Is It Normal For My Girlfriend To Hit Me?

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If you’re searching for this subject, there’s a strong chance that you’ve been on the receiving end of unwanted physical force from your girlfriend. This is a heavy topic to delve into, and this article may be triggering or upsetting to those who are dealing with domestic abuse.

Hopefully, we can offer advice on how to deal with it if and when it occurs, as well as how to heal from it.

It’s important to note that this article is about female violence toward their partners, whether they’re male, female, trans, nonbinary, or another gender expression. As such, the scenarios mentioned here can apply to anyone, although there may be subtle differences here and there.

Is it normal for my girlfriend to hit me?

In a word? NO. Absolutely not. Ten million times over: no, no NOOOOOO.

It’s neither normal, nor acceptable for your girlfriend to hit you. Ever.

Many people end up on the receiving end of abuse from their girlfriends, but it’s often dismissed because it’s ‘just’ coming from a girl. Since the abuser is female, this kind of intimate partner violence isn’t seen as serious, and the abused party might even be mocked for making a mountain out of a molehill.

Why might a woman hit her partner?

There may be several reasons why a woman might lash out and hit her partner, but as mentioned, none of them are justified or acceptable. Below are some of the main reasons why a woman might be physically violent toward her partner or spouse.

She thinks she’s being playful.

One of the most common reasons why girls hit their partners is because they think it’s cute and playful. Maybe they’ve seen it happen in various films and are emulating that behavior, or they grew up playfighting with siblings, thus creating a baseline standard.

In fact, she may have playfought with other partners in the past and figures that this is normal for couples to do.

Many couples like to playfight, such as throwing cushions at each other or wrestling around on the bed. This is fine if both partners are into it, but can be distressing if one of them isn’t used to this kind of rough-and-tumble behavior.

Furthermore, even if both are into it, accidents happen (the old “it’s all fun and games until someone starts crying” adage). If this happens, there are apologies all around, maybe hot cups of sweet tea, and promises to be more gentle next time.

If you’re absolutely not okay with any kind of physical violence with your partner—even if it’s playful—then make that abundantly clear. If she cares about you, she’ll apologize for that behavior and won’t repeat it again.

She’s from a culture where slapping/hitting is normal.

I experienced a massive culture shock when I dated an Italian guy and started spending time with his family, since their behavior was so different from what I grew up with. My Scandinavian relatives are formal and reserved, so we’ll shake hands with relatives rather than hugging them and speak politely without interrupting one another.

Imagine my surprise when my then-boyfriend’s grandmother SLAPPED my leg hard in emphasis when she was talking to me. I watched his mother, sister, and aunts whack one another during conversations while howling with laughter and talking over one another.

If your girlfriend comes from a Mediterranean, Latin American, or other culture where people are playfully aggressive on a regular basis, then this may be completely normal to her.

As such, when and if she slaps or punches you during a conversation, she doesn’t understand that it’s wrong to do so. In a situation like this, it’s important to explain the cultural differences and that although it’s normal to her, it’s absolutely not okay with you.

If she cares about you, she’ll take steps to adjust this behavior immediately. That said, if she dismisses what you’re saying as silly and maintains that “this is just how she is,” then it’s up to you to decide whether you want this as your baseline standard for the rest of your life.

She’s trying to establish dominance.

This happens more often than you might imagine. In many relationships, one party is the more dominant personality while the other is more submissive and compliant. It isn’t necessarily sexual, but rather a case of one being more strong-willed and demanding than the other.

Whether she has a naturally forceful personality, or has felt dominated in the past and doesn’t want to repeat that experience, she may use physical violence to assert her power and dominance in the relationship. She wants things the way she wants them, and instead of negotiating and compromising like a respectful adult, she hits.

Maybe you said something she disagreed with and she slapped you to silence you and told you not to mention it again. Or she smacked your hand away from something of hers instead of asking you not to touch it. Either way, it’s not okay.

She doesn’t know how to express her emotions verbally.

If she grew up in a household where people didn’t express their emotions in a healthy manner, she might have never learned how to do so. This may be especially true if she’s still quite young. In cases like this, she may not have the vocabulary to describe how or what she’s feeling and defaults to lashing out physically instead.

We see this behavior in small children who have to be taught to use their words, rather than just hitting things that are frustrating or upsetting them.

If your girlfriend has been feeling jealous about your attention toward someone else, or is upset that you don’t spend enough time with her, she might not know how to articulate her emotions. As such, she might slap or otherwise strike out at you instead of explaining herself.

She’s punishing you for someone else’s abuse toward her.

Or, to phrase this differently, someone else hurt them so they’re going to hurt another to make themselves feel better. This is psychological displacement in action.

