Author Topic: Gaslighting  (Read 2199 times)

Trustandnewbeginnings

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Gaslighting
« on: July 05, 2016, 04:06:29 PM »
Gaslighting: verb. To manipulate someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.

My husband and I are over 100 days into our recovery from his over decade long addiction to pmo but are still having difficulties with gaslighting. I thought this was over. I thought the deception would be gone if the addiction was finally being dealt with and under control, but after the other night our entire recovery is back up on end, with me hanging on for dear life trying to figure out who this man even IS who I have been in a relationship in for thirteen years. The biggest issue I have to deal with, besides the fact that he is still gaslighting me after supposedly laying everything out in the open so there was no more to lie about, is that he claims he didn't even know he was doing it??! Which confuses me even more as I don't know what to trust. Was he being deceitful? Was he just dumb and really didn't know what he was doing? Something like gaslighting I assumed would take effort, NOT be something that just "accidentally" occurs. We had been doing pretty well in recovery but this major bomb just blew up in my face and I feel like I did on D day with my stomach in shreds and married to a complete stranger.

Maybe if I share the story one of you can help me make more sense of it all. The other evening we were leaving a restaurant and I looked over at a nearby building that I'll call Joseph's. Joseph's is a one story painted brick building with no windows, and a large sign that under the name Joseph's says "dancing and cocktails" and growing up I had always heard it referred to as one of two local strip clubs. As I looked behind the building I noticed a new shed, and my mind started racing as to why a bar/strip club would need a shed and thinking aloud I mention that it's scary thinking why a place like that would need a shed. My husband asked why, so I said I can only imagine what a place like that might use a shed for. Now, he's lived in this town much of his life and should know the reputation of he place, in fact, I am fairly certain we had joked about it years ago about Joseph's and the one other local strip club. His response didn't reference in any way that he had that prior knowledge. Instead, his response was that it is "just a bar and the one time he had stepped foot in that place I didn't see anything like that." I was flabbergasted. In his disclosure he stated several times that he had never been to a strip club, I was certain this place was so I clam up with my mind racing. He notices I am upset and asks me why, as if there was no reason to be and he was honestly confused. I told him becaus it is a strip club and he was adamant again that it wasn't. The more we discuss, the more he has me questioning my sanity. This is something I have know as fact since ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, yet here I am questioning myself!

At this point I am getting upset at myself but I was so certain about this this one time that I actually looked it up. From my quick online search I couldn't determine it still had women strippers, but it did as late as 2013 and currently holds a ladies night with male exotic dancers. I tell this information to my husband and his story changes to him being told before going that it wasn't a strip club, but he seemed careful in making it sound as though he hadn't thought it was before. After we argue about it longer, it comes out that he had heard it was a strip club before, but made sure it wasn't before going there with the guys from work.

I confront him on the gaslighting even though I am completely torn to shreds at this point. His response was that it "wasn't my intention." I told him that if a man beats a woman it is still abuse whether that is his intention or not, the same goes for mental abuse. At this point he starts trying to comfort me physically, saying "baby..." Softly and trying to pull me in. I can't handle that and stood my ground, curled up on the couch. It's been two days and my stomach is still tied in knots. I don't know what to feel or think, I'm trying not to shut down completely at this point. We have an appointment with our marriage counselor in two days, which seems like eternity to wait.

We had been doing so well, our relationship really felt like it was healing and now this. I hate this tail spin. Has everything been a lie? Is it possible to gaslight someone without realizing it? Anyone else have experience with this AFTER your D day?

Emerald Blue

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Re: Gaslighting
« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2016, 08:18:16 PM »
I'm sorry to read that you're still going through this shit but 100 days isn't THAT long in the recovery process, but even so, it's my experience that this sort of deceptive BS carries on long after d day.

