Challenging Behaviors in Couples Therapy – As Seen In – The Gottman Institute

When couples sit down for therapy, they often bring with them a host of challenges that can really test their relationship. One of the toughest is gaslighting. You might’ve heard the term tossed around a lot lately, especially online. Gaslighting is used to describe someone in a relationship making their partner doubt their own memories and perceptions.

Our very own Dr. Dana McNeil, PsyD, LMFT, a Gottman-trained relationship therapist with years of experience in the field, sees this kind of behavior all the time in her San Diego practice. Featured in one of The Gottman Institute articles, Dr. McNeil discussed how gaslighting shows up in relationships, what it does to the people involved, and how therapists work to fix the damage it causes.

The article looked into gaslighting behaviors, where Dr. McNeil cited some of these behavior types she saw in her practice:

  • Negative body language and minimizing statements about the other person’s perspective or feelings
  • Unwillingness to accept any part of the responsibility for a misunderstanding or conflict
  • Intentional implication that the other person has fabricated a situation in order to create doubt or challenge the other person’s reality
  • Cutting off the other person, not allowing them to make points or ask questions during a disagreement
  • No acknowledgment of partner’s hurt feelings when expressed, lack of empathy

She also points out some major reasons why gaslighters tend to do these things in relationships. They exhibit these behaviors because they:

  • Have low self-esteem and don’t know how to deal with it.
  • Have low capacity to sit with their own emotions.
  • Want to “fix” their partner’s feelings and don’t know how, so they minimize to avoid feeling like a failure.
  • Feel out of control in the relationship and wants to gain power in maladaptive ways.
  • Have difficulty in accepting influence from their partner due to discomfort with vulnerability.

To read the whole article by Kendra Han, click here.


Dr. Dana McNeil

Dr. Dana McNeil

Founder of The Relationship Place
Marriage and Family Therapist CA License #99008

certified gottman therapist

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