And then he pulls out... the domestic violence card...?
July 9, 2014 8:22 AM   Subscribe

Last night, during a fight, my boyfriend accused me of trying to justify domestic violence against him. I feel a bit sick to my stomach, and don't know where to go from here.

Yesterday, I had a discussion with my boyfriend where he said that I had expectations of him that I didn't keep for myself. He brought up a couple of things, and yes, he was right, and yes, it was true, I did do those things. I said in the future, I would try to be more self-aware and that I was sorry for hurting him. He then brought up that I hit the side of his body with my hand after he makes offensive comments (ie. pretty off colour racist/sexist/homophobic jokes) in front of his friends, he said that that upsets him and that it wasn't ok for me to do that, and that it wouldn't be ok at all if the genders were reversed. I agreed and said he was right, that I wouldn't do it again, that if I was bothered by his jokes, I would tell him outright. But I also tried to explain why I was bothered by his jokes and why I was reacting by doing that. I told him how I thought it came across as just being playful, rather than hurtful.

This led to a long rant where he said I was justifying using domestic violence against him, and where he said that he had no idea whether or not I had any sort of moral system in place anymore. I was already feeling not great at the beginning of the evening, and by the time I left his house, I had a sick feeling in my stomach that he would suggest I was using domestic violence.

I had a father who was verbally abusive and controlling (and my bf knows this), and perhaps I should know better than using any sort of physical violence as a way of getting my point across. Yet at the same time, I would not consider my actions domestic violence. We are going to see each other tonight and I have no idea how to proceed. Suggestions?
posted by Ocellar to Human Relations (67 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

He makes racist/sexist/homophobic jokes and then accuses you of domestic violence as a defence mechanism? This does not sound like a guy to be with.

I'm presuming when you say you 'hit the side of his body with your hand' that it means a light slap intended more to prod than to cause harm? Were you actually doing this with the intent to hurt/control him?

He sounds like a manipulative piece of work! Get out now!
posted by Wysawyg at 8:30 AM on July 9, 2014 [26 favorites]

I agreed and said he was right, that I wouldn't do it again, that if I was bothered by his jokes, I would tell him outright. But I also tried to explain why I was bothered by his jokes and why I was reacting by doing that. I told him how I thought it came across as just being playful, rather than hurtful.

The form of this is classic faux-pology. I think you should both agree that if you are prepared to apologize for something and not do it again, you should say, "I'm sorry and I won't do it again."
posted by BibiRose at 8:30 AM on July 9, 2014 [6 favorites]

Is this guy this guy? The same guy from the last 3-4 questions? Maybe it's time to pull the plug on this whole mess. Surely being alone is better than this.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:30 AM on July 9, 2014 [27 favorites]

I would not continue dating someone who made sexist, racist, and homophobic jokes often enough for there to be a regular and consistent reaction in place. But that's just me.

That said.

My parents were pretty controlling, and open, rational discussion of problems and feelings just straight up didn't happen in my house. You may find it worthwhile to see a therapist to help figure out how to work through and verbalize your feelings and concerns instead of resorting to internalizing or dramatic escalation when something happens.
posted by phunniemee at 8:31 AM on July 9, 2014 [8 favorites]

"I will not hit you again, regardless of what you do. However I will find a more acceptable way to express disagreement, moving forwards."
posted by Phalene at 8:32 AM on July 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think that a lot of women have been socialized that "playful" hitting is okay - because we are the weaker gender, and thus hitting is just kind of cute and playful and funny, rather than actual violence. It's kind of a shock to realize that other people don't share this, but I think it's a good one. What you were doing doesn't sound like domestic violence, which generally includes an element of fear, intimidation, or control, but it does sound like a behavior that maybe it might be better for you to be without.