Despite my husband stating that he has told me "everything" I don't believe him. I have tried to find out the truth about my own husband visiting strip joints and his story was that he hasn't been to such a place for years. He started off telling me it was "once or twice" so I said "you mean at least twice?" "Well, maybe 2 or 3 times" and so on, until I ask 10 times, 12 times? "I can't remember, I don't know, maybe not 12 times". Then I tried to ask when was the last time, and of course it was "years ago" although I suspect this not to be true. I'm amazed at how convenient his memory loss is when it comes to his history of acting out. He admits to having "accidentally" stumbled across the website for another nearby strip joint but insists he didn't go.

After d day, he quit porn. I know that. He remains committed to a life without porn because he was in a very unhappy place. But trying to get the truth out of him about his porn and other behaviors during his years as a porn addict has been very, very difficult. I had to go through every device and hard drive to find out the truth because he wouldn't admit to anything if he believed I wouldn't find out. Every time I found more evidence he would become very argumentative and turn it around to make out it was me who was being unreasonable. Even with the evidence right in front of him he would swear blind that he knew nothing about it. Even after he admitted to signing up for membership of a particular website, the next week when I mentioned it he said he had no idea what I was talking about.

The last piece of evidence I discovered and brought to his attention was 6 months after d day and he absolutely exploded with rage at me. He would not admit to it. He said that the evidence didn't prove anything. Yet another denial. 6 months on and he was still lying, plus there was the trauma of being on the receiving end of all this anger and rage that just erupted. It was at that point I realised that I cannot expect honesty from my husband. At the beginning I believed that facing up to the porn problem included a commitment to openness and honesty about what had been going on. He agreed right from day 1 that he'd be honest with me. But he wasn't really honest at all. He lied and lied. He told me a few things but in reality he disclosed very little and what he did tell me wasn't particularly relevant. In fact, most were revisions of lies he had already told me.

What he didn't realise was how damaging his lies were to my recovery, but not just the lies, it was all the crap that went with the lies – the gaslighting, the changing stories, the partial truths, the  smokescreens. Making out that I was the one who was behaving unreasonable (really?!), getting angry at me because I wouldn't believe him when he was lying and all the time being oblivious to how hurtful his behavior was. The fallout from the final discovery was so damaging and so traumatic that if set back our recovery as a couple quite considerably. I don't believe I have recovered from the trauma of his rage at me.

What do I think now? My husband is not capable of honesty. He won't admit to anything if he believes there is no way of me ever finding out. I certainly can't rely on him to tell me what's been going on. Strip bars don't leave evidence on a hard drive so there's nothing to prove where he went and when, or how often. He only ever went alone as far as I know so it's not as if anyone else might accidentally let it slip. As for anything else other than internet porn, it's the same. No evidence means that it "didn't happen". Even if it did.

All this porn, and lying about porn, strippers, and lying about strippers, etc etc. It really fucks with your mind. It's crazy-making. Gaslighting. The stories keep changing. The lies are exposed. The liar gets angry because his lies aren't working any more. The liar has an amazing ability to lose his memory about the very same things that he's already lied about. This is what it's like.

My husband quit porn on D day. He didn't quit lying. He says I know "everything". I don't believe I do. That's how I live my life. Yes, there was a whole side to my husband that I knew nothing about. I had no idea that he was interested in going to some tawdry strip joint but that's what he did. Like you I believe I have a right to know the man I am married to, and that the expectation of having my questions answered honestly is perfectly reasonable. I've given him the opportunity to tell me anything he has since "remembered"'(you know, in case his "memory" returns) and to put right any lies or anything he felt unable to tell me. But no, nothing. Nothing at all. Even common sense would suggest a few white lies but no, he has not volunteered anything.

I suspect there is more but I have no expectation of knowing the full story. My gut feeling tells me there is more but my experience since d day tells me he isn't capable of being honest. The one good thing in his favor, and the most important thing, is that he has quit porn. He's not acting out now. The issues around honesty and trust remain but after years of porn addiction and deception, and after he has been exposed as consistently dishonest, then trust is not going to exist as it once did. And he assumed my trust was there and just trashed it, so what does he expect?

