We are very fortunate to have PSA therapist, MJ Denis, sharing over the next few weeks. Last week, MJ explained the phenomenon of gaslighting — a form of manipulation/emotional abuse that's very familiar to many wives of sex addicts. MJ then went on to briefly introduce the three typical gaslighter profiles, and give us examples of the first: the "glamour" gaslighter. Today MJ digs deeper into what the "good guy" gaslighter and the "intimidator" gaslighter look like.
The Good Guy Gaslighter
The second type of gaslighter is the "good guy" gaslighter. Good guy gaslighters work at pleasing people, yet they may do things that aren’t necessarily helpful or what the gaslightee wishes. They appear to be helpful and kind, however their gaslighting can be so subtle that gaslightees become confused as to why they are disappointed.
"Good guy" gaslighters might offer support but then make the person they are assisting feel selfish or as if they have done something wrong. Good guy gaslighters need to do nice things, not because they care about people, but because they are desperate to prove what good guys they are. This can leave gaslightees feeling like they never quite get what they want, but they don’t know how to name what’s wrong, or what they have to complain about.
For example, Chip and Holly seemed like the perfect couple. Holly’s friends would complement Chip for taking on numerous volunteer activities at church, taking Holly on lavish trips, and helping her manage her ailing mother’s health care.
After three years, Holly felt lonely, confused, anxious and numb. She didn’t know how to explain to her friends and family that while Chip was helpful at church, he complained incessantly at home about how selfish he thought the pastor was for asking Chip to help. Holly didn’t want to seem ungrateful and entitled by complaining about their vacations; however, Chip frequently took her to places she didn’t want to visit. Although she was grateful for assistance caring for her mother, Chip insisted on taking over her mother’s care and refused to discuss medications or doctor’s visits with Holly. Instead he told her she should be appreciative he was there to help at all and she shouldn’t ask questions that inferred she didn’t trust Chip to do a good job.
Holly felt confused because although Chip was helpful, she hadn’t asked for his help and the way he helped was invasive.
The Intimidator Gaslighter
The third type of gaslighter is the "intimidator" gaslighter. This is the most overt and easiest to identify of the three types. This type of gaslighter yells, uses put-downs, criticism, guilt trips, condemnation, and other types of punishment or intimidation. Sometimes intimidator gaslighters ask quick, repetitive questions, much like an interrogation, to move the gaslightees into a state of confusion. An intimidator may use silence or withdrawal as a weapon to punish the recipient. He might mock or make fun of the gaslightee.
Connie realized she was in relationship with an intimidator gaslighter a few months after she began dating her boyfriend, Tim, when he began bullying her to do sexual things with him. She was attracted to him and it felt good to be desired by him. She felt hurt and confused when she said no to some of his advances and Tim responded by calling her a “prude” and a “tease.” He reminded her there were many other women who would jump at the chance to date him. After hours of his scowling and snide comments, she sometimes gave in, even though she didn’t want to.
Two important parts of becoming resilient to the effects of gaslighting involve knowing what gaslighting is, and identifying the type of gaslighter with whom you are in relationship. Understanding how the gaslighter manipulates reality allows the gaslightee to better anticipate and identify the gaslighting and choose to opt-out of the gaslighting interactions.
MJ Denis is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Certified Sex Therapist based in Austin, Texas. MJ’s path has led her to specialize in areas involving unhealthy boundaries, domestic violence, sexual abuse, sexual dysfunction, sexual addiction and infidelity. She uses her certification as a Certified Clinical Partner Specialist to help partners of sex addicts heal from the trauma of betrayal.
Next week MJ will continue the gaslighting series with "Why People Gaslight."
For all the amazing PSAs attending the SASH conference this week. May you see yourself through the eyes of the One who adores you.