THAT SAID, your boyfriend sounds like he is unwilling to take responsibility for the hurtful quality of his "jokes" and is instead focusing on your reaction to deflect blame. I would not allow him to do this in the future.
posted by corb at 8:33 AM on July 9, 2014 [76 favorites]

Your boyfriend is very confused about what is and what isn't domestic violence. Your question reminded me of a previous ask-me about a boyfriend getting upset about a similar issue, and then I checked your previous asks and saw that you posted the question I'd been thinking of. Honestly, he sounds like a manipulative jerk. Your gut is telling you something for a very good reason.
posted by Sal and Richard at 8:33 AM on July 9, 2014 [8 favorites]

There's no specific measurement of force to indicate when a "playful" hit becomes an "abusive" hit, and I would speculate that there is a large percentage of the population that would say that it's never appropriate to hit your partner, regardless of the force or intent of the action. You acknowledged in your question that you recognized that hitting him in response to his saying something you don't like isn't appropriate. Regardless of how your actions should be defined, it's pretty clear that you need to stop them, and probably see a therapist or other professional to figure out how to better address your emotions.

(Also: He sounds like an asshole, and you should probably reconsider your relationship.)
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 8:33 AM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm not going to defend what your boyfriend says he views as domestic violence. If it's actually something he views as a physical altercation, fine, it is.

That said, obviously this is something you haven't seen as physical violence, just a kind-of-playful reprimand. It's also not really what other people think about when domestic violence is invoked.

Your boyfriend is possibly using a strategy I've heard in domestic arguments I think of as "you're a bad person for making me feel bad" -- really, a form of gaslighting. In this case, you've been reacting in a way that he's painting as horrible to distract from the fact you are reacting to actual garbage.

It becomes a meta-argument, which is what your question is about -- who is the bad person here? Is it the perpetrator of the racist/sexist jokes, or the person rebuking them in a way that is too harsh/unacceptable? Is the rebuke actually too harsh, or is it being painted as such to detract from the real issue? If you say "I don't like your sexist jokes" next time and he argues about the fact that you're being harsh to him, you'll have your answer.
posted by mikeh at 8:33 AM on July 9, 2014 [17 favorites]

I was all about to say "well, we don't know a whole lot about the situation, and hitting is mean and I think he could have a point" but then I looked up your question history. Is this the same guy? If so, get out of this relationship like yesterday.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:34 AM on July 9, 2014 [15 favorites]

I'd call it quits. You're not crazy. You're not abusing him by giving him a smack in the ribs when he's being an ass. And FWIW, it wouldn't be abuse vise-versa either.

What is abusive is his treatment of YOU. Making inappropriate jokes, calling you an abuser, etc.

You're not happy with this mook, you know you aren't.

I'd simply say, "Ralph, I've been on the fence about our relationship for awhile, we have some significant incompatabilities. After our fight last night, it's safe to say that our mutual respect for each other is erroding and honestly, this isn't the kind of relationship that I want. Via Con Dios."

Then bounce. Hell, I wouldn't even meet him. Why waste the effort. But, if you must, bag up everything he's left behind at your place and hand it back to him. Tell him he can keep whatever you've left at his, because you're THAT convicted about not seeing him again.

Then go no contact.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:38 AM on July 9, 2014 [14 favorites]

Don't hit people, and find a new boyfriend.
posted by ead at 8:39 AM on July 9, 2014 [46 favorites]

I'm not saying you should stay with him, based on those old questions, he sounds like an asshole. That said: someone being an asshole doesn't mean that they're always wrong or to blame for everything that happens to them. For your next relationship:

1. Stop using violence (even weak, "playful" violence) as a form of communication.

2. Internalize BibiRose's comment about faux-apologies.

Lots of comments above seem to be blaming him for this whole thing, which I find bizarre: he had some grievances to air, you agreed they were valid and legitimate complaints and then you went on to try to justify them or absolve yourself of responsibility for the things you did. Quit doing that. It makes the situation worse.
posted by toomuchpete at 8:40 AM on July 9, 2014 [7 favorites]

I have no opinion on whether or not you should stay with this guy, but on the limited subject of if you hitting him is acceptable and whether or not anyone would give him a break if the genders is reversed he's dead on. Violence against men is normalized. There are plenty of videos on youtube where women will attack and hit men in public and no one does a thing. You wouldn't be the first to internalize this.

I know plenty of women whose self described "playful" punches are quite hard enough to bruise. If someone is complaining about you hitting them maybe you should stop hitting them.

And, putting on my lawyer cap for a moment, I have seen much less forceful contact (grabbing a purse, or knocking a cell phone out of someone's hands), lead to Domestic Violence charges

In generally, when people ask you to stop hitting them. You should stop.
posted by bswinburn at 8:41 AM on July 9, 2014 [11 favorites]

I do not like the sound of this at all.

