Navigating romantic relationships can be challenging. Even the most romantic relationships come with troubles and confusion.
Sometimes we don’t know what’s right and wrong, what we should tolerate, and what’s expected, especially if we didn’t experience a healthy relationship model by seeing our parents when we were growing up.
Still, while every relationship is different, some lines should not be crossed.
No partner should ever feel that physical violence is something they must tolerate, regardless of gender. If your girlfriend has been hitting you and you’re unsure what to do about it, this article should offer some clarity on your question: “Is it normal for my girlfriend to hit me?”
Sometimes we don’t speak up when a woman hits a man because the male stereotype is tough and independent, but no one, regardless of gender, needs to tolerate physical abuse.
Understand that even though it’s hard to reach out, especially if you’re a man experiencing physical violence at the hands of a woman, it’s essential to seek help.
People spend years in abusive relationships without seeking the support they need because that abuse has become normalized, or they feel they should deal with things on their own.
Men, in particular, find it hard to speak up when experiencing violence at the hands of a partner.
Is it normal for my girlfriend to hit me?
Sometimes women hit men playfully. Playful fighting is common among some intimate partners, but there is a line.
Hitting, slapping, punching, pushing or any other form of physical violence is a red flag in a relationship.
Sure, it may be light and playful, but physical aggression indicates how this person deals with difficult emotions and conflict. It may be light and playful now, but how do things change in times of more serious conflict?
Will you wait until you’re physically injured before you speak up?
Understand that domestic violence is wrong, whether at the hands of a man or woman. Men are the stereotypical physical abusers in a relationship, but women physically abuse men too.
According to hotline.org, around 1 in 4 men experience physical aggression or violence in some form by a partner. Around four to five percent of men have been physically injured, and approximately 1 in 7 men have suffered extreme violence, such as burning, strangulation, and heavy hitting by a partner.
Why is my girlfriend so mean to me?
There are many reasons why your girlfriend may hit you. The reasons listed below are not intended to serve as an excuse. There is no excuse for physical violence in a relationship.
Still, learning about the reasons below will help you understand the potential reasons why your girlfriend is choosing to be aggressive. This understanding may help you develop some empathy for her.
Don’t let your empathy make you a pushover. Show love and empathy to yourself by allowing your truth and making any change to your life and relationship that you see fit.
1. Influence and control
Engaging in physical violence is usually an attempt by one person to exert dominance or superiority over another. Your girlfriend may feel insecure about her influence or role in the relationship and use hitting to establish some sense of security through dominance.
Women, in particular, gain dominance this way because most men are reluctant to hit women back. To hit back would cause far more problems than it solves, so when a woman hits a man, she can usually expect that he won’t hit her back.
2. Emotional release
Your girlfriend may have learned in her past, most likely her childhood or a previous abusive relationship, that physical aggression is an acceptable way to release one’s emotions. It’s not—instead, it’s a sign of unresolved anger issues.
Many people use the body to release emotions, such as in combat sports, dance, or other physically demanding exercises. Still, some of us learn that taking out our emotions on other people is acceptable.
It can be hard to break this conditioning, but step one is communication about how you feel.
3. It’s “just fun” for her
To your girlfriend, hitting may be a way to show love and affection. Some people learn this way of expressing affection and don’t always realize that such behavior makes others uncomfortable.
Again, it’s vital to communicate how you feel. There may be no bad intention behind her physical aggression, but if it makes you uncomfortable, it’s your right to speak up and establish a boundary.
What should I do if my girlfriend hits me?
First, don’t be hard on yourself if your girlfriend has been hitting you. It’s not easy to know what to do in this situation, and if you’re a man, you may associate the experience with embarrassment or questions about your masculinity.
This mindset is unhealthy but unfortunately prevalent, so step one is to pause and breathe. Accept yourself, and try to ground yourself.
Determine the context of the hitting. If it’s playful and light, then it’s probably not much cause for concern, and you’ll get to know your girlfriend’s habits over time.
If playful hitting is something you don’t mind and something she does to express herself in a fun way, then yes, it’s normal. Still, if you’re uncomfortable with it, speak up or reach out.
1. Talk to her about it
The best solution to your girlfriend hitting you is to talk about it. If you consider it fun and agree with that dynamic, then the situation is not much cause for concern.
You should speak up if it’s fun for her but not for you. She might not know exactly how you feel about it, so open up and tell her.
2. Know when to set a boundary
Just because it’s normal for her doesn’t mean it has been common for you.
Set a boundary around hitting so that your girlfriend knows it’s not ok, even if it’s just a game to her. She may complain that it’s a joke or a game, but if that game makes you uncomfortable and you’d like her to stop, that should matter to her as your romantic partner.
