Gaslighting is a common manipulative behavior in a relationship. Unfortunately, it is not limited to adult relationships. Teenagers can also be involved in toxic, manipulative relationships that can be emotionally and mentally harmful.
What Is Gaslighting?
Gaslighting means making someone believe they could be losing touch with reality as a way to manipulate them. The term is taken from a play called Gas Light.
The 1938 play tells the story of a woman who believes she is losing her mind. Her husband makes her question reality by turning down the gas lights in their home and then denies noticing any changes.
Eventually, the term “gaslighting” became synonymous with someone manipulating another person’s perception of reality.
How Can Gaslighting Impact a Teenager’s Relationship?
Making someone believe they are losing touch with reality can force that person to rely on their manipulative partner. Gaslighting may also involve creating drama or conflict between a victim and their friends and family. The conflict drives the victim closer to their manipulative partner.
Many manipulative individuals are narcissists. A narcissist is someone who is preoccupied with themselves. They have an inflated sense of self-importance and a lack of empathy for other people.
Instead of taking responsibility for their actions, a narcissist blames their partner. They slowly tear down their partner’s sense of self-worth. The victim begins to believe they are the “bad” person in the relationship and “lucky” to have the narcissist “love” them.
What Are Some Signs of a Teen Partner’s Manipulative Behavior?
It can be difficult to recognize that you are in an emotionally abusive relationship.
Signs that your teen partner is being manipulative and gaslighting you include:
- Isolating you from family and friends, including making you believe they don’t love or like you
- Acting exceptionally jealous of your relationships with other people, including members of both sexes
- Twisting the truth so that you are always wrong and they are always right
- Being possessive, including demanding that you do not use social media, wear specific outfits, or engage in certain activities
- Demanding that you change your habits, including giving up favorite hobbies and activities
- Undermining your goals by belittling what you want to achieve
- You do anything to avoid conflict or cause your partner to be “disappointed” or upset
- Demanding that you constantly check in with them through calls, texts, and social media
- Shaming you and making you feel unworthy
- Threatening to harm themselves if you end the relationship
- Forcing you or trying to force you into sexual acts or other behavior you do not want to engage in
- Using your insecurities against you, including making demeaning comments in a way that sounds like a compliment (i.e., “That outfit does not make you look as fat as you usually do.”)
- Being verbally, physically, and/or emotionally abusive
- You feel as if something isn’t right, but you ignore your “gut” and try to convince yourself everything is okay
- You put your partner’s interests ahead of yours and adopt what they like and their lifestyle, regardless of whether you enjoy those activities
If you believe you are in a manipulative teen relationship or your teenager is in an abusive relationship, seek help. You can call the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline and get help from other resources for teen dating violence. Talk to your parents or another trusted adult about your situation.
How Can You Get Out of a Manipulative Teen Relationship?
The first step is to recognize that your teen partner is manipulative. The thought of ending the relationship can be overwhelming. In addition, you might fear what your teen partner might do if you try to break up with them.
Therefore, confide in someone you trust if you’ve been the victim of teen dating violence. For example, tell your parents, a health provider, or other trusted adult. Confiding in friends can also be helpful. However, adults know how to handle these situations and will help you take steps to protect yourself.
Seek mental health therapy to deal with the emotional aspect of ending a manipulative relationship. A manipulative relationship can have a lasting effect. Therapy can help you overcome the emotional damage caused by a manipulative teen partner.
Talking about what happened to you can help you overcome the trauma. In addition, a therapist can give you the skills to cope with the difficult memories as you heal from an abusive relationship.
Seek Help Right Away if You Are in Danger of an Abusive Teen Partner
If your teen partner physically hurts you, seek medical care. Call 911 if you believe you are in immediate harm. Tell your parents immediately about the abuse.
You are not at fault. You did not do anything that justifies physical, verbal, or emotional abuse. You deserve to be treated with respect by your teen partner.