Dr. Robin Stern: Welcome to the Gaslight Effect podcast. I'm Robin Stern, co-founder and associate director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and author of the bestselling book, The Gaslight Effect. I'm an educator and a psychoanalyst, but first and foremost, I'm a wife, a mother, a sister, aunt, and healer. And just like many of you, I was a victim of gaslighting. Please join me for each episode as I interview fascinating guests and explore the concept of gaslighting. You'll learn what it truly means to be gaslighted, how it feels, how to recognize it, and how to understand it, and ultimately how to get out of it.
Dr. Robin Stern: Before we begin, I want you to know that talking about gaslighting can bring up challenging and painful emotions. Give yourself permission to feel them. Some of you may wanna go more deeply with your emotions. While some of you may hold them more lightly, no matter what you're feeling, know that your emotions are a guide to your inner life. Your emotions are sacred and uniquely you respect and embrace them for they have information to give you. If you want to listen to other episodes of The Gaslight Effect podcast, you can find them at robinstern.com or wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for being here with me. Welcome to all my listeners. I am thrilled today to have with me a very good friend, Annabelle Stone, who has generously agreed to be here with us and share her story, uh, in the hopes that listeners out there can learn something from her experience that will be helpful to their lives, and, uh, helpful in the way that can be freeing on the road to clear sight and not gaslight. Uh, so Anabel, please tell me a little bit about yourself.
Annabelle Stone: Um, well, I'm divorced. Um, um, from a gaslighter, I would rather not say, uh, too much about my personal life because I don't want the gaslighter to be able to identify me. So we can just leave it at that. I'm a divorced woman
Dr. Robin Stern: Recovering from a gaslighting relationship. Exactly. Thank you, Annabelle. Totally respect that as will our listeners. And, uh, why did you say yes to being on a podcast about gaslighting?
Annabelle Stone: Because if I can help one other person either not get into a gaslighting relationship, chip or get out of one, it's worth it.
Dr. Robin Stern: Thank you. So generous and kind. Tell us a little bit, if you will, about the relationship you had. Um, uh, when did the gaslighting start? Who was the gaslight? Paint us a picture of your gaslighter. Um, as close to, uh, who he was as as you wanna share with us.
Annabelle Stone: Well, uh, we started dating and he was, seemed like the most amazing person, um, honest, um, emotionally developed, uh, would talk, would ask questions. And from what I knew about his past, he sounded like a good guy. Um,
Dr. Robin Stern: He was a surgeon, wasn't he?
Annabelle Stone: Yes. Um, and he was wonderful for the first year and a half, two years.
Dr. Robin Stern: What else did you know about him interested in, in your first impressions of the Gaslight and what he told you? I know as you said, and I, as I said, and you confirmed he was a surgeon. Uh, did he live in the city and did he Yes. Have a former family.
Annabelle Stone: He lived in the city. His, he had two children who were grown well in college. He, um, his, um, ex-wife, they were divorced and uh, she passed away. I was introduced to him because he was friends with a friend of mine and she said, you'll love him. So I immediately trusted him cuz he was a friend of a friend.
Dr. Robin Stern: That makes sense. Yeah. And was there chemistry between the two of you?
Annabelle Stone: Yes.
Dr. Robin Stern: And was that important to you?
Annabelle Stone: Yes, I think there was chemistry because I thought he was so honest and he spoke and he asked questions and it made me like him a lot and be attracted to him. And yes. And as I said, he was a friend of a good friend of mine.
Dr. Robin Stern: Yeah. So, of course mm-hmm.
Annabelle Stone: Right, right, right.
Dr. Robin Stern: And then what happened?
Annabelle Stone: Um, as we got more involved and I, I bought a home that was bigger than my home, so there would be more privacy from my kids. And um, when uh, I gave him a piece of that, that's when the mask, his mask melted off and he started, uh, not being so great.
Dr. Robin Stern: Can you paint that picture for me a little bit? What do you mean not being so great?
