Recently, I received a text from a friend I hadn't spoken to in years. She wanted to catch up, and we met for the first time in a decade, sharing updates about our lives. She is an incredibly accomplished individual, but I couldn't shake the feeling that she wasn't truly happy.
I inquired further, and gradually, she began to share her thoughts on her marriage and the uncertainty that had settled in. It had been just a year since her wedding, and she fondly recounted the wonderful dating experiences, the honeymoon, and the initial months of her marriage. Yet, something had shifted. While the world continued to see her husband as an exceptional person, she confided that she had started feeling a growing sense of distance between them. She explained that this change had been subtle at first but had evolved into something more substantial in recent times.
As she continued to recount her experiences, I couldn't help but notice the alarming pattern: he would disappear for days without notice, leaving her alone in the house, almost as if he were punishing her for some unspecified reason. Was he cheating? When she tried to broach the subject, he insisted that nothing was amiss. This was in stark contrast to their early days of dating when he treated her like a queen, and they felt incredibly close and spent almost every minute together. Yet now all she sensed was a growing emotional distance and his cold, unresponsive demeanor. It led me to gently point out that the symptoms she described seemed reminiscent of personality disorders often found in the DSM-5 (which is often referred to as the essential guide for mental health professionals).
My friend's eyes widened when I pointed out that the list of symptoms, she was describing seemed to align with those of someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. She was admittedly taken aback, and suddenly, everything fell into place for her.
Being around someone with a personality disorder can be incredibly bewildering. Such individuals may say one thing and do the opposite, all while attempting to persuade you that you are in the wrong. My friend said that she felt as if she was losing her grip on reality and didn't know how to proceed. This process is commonly known as gaslighting.
Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person, often with malicious intent, seeks to make another individual doubt their own perceptions, memories, or sanity. It is a tactic used to control and manipulate someone by causing them to question their reality and feel as though they are going crazy.
The term "gaslighting" is derived from a play and film titled "Gas Light" in which a husband attempts to convince his wife that she is losing her mind by dimming the gaslights in their home and then denying that anything has changed.
Characteristics of gaslighting may include:
Denying the Truth: The gaslighter denies facts, events, or their own statements, even when there is clear evidence to the contrary.
Trivializing Concerns: They dismiss the victim's concerns or feelings as irrational or exaggerated.
Projecting Blame: Gaslighters may blame the victim for their own actions, projecting their faults or mistakes onto the victim.
Undermining Confidence: Gaslighters erode the victim's self-confidence and self-esteem, making them more susceptible to manipulation.
Withholding Information: They may withhold important information or use selective information to distort the truth.
We discussed all the different behaviors her husband displayed, and she left our meeting with a sense of relief. She said, 'I've been praying for answers because I was so confused, and it feels like my prayers have been answered. I can now see that it's not me; it's his issues that are making this marriage difficult. I believe I can find a way to work through this now!'
She felt elated because, for the first time in a long while, she had a name for the problem. When dealing with someone who has a personality disorder, it can be challenging to recognize what's happening, particularly because of the dysfunctional communication methods employed, such as gaslighting.
Now armed with the knowledge of 'who' she was dealing with, my friend was able to make significant progress in overcoming her depression. When I met with her months later, she radiated the happiness I remembered so well. She chose to stay with her husband, who has Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but she was able to deal with it much better! If you're curious about what are the signs that someone suffers from NPD, read my next blog!