It's not easy. As long as your husband is staying away from porn you're both still doing well.
His porn addiction: you didn't cause it - you can't control it - you can't cure it

Trustandnewbeginnings

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Re: Gaslighting
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2016, 07:31:13 PM »
Thank you for the reply EB. I didn't mean to come across as though 100 days was a long time into reboot, especially in comparison to the length of his addiction! I'm hoping to look back on this in years from now when we've lost track of days and see it as the turning point in our relationship, we shall see.

 I guess my main reason for posting was over my confusion on whether gaslighting can be unintentional. I see lying as a terrible side effect of porn but the manipulation in gaslighting is where it becomes downright abusive. Did your husband simply lie or did he gaslight you? How long after D-day was your husband still gaslighting? Did/does he do it intentionally? Any thoughts you can share on gaslighting would be helpful, I appreciate your input!

Emerald Blue

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Re: Gaslighting
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2016, 07:00:25 AM »
Thanks, t. I'll try my best to explain how it was from my own perspective but it gaslighting is such a difficult territory to make sense of. Gaslighting is really just ever changing stories and evasiveness when you get down to it, but I suppose the most distressing part is the implication that it was me causing the difficulties when it was actually his inability to be honest in the first place.

My husband finds it very difficult to move beyond the shame, and especially the damage he did to our relationship and how it affected me. His biggest shock was being completely unaware about the effects of his behavior. It was very difficult for him to actually admit what he'd been doing even though I knew he had been consuming porn for years. He was aware that I knew, but his porn had been the elephant in the room that we did not dare to draw attention to. He actually needed me to bring the whole sorry situation into the open. Even so, he felt deeply ashamed and that was the biggest barrier.

From what I know now about porn addiction, I actually believe that he couldn't remember certain aspects of his behavior so when I made my discoveries and found out how invasive his porn habit was I suppose it was like holding up a mirror to him and he didn't like what he saw. He couldn't bring himself to admitting to it. I only discovered his interest in watching strippers by chance. I had no idea about that, but it resembled not quite a habit but he was certainly making repeat visits to more than venue. He never intended for me to find out. I only found out as much as he admitted to but he changed his story a few times, so some of it was certainly lying although he insisted I was punishing him for being upfront about it.

I think the underlying reason was that he didn't want to be found out. He was sort of OK about me knowing that he "watched porn" because he couldn't deny it, but he wouldn't admit to the extent of his habit. He never intended for me to find out about the strip joints. That came out only because he couldn't remember what he had admitted to me years ago that he'd been to such a place before the internet and porn addiction. But looking back, I could remember things that didn't add up. I had questions and he kept changing his story. There's what he admits to, but he's not exactly been honest with me either. Do I believe I know the truth about the strip joints? No. I don't.

The "gaslighting" was probably not intended but perhaps a consequence of a liar getting desperate to hold on to those lies as if his life depended on it. He employed every strategy that a liar uses to keep the lies in place. When he could see that I had doubts about what he was saying, that's when he'd start making out that I was the one creating all the trouble. I felt pretty wretched with all of this. I mean, his porn addiction had worn me down for years and I reached the point where I just fell apart. Then there was all the discoveries and his dishonesty about everything, and on top of that he was angry and moody, and throwing tantrums, shouting at me, etc. It stopped after the discoveries stopped.

He said to me recently that he should have been honest with me from day 1 and admits to his lying causing more problems than was necessary. He also admitted that he was impatient with me for not accepting what he said when he shouldn't have been saying it in the first place because it wasn't true.

It's not an easy situation for either partner. He regrets it all. He feels uncomfortable about the destructiveness of his porn habit. Some of it is very painful to admit to. Some of it is shame. Some of it is embarrassment. I don't believe that he intended to cause me distress. I think it was more about him trying to protect himself from feeling great shame. It's a very complicated situation to find yourself in and at times it feels impossible to understand.

His porn addiction: you didn't cause it - you can't control it - you can't cure it

Trustandnewbeginnings

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Re: Gaslighting
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2016, 10:04:46 AM »
Thank you EB for your well thought out response. It certainly is difficult knowing that you simply don't know. I've boiled it down to two scenarios, though I'm sure there are more.