Annabelle Stone: He started being very bossy and controlling and didn't even want me to talk when we would meet with the architect, even though I bought the home and I had done renovations before and we did, uh, when I saw that side, we broke. I broke up with him and we were apart for a few months and then he called me one day and said, I just wanna be with you. And I was so naive, I thought, well now he knows that he has to be different and, um,
Dr. Robin Stern: Nicer,
Annabelle Stone: Nicer,
Dr. Robin Stern: Kinder.
Annabelle Stone: Right. Kinder. So I took him back.
Dr. Robin Stern: Did you have any second thoughts when you took him back? Like, gee, maybe this isn't a good idea? Or was it all, wow, this is so great because he's so different or he's committing to be different and
Annabelle Stone: I had no second thoughts cause I thought he would get it cuz I broke up with him and we were apart for months and I was very naive. So I had no second thoughts.
Dr. Robin Stern: Lucky for him,
Annabelle Stone: Very lucky for him. Not very lucky for me. Mm-hmm.
Dr. Robin Stern: So I know through the years that, uh, that we've talked about your relationship with him, there was considerable amount of gaslighting where he would, um, you'd be engaged in conversation with him that would cause you to then second guess yourself or your value or your worth. Uh, you were power as a woman. And um, when did those conversations and that undermining of who you are start, was it after you then took him back?
Annabelle Stone: Yes. And it was very subtle at first. Very subtle and very slow. And he would make little comments like, so-and-so is such a good wife. Things like that. Um,
Dr. Robin Stern: Implying that
Annabelle Stone: I wasn't,
Dr. Robin Stern: That you weren't,
Annabelle Stone: Yeah. And um, that, uh, sort of implying that I was a dysfunctional mother compared to other people he knew. And he would use examples like they exchanged cards for their birthdays or like things that just made me feel bad even though I'm a really good mother.
Dr. Robin Stern: You are a really good mother and if your kids were here, they would say the same thing. That you're a really wonderful mother.
Annabelle Stone: Thank you.
Dr. Robin Stern: So he would say things in an offhanded way, in a cruel way with the intention of, of your then thinking to yourself of ma of leading you to be thinking to yourself, um, there's something wrong with me or I'm not good enough. Mm-hmm.
Annabelle Stone: Absolutely. I mean, I had the insecurity to begin with and he knew that, but he absolutely made me doubt myself. And then slowly some of his friends were starting to act very distant toward me. And I would say to him once in a while, why are your friends being distant or cool to me? I mean, I love people and I get along with people, you might not wanna be my best friend. And he would say, oh, you're crazy. And then I found out much later that he was talking behind my back, making up lies and then making it seem like I was crazy and it, there was something wrong with me. So,
Dr. Robin Stern: So painful.
Annabelle Stone: Yes.
Dr. Robin Stern: So when, when he was telling you that, when you would ask him, what's going on with your friends because they, they're more distant and he would tell you that you're crazy, you're making it up. That's not really happening. Did you think that was the case? Did you wonder at that time, maybe he's right.
Annabelle Stone: Yeah. It made me doubt myself. Um, yeah, it made me doubt myself cuz my entire life up until then, I've always gotten along with people. Even if they're different than me. I, I like people and as I said, you might not wanna be my best friend, but I didn't bring up hatred or distance or whatever I was feeling.
Dr. Robin Stern: And so what was the impact over time of his continuing to put you down, tell you that you were crazy? Hmm.
Annabelle Stone: I, um, started feeling worse and worse about myself. I started feeling physically not well and I started ignoring the red flags because I didn't want to confront him.
Dr. Robin Stern: You didn't want to confront him because
Annabelle Stone: He would get angry. Like it was a criticism. Even though when I say confront him, I tried to be very careful about how it was making me feel, not what he did. But I slowly over time, uh, stopped expressing myself. Mm-hmm.
Dr. Robin Stern: And when you say that you were ignoring those red flags, were the red flags you were ignoring his putdowns, your own response to them. Can you be more specific?
Annabelle Stone: His behavior mm-hmm.
