40 Gaslighting Phrases That Could Be Red Flags

These relationship gaslighting phrases can help you spot emotional manipulation
on January 17, 2024
Read time: 10 mins
by Moraya Seeger DeGeare
gaslighting phrases

Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse where a person will make you doubt yourself and question your sense of reality. Knowing how to recognize common gaslighting phrases is the first step in protecting yourself from this type of manipulation. 

Gaslighting can happen in all types of relationships, but it’s most common in romantic ones. Gaslighters will often discredit your memory of events, twist the truth, and invalidate your feelings as a way of maintaining a sense of control. Often, though, spotting gaslighting phrases can be tricky. 

Some of these phrases are often used casually during arguments in relationships and might not be cause for concern — that doesn’t mean they’re an effective way to resolve conflict, though! 

However, if you find that your partner uses these phrases over and over, and you’re constantly second-guessing yourself or apologizing over things you don’t remember happening, you could be a victim of gaslighting. 

Remember that gaslighting has no place in a healthy romantic relationship, so if you think your partner is gaslighting you, seek support. 

What are some examples of gaslighting?

Denying the truth 

Gaslighters will often tell you something didn’t happen, that you’re exaggerating, or that you’re making it up. Distorting reality and planting self-doubt is their way of controlling the narrative, warping your perception of reality, and playing on your insecurities. This is a form of psychological abuse, which makes you question your memory. 

Shifting blame

Another common gaslighting tactic is blame-shifting, which involves placing blame on the victim. Narcissists refuse to take accountability for their behavior by deflecting or countering the blame from themselves. This manipulation tactic is to make the victim feel as though they’re to blame for all of the problems in the relationship. 

Invalidating your feelings

Minimizing or dismissing someone's feelings is also a form of gaslighting in relationships. An abusive partner will invalidate your feelings by accusing you of overreacting or being “too emotional.” When someone invalidates your feelings, it can jeopardize your own sanity and self-worth. By dismissing your point of view, they’re trying to prevent you from standing up for yourself and asserting your boundaries. 

Acting like the victim

Gaslighters might use a tactic called DARVO, which stands for “deny, attack, reverse victim, and offender.” They might try to victimize themselves and make it as though you hurt them. This enables them to shift blame, so they can continue their bad behavior without any consequences. Additionally, gaslighters will weaponize love or affection, warping your reality and making you feel bad for calling them out.

Alienation and isolation

Perpetrators of gaslighting will try to isolate you from your friends or family members to make you feel alone, or entirely reliant on them. They might insult or belittle your friends, or pit your family against you. Once they have isolated you from your friends, they may try tactics like stonewalling or the silent treatment, where they themselves block you out. This can cripple your self-esteem as you try and seek validation and praise from your partner. 

Examples of gaslighting phrases

Knowing how to spot signs of gaslighting can be tricky, but it’s the first step to protecting yourself from emotional abuse. 

Gaslighting phrases might seem “normal” and harmless, but they can be part of a pattern of manipulation and a sign of an abusive relationship. Here are 25 examples of gaslighting phrases to watch out for in relationships:

  1. “It’s your own fault/I didn’t do anything wrong.”

  2. “Why are you always bringing this up?”

  3. “I’m sorry you feel that way.”

  4. “That’s not what I meant.”

  5. “I was just kidding, you can never take a joke.”

  6. “That never happened.”

  7. “That’s not what happened.”

  8. “That’s not true.”

  9. “You’re making that up.”

  10. “You’re imagining things.”

  11. “It’s not a big deal.”

  12. “You’re overreacting.”

  13. “You’re blowing this out of proportion.”

  14. “Why are you always so emotional?”

  15. “Stop being paranoid.”

  16. “I can’t believe you’d accuse me of that.”

  17. “After everything I do for you, this is how you treat me?”

  18. “I guess I’m just a really bad boyfriend/girlfriend then.”

  19. “If you really loved me, you would…”

  20. “You should have known I would react this way.”

  21. “You’re crazy, even your friends/family thinks so.”

  22. “This is why you don’t have any friends.”

  23. “No one else would love you as I do.”

  24. “No wonder nobody likes you.”

  25. “I’m the only one who cares about you.”

  26. “You’re just trying to make me look bad.”

  27.  “There you go again, trying to play the victim.”

  28.  “Did you ever think that maybe it’s all in your head?”

  29.  “You’re the one with the issues, not me.”

  30. “You’re too insecure, that’s your problem.”

  31. “Did anyone ever tell you that you sound crazy?”

  32. “You always twist my words.”

  33. “Oh, I guess I’m just a terrible person then?”

  34. “Why are you always being so negative?”

  35. “I don’t know why you’re upset. Stop making it into a big deal.” 

  36. “Why are you trying to ruin everything?”

  37. “You’re just imagining problems when there are none.”

  38. “You’re the one who’s confused — not me.” 

  39. “I can never do anything right around you.” 

  40. “Stop projecting your insecurities onto me.” 

How to respond to gaslighting phrases

If you’re being subjected to gaslighting, it can be difficult to know how to respond. However, for the sake of your own mental health, it’s important to learn how to stand your ground. So, what do you say to shut down gaslighting?  

These are some strategies and phrases to shut down gaslighting that you can employ to maintain your sense of self. 

  • "I understand that we may see things differently, but my feelings are valid."
  • "I have the right way to feel the way I do, and it's important for you to respect my emotions."
  • "I know you said you didn't say that. However, I distinctly remember it and it is concerning that you are trying to deny it."
  • "I'm not trying to start an argument or cause drama. I want to address the issue and find a resolution to make our relationship work."
  • "I'm not imagining things and you dismissing my experiences is not helpful."
  • "It's not fair to attack my mental state in this way, let's focus on resolving the issue without you undermining my abilities."

If you’re being gaslit, it can be very difficult to assert yourself in the face of abusive behavior. If the gaslighting continues or escalates, it may be necessary to seek support from a therapist or mental health professional to navigate the situation.* 

*National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline: 800-656-HOPE (4673)

If you are in immediate danger, call 911 and ask for the police.

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