NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Creating Your Sexual Menu With a Yes, No, Maybe List

Many clients who come to see me for sex therapy talk about how intimidating it is when their partner(s) ask them what they like to do sexually. This is daunting for many people whether it's a new relationship or a long term relationship (see my article: Finding Your Sexual Voice).

It's not just that they find it difficult to talk about sex, which can be hard for many people, it's also that they don't know what they like sexually and might not have ever thought about it before (see my articles: How to Talk About Sex - Part 1 and Part 2).

Creating Your Sexual Menu With a Yes, No, Maybe List

Know That You're Not Alone
A lot of people assume everyone else knows what they like to do sexually and they're having swinging-off-the chandelier sex every night.  So, when they hear that being unsure about what's sexually pleasurable is a common problem for many people, they're relieved.  

The first step for many sex therapy clients is to overcome their fear, shame and guilt about sex so they can start to get curious about what they like without judgment (see my article: Exploring Sexual Fantasies Without Guilt or Shame).

Creating Your Sexual Menu With a Yes, No, Maybe List

This is no easy task.  It often means overcoming whatever negative messages they got in their family of origin, their culture or religion where talking about sex was either forbidden or shrouded in mystery.  It can also mean overcome the traumatic effects of sexual abuse.

The next step in the process for many sex therapy clients is to get curious about what they like, don't like or might like to try (see my article: Sexual Pleasure and the Erotic Self).

Depending upon what you're curious about, this could mean exploring beyond whatever sexual experiences you've had so far.

So, for example, for a heterosexual man or woman who has only experienced penis-in-vagina (PIV) sex in the traditional missionary position, this could mean getting curious about other sexual positions or exploring non-penetrative sex, which is often referred to as "outercourse" (see my articles: What is Your Sexual Script? and Changing Your Sexual Script).

Once sex therapy clients give themselves permission to get curious and even feel excited about other sexual possibilities beyond their personal experience, they're often ready to think about and explore many other sexual possibilities.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach in sex therapy for everyone, so there are many ways to explore sexual possibilities.  

Your particular sexual exploration will probably be different from someone else's depending upon many factors including whether you're questioning your sexual orientation or gender, what your experiences have been so far, whether you're in a relationship or relationships and what kind of relationship(s) you're in, if you tend to be cautious or bold, how your attachment style affects you sexually and many other issues (see my article: What is Consensual Non-Monogamy?).

The point is that you and your sex therapist can tailor a sex therapy approach based on your particular needs.

Sex Education in the U.S. is Inadequate at Best
Before we go on, I want to say a word or two about sex education in the U.S.

Unfortunately, most adults didn't get adequate sex education in school--assuming they got any sex ed at all.  This is because most sex education is focused on the negative aspects of sex, including avoiding getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI), avoiding pregnancy and so on.

It's not that these issues aren't important because they certainly are.  It's just that sex is so much more than avoiding negative consequences.  It's also about pleasure, which isn't covered in a most sex ed programs in the United States or in many other countries as of this writing.

How Can You Begin to Explore Sexual Possibilities?
Before you can create a sexual menu for yourself, which I'll discuss in Part 2 of this topic, you need to know about what types of sexual possibilities exist, so it helps if you do some exploration on your own.

The following are a few possibilities for exploring sexual possibilities you might like:
  • Watching Ethical Pornography: Traditional pornography gives very skewed, misogynistic and misleading information about sex. Aside from that, traditional porn has been known to include underage actors and victims of sex trafficking who are forced to make these videos against their will.  In addition, it's important to remember that actors in traditional pornography are acting based on what the makers of these videos think most men want so this often doesn't include what women might like. On the other hand, ethical porn, which is often made by women who are feminists, usually gives a more realistic portrayal of sex and includes not just what men might like sexually but also what many women might like. The following list includes ethical porn sites in no particular order and no personal preference on my part. These sites are considered sex positive sites (see my article: What is Ethical Porn?)
    • Bellesca: This site is designed to help women explore their sexuality in a diverse  atmosphere where they are respected and valued in their own right.  Women are celebrated and not portrayed solely as sexual objects to be conquered.
Creating Your Sexual Menu With a Yes, No, Maybe List