Dr. Robin Stern: It. Yes. I mean, isn't that incredible, really? I mean, that is the power of gaslighting that in fact you are a wonderful, loving, respectful, um, kind and adored friend of many and securing your relationships with many. And here was this person you loved so much Yeah. And were so attracted to. And in that particular relationship, you let go of your power over and over and over. How do you understand that now?
Annabelle Stone: Well now when I look back on it, it was, he was totally orchestrating this and I fell into it. And he even got, uh, one of his children to hate me, which I couldn't understand. But now, now I realize he was lying about me, uh, to his child too. So I was being attacked by him and his child. And I kept thinking it was me. Which is so hard to believe that because it's not, it wasn't me and I know that now, but I was like under this fog of lying and, uh, manipulating. And I have to say, if there's one word of advice, I would say, do not ignore any kind of red flags. Anything that in your gut doesn't feel right. Don't ignore it.
Dr. Robin Stern: When it doesn't feel right. It isn't
Annabelle Stone: Right. Yeah, you're right. You're
Dr. Robin Stern: Right. And what's so interesting and so terrible and so destroying about gaslighting is that when this person who's important to you becomes all important such that it, it's almost as if you're listening only to one channel of a radio, right? Yes. And that's what you're hearing over and over and over and over again with no other input. You begin to get depressed. You're second guessing yourself. You don't feel good about yourself. So you, you take a step back from other relationships where you might be getting different kinds of input and validation. So you're continuing to just hear all of your information about you. Right. And he's happy to be giving it right on one channel. And that channel is a, you are not okay. Anabel channel.
Annabelle Stone: Right. You're 100% right. And he did try to isolate me from my friends.
Dr. Robin Stern: And how did he do that?
Annabelle Stone: Oh, he would say he didn't like someone or, um, if we had people over, he didn't want quote my friends. And, um, he was so manipulative, um, that I just, after a while I feel like I was under his spell. And trust me, I never, you know, I was an independent woman for years. Um, and even in this case I had my own money, but I couldn't overcome the gaslighting, the manipulation it, and then it literally made me sick.
Dr. Robin Stern: And so when, when you're independent and then you get involved with a gaslight, you become strangely dependent on his view of you and he begins to define that view of you. Yes. Right. So that you're no longer feeling independent and able to maneuver in the world or, or just hang out in the world the way you used
Annabelle Stone: To. Right. He totally changed me. Totally. To the point where I kind of became so dependent on him, but it was miserable. Mm-hmm.
Dr. Robin Stern: Me. You don't wanna believe that about someone you love.
Annabelle Stone: I really didn't realize it pretty much till the very end. And actually now one of his friends has, who's not friends with him anymore, uh, told me some of the things he would say about me. And it was even early in the relationship. It's frightening.
Dr. Robin Stern: It is frightening. Yeah. Frightening to think that we can be so easily led. I
Annabelle Stone: Know. Well I can tell you it'll never happen again. But
Dr. Robin Stern: How do
Annabelle Stone: You know? Because I will, I might get fooled for a while, but once I see some red flags, I will be out of there. Don't ignore the red flags there. When you look back, there are always some red flags
Dr. Robin Stern: And they usually start right from the very beginning.
Annabelle Stone: Right. Or right from as long as they can ho keep that mask on and they can't keep it on for too
Dr. Robin Stern: Long. Yes. So as soon as they feel like they have the power.
Annabelle Stone: Right,
Dr. Robin Stern: Right. Which is what he felt as soon as you gave him piece a piece of your wealth home.
Annabelle Stone: Yes. Yes. Yeah. And he had a lot of friends, friends from growing up, from college, from beyond, but they had no idea who he really was. Mm-hmm.
Dr. Robin Stern: Scary. Well, and he may have been with his friends, the same person he was in the operating theater right. As a surgeon.
Annabelle Stone: Yes. He was totally different. And I was so naive that even at the end of the relationship I thought, oh, well now we'll be friends and he'll be nice to me. But, um, they continue to hate you because you remind them of who they really are.
Dr. Robin Stern: Yes. So what, how did you get out
Annabelle Stone: Mm-hmm.
