Before we can begin to cope with a toxic relationship, we must first be able to recognise that it's toxic.

The very nature of the toxic or abusive relationship can leave victims confused and uncertain of which way to turn.  They will often question whether the relationship is indeed abusive, or if the problem is with them; “I’m over-sensitive” ” I take things the wrong way” or ” I’m reading too much into it”, ideas reinforced by the abuser.

Abusers are manipulative by nature, recognising the abuse is the first step to escaping it, accepting the relationship is abusive is the next important step.

Quite often the person we are in an abusive relationship with is someone we care about; a partner, a parent or caregiver, a sibling, relation, colleague or friend. Even though we may ‘feel’ something is ‘wrong’ in the relationship, accepting the person we love and respect is or has been abusive is a massive step to take. Victims rarely recognise themselves as victims until someone points it out to them. “Don’t let them bully you” or “Why do you allow them to treat you like that”, might be the first clue someone has that they are in an abusive relationship. You may have heard of the saying ‘Love is blind’ – for some people, it really can be.

Gaslighting often plays a huge part in toxic relationships.

Gaslighting is a form of psychological and emotional abuse that causes victims to doubt and question their own judgement, reality, self-perception and sometimes their sanity.

Gas-lighters twist and distort the truth in order to manipulate, confuse and control their victims. The paranoid abuser may regularly accuse the victim is ‘telling tales out of school’, worried that outsiders might learn the truth about their unhealthy behaviours. Victims rarely speak ill of their abusers – the accusations reinforce the idea that it is they who are the issue – liars or gossips betraying their ‘loved one’ when in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Victims regularly protect their abusers; the last thing they want is to have people speaking bad of them, after-all, it is the victim who will suffer the consequences should such a scenario occur.

Gaslighting is only one aspect of manipulation used by an abuser. When we care about someone, especially someone who appeared to be ‘perfect’ in our eyes in the initial stages of the relationship, it can be difficult for our heart to accept what our heads already know to be true!

Understanding the 3 C’s of Manipulation and how they work, may help to start lifting the fog of confusion and seeing things as they really are.