I'm assuming that by "hit the side of his body" you mean "gently poked at him" - kind of like kicking someone gently under the table to get them to stop being rude or elbowing them for the same purpose. I agree that this is a bad habit to have - it used to seem completely natural to me, since it's a normal kind of joking physicality the way I grew up, is never intended to hurt and is not consciously intended as an attempt to control or intimidate, but I dated someone for whom it was really uncomfortable and upsetting and who had grown up in a home where no one ever used that kind of physical contact. So I, like you, stopped. I think it's one of those things that isn't a good habit for anyone to have. It can easily have bad effects far beyond what you would intend or want, and it can stifle real communication. And while lightly smacking someone in an "oh, you!" way is not an especially violent thing to do, I think it naturalizes violence, and the idea that we express stress/frustration/anger through one-sided physical contact rather than through dialogue.

I think it's appropriate for him to ask that you not do this, and appropriate for you to stop.

At the same time, I think that dating someone who makes lots of off-color jokes repeatedly, who gets upset after reading a feminist blog post about sexual assault and who is creepy enough about sex to prompt an AskMe...

The thing is, I think it's not a good idea to poke people instead of using words. But I also think that this dude has a history of being sort of skeevy around gender stuff, and I strongly suspect that the poking-him-in-the-side thing doesn't actually bother him, it's just being used as a talking point.

You should stop poking/prodding people and DTMFA, in my opinion.
posted by Frowner at 8:44 AM on July 9, 2014 [35 favorites]

You're not abusing him by giving him a smack in the ribs when he's being an ass.

I see no basis for this statement. One might be abusing them, one might not be. I, personally, would not date anyone who felt the need to control my behavior by punching me when it didn't please them. And calling it "a smack" sounds like unfair minimization to me.
posted by bswinburn at 8:45 AM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

OP did not say it was a punch, that is something you invented on your own.

OP, really, if this is in fact the same guy your many other troubling AskMes have been about over the past few months then I think it is probably in both of your best interests to let this relationship end.
posted by elizardbits at 8:50 AM on July 9, 2014 [13 favorites]

Playful hitting is definitely not okay. Apologize profusely.

If there are other issues in your relationship, maybe seek couples therapy.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:52 AM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've looked at your past questions, and I agree with the others in this thread that this guy is a lost cause, and also that hitting someone, even lightly and even when it's in response to them doing something offensive, is never appropriate.

I'd further like to suggest that you might want to think about doing a little work on yourself — just a little, because you sound fairly self-aware and reasonable to me — but I think you might have some problems you could use a little professional help with, such as anxiety and obsessive thought patterns. In general, when people keep posting to AskMe about the same problem, it means they need more help than we can give and it's probably time to turn to the professionals. So please consider getting a few months of counselling, or at least doing some research and reading on whatever things you're having problems with.
posted by orange swan at 8:54 AM on July 9, 2014 [6 favorites]

I think we all agree that if someone asks you to stop smacking them playfully, you should stop. You agree with this too. Presumably you're not going to do it again. Ok, good.

If your boyfriend had just asked you to please not do that, and you'd agreed, I don't think it would have led to the angst you describe above. Instead, he labelled this domestic violence. Cue the argument above about whether this is domestic violence, who gets to determine what's domestic violence, what it would mean if the genders are reversed, etc. I could theorize about why your boyfriend might label something domestic violence, what types of self-doubt that's attempting to instill, and what this suggests about patterns in your relationship...but to do so would be to become distracted by his framing of this non-event.

Instead, I would ask you to return to the first paragraph. At the first mention that he was uncomfortable with this, you agreed to never do it again. That's over. What still remains is your relationship. And your previous questions about your relationship as a whole are deeply troubling. Leaving out this incident entirely, I think you need to get the hell out of this relationship as soon as humanly possible.
posted by leitmotif at 8:56 AM on July 9, 2014 [9 favorites]

Oh right, this is the guy who felt so very bad about the feminist blog? He is one of those people who likes to turn things around on others and guilt them. You need to keep your own side of the street clean and not do anything you can't be proud of and I think for that to happen, it'll be much easier if you just get out.
posted by BibiRose at 8:57 AM on July 9, 2014 [6 favorites]