Scenario one is that my husband is telling the truth now, the gaslighting was unintentional and the result of a moment of panic as he saw all the progress we have made the past few months slipping away due to a miscommunication on his part and poor judgement to go to a place that used to be a strip club months before committing to the reboot and recommitting to our relationship. The blonde hairs I found in his car actually blew in, or were deposited there after being picked up on a bag or something else while in public. The phone GPS simply doesn't work given his employer is a defense contractor, and he is truely at work even though the phone puts him in sketchy areas of the neighboring town (I have monitored this enough to figure out he is at work, however it is difficult to tell when he comes and goes given the radius). The charges on the debit card are for coca cola( which he is addicted to). The xbox being open to a game when he hadn't played in weeks was a fluke. The progress we have been making is real and from the heart, and we are on the path to a wonderful future including the plans we have to have a sailboat and join the local yacht club I was a member of as a teen. He's still the man I know, working hard to right his previous wrongs.

Scenario two is that my husband is lying and everything he has told me is a fabrication. He frequents strip clubs, he has women in our car to do God knows what, he still gets up early for porn and video games and  covers his tracks but slipped up and left his game on the one day. He actually does drive to the neighboring town during the work day to frequent the red light district, the money on the debit card is going to porn or hookers, the progress we have made is his most elaborate smoke screen yet, and I'm actually married to a complete sociopath.

Unfortunately, both scenarios would promt the same responses. I am inclined to believe scenario one as reality, but wouldn't anyone in love want to believe that scenario? We have started praying together, he keeps a journal on here and on paper, he treats our son and dog with so much more patience and actually enjoyed their company again. We talk on a level we never have before in our thirteen years of being together, go to marriage counseling, he seems genuinely interested in me and seems so much less selfish as we get further and further into the reboot. He is productive around the house, and helps me with cleaning and cooking on top of a full time job with ten hours of overtime a week and projects that I simply can't handle. He tells me how much he appreciates the support from the other rebooters here and actually keeps up on their journals as well. He's deleted old contacts on his phone, all the racy music and music videos on his phone, talks to me about his struggle with ogling. If everything is a lie then he would truly be a monster, but my gut is so torn to shreds I still have to be mindful of the possibility, even if my heart tells me no. I can't even think straight yet to tell you what my mind is telling me. It may have been a few days now but I still feel I am caught in the whitewash. Things are settling down, hopefully I can figure this out soon and keep moving on our road to recovery.

Emerald Blue

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Re: Gaslighting
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2016, 12:07:49 PM »
I understand your predicament between believing what you suspect and what has been disclosed and/or discovered so far. Then there is the minefield of which words are to be believed and which words were intended to deceive. The only thing we can be sure of is that we'll never know for sure.

What do I believe? I believe the truth lies somewhere between what he admits to (what I know already) and what I suspect. I don't believe he has been honest about the strip clubs. He was checking out some strip club online (before d day) but tried to make out he'd never go to somewhere "like that" even though he has a history of going to places that were "like that". There were lots of little niggling things that didn't add up and can't be proven, not just this strip club thing but other things too. Once you veer into the territory of infidelity you really have to ask yourself if you could handle what you don't want to hear. The porn is bad enough. Strip clubs are bad enough. But anything involving other individuals is a much more serious transgression. He wouldn't admit to it  if it was as true. I am sure of that. If he lied to me about watching porn substitutes, would he be honest with me about any infidelities? On the balance of probability, I don't think so. But if he hasn't been unfaithful and what he tells me is true, would I believe him? So far I have, but I'm also dealing with a history of lying.

It's crazy-making. You just don't know what to believe. Eventually I had to learn to live with uncertainty and not knowing. No relationship can ever be the same again. The experts say you can build a stronger relationship after coming to terms with porn and sex addiction but that seems to depend on ideal conditions like full disclosure, a commitment to honesty and being accountable. In my situation I've had drip-drip-drip discovery and partial disclosure, a lot of lies and revised lies, and no discussion about accountability at all. He says it's difficult to be honest if I'm going to react angrily but in reality I've only been angry when he's lied to me or been evasive. Although we are actually talking a lot more about important matters and paying attention to our relationship instead of letting things drift, it's far from the stronger, better relationships that the self help books say is possible.