    • Lust Cinema: Developed by filmmaker and feminist, Erika Lust, this site portrays sex with diverse bodies, genders, age, racial identities and sexual preferences.
    • Make Love Not Porn: Cindy Gallop makes films that portray sex in real life that takes into account diversity with realistic scenes instead of the contrived portrayals in traditional porn.
  • Reading Erotica: There is so much variety in erotica today. A basic Google search will provide a lot of information about erotica you can read or, if you prefer, you can listen to on sites like Dipsea.
Creating Your Sexual Menu With a Yes, No, Maybe List

  • Listening to Sex Podcasts: There are many excellent sex podcasts that provide sex education, including:
    • Sex and Psychology podcast
    • Sex with Dr. Jess
    • Sexology Podcast
    • Sex with Emily
    • Sluts and Scholars
    • Foreplay Radio
    • Ester Perel's Where Should We Begin? 
    • Pillow Talks (Vanessa and Xander Marin)
  • Exploring Examples of Other Yes, No, Maybe Lists: If the thought of creating your own Yes, No, Maybe list feels too intimidating, you might find it helpful to explore examples of other Yes, No, Maybe Lists created by sex therapists and sex coaches. Be aware that these lists are made up for a diverse population and everything on there might not be to your liking, but it might pique your curiosity and give you ideas about what you might want to include on your own list:

Getting Help in Sex Therapy
Sex therapy is a form of talk therapy for individuals and couples of all ages, races, sexual orientations, genders and diverse backgrounds (see my article: What is Sex Therapy?).

There is no physical exam, nudity or sex during sex therapy sessions (see my article: What Are Common Misconceptions About Sex Therapy?).

Individuals and couples come to sex therapy for a variety of reasons (see my article: What Are Common Issues Discussed in Sex Therapy?).

A skilled sex therapist can help you overcome the obstacles that keep you from enjoying sex, so if you're struggling with sexual issues, seek help in sex therapy sooner rather than later so you can have a more fulfilling sex life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I am a sex positive therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Why Is Sexual Context So Important For Sexual Desire?

In Dr. Emily Nagoski's New York Times bestselling book, Come As You Are, she discusses why sexual context is so important to understand sexual desire (see my article: Understanding Why You and Your Partner Experience Sexual Arousal in Different Ways).

Sexual Context is Important For Sexual Desire

Understanding sexual context is key to understanding why you might feel sexual at certain times and not others.  

