Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Dr. Yael,

I am married to a husband who sometimes makes me feel terrible about myself. Sometimes he is loving and complimentary towards me. He tells me that he loves me and can be complimentary. He is generous financially and he is a great father. I want to share what he does and ask you if I am overreacting. He will sometimes say to me “are you sure that is what happened, I don’t think you remember the situation.” I happen to have an excellent memory and he knows this. I do remember situations. He will tell me that I am being too sensitive or that I don’t know what I am talking about. These statements make me feel inadequate about myself. Sometimes he says now you are just confusing me. Other times he will tell me that I am saying things that are nonsense that I read on the Internet. He undermines me and I begin to think that I am crazy. He can be a great, loving husband, but other times he really makes me doubt my sanity. He also blames other people for things that happen when they are not responsible. Please help me.


A Confused Wife


Dear Confused Wife,

It sounds to me like your husband has good qualities, but may be doing something that’s called gaslighting to you. Gaslighting is a technique that undermines a person’s perception of reality. When someone is gaslighting you, you may second-guess yourself, your memories, recent events, and perceptions. After talking to the person gaslighting you, you may be left feeling confused and wondering if there is something wrong with you. You may be encouraged to think you are actually to blame for something that isn’t your fault or made to think that you’re just being too sensitive. According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, Gaslighting is seen in a variety of ways. Countering is when someone says to you “are you sure about that?” “You have a bad memory!” This sounds similar to what you wrote about earlier when your husband doubts your memory. Another thing that may be occurring is trivializing you, by telling you that you are too sensitive when something bothers you. Your husband may be diverting you when he trivializes what you said by saying that what you said is nonsense and that you probably just read it on the Internet. Your husband may be using denial when he says that what happened is due to someone else.

It is hard to respond to your letter as it is difficult to know what is actually going on. It would be prudent to seek professional help with your husband, or even to go alone if your husband won’t join you. It’s important to see someone who has a reputation of saving marriages. Going to someone who will just tell you to get divorced is not helpful! Even if your husband is doing these things, if he is willing to work on himself to change, you can save your marriage.

As I answer this question, I must emphasize that I am answering based on your question and that I am just conjecturing. I may be totally wrong about what is actually happening, which is why I recommended you seek help with a competent professional. I am reluctant to print this column, because it is tricky to “guess” at what is happening, but I think that it is helpful for others to know what gaslighting is and to make people aware of what may be going on in their relationships if they feel similarly. You do state in your letter that your husband can be loving and complimentary, and that he is generous financially and a great father. This usually doesn’t come along with someone who is abusive and is trying to gaslight you, so please be cautious with my response as there may be more to this picture than I’m seeing.

I want to validate your feelings and let you know that you are not crazy. I am not sure what is actually transpiring in this marriage, so please try to follow up with someone who can help figure out what is going on. I am not hearing your husband’s side of your marriage and although some issues you raise sound like gaslighting, maybe your husband is simply not aware of how hurtful he is being, and will change if made aware in a positive manner. Hatzlacha!


Previous articleChanukah: Days Of Hoda’ah Rooted In Hoda’ah
Next articleCreating Light
Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to [email protected]. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at