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Why Lee-Ann Liebenberg and Nicky van der Walt’s ’breakup’ drama points to classic gaslighting

Lee-Ann Liebenberg and husband Nicky Van Der Walt. Photo: Matthew Jordaan/ANA Pics

Lee-Ann Liebenberg and husband Nicky Van Der Walt. Photo: Matthew Jordaan/ANA Pics

Published Jul 5, 2021


Lee-Anne Liebenberg and Nicky van der Walt’s marriage looked like a match made in heaven. The couple, who wed 10 years ago, were the IT couple on the social scene.

Liebenberg, a former model, was voted 2005 FHM-South Africa's Sexiest Woman In the World, while van der Walt is a successful businessman.

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The couple had welcomed the birth of their third child about three months ago.

But social media woke up to a shock announcement on Saturday morning when Liebenberg shared, via her Instagram stories, that she and hubby van der Walt had decided to part ways.

“It is with great sadness that Nicky and I have made the decision to part ways after 10 years of marriage,” she wrote.

Picture: IG screenshot @leeann_liebenberg/Instagram

Most fans were convinced the mom of three had her IG account hacked, but Liebenberg assured them this wasn’t the case after posting another story, saying: “I have not been hacked… Emily_Kark you can have him.”

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Things quickly spiralled from there when van der Walt took to his own IG stories and posted the following:

Picture: Twitter screenshot: @LadyZaa/Twitter

Within a matter of minutes, the couple both removed their IG stories, but not before tweeps got receipts.

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The drama which unfolded on social media, made many fear for Liebenberg after Van der Walt disclosed his wife’s state of mental health, and also pointed to gaslighting.

“Wow! The gaslighting! I never cared for either of them but now I'm kinda worried for Lee-Ann,” said one online user.

“Loving husbands be like: ’Hey everyone please ignore my wife she’s crazy’” announced another.

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But concerned users are right in their assumptions. To be blunt, gaslighting is exactly that.

It’s a form of manipulation that happens in personal relationships. It is also considered emotional abuse as the abuser makes the victim question their reality, as defined in an article IOL Lifestyle ran in April.

According to IANS, when you have been “gaslighted'” one may not know the signs or even be aware that this is happening to them.

Some of the signs that you should pay attention to include; using something dear to you as ammunition, lying, blame-shifting, confusing you, turning people against you, and making you think you are crazy.

How to take your power back

Rakhi Beekrum, a counselling psychologist in Durban, has a few tips:

  • Recognise that you are a victim. “This is the most important step,” said Beekrum.
  • Speak to someone you trust and who you know is objective.
  • Seek professional help. “If you cannot identify a close friend or family member, consider speaking to a psychologist to help you identify whether your self-doubt is rational, devise a plan to protect yourself from the gaslighter, escape the manipulation and develop effective coping skills,” said Beekrum.
  • Distance yourself (even if just emotionally) from the gaslighter. Beekrum said, “Remind yourself that the gaslighter does what they do because they lack self-worth and feel powerful only when they dominate or manipulate others.”

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