What is Sexual Context?
According to Dr. Nagoski, sexual context includes: 
Your Circumstances in the Moment:
  • Whom you're with
  • Where you are
  • Whether the situation is novel or familiar, risky, safe, and so on
Your State of Mind in the Moment:
  • Whether you're relaxed or stressed
  • Whether you're trusting or not
  • Whether you're loving or not
Examples of How Sexual Context Makes a Difference
The following scenarios are examples of how sexual context makes a difference:
  • When her husband, Mike, suggested that they have a quickie while their teenage children went out on a short errand, Betty didn't feel like having a quickie because she had a long stressful day at work.  She knew she would need to unwind first, take a shower to relax and she would need plenty of foreplay to get in the mood for sex, so a quickie wouldn't work for her.  They decided to wait until the weekend when the children would be away for the day visiting their aunt and they would have more time to enjoy sex.
  • Ida was excited by the prospect of having sex in public places that felt prohibitive and taboo.  She suggested to Bill that they have sex in a secluded place in a big park, but Bill said he would feel too anxious they would get caught and charged with public indecency, so this idea wasn't a turn-on for him.  He told her he needed privacy to enjoy sex.  Eventually, they decided to be in a consensually non-monogamous relationship so they could each get certain of their sexual needs met and still remain in a primary relationship together.
  • John wanted to have sex with his partner, Sara, after they had an argument about his infidelity.  But Sara said she was too angry about his cheating. She felt she couldn't trust him, and she needed to feel safe and trusting to have sex with him (see my article: Learning to Trust Again After an Affair). Eventually, they attended couples to work on their relationship.
  • On their first date, Dan invited Lynn over to spend the night with him after a romantic dinner.  Although Lynn was very attracted to Dan, she told him she wasn't comfortable having sex with him on their first date and she wanted to get to know him better before they had sex.  Dan said he was fine with this, and they continued to date.
Sexual Context is Important For Sexual Desire
  • Abbie and her partner, Sue, decided their sex life had become too routine and this contributed to the lack of enthusiasm they each felt about having sex.  So, they decided to try something new, sexual role play, to spice things up sexually (see my article: Exploring Sexual Role Play).
  • Roy had a leather fetish which really turned him on. But when he asked the woman he had been dating for two months, Nina, to wear leather during sex, she told him she wasn't into it.  She preferred to wear latex instead.  Roy was fine with this. They also talked about the particular kinks they each liked and they discovered they had certain kinks in common (see my article: What's the Difference Between a Fetish and a Kink?).
  • Sid preferred to have sex after dinner, but Jen found it difficult to get sexually aroused after the big meals they usually had for dinner. She felt too full and bloated. So, they decided to have their big meal for lunch, a smaller meal for dinner before they had sex, and a snack after sex when they were both cuddling and relaxing.
  • Ann liked to have sex with his partner, Jack, at night before going to sleep because that's when she felt most relaxed, but Jack was often too tired at night. Jack preferred to have sex in the morning when they both woke up together, but Ann felt too rushed in the morning because she had to be at work early. So, they came up with a compromise where they would have sex earlier in the evening during the week and on Saturday or Sunday morning when neither of them was stressed or rushed.
Confusing Issues Related to Sexual Context with Low Sexual Desire
Many people, especially women, who think they have low sexual desire, are really dealing with issues related to the sexual context they find themselves in.

It's not unusual for medical doctors, who aren't trained in sexual health (this includes many gynecologists) to diagnose a woman with low sexual desire when the real problem is that the sexual context isn't right for her (see my article: Heterosexual Women Are Often Mistakenly Labeled as Having Low Sexual Desire).

Many Women Are Mistakenly Diagnosed With Low Desire

Many of these women get unhelpful recommendations from their health care practitioner, including suggestions to have a glass of wine to relax.  But this doesn't help when the problem is related to the sexual context.

One of the reasons for this is that most health care practitioners, including gynecologists and couples therapists, aren't fully trained in sexual health. As a result, they don't know how to do a thorough psychosocial sexual history to fully assess the problem.  

Differences in Preferred Sexual Contexts Aren't Unusual
When it comes to sexual context, differences between people aren't really different from many other circumstances in life.

For instance, according to Dr. Nagoski, a person might enjoy being tickled while being sexually playful with their partner. However, the same person is unlikely to enjoy being tickled by the same partner if they're having an argument.  That would be annoying.

So, in general, this shows that context is important in most areas of life, including sex.

Understanding the Sexual Contexts of Your Core Erotic Themes
In a prior article, I discussed the importance of getting to know your Core Erotic Themes (CETs) as discussed in Dr. Jack Morin's book, The Erotic Mind (see my article: What Are Your Core Erotic Themes?).  

My prior article explains how CETs originate in childhood and provides examples of CETs.

When you and your partner(s) can discuss each of your CETs, this can help to make sex more enjoyable (see my articles: How to Talk to Your Partner About Sex - Part 1 and Part 2).

Getting Help in Sex Therapy
Sex therapy is a form of talk therapy (see my article: What is Sex Therapy?).

There is no physical exam, nudity or sex during sex therapy sessions (see my article: Common Misconceptions About Sex Therapy). 

Individuals and couples attend sex therapy for a variety of sexual issues (see my article: Common Issues Discussed in Sex Therapy).