Dr. Robin Stern: What were the first or the early signs for you that you absolutely had to get out and where did you get the courage?
Annabelle Stone: I think he became worse and worse. And I think it is partly because he became more successful and busy and he had certain investments that were making him rich. So he was becoming worse. And just one at one point I could not take it anymore and I said I was done.
Dr. Robin Stern: Do you remember that moment?
Annabelle Stone: I do. I don't wanna get into the details of the event because I'm a little, to be honest, frightened Sure, Tim. Of course. But just by coincidence I happen to see your book on gaslighting and I read it and I was like, oh my God, were you in my home during my marriage? I'm not kidding. So, but then we were apart for a few months and I had given him the book and he came back to me, he said, I can't believe how messed up I am and I wanna work on it. So then I took him back without saying, you need to go get yourself some help. And of course I gave up my power. And, um, soon after that we broke up for good. But I think he wanted to get me back so that he could then tell people he,
Dr. Robin Stern: He tried
Annabelle Stone: And he broke up with me. Uhhuh,
Dr. Robin Stern: So it's interesting, even though you then recognized that he had been gaslighting and I'm, I'm glad that you were able to read my book and, and very happy that it helped. Um, what led you to take him back at that moment?
Annabelle Stone: I thought that he, he got it and he was gonna change mm-hmm.
Dr. Robin Stern: Didn't understand that that part of his manipulation was to keep you in his power. So as soon as he got you back then he didn't have to be mm-hmm. I a good guy
Annabelle Stone: Anymore. I look back now and I think how stupid I was and I know I'm not a stupid person. You know, my son when we split up said to me he was young and he said, mom, you'd ne never let anyone treat us the way you let him treat you.
Dr. Robin Stern: Very
Annabelle Stone: Wise. Yes. Yeah. So I protected them. I never protected myself.
Dr. Robin Stern: The same person sitting here with me today mm-hmm.
Annabelle Stone: Never
Dr. Robin Stern: Let me say that differently. Um, the woman I'm looking at today doing this podcast with me would not put up with it.
Annabelle Stone: No.
Dr. Robin Stern: But what happens in gaslighting, as you well know, is that your, your sense of yourself is eroded over time so that you're not that same strong person. Right. The woman who's sitting in front of me right now,
Annabelle Stone: I, I still sometimes think of things he said or did and I think, I can't believe I took that. I'm not even afraid it would happen again cuz I would not ignore all those signs.
Dr. Robin Stern: And when you can address the red flags when you don't ignore them
Annabelle Stone: Mm-hmm.
Dr. Robin Stern: And you put a boundary or say no mm-hmm.
Annabelle Stone: And I wouldn't insist anyone would change. Mm-hmm. I would just leave.
Dr. Robin Stern: So tell our listeners again what you would advise for them going into a relationship with somebody they fall in love with or fallen infatuation with, and even wanna help make wealthier giving someone something of that you already own. Right. And saying, take this and make it yours. And, and giving them some power.
Annabelle Stone: I would say no matter what they say, do not think they will ever change. And don't ignore any signs. Whether you call them red flags or they feel bad in your gut or it just makes you feel bad. Uh, don't them get out as soon as you can. I'm, I have to say, I feel stronger than ever now and much more awake. I wish that it happened in two years instead of however, how many years we worked together, but people don't really change. And this man was a grown man for me to think I could change him and teach him to be kinder or more loving. I mean, if you don't know that by the time you're an adult, n I mean you can't change anyone. You can only change yourself. And I would say get out please. I'm much stronger. I'm more awake. But, uh, get out, run. Actually when we got married a few years into the relationship, his partner in, uh, medicine made a funny, um, toast at the wedding and said, I have one word for you, run. And I thought it was funny at the time mm-hmm.
Dr. Robin Stern: He was
Annabelle Stone: Right. Run.
Dr. Robin Stern: So how does it feel, first of all, thank you for, um, for this generous sharing of your story.
