Gaslighting phrases in relationships are manipulative statements or tactics used to undermine the other person's perception, memory, or sanity. Here are some examples of gaslighting phrases:

Statements that question the validity of your feelings:

  1. "You are overreacting"
  2. "You are just being paranoid"
  3. "You are crazy"
  4. "You are too sensitive"

Notice that all of these sentences start with "you." They are not talking about themselves; the focus is on what is wrong with you. These types of responses not only dismiss your feelings or reactions but also make you question whether your emotional responses are valid.


Any emotional response is valid, even if it is different than your partner's emotional response. We all respond to situations with different intensity of feelings. Calling people names like "paranoid" or "crazy" is verbal abuse.

You are what you are.

When your partner says you are "too" anything, ask what the standards are that they are using to measure you.

You feel what you feel. Feelings happen on a cellular level. There is no standard by which anyone can say, "That's too much." Now, how you express those feelings are another thing. Your partner might ask you to "speak more softly" if you are angry. That is a request based upon how you are acting on those feelings. But no one can label the feeling you are having as somehow "wrong" for the situation.

Gaslighters may resort to labeling the other person as "crazy," "insane," or "mentally unstable" to discredit the validity of their concerns. This tactic aims to make the person question their own sanity.

Ask them to talk about themselves, not you.

Statements that question your memory or reality

  1. "That never happened"
  2. "You are imagining things"
  3. "You are the only one who believes that about me."

The key here is CERTAINTY. The two of you can remember events differently, but a gaslighter can not allow that. He or she insists on defining his or her reality as THE reality, and they won't let it go. They want you to admit that you are wrong and they are right.

"Guess we just remember things differently" is not an acceptable response to a gaslighter. They insist that you remember things just like they do.

They invalidate the person's intuition and make them doubt their own judgments.

Statements that insist on conformity to their standards

  1. "You are just trying to make me look bad"
  2. "Never do/wear/say/act that way again"
  3. "You must have misunderstood."

Gaslighters often flip the blame onto the other person, re-write what happened and dodge responsibility. One way is to make you feel guilty or responsible for the gaslighter's behavior. Another is to twist the situation to avoid accountability and manipulate the other person's perception of events.

Ask yourself:

Does this relationship make me feel confident in myself? Do I feel like my perceptions are valid? Do I understand my world, even if it doesn't line up with my spouse's view? Are my concerns valid and worthy of being entertained?

Do I often feel confused by my spouse's responses to me? Do my words get twisted, or are my intentions maligned? Do I feel like I bring up a complaint only to have that complaint come back at me like I am the guilty party? Can my partner accept responsibility and apologize or am I "wrong" for even bringing it up?

Does my partner make an effort to see things through my eyes? Do they validate my concerns, whether or not they agree with them? Do I feel isolated or like I am the only one with concerns? Does my partner tell me that everyone disagrees with me?

Ready for a change in your relationship?

It starts with a no-obligation 15 minute phone call with our client services team.

Dr. K

Dr. Kathy McMahon (Dr. K) is a clinical psychologist and sex therapist. She is also the founder and president of Couples Therapy Inc. Dr. K feels passionate about couples therapy and sex therapy and holds a deep respect towards those who invest in making their relationship better. She is currently conducting online and in person private couples retreats.

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  1. Dr K,
    You are spot on with my situation. What rings true is her never accepting responsibility hence never an apology. Everything I bring up is turned around to be my fault. I've studied up online and through books on covert narcissism and it is her to a T and is like an autobiography of my life these past 10 years. We are scheduling counseling here locally with an initial intro meeting on Monday. I am not looking forward to it (yet I am as it is the only path forward for us in my mind), primarily because she is a psychologist (PhD). The therapist is not aware of this yet, but will be before we proceed if we proceed.

    1. I hope you did take time to read Robin Stern’s book on gaslighting. She outlines ways the person in your spot can establish limits and “test out” the partner’s capacity to change. Best of luck! -Dr. K

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