A skilled sex therapist can help you to overcome the obstacles that are keeping you from having a pleasurable sex life, so rather than struggling on your own, seek help in sex therapy.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I am a sex positive therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Understanding Unintentional Gaslighting in a Relationship

The focus of this article is unintentional gaslighting in a relationship, which is different from intentional gaslighting.

If you haven't read my prior articles about intentional gaslighting, I suggest you read those articles first to understand the basic concepts of gaslighting (see my articles: Are You Being Gaslighted? and What Are the 7 Stages of Gaslighting in a Relationship?).

Unintentional Gaslight in a Relationship

Intentional gaslighting is a form of malicious manipulation which is emotionally and psychologically abusive.  The goal of the gaslighter is to undermine the gaslightee's self confidence and make them feel insecure and anxious so they're easier to manipulate.

Understanding Unintentional Gaslight
Before delving into unintentional gaslighting, I want to emphasize that even when gaslighting is unintentional, it's still gaslighting and the gaslighter is still attempting to manipulate and gain control in the relationship--even if it's unconscious and they're unaware of it.  

The destructive consequences of gaslighting, whether intentional or not, are usually the same for the person being gaslighted.  

If the gaslighter is successful in gaslighting, the gaslightee's thoughts, feelings, beliefs and perceptions are invalidated by the gaslighter (see my article: How to Develop and Use Emotional Validation in a Relationship).

Examples of Unintentional Gaslighting
The following list are just a few examples of unintentional and often unconscious gaslighting:
  • Telling the gaslightee the problems are all in their mind when it's clearly not
  • Responding to the gaslightee who says they are hurt by the gaslighting by saying the gaslightee really doesn't feel that way
  • Telling the gaslightee their situation isn't so bad or other people have it worse
  • Telling the gaslightee they're too sensitive
  • Telling the gaslightee they overthink things
  • Telling the gaslightee they're wrong to think or feel a certain way
  • Making excuses for their behavior. For instance, if gaslighter is caught in a lie, they tell the gaslightee that they lied to spare their feelings (see my article: Lies of Omission)
  • Telling the gaslightee they're being too negative
Why Do People Unintentionally Gaslight?
Many unintentional gaslighters learned this behavior without even realizing it when they were growing up in dysfunctional families where they were criticized, abused or neglected and gaslighted as young children.  In those cases, unintentional gaslighting is an unconscious learned behavior.

The unconscious intention of gaslighting might be to feel in control, especially for people who grew up feeling they weren't in control.  

In addition, it's often a way to avoid being held accountable for their behavior, especially if they were traumatized for their behavior as young children in their family of origin.  

Gaslighters will often go to great lengths to avoid feeling bad the way they felt as children, and since they learned that being in control and dominating is one way to avoid those feelings, they want to dominate and control others and they fear being dominated and controlled by others.

Unintentional gaslighting often occurs with people who have an avoidant attachment style, especially when they're in a relationship where their partner wants to be more emotionally intimate with them and this makes them feel uncomfortable and too emotionally vulnerable.  

This situation is exacerbated if the partner has an anxious attachment style and worries about being abandoned by the other partner (see my article: How Your Attachment Style Affects Your Relationship).

Part of unintentional gaslighter's maladaptive coping strategy can include dismissing their partner's need for emotional intimacy by calling the partner "needy" or criticizing them in some other way to ward off their own emotional discomfort and fear of emotional intimacy.

A Clinical Vignette About Unintentional Gaslighting in a Relationship
Since it's often hard to believe that gaslighting can be unintentional and based on unconscious learned behavior, the following clinical vignette, which is a fictionalized scenario based on many different cases, can help to demonstrate these dynamics and show how therapy can help:

Mike and Deb met when they were in their early 30s.  

After the initial stage of infatuation between Mike and Deb, Mike became increasingly uncomfortable with the emotional intimacy in their relationship as time went on.