It's okay to ask that you don't swat at him, because it's everybody's right to determine how they wish to be treated, especially physically, but his argument that you've lost your moral compass or whatever is so beyond the pale that I think he's trying to gaslight you into thinking you're a terrible person, when it seems you kind of think he's a sexist, racist, homophobic jerk.
posted by xingcat at 8:58 AM on July 9, 2014 [48 favorites]

He shouldn't make such remarks, and you shouldn't hit him. Simple as that. Neither action justifies the other action.
posted by Dansaman at 9:01 AM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

He 'has no idea whether you have any sort of moral system in place anymore'? What, all because you whack him in the side sometimes? But he's the one telling racist, sexist jokes?

Classic gaslighting if ever I saw it. He knows you'll be extra-sensitive to accusations of domestic violence, because of your father. He's found your Achilles heel, and he's gouging at it as hard as he can, to deflect attention away from his own bad behaviour.

How to proceed? Finish it. You don't need therapy or couple's counselling, IMO. The dynamics of this relationship are rotten.
posted by Salamander at 9:04 AM on July 9, 2014 [42 favorites]

There's a couple things to unpick here.

THING THE FIRST: Okay - when I was in my very early 20's, I was in a relationship where my boyfriend totally legit could have claimed that I was guilty of domestic violence. It wasn't "playful" punches in the ribs, it was unquestionably hitting; I was not really in control of my anger then, and we got into really bad fights and I would slap him in the face in my fury. (Important note: I realized after we broke up that that behavior was incredibly fucked up, and got myself help. I haven't done anything remotely like that since.)

I point that out to illustrate that what I was doing was very different from what it sounds like you were doing, and I'm saying that because it sounds like you're terrified that you are this ticking time bomb of rage that is about to go off. I do agree that it's not cool to be playfully punching him the way you have, especially now that he's said "don't do that", but I would not take his accusations of "domestic violence" as a warning that you are a rage-filled monster.

THING THE SECOND: I agree that maybe you should break it off. Not because you hit him or because he's making jokes or anything specific, but because it generally sounds like the communication between you two has just deteriorated. In a normal relationship, you say that you wish he wouldn't crack jokes, and he apologizes and tries to stop it. Also, in a normal relationship, if you give him a playful punch and it's actually too much for him, he just says "ow, that was harder than you maybe thought, don't do that, please?" and you say sorry and stop.

Instead, in your case, you are punching him because he's not stopping making jokes and rather than asking you to stop punching him he's claiming "domestic violence". It's not anyone's fault that these things are happening, but whose fault it is isn't the point - the point is that those are clear signs that something has gone way off the rails somewhere and that you two are just not a good combination. (I was the one who broke things off with that guy I was dating, because one day I realized that "hey, maybe the fact that one of us is hitting the other, even if I'm the one doing it, is a sign that something's really fucked up with us.")

So I would also recommend breaking things off with him, but for just general incompatibility. You're not able to work out your differences effectively; for whatever reason the two of you are a volatile combination. That kind of thing may not be anyone's fault, and it's not because one of you is evil; it's kind of like the combination of water and sodium. Each is a really good thing separately, but that specific combination is REALLY bad.

And I would also be a bit cautious about "playful" punching in the future; however, I would not take this as a sign that you are a latent abuser ready to Unleash Hell on anyone or anything. Just...lighten up on the playful punches, because not everyone parses that the same way.

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:06 AM on July 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

It also occurs to me that most of the people I know who do that "oh, you!" little smack, or elbow someone to get them to stop telling off-color jokes or whatever - are women. And that the underlying issue is "a gentle poke can be passed off as just a joke, but actually saying 'stop telling racist jokes' will provoke conflict". I think that while women can absolutely commit domestic violence, and while no one should do the poke-in-the-side thing, it suggests to me a situation where you are trying to play a girlish role of "oooh, you bad boy, stop with the inappropriate jokes, tee-hee" because you can't directly say "stop that, it's a dealbreaker for me".

This guy does not sound like a prize.