If your romantic partner doesn’t care that their playful hitting makes you uncomfortable, then they’re not considering your feelings, and it’s time for a discussion around boundaries and respect.
If she hits you out of genuine aggression and emotional upset, try to set a firm boundary with her.
Just because she’s upset doesn’t mean she gets to take it out on you like that.
How would it be if the roles were reversed? If you hit her when you were upset? In all likelihood, that wouldn’t go down very well.
3. Talk to someone else about it
If she’s especially aggressive and violent, you may want to talk to someone else first.
Find a trusted friend, family member, therapist, or counselor who can offer a compassionate ear and advice. If she’s a particularly violent person, then a direct conversation may lead to more violence, so gather and establish support first.
Dealing with abuse in a relationship is detrimental to your mental health, so don’t hesitate to seek support. Don’t allow yourself to ignore the problem just because you feel embarrassed or shy about speaking up.
Any such feeling is far less problematic than the long-term consequences of dealing with abuse.
The consequences of hitting in a relationship
It’s essential to make a change if you’re experiencing an abusive relationship. Again, it can be hard for men to acknowledge to themselves and others that their girlfriend hitting them is a problem, but it’s time to let go of the stigma.
Men are just as vulnerable to abuse as women. While we typically assume that women engage in verbal abuse or emotional abuse and men engage in physical abuse, the truth is that anyone can commit any act of abuse regardless of gender.
If your girlfriend hits you and it bothers you, but you don’t speak up, your mental health will likely deteriorate. Everyone deserves to feel and have their feelings validated, especially in a romantic relationship, so if safety and validation are lacking, then know that your mental health is at risk.
Hitting, slapping, and other forms of physical violence are not the only abuse in relationships. Physical violence is the most prominent kind, so it’s the easiest to notice, but other forms of abuse can be just as harmful and may go unnoticed.
Emotional and verbal abuse
Emotional abuse can be just as harmful as physical abuse. It’s harder to notice because it doesn’t leave any physical marks, but the consequences on the victim’s mental health can be dire. Emotional abuse includes:
- Threatening comments
- Excessive monitoring or ‘checking-in’
- Excessive criticism and judgment
The following behaviors constitute emotional abuse and should not go unnoticed:
- Calling you names, even during conflict
- Shouting, yelling, screaming
- Humiliation and intentional embarrassment in front of others
- Attempts to isolate you from those close to you, such as friends and family
- Excess blaming
- Shifting the responsibility of abuse onto you
- Threatening self-harm as a type of manipulation
No one should ever feel pressured into engaging in sexual behaviors that they’re uncomfortable with. Sexual abuse is a prevalent form of intimate partner abuse but often goes unnoticed because it happens behind closed doors.
We often think of sexual abuse as something that may happen among strangers or outside of a close relationship, but this type of abuse is prevalent within relationships.
Moreover, it’s not just women that are victims of sexual abuse. Men, too, can be coerced into sexual behaviors with which they’re not comfortable.
There exists a stereotype that men always want sex, and some men are unsure of themselves outside of that role. A sexually abusive partner may intimidate or humiliate a man into sexual behaviors because, according to her, that’s what ‘makes him a man.’
Common examples of sexual abuse include:
- Unwanted intimate contact (kissing, touching)
- Unwarranted aggressive sexual activity
- Denial of one’s right to use protection
- Pressure to have sex, guilt-tripping when a desire for sex is not fulfilled
- Sexual insults
Like physical violence, men are far less likely to report sexual abuse due to a male stereotype and societal stigma. If your partner is sexually abusive toward you, understand that it’s your right to speak up and seek support.
Let go of the stigma that you, as a man, should not ask for help in such circumstances and instead prioritize your mental and physical health and well-being.
Sometimes, it’s playful fun for your girlfriend to hit you. However, it’s only playful fun if you agree that that’s how it is.
If your opinion differs, you’re entitled to feel that way, and your feelings should be respected.
Even if she’s hitting you out of fun, it should be mutually understood that there’s a line. You can ask her to stop at any point, and that request should be met with complete respect.
If that request is ignored, particularly belittled, she’s crossing the line into domestic abuse, and something needs to change.
You don’t have to let your girlfriend hit you if you’re uncomfortable with it.
Intimate partner violence is very real for men and deeply affects men and women. If abuse has been happening in your home, then seek professional support no matter what.
No one should ever tolerate abuse, no matter what gender or relationship dynamic you have.
Help is available for victims of domestic abuse. Reach out to a friend or therapist for support when you can, and if you need more immediate support, don’t hesitate to contact the domestic violence hotline at thehotline.org or 1−800−799−SAFE(7233).