My Girlfriend Hits Me When We're Drunk

How Can I Get Her to Stop?

Model poses as male victim of domestic assault
Men are sometimes the victims of domestic assault. Taormina Domenico / EyeEm / Getty Images

Question: My girlfriend and I have been dating for almost a year.  She's really feisty, which is part of what I like about her, but if I say something that upsets her after we have been drinking, she punches me.  And it's not a light punch.  I don't feel able to say or do anything when this happens, but I feel she is abusive.  If my girlfriend hits me when we're drunk, how can I get her to stop?

Answer:

It's Your Decision

Although the situation might not feel in your control, you can choose whether to continue the relationship, and you will ultimately be the one who has to live with whatever decision you make.

  However, the risks of staying in a violent relationship are very high.  Most women do not hit their boyfriends.

You Are Not Alone

However, what you are experiencing is abusive and is a form of intimate partner violence.  Many other men, as well as women, are going through the same struggle you are.  Research across different countries and cultures has demonstrated a strong relationship between binge drinking on violence towards intimate partners, whether they are married, cohabiting, dating, or casual encounters, and whether the partners are gay or straight.

Even though this happens if you say your girlfriend hits you when you say something that upsets her, you are not to blame for what happened.  Unfortunately, there is no way of ensuring that she stops.  Whether you stay in the relationship or not, a good start would be to tell her that violence is not acceptable to you

The Connection Between Drinking and Dating Partner Violence

Binge drinking is associated with being both the perpetrator and victim of violence between couples.

  However, research has shown that women, as well as men, who hit their dating partners after they have been drinking have high scores on antisocial traits and behaviors.  Antisocial characteristics include a lack of empathy for other people's feelings, an indifference to hurting others, and a lack of concern with following social rules and expectations.

Antisocial in this context does not necessarily mean that she is shy, uninterested in having friends or other social connections, or that she does not understand and use social niceties or dress and present herself well.  Many antisocial people put a lot of effort into appearing socially acceptable and likable.  They may have many "friends" and even admirers, and can appear somewhat larger than life.

Unfortunately, women with such antisocial characteristics are often superficially charming, and men may feel attracted to them in spite of their common sense.  You say she is feisty, and that is part of what attracts you to her, but what is feistiness really?  Is she confrontational, daring, reckless or shocking; does this give you a sense of excitement in an otherwise mundane life? 

Violence, particularly in combination with alcohol or other drugs, is not a safe way to seek out excitement.  And while your relationship may be free of moments of boredom, you are clearly unhappy in this unpredictable relationship.

 

Alcohol is typically involved in the most severe incidents of intimate partner violence  The level of  alcohol intoxication rather than merely alcohol use, appears to create situations where violence occurs.  So it is a good idea to set a limit for yourself when drinking with your girlfriend. 

The best way to do this is by calculating your blood alcohol level.

Read Blood Alcohol Level and Number of Drinks for Men

While controlling your drinking will reduce the risk of you being hit again to some extent, consider whether you want to commit any more time and energy to a relationship that has caused you this much pain and anxiety. 

Stopping the Violence

One way of stopping the violence is to end the relationship, but bear in mind that ending a relationship with a violent person increases the risk of violence towards you.  Try not to shame or anger her in the process.  Keep friends and family close by, and don't hesitate to call 911 if she shows up at your home or work after you have told her the relationship is over.

If you decide to continue with your relationship, you will both need help in order for the violence to stop and to rebuild the trust in each other.  You and your girlfriend may benefit from couples counseling, to explore how your relationship is culminating in violence.  She would also benefit from some anger management support, and you would both probably benefit from alcohol counseling.

Sources

Graham, K., Bernards, S., Munne, M.and Wilsnack, S. Unhappy Hours: Alcohol and Partner Aggression in the Americas (Scientific and Technical Publication 631) Pan American Health Organization. 2009.

Hines, D. and. Straus, M. "Binge drinking and violence against dating partners: The mediating effect of antisocial traits and behaviors in a multinational perspective." Aggressive Behavior, Vol 33(5),  441-457. 2007.

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