Annabelle Stone: My
Dr. Robin Stern: Pleasure. And anything occurred to you today that hadn't before or anything that you feel like you'll take away from telling this story again?
Annabelle Stone: My hope is that someone else will get it from listening and get out before you, before it almost destroys you. So, and I don't regret getting into it, I just regret that it took me so long to wake up and get out.
Dr. Robin Stern: One of the things that's so important and that as women we always forget, is to be compassionate to ourselves.
Annabelle Stone: I abandoned myself completely.
Dr. Robin Stern: You did. I did. And so happy that you found yourself again. Yes. And had compassion. And, and I know that many of the friends that you surround yourself with, all of your friends love you and were there for you and helped you to find that compassion for yourself. And so I wish for our audience that they find the people in their lives who can help them find their own compassion and will give them compassion. Because it is very hard to get out when you're so deeply in it. And it takes courage and strength and it takes time.
Annabelle Stone: It takes time to heal, but it will be one of the best things that you ever do. And thank I am so grateful for my friends like you. Thank goodness.
Dr. Robin Stern: Thank you, Anabel. You're welcome. And thank all of you for listening. I hope there's lots to take away from today, especially listening to the red flags, having compassion for yourself and patience for how long it takes, however long it takes for you to reclaim your reality.
Annabelle Stone: You won't regret it.
Dr. Robin Stern: Thank you all for taking the time to be with us today and listening to Annabelle reference over and over again how important it is to look for those red flags and respond and react when you see those red flags. I'd like to read to you from my book, 20 Signs that You can look for, 20 red flags that you can look for that might indicate you're in a gaslighting relationship. The first you're constantly second guessing yourself. The second you ask yourself, am I too sensitive? Or two something a dozen times a day, you often feel confused and crazy. You're often apologizing to your mother, your father, your boyfriend, whoever is the gaslight in your life. You wonder all too frequently if you're a good enough partner, employee, friend, daughter, you can't understand why with many good things in your life, you aren't happier. You buy things for yourself or for your apartment.
Dr. Robin Stern: Thinking about the reaction of the gaslight in your life. You frequently make excuses for your partner's, your gaslight's behavior to friends and family. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don't have to explain or make excuses. You know something is terribly wrong. You even have a gut feeling about it, but you can never quite express or name what it is. You start lying to your gaslight or to avoid the putdowns and reality twists over time. You have trouble making small decisions. You think twice before bringing up certain seemingly innocent topics of conversation Before your gaslight comes home, you run through a checklist in your head to anticipate anything you might have done wrong that day. You have the sense, just as Anabel said, that you used to be a very different person, more confident, more fun-loving, more relaxed. You start speaking to your partner or your gaslight through someone else so you don't have to tell him things or her things you might be afraid would upset them. You feel as though you can't do anything, right. Others, including your own children, try to protect you from your gaslight. You find yourself furious with people you've always gotten along with.
Dr. Robin Stern: And the 20th is you feel hopeless and joyless way too much of the time. Thank you again for listening and look for those red flags. If anything I've read on this list rings true for you, you may be in a gaslighting relationship. One of the ways that you can check on that and on your reality is to ask somebody who knows and loves you as a reality check and listen to your own inner voice. And as Anabel said, even before this podcast started, a happy, healthy person would never treat anyone in the way that she was treated, in the way that anyone listening in a gaslighting relationship is treated. It's never okay to hurt, abuse, manipulate, insult someone else. It's never okay. Thanks again for listening and I will see you on the next Gaslight Effect podcast episode. Thank you for joining me for today's episode. I hope you found today's podcast helpful and meaningful. If you want to listen to other episodes of the Gaslight Effect podcast, you can find them at robinstern.com or wherever you listen to podcasts. You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with the handle at Dr. Robin Stern. The Gaslight Effect podcast is brought to you by the Gaslight Effect Production Company. This podcast is produced by Ryan Changcoco, Mike Lens, and me. The podcast is supported by Mel Yellen, Gabby Caoagas, Suzen Pettit and Marcus Estevez from Omaginarium Marketing LLC.