'The Bachelorette' Is Schooling the Masses In Gaslighting 101

The topic of "gaslighting" was explored during the season 17 finale of The Bachelorette with star Katie Thurston and contestant Greg Grippo. Find out what the term actually means and if it's time to wave the red flag on a romantic relationship.

Katie Thurston's season of The Bachelorette took a dramatic — and ugly — turn in its final weeks, beginning with the dissolution of her relationship with contestant Greg Grippo. Long considered a frontrunner, Grippo had professed his love for Thurston in the penultimate episode of season 17. Thurston, however, had not said "I love you" to any contestant at this point, and Grippo, who had been hoping for more, departed the show as a result.

In the days leading up to Monday's season finale, Thurston posted about gaslighting on her Instagram Stories following the heated conversation with Grippo. (ICYMI, Grippo claimed Thurston had offered him a "surface-level response" while looking for relationship reassurance). And while she did not mention him by name Thurston reposted the definition of gaslighting from the @soyouwanttotalkabout Instagram account that read, "a form of emotional abuse or psychological manipulation involving distorting the truth in order to confuse or instill doubt in another person to the point they question their own sanity or reality."

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This definition of gaslighting isn't too far off from that given by experts. Gaslighting, as defined by clinical psychologist John E. Mayer, Ph.D., author of Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life, is a form of "psychological abuse." It is when someone makes another person "believe that they are wrong, mentally ill, or responsible for something that the perpetrator actually initiated," he says.

In Monday's After the Final Rose special — the exes' first post-breakup encounter — Thurston alleged Grippo "tried to make it seem like [she] did something so horrible that [he] had to leave." She continued, "Yet when I'm watching back there, you're pretty much admitting, 'I just didn't feel the same,' and 'Oh, we were just on different pages.' You couldn't have just been a man and had a normal conversation instead of being so rude and dramatic and leaving without even saying goodbye?"

If Monday's finale of The Bachelorette is making you question your own relationship, you may want to stick around to see if you've missed any gaslighting red flags.

What Are the Signs You're Being Gaslit In a Relationship?

As a whole, gaslighting in a relationship is "when someone's actions and what they're saying don't match up," says Thea Gallagher, Psy.D., a Philadelphia-area psychologist and co-host of the Mind in View podcast. "They make you start to doubt yourself," she says. "You're looking back at texts or interactions, and a person will say one thing but then act differently."

A few possible examples of gaslighting in a relationship, according to Mayer and Gallagher? When your partner says they love you but never shows it by doing supportive things; when they make you question your judgment; when they lead you to believe that certain things will happen, such as a more serious commitment that never comes. (

Why Is Gaslighting In a Relationship So Bad?

Being gaslit can be "incredibly harmful," says Gallagher. "It causes you to question yourself and then you don't know which way is up," she explains. "You end up walking on eggshells, and there's a real fragility when it comes to trust and understanding."

Gaslighting in a relationship also tends to happen along with "breadcrumbing," says Gallagher, which is when "they're giving you just enough to keep you holding on, and not ending the relationship."

Ultimately, gaslighting "results in injury to your self-esteem and self-confidence," says Mayer.

What Should You Do If You Suspect Your Partner Is Gaslighting You?

Gallagher recommends talking to trusted friends about what's going on to get a reality check. "Share actual text messages and conversations with a friend, and explain to them that the words and actions are not matching up," she says. "It's really important to make sure you keep trusted friends and family close."

And, of course, if you can, it's a good idea to leave a relationship where you're being gaslit. "It's just so harmful," says Gallagher. (

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