It seems like everyone in Australia is currently watching Married at First Sight #MAFS. It may seem extremely scripted at times but nonetheless it appears to have the nation gripped! However, are there actually important messages that we can find hidden in this ding-a-ling of a show? One major issue that has come to our attention is the constant Gaslighting between the couples Elizabeth and Sam and Mike and Heidi.
What is ‘’gaslighting’?
Gaslighting is a term used to describe a form of emotional abuse that sees someone trying to manipulate and belittle another person by making them question their perceptions of events, feelings and their view on reality. The term was actually coined based on the play Gas Light in the 1930’s. The play is about a man who manipulates his wife into thinking she is out of touch with reality hoping she will end up in a mental institution and he will gain her inheritance. Granted, this is a very extreme scenario however gaslighting is a form of abuse and can very easily spiral out of control.
There are three examples of gaslighting in Married at First Sight that highlight emotional abuse.
Diverting is one sign of gaslighting in a relationship and can be seen in the relationship between Sam and Elizabeth. Sam turned his cheating scandal back on Elizabeth frequently telling her she had ‘lost her mind’’ and that she was doing something she insists she wasn’t. By the end of these berating comments Elizabeth is very stressed and begins to question her memory of the situation based on the negative and berating comments made by her husband. Sam is diverting the blame onto Elizabeth by making her question her reality which is a key feature of gaslighting. This belittles one’s partner, creating a power balance in a relationship and is a form of emotional abuse.
Trivializing and Questioning Ones self
The next two examples of gaslighting are trivialising one’s feelings and making you question your perceptions of events. This is seen in the relationship between Heidi and Mike. Mike has trivialized Heidi’s feelings on numerous occasions. One scenario saw Heidi upset as Mike went against their promise to have a discussion with another contestant together. Heidi felt she was alone however Mike made it seem like it was all in her head and that she was over reacting. This was further done when she tried to tell him a story from her childhood which he told her to hurry up as it wasn’t very interesting. Mike’s actions do not allow for validation of Heidi’s feelings and trivialize her lived experiences by putting them down and questioning their validity in a condescending manner which in turn breeds an environment for a toxic relationship.
What are the effects of gaslighting?
The effects of gaslighting can range but nonetheless can be very belittling and is a form of abuse. For those that are a people pleaser or do not have a lot of self-confidence, having a partner who gaslights them constantly can lead to a very one sided and controlling relationship. As you begin to compromise and question your own feelings for your partners, this can create a great power imbalance in your relationship.
It is important to be aware of these signs of gaslighting in your relationship and we hope this article has helped you understand the many forms abuse can take! Despite MAFS being a wild and crazy TV show, remember to hold a zero tolerance to abuse and if you feel you are in a toxic relationship to seek help.