Hi Azra! The title drew me in immediately because it’s such an important topic. It’s particularly hard to recognize within a friendship, too, because I think we’re sort of wired not to suspect that friendships can be abusive. But here’s the thing: gaslighting is a form of abuse. And it’s a bit alarming when someone tries to say to you, “Well, yes, okay, I have been trying to gaslight you, but this is just something I do when people trigger me. You trigger me, and so I gaslight you.”
The problem with that sort of (half-assed) mea culpa is that it effectively says: “It’s your fault if I act abusively.” Or, in other words, “You’ve earned the abuse you’re receiving.”
Which is never true.
Worse still, convincing your victim that you’re gaslighting her because it’s somehow her fault… is yet another form of gaslighting.
So while it’s nice that you want to be patient with this guy and help keep him in check, I hope you do not allow him to victim-blame you for his own misbehavior. A person gaslights you because they choose to gaslight you. Not because you cause them to. This is not to say that your friend is a bad person… but a person can still be a damaging influence even when they do have good qualities. And even when they care about you.
So what I’d say is this: if he genuinely cares enough about his impact on other human beings to really fix this problem, then instead of relying on you to call him out, he needs to seek counseling. And precisely because this is the kind of thing that is most appropriately addressed with professional mental healthcare, it’s not the kind of thing you can singlehandedly help him fix. Nor is it your responsibility either.
I just wanted to reassure you that you don’t deserve this, you are not earning it (no matter which of your behaviors he dislikes), and you have no obligation to keep exposing yourself to further gaslighting attempts while you patiently try to help him change. None of this is a challenge to your judgment. It’s beautiful that you want to help him. I just wanted to offer you a message of validation that you indeed deserve better treatment, and that abuse is never the victim’s fault. ❤️