Stealth Tactics in Toxic Relationships

by Dr. Denise Glassmoyer

Toxic relationships are manipulative relationships. He manipulates, you go along; not realizing that each day you are losing more and more of yourself. Manipulation is used to gain power over and control you. His words say one thing; his actions say quite another.

In the book, The Gaslight Effect: How to Spot and Survive Hidden Manipulation Others Use to Control Your Life, Dr Robin Stern identifies several types of manipulators. One that I find particularly interesting is what she calls the Glamour Gaslighter; a person who manipulates by creating a fantasy to draw your attention away from what is REALLY happening. 

Imagine for a moment that you discover husband or boyfriend has been chatting and texting flirtatiously with several old girlfriends, or that he has betrayed your trust in some other way. You've seen the texts pop up in black and white on his phone or have first hand evidence of another type of betrayal. When you try to address the issue with him he deflects, perhaps accuses you of being jealous, making excuses, or minimizing his untrustworthy behavior.  

You're understandably upset and want to address the problem with him in hopes of getting some real and honest answers. Rather than coming clean and apologizing, the Glamour Gaslighter creates a romantic fantasy to deflect your attention away from the issue at hand. Although you know something is wrong, you know you've been deceived,he shows up with roses, a gourmet meal, candles etc. and professes his undying love and commitment to you. He's likely to ask something like, "Why would I want to talk to anyone else when I love only you." Deep down you feel confusion and unease as you wonder why this nagging feeling in your heart and the pit of your stomach doesn't go away.

Your Glamour Gaslighter has deceived you in the name of love. He has caused you to question your instincts and to ignore your feelings. The very person who caused your pain is the same guy who is now rescuing you from it. As he puts his arms out for you to come to him, he tells you how much it hurts him to see you upset (as though he didn't do the very thing that hurt you in the first place).

You push aside emotional pain and confusion as your mind floats back to the early days of your relationship when he won your heart with similar romantic gestures. For a moment it feels as though everything in your relationship is well again. You relax into the false reality he created just for you and enjoy feeling close again...still, deep within you there is a sense that something is terribly wrong. IT IS!

Romantic time spent with someone you love is a wonderful thing. However, when a romantic fantasy is created to distract and  numb you from painful feelings of disappointment and betrayed you are being played! The Glamour Gaslighter's brand of manipulation in the one of the most confusing. You disconnect from yourself in order to reconnect with him. You know something is terribly wrong, but in this moment you decide to just enjoy the fantasy as he reminds you of how lucky you are to be with him.

When his cyclical bad behavior returns, you are understandably upset...AGAIN. You try to talk to him but rather than listening to you and empathizing with your experience, he creates another romantic fantasy and draws you right back in.

This stealthy form of manipulation is used to control you and over time will cause you to question yourself, your reality, your thoughts, your feelings, and your perceptions. As he skillfully executes his powerful brand of deception; he silently insists not only that you buy into the false romantic fantasy but that you do so in a way that convinces him that you are his.

On some level you know you are being manipulated and yet you find yourself over and over again going along for the sake of the relationship. Besides you've been longing to re-connect and feel close to him. For a moment he pretends to actually give you that. 


Dr. Denise Dart

Dr. Denise Dart is a transformational consultant on a mission to educate and empower women to recognize, break free, and recover from toxic emotionally abusive relationships. Through education and advocacy she works tirelessly to empower individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to avoid abusive relationships once and for all.

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