9 Signs Your Partner Is Gaslighting You To Disguise Their Cheating

Gaslighting. It's probably a term you've heard all over the place when it comes to self-improvement and relationships, but what in the world actually is it? Well, the term gaslighting actually originated from a 1938 stage play called "Gas Light." In it, a husband uses all sorts of tactics (including turning off the gas in their home) to make his wife feel she no longer has a grip on reality. The notion has become more fleshed out since then, and, today, refers to a number of tactics someone uses to undermine someone else, establish dominance, and make them doubt their ability to be independent. That's why it can be so commonly found in abusive relationships, or in relationships where infidelity has taken, or is taking, place.

Lisa Lawless, Ph.D., CEO of Holistic Wisdom, exclusively explained the concept to Women.com, sharing, "When a partner is gaslighting you, they attempt to manipulate you by getting you to question your thoughts, memories, and events. They will often accuse you of being overly sensitive or irrational, using words to describe your comments as excessively dramatic or crazy. They do this so you will feel more dependent on them for validation to guide you into a false narrative." She also shared that many gaslighting cheaters may attempt to twist their partner's words or question their mental health to wear them down.

But how exactly can you tell if your partner is using this technique to hide their infidelity? Well, there are a few signs.a

You're in a state of permanent confusion

If you feel like you're never getting clarity from your partner, even if you're being clear and concise with any questions and making it clear you need a little reassurance — whether it be regarding suspicious activity you think could be a sign of cheating or someone knew coming into their life — that could be a sign they're gaslighting you to hide something sinister. As Dr. Sherry Benton, founder and chief science officer of TAO Connect, told Brides, "[Your relationship] should make you feel secure, supported, and connected, and if that's not what you're getting, you're probably getting more pain than love and growth." Lisa Lawless also told Women.com that gaslighters will still continue to deny what you're accusing them of by any means necessary, even if you have solid evidence to the contrary, which can make life itself seriously confusing.

Let's be honest, we usually have gut feelings about things for a reason, so if your gut is telling you one thing but your partner is telling you another (particularly if you already have proof of infidelity or have been suspicious something has been going on for a while now with no letup), that could be your head telling your heart to really think carefully about what's going on.

You're made to feel forgetful even when you haven't forgotten anything

As humans, we're never going to remember every little thing everyone tells us. It's just human nature! But if you feel like you're constantly in the dark about your partner's plans though they're claiming they've already filled you in, it may well be a sign your partner has a straying eye. For example, if you're sitting up waiting for your partner to come home but when they arrive hours later and claim you knew all along they'd be out late, or they suddenly spring a supposed trip away with friends on you but claim they told you weeks before (and you know they didn't!) there may be something more sinister going on here.

Make a point of asking your partner to be explicit about their plans beforehand or even propose keeping a joint diary, that way you'll both know for sure what each other has planned and there'll be little room for surprises. If they tell you that doesn't sound like a good idea or things stay the same, and you're still being blindsided with schedule changes you know you were never told about, it may be time to look further into what's really going on. 

There are multiple ways your partner could make you feel forgetful to undermine your self-belief, with something as simple as missing an item off a shopping list being used to try and wear you down and get you questioning yourself.

You're always questioning yourself

If you're struggling to trust your own eyes and ears because of something your partner is telling you, that may be a very bad sign. Of course, we all make mistakes and no one is perfect, but if your partner is constantly telling you your perception of something is wrong when you're certain you're remembering it correctly, they may be up to no good. Even worse is when you and your partner have very different recollections of moments or events, despite you both being there and seeing it go down at the same time. This is a classic tactic in the toxic art of gaslighting, as Lisa Lawless admitted, someone well versed in gaslighting may also decide to contradict you over the smallest things, just to plant that seed of doubt in your head so that you don't question some of the bigger issues. "When a loved one undermines your sense of reality, you become trapped in a never-never land, where you feel bad, inadequate, and crazy all the time," licensed psychoanalyst Robin Stern added to The Healthy.

If you're feeling suspicious about potential infidelity, always look out for your partner attempting to manipulate your recollection of situations where they may have crossed a line with someone else, particularly if you're convinced you witnessed something you weren't comfortable with involving a third party.

You struggle to make decisions on your own

If you've always struggled with making decisions without consulting others first, this may not be such a red flag, but it's rarely a good sign if you feel like you were always great at decision-making before meeting your partner but have found that much harder since getting into your relationship. Here, things can really unravel, because you may even start to feel like you're unable to make a decision without your partner steering you in the right direction — which is definitely not what you want if they've been unfaithful to you. "Wondering why someone you love is trying to deceive you can make you question the relationship and yourself," Robin Stern shared with The Healthy, suggesting it could be your partner undermining you that's become detrimental to your sense of being self-assured.

Much of that could come from your partner attempting to lower your self-esteem. Maybe you're always doing the wrong thing when it comes to taking care of your children, or your partner always has a snide comment about the way you made the bed. Whatever it is, it's very often a tactic to wear you down and try to damage your independence. "Often someone who is cheating is feeling a lot of guilt. Your partner can easily take out this shame on you by making you feel bad about yourself," sex and relationship expert Bethany Ricciardi told BestLife.

You're afraid to speak up

You should feel safe when speaking to your partner about things that make you uncomfortable or things you're worried about. If you don't feel that's possible in your relationship because every time you mention something that's bothering you the conversation turns negative, that's not a great sign. This can be particularly worrisome if what you want to speak about is someone you feel may have crossed a boundary with your partner or someone you feel may be threatening to your relationship. Discussing said person should result in your partner reassuring you and comforting you if you approach them in a calm and open manner. It shouldn't make you feel as though you can't even mention the other person's name around them. 