Don't get invested in trying to keep a bad relationship just because it's a relationship. You'll look back when you're older and regret your wasted youth.
posted by Frowner at 9:07 AM on July 9, 2014 [62 favorites]

Your boyfriend doesn't want to take responsibility for his own behavior and will do anything to manipulate you into taking the blame for his shittiness. That's what gaslighting is, as has already been mentioned by other posters. This will continue until/unless you decide to get out of the relationship. You deserve better.
posted by strelitzia at 9:09 AM on July 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Domestic violence is not typically defined as being solely about hitting. It is also talking about a system of power and control-there are couples who for a variety of dysfunctional reasons hit, maybe only once, but have relationships absent the power and control dynamic that is emblematic of domestic violence. Doesn't mean it's ok, doesn't mean te hitting doesn't need to stop, but it's a different thing. From my brief perusal of this and your previous questions, I think he's exhibiting a lot of power and control behaviors and I think folks are right telling you to get out. And after that, yeah, some therapy to help you with your own issues would be a very good thing.
posted by purenitrous at 9:12 AM on July 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

A lot of good advice above that covers both sides, although certainly leaning in your favor that he is diverting the negative attention on to you. But it sounds to me like you don't want to leave this guy, you want to work it out. There is nothing wrong with wanting to find resolution, you don't have to break up with this guy. Other people are saying dump him but that isn't answering your question. You want to know how to proceed with him, right? I suggest that you provide a sincere apology that you hit him in the side, that you did not intend to hurt him but you did. You will not do it again. And then, and this is very important, wait and see. If he continues to bring it up and accuse you of violence after the apology and time has passed, well, that would be a bigger problem.
posted by waving at 9:18 AM on July 9, 2014

No worries dude, I won't hit you again. Bye.
posted by Namlit at 9:20 AM on July 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

This needs to be broken down into a few parts.

This led to a long rant where he said I was justifying using domestic violence against him,

Other people have covered hitting and it's good that you've understood some people find it really upsetting and harmful, even when you don't intend it that way, and they've also explained how explaining right after an apology can diminish it for the recipient, even unintentionally. I think you've got the point.

and where he said that he had no idea whether or not I had any sort of moral system in place anymore

The second half of this sentence is not compatible with continuing a relationship. If he said that sincerely, then he should end his relationship with you, for both of your sakes. I would not say this to someone I still loved and respected and wanted to continue a relationship with. Those are "scorched earth" words of contempt. You may not recognize it, due to your upbringing, but some things aren't acceptable fighting words, no matter how angry you are. At least in my world: you see, words like that undermine someone's sense of self and erode at their feelings of worth as a person.

What he said is also, from your own words, demonstrably false. Well, I suppose, he could sincerely believe that he is unable to determine if you still possess a moral compass. However, people who lack moral compasses don't go "holy shit, you're right. I was hitting you, and it hurt you. I thought I was doing one thing, and intended something besides hurting you, but instead you're saying it hurt you and was abusive. I am very concerned about that, and the thought makes me feel sick." Moreover, people without moral systems do not ask the internet for advice, because they think they must be missing something here. People without moral compasses aren't going to be confused or concerned that they were behaving badly or hurting other people. Caring about having hurt other people is the opposite of not having a moral system.

However, I suspect that he did not say it sincerely. I think he said it to hurt and manipulate you. As I said, if he really believed that you lacked morality, he would end your relationship altogether.

I think you would be happier without this relationship. Therapy would be a good idea, too.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 9:24 AM on July 9, 2014 [24 favorites]

he said that he had no idea whether or not I had any sort of moral system in place anymore

If he seriously meant this, why on earth would he stay with you (since, apparently, he sees you as some kind of amoral monster)? If he didn't seriously mean this, he's acting like a manipulative dick.

(I vote for dick.)
posted by mskyle at 9:29 AM on July 9, 2014 [6 favorites]

Ruthless Bunny: You're not abusing him by giving him a smack in the ribs when he's being an ass. And FWIW, it wouldn't be abuse vise-versa either.

I doubt very many people would agree with that statement, although woman-on-man violence is tolerated by a lot more people than the reverse.

I grew up being beaten almost daily. I have really deepseated reasons for disliking your absurd idea that it's OK to physically attack someone, as long as you meant it playfully. I've gotten to the point where I don't punch or kick people who do it to me, but it's still pretty upsetting to me.

Now, to the OP: DTMFA. He's no good for you.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:49 AM on July 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

Hitting is wrong. You apologized for that.

