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gaslighting abuse

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I remember being 22 years old, visiting my long-distance boyfriend—he lived in Lake Tahoe, I lived in Los Angeles—and having a full on, ugly-cry meltdown in the bathroom of a bar, with women who didn’t even know me, gathering around me to comfort me, after something my boyfriend had done. It wasn’t even necessarily just one thing he’d done. He’d done one thing, that triggered a reaction in me, and then he reacted to my reaction poorly. He’d just made me feel crazy. It was something so simple, too. I’d ordered a cocktail, tasted it, and it was the wrong one. It just was. I could tell they’d used dark rum, which gives me migraines, instead of the light rum I’d ordered. When I said I was just going to ask them to make a new one, my boyfriend at the time stopped me, and said, “Please don’t do that. Don’t be one of those women.” I was so upset that he was more concerned with how other people perceived me than whether or not I—a person he claimed to love—was happy. I said as much, and then he said, “Oh great, and now you’re being crazy.” I felt like the room was spinning and ran to the bathroom to have a meltdown.


The whole thing seems so silly now, but I think, on some deep level—because society has done this to us—every woman feels some obligation to not appear crazy. History has always made us out to be crazy, so we can feel this pressure to be so chill, so easygoing, and never difficult all as a form of overcorrecting for this reputation we didn’t ask for. Once a man calls me crazy—or even insinuates it—I feel like there’s no going back. Like I’ve been pigeonholed as a crazy female. But you know what I’ve learned since then? A good man will never make you feel crazy. Know that. My partner today has handled so many situations in which he could have called me crazy, very well.


When I react to my family

My relationship with my family can be complicated, what with a dad who had a ton of mistresses and all. Sometimes, after interactions with my dad, I can spiral out of control, and just feel this darkness come over me—like my relationships and future family is screwed because of this ugliness that runs in my family.


He calms me down

My partner doesn’t tell me that I’m nuts or overreacting. He says it’s very normal that someone who has been through what I have (my dad had an entire secret second family, to be clear) would have some concerns and reservations about the future of the family she builds. But, he also assures me those fears won’t come true. He does not tell me I’m crazy.


When I have career insecurities

I think we can all be plagued with those doubts about our career—that success isn’t for us but rather for other people. I know I have specific people of whom I’m jealous, and to whom I compare myself when I’m feeling down, even though I shouldn’t. I wish I was just always confident and hopeful, but, sometimes I’m not.


He confesses he does the same

Rather than make me feel embarrassed for confessing those career insecurities (and mentioning this one female peer to whom I often compare myself), my partner says he goes through the same things. He shares with me similar thoughts or fears he’s had about his career recently. It’s not a form of commiserating, but rather just showing me that it happens to everyone. He doesn’t look down on me for those feelings, nor does he just tell me to cut it out.


Insecurity in the relationship

I think if you’re with someone for a very long time, sometimes you’ll just feel…distant. Who knows why. Other events in your life. Stress. Hormones. Sometimes I can suddenly feel so disconnected from my partner—even if just days before we felt so close—and I just move around the home like a zombie. I tell him when I’m feeling this way.


He smothers me with love

When I’m feeling distant from my partner and voice it, he doesn’t get freaked out. He doesn’t tell me I’m being needy, delusional or—you guessed it—crazy. He walks over to me, gives me the biggest hug, smothers be with love, and tells me that we are totally fine. And he will do that all week until I truly feel fine again.


Feelings of jealousy

My boyfriend will likely start working with his ex girlfriend on a project soon. I wish I could say I’m the coolest girlfriend ever who had no reaction to this whatsoever! But, that isn’t true. I want him to take the opportunity, but I was nervous, insecure, and generally feeling jealous the first week after the news.


He reassured me

Instead of telling me I was nuts and that nothing is going on there and that I should just get over it, he comforted me. He told me that he understood that anybody would feel a little worried in that situation. Rather than just look at it from his perspective—as men often can when their partners are jealous—he acknowledged that, if the tables were turned, he would have felt the same way, and gave me extra love and attention.


I can worry about his whereabouts

When you love someone deeply and have built a life with that person, you generally like to know that they’re alive and safe at regular intervals throughout the day. There have been times when due to a no-service zone or delayed flight, my partner wasn’t able to call me for a full day—or a little more. And I panicked. When he got service, he found I’d called/texted a dozen times asking what was happening.


That’s called love

My partner understands that I’m not crazy or paranoid for worrying when he goes MIA for a day. We typically chat every couple of hours, if not over text or the phone, then in person because we live together. I’ve dated some jerks who made me feel crazy for just worrying they were dead in a ditch when they hadn’t reached out for 48 hours. But men who know how to be good partners understand that they need to be in touch regularly.


My little particularities

Everybody has them. I don’t like to eat at the outside tables at a restaurant if they’re right next to a busy street. All the traffic noise interferes with my being able to enjoy my meal. Everybody has their stuff like this. Some of my less sensitive partners in the past told me I was high-maintenance, and forced me to just deal with the situation that caused me stress.


My boyfriend accommodates me

My boyfriend accommodates my weird tendencies, just as I accommodate his. If that means waiting an extra 20 minutes for an indoor table at a restaurant, so be it. He wants me to be happy. And I do things like that for him all of the time. He doesn’t like when I walk around the house while on the phone—having a voice move around the house like that stresses him out. So I close myself in one room to make calls. I don’t call him crazy.


When I say I’m being crazy

Sometimes I say that I am being crazy. I tell my partner that I feel like I’m spiraling out of control, and am just having all sorts of terrible thoughts—thoughts about everything being doomed—that I just can’t banish. I say I need to go into intensive therapy or be institutionalized. It’s just a panic flare-up.


He says it’s normal

Even when I am the one insisting that I’m a little bit nuts, my partner still assures me I’m not crazy. He says that if I really want to talk to a therapist, that he’d support that, but he also assures me that life and emotions are complicated and that everyone feels a little unhinged sometimes.


The crazy accusation is a cop-out

You know what kind of men call women crazy? The ones who are too lazy, selfish, and emotionally dumb to assess the complexities of any given situation. It’s always easy to just deem a woman “crazy” when a man simply doesn’t feel like putting in the effort to better understand where she’s coming from. If a man calls you crazy, know that he’s likely just dense and emotionally constipated. Pity him.

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