"When confronted about their behavior, cheaters may try to gaslight their partner by insisting they are paranoid. This manipulative tactic aims to shift the blame away from the cheater," Lisa Lawless told BestLife. "This is a big red flag because someone who is not cheating would be more open to discussing it and reassuring their partner that everything is alright."

You feel isolated

Starting to feel cut off from your loved ones, particularly those who aren't afraid to tell you the truth and have had a front row seat to your relationship, is rarely a positive thing if you feel your partner is the one driving a wedge between you. If your other half is being unfaithful, having you be around someone who encourages you to think for yourself and wants you to see things logically won't be what they want — and they'll probably try everything to avoid that outside influence encouraging you to think critically. "Isolation from your friends and family makes their ability to gaslight you easier. It allows them to keep you from receiving validation of your concerns from people who care about you and for them to have more control over you," Lisa Lawless exclusively explained to Women.com.

Try and work out exactly why your partner is making you feel isolated and if cheating really is to blame — but make sure you don't cut anyone out of your life unless you want to. After all, if your relationship does end, these are the people you'll want rallying around you. "Seek support from trusted friends or family members and consider working with a therapist. Gaslighting is emotional abuse, and it can be traumatic," Lawless noted. "Seeking out support systems is vital to help you process how to handle your current situation, explore how you ended up in this situation, and make plans for a healthier future."

You're always apologizing

Gaslighting can usually lead to a whole lot of apologizing from the one who's done nothing wrong. You could literally find yourself apologizing for all sorts of things you never would have before the gaslighting started, like remembering something incorrectly, or making an allegation you knew in your heart was right. Of course, we all need to apologize in a relationship at one point or another, it's actually one of the most important things we should learn how to do to keep our romances healthy, but when you feel like you're always the one in the wrong and there's no sign of a sorry leaving your other half's lips, it might be time to re-evaluate why there's seemingly an imbalance.

Lisa Lawless explained to Women.com if you go as far as to accuse your partner of cheating and they deny it when they have in fact been unfaithful, this could be a sign they're gaslighting you. "They may even go so far as to threaten to leave you over such an accusation making you fear that you have caused the relationship to fall apart despite the issue at hand really being about their behavior," she shared. If your partner really has been faithful, they'll likely be hurt over the allegation but are less likely to respond with anger. "More likely, they would want to comfort and reassure you that you have nothing to worry about," Lawless said.

Your feelings are consistently invalidated

As long as they're genuine, both of your feelings are valid in a relationship — and don't let anyone tell you differently. There will be times you both may need a bit of reassurance from the other one, so making your feelings known and having your partner totally dismiss them is not a sign of a healthy relationship, especially if your concern is something as serious and potentially relationship ending as possible cheating.

"We see this a lot in infidelity, like when a man will tell his wife that she's being 'too sensitive' or is 'just jealous' when she questions an inappropriate relationship with his co-worker," licensed psychoanalyst Robin Stern told The Healthy as an example. Lisa Lawless added to Women.com that shifting the blame to the person who's actually innocent is a manipulative tactic to try and disguise their cheating ways and stay in the relationship without telling their partner the truth. "This is a big red flag because someone who is not cheating would be more open to discussing it and reassuring their partner that everything is alright," she said, noting that the cheater downplaying their relationship with their lover is another way they may try to convince you that you're just being paranoid or jealous — both are which are totally valid in relationships by the way, just as long as you communicate these feelings calmly and sensibly to your partner so that you can work through things together.

You've being accused of cheating

We get it, nobody's perfect, but if you're spending your time ensuring your partner feels safe, loved, and able to discuss anything and everything they want with you, but they accuse you — acutely or blatantly — of being unfaithful to them when it's actually them who's stepped out with someone else, that's one seriously big red flag.

This is a pretty shocking tactic to gaslight you, but it's actually one of the most common techniques a cheating partner may use in an attempt to cover up their own infidelity. "This is often a sign of self-guilt, and it also will put the blame on you, causing you to be on the defense and distracted from their actions," sex and relationship expert Bethany Ricciardi explained to BestLife. "It's quite manipulative... because they get so upset during the conversation, you start to think they hate cheating and would never do it to you, when in reality they might have already."

If this happens to you, Lisa Lawless shared that it's probably time to leave that partner behind and both move on with your lives. "It is important to understand that if an unfaithful partner gaslights you, it strongly indicates that they are not ready to end an affair and that your relationship will fail," she said.

What to do if you're being gaslit by a cheating partner

If any of these tell-tale signs sounds like your relationship, it's time to do some serious thinking about what you want to do going forward with your partner. Ask yourself some serious questions, like if your other half really is or has been cheating, are you willing to stay with them and work through it? Or if this relationship never develops beyond this stage of allegations and gaslighting, would you really be happy staying in this relationship? It's important to remember that the decision is yours, and while it may help to discuss the situation with a therapist or people you trust, you need to do what's best for you.

When it comes time to make your decision, Lisa Lawless suggested sitting down with your other half to have some frank conversations about what's happening in your relationship and where you see it going now. "Try to avoid blaming your partner and focus on how their behavior is impacting you. Also, try to understand where they are coming from but do not allow them to abuse you through gaslighting. You can draw boundaries and tell them you will not tolerate them attempting to manipulate you," she shared. "Let them know that if they value the relationship, they will need to speak with you honestly and respectfully, and if they cannot do that, it indicates that your relationship is not healthy in the first place."