Alternatively, if you said or did something that reminded her of the abuse she experienced at someone else’s hands, she might retaliate with force to make up for all the times she felt helpless and mistreated in the past.

She’s trying to defend herself.

If you’ve behaved in a manner that she perceived to be abusive or threatening, then she might have struck out at you in an attempt to defend herself. We’ve touched upon this in our article on reactive abuse, as it’s quite common in dysfunctional relationships.

For example, if you’re significantly taller and larger than your girlfriend, and you back her into a corner during an argument in which you’re yelling at her and using your (larger, stronger) body to trap her and make her feel small, then she might hit or kick you in an attempt to get away to safer ground.

This might even happen on a subconscious level. If she feels threatened by you, then she may try to level the playing field by proving that she isn’t helpless. You may not have done anything to provoke this feeling, but past experiences have intensified her self-preservation responses.

What to do if your girlfriend hits you:

This will depend on the intention behind her hitting you, as well as what your relationship has been like up until this point.

1. Tell her immediately that her behavior is NOT okay.

As we touched upon earlier, she might have been raised in a culture where slapping or hitting someone as emphasis during a conversation is normal, or she grew up in a family where people swatted each other on a regular basis but it was no big deal.

Let her know that even though that might have been okay with people she knew before, it’s completely unacceptable with you. She might try to justify her behaviors, or even insult you for being a baby about it, at which point you can repeat what you said about it being unacceptable and ask her clearly if she understands. Let her know that her actions will have consequences if she repeats this behavior.

Observe her reaction to this. Does she get defensive and laugh it off? Or get even angrier? Or does she apologize profusely and promise not to do it again? How she reacts will give you some solid insight as to how this will unfold in the future.

2. Seek to understand why she’s behaving like this.

There’s always an underlying reason for someone’s behavior. If you’re willing to give her a chance to explain herself rather than cutting her off immediately, then insist that she do so.

Should you discover that she freaked out and hit you because something you did reminded her of an abusive ex or parent, then you can work together to sort that out. You can be more conscious about avoiding her triggers, and she can learn to let you know what’s going on verbally instead of striking out.

Keep in mind that explanations are not excuses. Plenty of people who experienced abuse in the past don’t go on to abuse others in turn. You’re not responsible for how others hurt her, and it’s inexcusable to punish you for their transgressions.

If your girlfriend has experienced severe trauma to the point where she flies into instant fight-or-flight mode when triggered, then therapy is a must. She’ll need help to develop stronger coping skills and let go of issues that are causing this reaction. If she resists, let her know that therapy is a requisite for remaining in this relationship with you, because you refuse to be with a person who might hit you at any time.

Firm boundaries are essential here. While you can offer your support in getting help for her anger issues, she needs to accept that you will not tolerate physical aggression from her in the future.

3. Determine whether you want to continue this relationship.

Once again, we must take intention into account here. If she grew up playfighting with her siblings and thinks that slapping or light punching is fun or funny, she might be horrified to discover that her behavior is hurtful to you. As such, if you call her out on it immediately (as we mentioned earlier), she’s likely to apologize and not do it again.

This is very different from someone who strikes you in anger.

If you’re having an argument and your girlfriend slaps or punches you in the face, or is otherwise physically violent with the intention to hurt you, then there’s nothing playful about it. She wanted to shut you up and cause you pain.

I don’t know about you, but in situations like this, I have a one-strike rule. As in, they strike me once, and they’re gone. That’s the end of it. If it was a playful accident that they apologize for immediately, okay… but intentional, malicious violence? No. Furthermore, I’d call the cops and charge them with assault immediately.

Other people may feel differently, especially if they feel compassion for a partner who’s been through a lot of difficulty and has “potential,” but physical violence establishes a precedent. They may apologize and promise to do better, but time will tell if they actually hold to that. They might start a pattern of hitting you, apologizing, and then lavishing you with gifts. This is a common escalation pattern that won’t improve.

It is essential that you are willing to go down the breakup route to prevent a toxic cycle of physical violence followed by reconciliation. No one ought to endure repeated threats to their physical wellbeing.

Nobody can tell you what you should do in a situation like this, so the best advice is as follows: What advice would you give your best friend or your child if their partner hit them? Consider that advice for yourself.

Depending on what your relationship has been like up until now, you may be willing to give things another go if she agrees to therapy/anger management counselling. It’s easy for someone to say that they’ll never hit you again, and another thing entirely for them to show you that they’re putting in the work to change their ways.

Only you can decide whether to trust her enough to give her a second chance, or whether it’s best to part ways permanently.