One thing that I did read about in the self help books is that with porn and sex addiction, unlike an affair, there is no before and no after. There is no beginning, middle and end to addiction, it's something that probably predates the relationship and doesn't all go away after quitting. Even after quitting it takes a conscious commitment to prevent relapses. Oh, lucky us!

« Last Edit: July 07, 2016, 12:12:19 PM by Emerald Blue »
His porn addiction: you didn't cause it - you can't control it - you can't cure it

hoopvol

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Re: Gaslighting
« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2016, 12:20:57 PM »
Emerald Blue,

you always seem to find the right words....
I drew a line for myself: I'm sure I still don't know everything and I'm not even sure I want to. I just have to believe, that in the future he will be honest and open. I want to look into the future and not think about the past too much. Sometimes you can't help yourself, but I found ways to make a u-turn in my head and stop thinking " what if....?"
Like yourself I'm trying to find some peace of mind realizing I don't know everything. As long he doesn't create "new lies" I think/hope I can handle it.

Emerald Blue

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Re: Gaslighting
« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2016, 12:38:16 PM »
Thank you Hoopvol

Quote
I drew a line for myself: I'm sure I still don't know everything and I'm not even sure I want to. I just have to believe, that in the future he will be honest and open.

Yes. That's it exactly. We stick with what we know: the evidence and the admissions. But we also know we have been lied to which is a kind of evidence too. So whatever we "know", that knowledge includes a degree of not knowing the full picture.

We can draw a line. We have, to otherwise our lives would come to a standstill and we'd be permanently unhappy. It's not good for the relationship even though lies and concealment aren't either. After d day, that's another matter. We can't accept the old ways of lying and cover ups. I'm sympathetic to relapses and difficulties *as long as there is no lying or concealing of the behavior*. I
His porn addiction: you didn't cause it - you can't control it - you can't cure it

Trustandnewbeginnings

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Re: Gaslighting
« Reply #8 on: July 08, 2016, 07:10:04 AM »
Thank you for your replies hoopvol and Emerald Blue. I'm still struggling with the idea that the love of my life broke my heart and is still damaging it. :'( For some reason I am surprised it is possible for someone to do damage to their loved one unintentionally but it happens all the time. Or at least I'm still hoping it was unintentional.

We had a counseling session last night. He became very frustrated when asked questions from our therapist about his frustrations with this new situation. He actually started speaking in third person for a bit, which is something he never does. I expressed that I was hurting much in the same way as I did back in March just after our D day which seemed to surprise the therapist. I had the same terrible pain in the pit of my stomach and felt at though I couldn't make sense of anything, that my husband was a stranger and my reality was completely distorted as I tried and failed to sort out lies and physical evidence.

My husband brought up that my mother was here for a visit and that in that time we got away from our new routine of opening up, reading relationship books together, and spending quality time together at night. He is right, and we did slip into our old habits of vegging out on our phones at night, but I don't feel that this is to blame for our current situation. We've had this series of red flags where I find evidence that doesn't add up, and then the gaslighting that brought us here. But by the end of the appointment the therapist was saying that it is obvious we need to get back to our level of communication we were at before my mother was here and we need to always stay connected. I found that less than helpful, a nearly two week visit from a relative may not have helped our situation but it certainly didn't cause it. He did at one point bring up that my husband is an extremely intelligent man, so it is difficult to believe that the gaslighting was unintentional, he knows what he is doing. My husband replied that he was in panic mode and trying to patch the holes in the sinking ship. I see both sides of that argument.

You ladies both have stated that you don't feel you know everything that your husband has done. I understand that, and have explained the difference between "his truth" and "my truth" to him. For him, his truth is everything he knows to be true, his reality. I told him that I will never know "his truth" as I only know my reality in what I see, but what I hear from him is questionable. What I can't handle is if I keep finding these red flags and I cannot explain them with my truth, with empirical evidence.

