-hearted. I know that about him, so I'm almost ready to forgive. But then on top of that, he tried to gaslight me into feeling guilty for my own hurt.
 

Friday

Moderator
Okay... so this wouldn’t be a warning sign, then... but a known quantity. This is how he operates. He treats everyone this way, including you, and there’s very little liklihood of it ever changing.

IDK if you’ve ever read Gottman’s 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work? (It not? Do! It’s freaking brilliant.) If so? This is the kind of thing that would probably fall under perpetual problems, rather than solvable problems.

Which would mean that I have a decision to make... Can I live with it? And if so, what would that look like/ what might that look like?

((Am I going to get angry every time? Am I slowing going to start accepting his version of reality? Am I going to grow to laugh about it, 9 times out of 10? Will I be non-plused/neutral about it? Will havin to defend my position make me stronger and more self confident, or weaker and less confident? <<< AND am I also okay with that?))

No right/wrong answer with any of the above. Some people’s imperfections are intolerable, but in no way overshadow the rest, whilst others are dealbreakers. Meanwhile the same imperfection that’s intolerable to one person, is mildly annoying to another, and amusing to a third.

So whether or not it’s a dealbreaker or relatively harmless or somewhere in between? Would totally depend on you. Rather than the behavior itself, in my experience.
 
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PreciousChild

MyPTSD Pro
I thought that maybe if I said to him that this is potentially a big problem for me, he might be able to work on it. But maybe you're right, @Friday. But I also take from your advice that maybe it is in the range of "relatively normal". He is a really decent human being, and does this kind of thing only in particular situations. It has caused distrustful feelings in me, but maybe I could possibly learn to put those particular times in context, and still maintain trust in him overall.

Thanks, @EveHarrington. The timing is more about the fact that it is midwinter break for most schools in the area. I wish my boyfriend could have said to his ex to consider the following weekend. But part of his reluctance to ever push back is that she's narcissistic and can get explosive (possibly borderline). I think it's totally unfair that she gets her way because he's afraid of her, but I don't because I'm flexible. But such times of conflict are rare, their son will grow up and they will no longer need to deal with each other, and they're divorced for a reason. I'm not going to expect anyone here to change.
 

Friday

Moderator
I thought that maybe if I said to him that this is potentially a big problem for me, he might be able to work on it. But maybe you're right, @Friday. But I also take from your advice that maybe it is in the range of "relatively normal". He is a really decent human being, and does this kind of thing only in particular situations. It has caused distrustful feelings in me, but maybe I could possibly learn to put those particular times in context, and still maintain trust in him overall
For sure.

Like with all/most things, it exists on a spectrum. Some people are pathological about neeeeeever accepting any kind of responsibility (including mistakes, but not limited to) & push it off onto others in myriad ways (from despotically cruel and deliberately abusive to sunshine sweet and fatalistic as fawk); others it comes up occasionally or in certain circumstance (the best lawyers have the ability -to tapdance or flow like water around any rock- honed razor sharp... as do several other professions that involve “spin” or perception or persuasion... even if they are absolutely meticulous in accepting responsibility in their personal lives); for others it’s a learned coping mechanism rather than in their nature (a just like it’s opposite, accepting responsibility for things that aren’t their lookout much less fault, both are super common effects of abuse); for yet others it’s very out of character for them, but they’ll still duck responsibility on occasion... even if it’s only calling in “sick” to work, or pretending to have written down a different appointment time rather than being late.

Where HE exists on that spectrum & in what flavour? No idea, but I really don’t need to know, either... as I’m not the one dating him. To use the lawyer example for a moment? Some people could never date someone who is so DIFFERENT in their personal/professional lives. As they simply cannot trust anyone who is not entirely steady in their word/deed. Whilst others feel a profound sense of trust in someone who is choosing to be scrupulously responsible in their personal lives, as demonstrated by their ability to deflect any & all responsibility that they care to in their professional lives. <<< It’s all a matter of personal preference. What the person dating them wants/doesn’t want in their life.

I used the words “probably” & “likely” (rather than just declaring this is the way he is & always will be)... becuase, yeah. For some people this isn’t in their character, but it’s become a reflective coping mechanism; and over time in a new relationship/situation MAY happen less often, until it almost never happens. That’s not the way things we don’t like about others usually work. The whole “don’t go into a marriage/relationship expecting them to change what you don’t like. It’s just a recipe for 2 very miserable people” thing.
 

PreciousChild

MyPTSD Pro
I just wanted to post an update. I tried to resolve the matter with my bf. What I learned was that he really believed the idea that I wanted either weekend and he was able to by interjecting his own spin on hazy details to favor his interpretation. He didn't think he was deliberately trying to gaslight me. Things were getting a little hairy - I didn't want to go down any rabbit holes, spinning in needless angst and conflict. But I reiterated to him several times that though I didn't like it, I could accept not getting what I wanted. What I couldn't handle was being told that I misperceived my own request and feeling gaslit. He finally did acknowledge my point of view and said that he "should have understood the request to mean without T" but also said that he did not embrace any extrapolation from that (he meant my attributing his intent to make it convenient for him and his ex). I got teary and thanked him for acknowledging that. And it was truly resolved for me after that. We could then go back to our Valentine's Day celebrations. But the day after, I started to feel triggered. I felt exposed - I had just revealed to him that I had these feelings and needs that he had to accommodate, and in my past, expressing such needs and feelings were dangerous. I started ruminating about him breaking up with me and distancing himself from the "crazy bitch." So today, I told him that I felt bad about getting mad. And he reassured me that it was all good. I asked him about his experience in it. He said that he felt he could express his point of view. He said he understood that I had a certain kind of background and experiences that made me sensitive to stuff, which he thought was too much. But he also said that I was perfect in every other way, so that it was all good. He'll say things like that. I still have a gnawing feeling that my expressing my true feelings will lead to something bad and he's only appeasing me to keep me at bay. But I don't hink so - he's been quite loving today, draping his arm around me, complimenting me, etc. This is exactly the kind of reaction my bf has given to my feelings of upset that have been so healing. I hope that there is a next step and that he isn't just pretending to accept my latest eruption, while actually backing away from me.
 