Six months into their relationship, Mike felt Deb was encroaching too much on his personal time.  He was comfortable seeing her once a week, but she wanted to see him at least twice a week (see my article: Learning to Negotiate Time Apart and Time Together in a Relationship).

Every time Deb asked to see him a second day during the week, she was confronted with a barrage of criticism from Mike.  He told her she was "too needy" and she was "wrong" for wanting more time than he felt comfortable spending with her.

When Deb told Mike that hearing him call her too needy and wrong was hurtful, she was even more hurt to hear him say that she was being too sensitive and she just needed to "just get over it."

After one of their arguments about how much time they spent together, Mike told Deb that he couldn't see her because he wasn't feeling well.  Then he went out with his friends to a baseball game and didn't tell her.

During the game, Deb's friend, Tia, spotted Mike without his realizing it.  After Tia told Deb she saw Mike at the game, Deb realized that Mike lied to her and she was deeply hurt.  

When she confronted Mike about the lie, he didn't deny it, but he said he lied to her because he didn't want to hurt her feelings by telling her he wanted to go the game instead of seeing her.  No matter what Deb said about it, Mike still felt justified in lying to Deb and he wouldn't take responsibility for it.

Due to Mike's gaslighting, Deb was beginning to feel she was either exaggerating or imagining things, so she spoke with a close friend, who explained gaslighting to Deb and told her that it's a real dynamic and Mike was using gaslighting with Deb.

A year into the relationship, Deb continued to feel gaslighted by Mike and she told him that unless he got help in therapy, she would leave him.  

Unintentional Gaslighting in a Relationship

At first, Mike was shocked.  No one had ever given him an ultimatum like this before.  His first inclination was to dismiss Deb's feelings, but he kept this to himself.  He really loved Deb and he wanted their relationship to work out, so he sought help in therapy.

During the initial stage of therapy, Mike told his therapist he didn't think he had a problem, but he was willing to give therapy a try to save his relationship.

His therapist learned from Mike that he was considered the "black sheep" in the family.  He was the youngest of five children in a family of high achievers.  

Both of his parents were successful in their careers and his siblings excelled in school and in their respective careers. Since he didn't do well in school, he became the family scapegoat (see my article: Children's Roles in Dysfunctional Families).

Mike got poor grades. He had problems with reading, reading comprehension and following basic instructions from the teacher.

When the guidance counselor contacted Mike's parents and asked if they would consent to having the school psychologist evaluate Mike, they responded with anger, defensiveness and indignity.  They felt the guidance counselor was blaming them for Mike's poor academic performance.  Mike's mother told the guidance counselor that Mike just needed to  "stop being lazy" and"try harder."  She refused to give permission for an evaluation and the school dropped the matter.

After Mike's parents got the call from school, they were even harsher than usual with Mike. They criticized him more and blamed him for not doing well in school.

When Mike got to high school, he was barely keeping up with the work.  He felt deeply ashamed of his academic performance and his shame also interfered with making friends at school.  

He felt like a complete failure and told his parents he was depressed.  Both parents brushed this off and told him that he had nothing to be depressed about.  They said all of his needs were being taken of, he should be grateful for this, and other children had it much worse than he did.

By the time he was 16, Mike told his parents that he felt so despondent and ashamed that he felt the only way out for him was to commit suicide.  His mother and father were so shaken up by this that they asked the school to evaluate him.  

The school evaluation revealed that Mike had significant learning disabilities which were never addressed and this was why he was having problems in school.  They developed an Individual Education Program (IEP) for him where he would get the academic help he needed.  They also diagnosed depression and assigned him to the school psychologist.

With the IEP, Mike's grades improved. He also began to feel more confident making friends and dating.  However, he didn't feel comfortable talking about his situation at home with the school psychologist so, even though he no longer felt suicidal, he continued to be the family scapegoat and he continued to feel depressed.

In his current therapy, Mike's therapist assessed that he was engaging in unintentional gaslighting in his relationship with Deb because he learned this behavior as a child.  In other words, this was how his parents treated him as a child, so the unintentional gaslighting was learned behavior and unconscious on his part. 