(Possible triggers)
Last night we talked some more after the appointment and again after we put our child to bed. I told him his frustration leads me to be frustrated as well as I try to sort things out. My gut reaction is overwhelming and I am new to processing things. I developed an extreme avoidant way of (not) dealing with things after being repeatedly raped as a teen by a boyfriend's father and became so damaged that my way of dealing with trauma is to wipe it from my memory. I can't remember days, months, and sometimes years at a time where traumatic events occur. It happens quickly, within a few days, but my mind has become quite efficient at protecting itself by this memory loss. So perhaps my gut reaction is my overcompensating and trying to hang onto this memory and deal with the emotions and sort things out. I did tell him that I believe his frustrations stem from his confusion over his desire to be a good man and the therapist telling him he had narssisistic qualities. I also told him that my reaction right now wasn't because I was going to run away, I am just trying to get my feet back on the ground. He calmed down after I put that out there. Later he massaged my back since I have been in more pain than usual. At some point I started to realize I had to keep an eye out for red flags and be mindful of keeping track, but also keep on our path of building our relationship unless evidence surmounts to being less than circumstantial. If I can't do that then we are dead in the water.

We ended up cuddling last night and were intimate. I felt initially that it might be too soon for that but after, while he was holding me, all those feel good endorphins helped my gut settle finally. God will bring what evidence I need to know to light. Perhaps the red flags have been there to keep me vigilant and on the path to my own recovery. I need to rewire my own brain as well, being a Dory opens me up to being an easy victim if I allow my memory issues to continue, or at the very least a terrible parent.

hoopvol

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Re: Gaslighting
« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2016, 08:29:02 AM »
Hi Trust,

Did you even get any help to deal with the abuse in the past? For me the whole struggle of my partners PA was bad enough without having to deal with something like that. Maybe you should see a counselor for yourself as well? To help you deal with your past en your present.
Back to the gas lighting: I was in the same situation: but when you confront him with certain things, you think happened and he denies, you'll find yourself in a really difficult place. It's a bit unfair as well: you want him to admit to something, but he has no way of telling  you what you want to hear. When he denies, you don't believe him and when he admits (hopefully not!!) you will get hurt again. See what I mean? I now accepted that my husband left things out, because he didn't want to hurt me more, than he had already done. When I could do that, I was able to leave those questions in the past (where they belong) and started looking forward. I know you just started this journey and it took me a long time to get this far.
I only hope, that you'll reach the end of this bumpy road in good health!
Try to keep calm and keep communicating. And most of all: keep loving (yourself as well)


Emerald Blue

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Re: Gaslighting
« Reply #10 on: July 08, 2016, 06:50:49 PM »
Looks like you're getting back on track again, which is very positive. I think most couples go through similar. My husband mentioned recently that we were at risk of not spending enough time together in each other's company if we didn't make the conscious effort, that it's too easy to fall back into old ways. He didn't mean porn, or feeling at risk of relapse, just that we need to make sure we do things together. It's too easy not to.

Being a few months "ahead", it's not a smooth progression. There seems to be an initial honeymoon phase after d day, but the issues that arise from the fallout of a porn habit have to be dealt with soonr or later and it's not easy. I had no idea it would be so traumatic. I learned things about my husband's behavior I didn't really want to know. I was totally unprepared for the lying and denials, but then I didn't expect to have to ask those questions. And most importantly, I had no idea that internet porn was addictive and has these specific effects on the brain. Neither did he. I've been forced into learning so much, some good and positive, some very upsetting and distressing and traumatic. So it's definitely not all happy ever after, after d day.

I'm so sorry to read about what you went through as a teen. I experienced a sexually traumatic event as a pre-teen and this has resurfaced in the last week. It's quite a horrific experience for a young girl to have to live with, effectively being used as a plaything, not as a human being with feelings, not as a child who is vulnerable. I don't feel comfortable about giving details, and who knows, in the sick world of porn, my story could even be a trigger to someone recovering from PA. What strange world we live in.
His porn addiction: you didn't cause it - you can't control it - you can't cure it