4. Get the authorities involved to protect yourself.

If you want to stay in a relationship with this person because you love her and you think that things will improve, then take steps to protect yourself.

One of the best things that you can do is file a police report. You don’t have to charge her with assault, but rather have it on record that she was physically violent toward you. This way, there’s an official statement about a precedent that she has set.

It may be awful to consider now, but in many cases of abuse, a female partner will play victim and insist that it was the other party who attacked her. By filing a report every time she’s violent toward you, it establishes a history of physical violence. That will go a long way should you ever have to make a case against her.

Laws generally favor women over men (or larger, stronger female, trans, and nonbinary partners). Generally, if police are called because of a domestic disturbance, they’ll immediately see a smaller female as the victim, rather than the abuser. If a situation like this unfolds, you will have taken steps in advance to protect yourself from slanderous claims.

5. Make contingency plans.

If you live together, make sure that you have a safe place to go to if you need to. Keep a bag packed and enough money set aside to keep you going for a month if need be. Let a trusted friend or family member know what’s going on so they won’t be shocked if you call them up for emergency evacuation or show up at their door unannounced.

Additionally, you might want to let your employer know about what’s going on, just in case your partner shows up there and causes a scene. Much like filing a report with the police, letting your superiors know that you’re dealing with an individual who intends (and causes) you harm will ensure that they have your back if and when that’s needed.

Depending on your workplace, you can even let security know what you’re dealing with so they can intervene if and when she makes an appearance.

6. Collect evidence if needed.

If you believe that you’ll need to press charges (or defend yourself against them at some point), then start to collect evidence. For example, save text messages and emails in which you express to your girlfriend that hitting you is unacceptable, as well as her responses. If she insults you by calling you names or making fun of you as weak and pathetic, that’s important to have on hand.

Additionally, check to see what the surveillance laws are like in your area. Setting up a “nanny cam” in your home to record her violence toward you may be considered a privacy violation where you are and may be admissible in court.

7. Leave potentially dangerous situations.

If one of you is cooking in the kitchen and a fight starts to unfold, leave. She has already set a precedent of hitting you when she’s angry or upset, and many crimes happen in the heat of the moment. If she has butcher knives and boiling liquids within easy reach, those might end up flying in your direction if she loses control.

Remember that if your girlfriend has hit you in the past, then she’s likely capable of escalating that abuse. Remove yourself from any area in which you could be severely harmed.

8. Don’t blame yourself.

This sounds easier said than done, and blaming oneself is a hallmark of abusive situations. People often try to defend the one who hurts them by saying that it’s not bad all the time, or they wouldn’t have gotten hit if they hadn’t provoked their partner.

The fact is that it takes a long time to get to know a person, and we often only see someone’s true colors during times of stress or difficulty. If the beginning of your relationship was smooth sailing, then you likely didn’t see your girlfriend dealing with emotionally difficult or volatile situations. Suddenly, when things hit the fan, you’re face to face with a person you don’t recognize.

Additionally, relationship and life changes can often escalate abuse. For example, many people get more abusive to their spouses after marriage or having a child because they consider the relationship to be “locked in.” Their spouse is THEIRS now, so they can drop the facade they’d been maintaining up to that point. The goal was to get the other person into that situation in order to trap and keep them there.

9. End the relationship when you need to.

As mentioned, intention is everything in situations like this. If you love this woman enough to be in a relationship with her, then chances are you’re willing to work with her to make this pairing healthier and stronger.

That said, some people (myself included) have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to intimate partner violence. It’s one thing if my partner elbows or kicks me unintentionally in their sleep, and another entirely if they intentionally strike me in anger. If that happens, it’s over. End of discussion.

Your own tolerance threshold will depend on your personality, as well as what you may have experienced in the past. Either way, you’ll know when it’s time to end the relationship because something inside you will shift. You’ll just know that you’ve had quite enough, and it’s over.

There is never any justification for domestic violence.

The bottom line is, it’s never okay or normal for your girlfriend to hit you. It doesn’t matter what she might have been through in the past. She’s here with you now, and her violence toward you is unacceptable and inexcusable. Nothing she’s experienced with others before can justify her hurting you now. Whatever her feelings—jealousy, frustration, anger, disappointment—there is no excuse.

Ending this relationship and taking steps to protect yourself doesn’t make you weak or lesser in any way. Instead, you’re ensuring that you’re not being used as a punching bag for anyone, for any reason.

Protect yourself, make your wellbeing the priority here. Violence is never the answer.

Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist if you are not sure what your next move should be after your girlfriend hit you. You may want to try speaking to one via BetterHelp.com for quality care at its most convenient.

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About Author

Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist based in Quebec's Outaouais region. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.