She also explained to Mike how he was traumatized by what happened to him as a child at home and at school.

Over time, Mike became more aware of his propensity to gaslight Deb. With practice, he was able to catch himself more often whenever he felt like dismissing or invalidating her feelings or her perspective.  At first, he didn't catch himself all the time, but he got better at it.

He and his therapist also did trauma therapy to help him overcome the underlying issues involved with his early childhood problems.  The work was neither quick nor easy, but Mike remained open to working on his childhood trauma and understanding how it affected his relationship with Deb (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?).

With Mike's consent, he and Deb had a couple of sessions together with his therapist so Deb could understand the issues involved and the trauma work Mike was doing in therapy.

Unintentional Gaslighting Can Get Worked Through

Two years later, Mike was able to overcome his childhood trauma and he no longer engaged in gaslighting Deb.  He was able to be more emotionally vulnerable with Deb and they eventually moved in together.  

There are two types of gaslighting: intentional and unintentional gaslighting.  

This article focused on unintentional gaslighting, the unconscious underlying issues, how it can manifest in relationships and how trauma therapy can help.

Without help in therapy, unintentional gaslighting often doesn't change.  But the good news is that if someone is willing to get help and do the work in therapy, they can free themselves of their traumatic history so they can have a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.



What Are the 7 Stages of Gaslighting in a Relationship?

Gaslighting is a form of emotional and psychological abuse. Gaslighters emotionally manipulate and exploit others to undermine them and get them to doubt their own perceptions, experiences and understanding of events (see my article: Are You Being Gaslighted?).

What Are the 7 Stages of Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a power dynamic which can be used as a tactic in romantic relationships, friendships, family relationships, work situations or any situation where two people are interacting together.  

In this article, I'm focusing on the stages of gaslighting and the importance of getting help in therapy if this dynamic doesn't change.

The goal of the gaslighter is to make the gaslightee feel insecure and anxious so the gaslightee is more easily dominated and manipulated.

Gaslighting is often found in codependent relationships because the gaslightee is overly dependent emotionally and psychologically. This makes the gaslightee easier to manipulate (see my article: Bait and Switch as a Form of Manipulation).

Gaslighting often gets worse over time if steps are not taken to either change the dynamic or get out of this destructive dynamic.

What Are the 7 Stages of Gaslighting?
Here are the usual seven stages of gaslighting:
  • Lie and Exaggerate:  The gaslighter uses false presumptions and accusations to create a negative perception of the gaslightee. The objective is to put the gaslightee on the defensive by denying the gaslightee's reality: "Your contribution to our marriage is nothing compared to mine. I work at a stressful job so we can pay our bills. All you do is stay home and watch the kids."
Gaslighting is a Form of Emotional Abuse
  • Repetition: The gaslighter continues to repeat the same accusations to stay on the offensive, control the relationship dynamics and dominate the gaslightee.  This is similar to psychological warfare in that the more the accusations are repeated over time, the more likely the gaslightee will believe them. 
  • Double Down on Accusations When Challenged: When the gaslighter is called on their manipulation, they often double and triple down on their accusations. They use more lies, denial, blame, deflection and other manipulative tactics to create doubt, anxiety and insecurity in the partner. The gaslighter might say to the gaslightee, "You're too sensitive" or "You're so dramatic."  They can also: 
    • Question the gaslightee's memory about situations
    • Trivialize the gaslightee's concerns
    • Counter against what the gaslightee says by lying and making up details
    • Brush off the gaslightee's concerns
    • Divert the gaslightee's attention by changing the subject
    • Discredit the gaslightee to family members, friends and other mutual acquaintances by portraying the gaslightee as confused, having a bad memory or being the source of the problem in the relationship.
  • Wear Out the Gaslightee: The gaslighter attempts to wear out the gaslightee by constantly remaining on the offensive. The gaslightee often becomes more anxious, pessimistic, fearful and self doubting, which makes them even easier to manipulate. Gaslightees will question their own perceptions and this is how the gaslighter continues to dominate the relationship.
Gaslighting is a Form of Emotional Abuse

