Gaslighting and Divorce: When your Marriage Mirrors a Hollywood Psychological Movie.
While many people associate “Gaslighting” with Alfred Hitchcock’s 1944 thriller, the term “gaslighting” was the Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s word of the year in 2022. Many people have never heard this word outside of the movies and do not understand that it is used to describe a pattern of manipulation and abuse. Gaslighting is seen in married, unmarried, and work relationships. As a New Jersey divorce attorney, I see evidence of gaslighting in too many of my cases. The damage to self-esteem, self-confidence and even income can be serious. Many clients find themselves confused and anxious, being blamed for their spouse’s infidelity. Others find themselves isolated and bearing the lion’s share of the marital work and home responsibilities while being financially controlled and verbally abused. Others are accused of alienating a child, even though the other spouse has never made efforts to form a relationship. For an in-depth discussion of gaslighting, you may find interesting the article “How Gaslighting Manipulates Reality” by Paige L. Sweet, an assistant professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan, found in the Scientific American. How Gaslighting Manipulates Reality – Scientific American
Issues In Play When Divorcing a Gaslighter.
It is not surprising that relationships where one partner “gaslights” the other often end in divorce. You may be a victim of gaslighting if your spouse has tried to convince you that you will lose everything and everyone, including children if you leave. You may be deprived of access to the marital assets and accounts. The fear of the financial unknown combined with manipulation often makes victims of gaslighting in need of extra support to make the decision to leave the abuser. This is also true due to the attacks on self-esteem often present in gaslighting. Do not let the worry that you will be viewed as “crazy” or “unhinged” stop you from seeking the information you need to end the relationship.
When I am talking with potential clients who appear to be victims of gaslighting, we discuss alimony, custody, child support and equitable distribution, which are issues in most divorces. We also talk about the challenges of divorcing a spouse who has a pattern of gaslighting. While every case is unique, I often recommend therapy along with support from friends and family. Self-care, in all its forms, is important to re-establish one’s identity and self-worth during the divorce. If a client has been a stay-at-home parent, in certain cases, we may discuss the benefits of obtaining a job, even part time, to revive value, abilities and even provide focus on the new future ahead. One of the best parts of my job is witnessing the transformation of my clients back to their happy and confident selves once the separation from the abuser is accomplished. If you are in an emotionally abusive relationship, reach out for a confidential consult to learn your rights and responsibilities. It is the first step to get on the path to freedom.
Arm Yourself with Information from a Trusted, Experienced Family Law Attorney.
Knowledge is power. Contact me for a virtual case evaluation to discuss your personal concerns and what is most important to you in your divorce. I can be reached by phone at 973.245.9854 or by email at Carole.Hafferty@offitkurman.com. I focus my practice on all aspects of family law, including spousal support, equitable division of assets and liabilities, division of closely held businesses, child support, child custody, relocation, cohabitation, termination/modification of alimony, post-judgment asset division and enforcement. Working alongside our team of professionals, I can help with your family law issues and other legal concerns that may arise as part of your divorce.
ABOUT CAROLE HAFFERTY
Carole A. Hafferty is a Principal in the firm’s Family Law Group. She represents clients in all matters of family law, including spousal support, equitable division of assets and liabilities, division of closely held businesses, child support, child custody, relocation, cohabitation, termination/modification of alimony, post-judgment asset division and enforcement.