wakeupjakob

New Here
All I see are red flags. And it's unsettling. But I wouldn't give him the benefit of the doubt. Honestly, he shouldn't be seeing his ex in the first place, especially if its in favor over something you wanted from him, and you're actually the one in the relationship. You should come first.
 

PreciousChild

MyPTSD Pro
All I see are red flags. And it's unsettling. But I wouldn't give him the benefit of the doubt. Honestly, he shouldn't be seeing his ex in the first place, especially if its in favor over something you wanted from him, and you're actually the one in the relationship. You should come first.
He has a kid with her.
 
I've been gaslit so much for decades that I often find myself questioning whether or not my memories are accurate. I think most people gaslight others to some extent when they can get away with it, and they honestly don't mean any harm. But - they ARE being disrespectful and testing their boundaries with me, whether they realize it or not. Until recently, I always let people get away with it because I don't like to argue. I don't ever do it because I feel it's horribly immoral. I was a victim of child abuse and then domestic abuse and I've seen how serious the damage from being gaslit can be. For my entire life, I have always just let it go even if I knew without a doubt that somebody was doing it to me, because it takes so much energy to argue about it and I want to be nice. Lately, though, it's become apparent to me that allowing people to do this, and not calling them on it, just allows things to get worse. Also, it gives people the impression I'm gullible and maybe even stupid.

Over the past few weeks I've begun to put my foot down on it and it's come as a big surprise to some people. Last week, when my coworker said "you did such and such wrong," I stood up straight and looked her in the eye and said "No - I did it exactly right." She was surprised and argued with me and I just stood up straighter and very firmly said "I did it correctly, I've done this hundreds of times and I know what I'm doing." She continued to argue with me for a while before finally backing down, confused, and walking away like a wounded dog. I have let her get so accustomed to treating me poorly that she was hurt when I finally stood up for myself! The old me would have just said "Oh, sorry," and allowed her to believe that she'd succeeded in passing blame onto me, because it was easier and also because I'm a nice person and don't like hurting other people's feelings.

I've started it with my boss too. She had told me that she would be giving me a more favorable schedule on March 1. I was very pleasantly surprised. I had not requested the schedule change but I was secretly looking for another job. I thanked her and decided not to resign. Then, I learned from another coworker that the schedule would not be changed until March 28. When I saw my boss I said "Barb mentioned that the schedule won't be changing until the 28th?" and my boss answered "I never told you it was going to change on the first, you're the one that requested for it to start on the 1st." I am so proud of myself for answering "We were looking at the schedule together and you pointed at the computer screen and said 'You'll start your new schedule on the 1st.' I'm OK with starting on the 28th. I'm happy that the schedule will be changing, and I never asked for it to be changed on the 1st. But you're the one who said that, not me."

I'm not going to bring these instances of gaslighting up to my coworker or my boss again, but from now on I will state the truth each and every time somebody gaslights me, and make sure that they know I'm not stupid and I'm not going to accept responsibility for mistakes I did not make. I don't think it will take long for them to realize I'm not going to take it anymore. They're decent people really, it's just natural for most people to try to get away with as much as you'll let them get away with.
 

PreciousChild

MyPTSD Pro
That's awesome, @maybegettingbetter . With the recent experience I had with my boyfriend, I realize how important it is to simply start with the truth. I applaud you for prioritizing your truth. I too often sacrifice that for the sake of getting along, which in some cases might be justified. But I think you're challenging deeply ingrained habits that are not good for you, and that is brave and will help you to live more authentically. The experience I had with my bf and his gaslighting - I could easily see myself conceding my memory of what I said versus what he said. He was chipping away at my memory and reasoning of what happened, which is possible to do with any memory at all. But without being mean or gaslighting him in return, I stuck to my conviction of my truth with all the evidence that I could reiterate to myself even if he wasn't acknowledging it. It was so affirming and a relief when my bf finally did acknowledge the fact of my request, though in his fuzzy way that allowed him to partially justify his own interpretation of the conversations. I'm not sure if you can get the acknowledgement you deserve always or if I will always get that from my bf, but for me I was glad that I was able to hold onto my truth in the face of being gaslit. One of the ways he tried to succeed in gaslighting me was to insinuate that I was being stubborn and needed to be right no matter what. I totally don't want to be that way, so he almost had me there. But I had to remind myself that that wasn't my MO, and I didn't let his accusation sway me this time. It can be hard to stick with your truth when someone is making you feel guilty or giving you a plausible reason for you to question your own truth. If I were being stubborn, I would want to be the type of person to acknowledge it, but I also have to be okay with calling it out when it is being used to enable gaslighting.
 
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