  • Give False Hope to the Gaslightee: Another manipulation tactic is when the gaslighter will occasionally treat the gaslightee better temporarily. They might be milder in their criticism or express superficial remorse to give the gaslightee false hope.  They might tell their partner that they're now "ready to change" or attend couples therapy or "start over," but this is usually a tactic to get the partner to become complacent and let down their guard.  At that point, the gaslightee might think, "Our relationship really isn't as bad as I thought because my partner is willing to work on our relationship" or "My partner finally understands and he's willing to change." But this tactic is a way to temporarily appease the gaslightee to give false hope.  The goal is to temporarily back off to eventually regain power in the situation during the next phase of gaslighting. 
  • Dominate and Control: The ultimate goal of gaslighting is to dominate and control the relationship so the gaslighter can manipulate and take advantage of the gaslightee on an ongoing basis.

How to Deal With Gaslighting
  • Recognize the Signs of Gaslighting During the Early Stage:  By recognizing the early warning signs and identifying the problem right away, you can let your partner know that you're not going to put up with this manipulation.  
  • Don't Get Into Arguments With the Gaslighter: Gaslighters are usually experts when it comes to arguing, so don't get in arguments with them. They're good at rationalizing, deflecting, twisting your words and using other manipulative tactics, so don't go down that rabbit hole or you'll find yourself on the defensive and exhausted.
  • Maintain Your Individual Identity: If you maintain your individual identity and don't form a codependent relationship with the gaslighter, you're less likely to allow the gaslighter to break you down. This means maintaining your sense of self, your individual interests and relationships with supportive friends and family members (see my article: Growing as an Individual While in a Relationship).
Staying Calm and Grounded
  • Be Assertive and Set Boundaries With Your Partner: Let your partner know that you're not going to put up with this behavior.  Your partner might try to use other tactics to manipulate.  If your partner doesn't respect your boundaries and still tries to manipulate you, stay calm and disengage. You can call a time-out, go for a walk, listen to music or find other ways to disengage from the gaslighter's attempts to dominate you (see my article: Setting Boundaries in Your Relationship).
  • Recognize You Can Only Control Your Own Behavior: In the heat of the moment, it's easy to try to control your partner's behavior, especially in a gaslighting situation. But this usually energizes the gaslighter because they're especially good at manipulating in these situations and pointing out how you're trying to control them without acknowledging that they're trying to control you. So, it's better to focus on yourself and your own behavior instead of trying to control their behavior.  
  • Rebuild Your Self Confidence: Find ways to revitalize yourself and find joy and peace of mind. Recognize things that you're good at doing.  If you have given up hobbies you used to love, reengage with these hobbies. Keep a journal to focus on your strengths and find other ways to affirm your self confidence (see my article: Developing Internal Resources and Coping Skills and Focusing on Your Personal Strengths).
Rebuild Your Self Confidence
  • Practice Self Compassion: Be compassionate towards yourself if you're struggling with gaslighting. Give yourself the same compassion you would give a good friend in the same situation (see my article: Developing Self Compassion).
  • Make a Decision as to Whether You Want to Stay or Get Out of the Relationship: If the gaslighting continues and it's eroding your self esteem, make a decision as to whether you want to stay or get out. No one can make this decision for you. Many people who experience gaslighting leave abruptly and then return to a destructive relationship because they haven't taken the time to think about what they want and plan what they want to do (see my article: Should You Stay or Should You Leave Your Relationship?).
Getting Help in Therapy
  • Get Help in Therapy: If you're in a relationship where your partner is gaslighting you and they're unwilling to change, you could benefit from seeking help from a licensed mental health professional. A skilled psychotherapist can help you to regain your sense of self so you can heal from the damaging effects of gaslighting.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.