The question of stay or not stay has nothing to do with that question and is best dealt with by drawing a line down the middle of a sheet of paper and writing the reasons to stay together on one side and the reasons to break up on the other. Then give a numerical value to each. That will answer the question.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:53 AM on July 9, 2014

I generally argue against the chorus of DTMFA. But, in this case, I strongly suspect you picked a guy who is much like your father because that reads like "a man" to you and you have yet to do the work it takes to learn to define "a manly man" -- ie one worth sleeping with -- in terms that do not basically require you to get with someone abusive in much the same way as your father. So I will suggest you a) DTMFA b) get into therapy or otherwise seriously work on yourself so you can not get with this kind of guy again and c) make it a personal rule that men who do things that make you feel justified in "smacking" them are not men you should be with.

I have a temper. I was abused as a kid. I was married for a long time to someone I had frequent, long, loud fights with. These days, that kind of fightiness in a relationship is a deal breaker for me. It has taken me a long, long time to figure out a way out of such patterns. But if I felt that someone was a) misbehaving so much that "smacking" them was justified and b) like Frowner said, felt that "playful" smacking was the only acceptable way to object to icky behavior, I would consider that an automatic deal breaker, and no I don't need to think about this or hash it out with anyone else or get friends to give me feedback or whatever. If I am feeling that specific combination of seriously provoked and simultaneously disempowered and, thus, looking for some kind of surreptitious "acceptable" means to protest, yeah, I really do not need to be there. At all.

But don't bother to dump him if you aren't willing to promptly do some serious work on yourself. Because if you just dump him and say "problem solved" and don't work on yourself, the next guy will almost certainly be a case of "new face, same old crapola." Sometimes we learn and grow best by hashing it out with the crappy hand we currently have rather than trying to get new cards. Because, no, hitting someone is not okay. It is just not. But, no, you also shouldn't put up with someone doing something so awful that you feel provoked to that degree. But, again, a lot of that is likely rooted in the very human phenomenon that "attractive men -- REAL men -- are men like my dad" so if dad was a crappy person, you have a hard time recognizing non-crappy men as Men (and thus worth sleeping with). And fixing that will take significant work. Just dumping this guy won't fix that, though it might be a step in the right direction.
posted by Michele in California at 10:00 AM on July 9, 2014 [19 favorites]

Ok so I'm a man who is a survivor of domestic violence at the hands of two different girlfriends. I think what a lot of people have said here regarding using violence, even light "playful" violence as a means of communication being a bad idea is on-point, and I don't think I have anything better to say on the subject.

Instead I'll tell a story about one of those exes, with whom I am still on good terms, and who I have forgiven. The story is this: I realized, when we were talking recently that it would be very tempting to use the time she resorted to violence (FWIW it was more than a playful hit - it was done in anger and injured me) as a means of control. Like you, she apologized and was horrified and knows it was wrong and has been going to therapy, etc.
When we speak, there will sometimes come a point at which, if I wanted to, I could shut down a conversation by mentioning or alluding to what she did that night. That wouldn't be genuine forgiveness, so I don't, but I also have to watch out for more subtle versions of this, including even wishing she were different. She is who she is, and she is in the place she is in, and I can't and shouldn't control that. And also she is still a person with her own feelings and I am still a person capable of being a dick, and while her choices surrounding violence means I have new boundaries with her (we're not seeing each other), they do not give me a get-out-of-jail-free card regarding my own bad behavior.

I say all of this to suggest that, while, yes, we should not use violence to communicate, and yes, everyone gets to decide his/her own threshold of what is and isn't a good touch, but it reads to me like your boyfriend is trying to do the thing I have been working hard to avoid - that is, to use these moments where you've used violence in a way that makes him feel unsafe as rhetorical devices in an attempt to control you in some way. That is, in my opinion, unhealthy, and no basis for a relationship of any kind, not even a friendship. At least not now. I think now might be the time for new boundaries with him and distance - by his own report he's been enduring trauma and should probably be in therapy and spending time apart from you to heal. And it also sounds like he might be exhibiting some of the behaviors you experienced with your father, so you might do well to take some distance of your own, and I cannot recommend therapy enough.

You two might not be right for each - only time will tell that, but it sounds like right now what you have is not healthy, and this might be a good time to go ahead and break things off and focus on you.
posted by eustacescrubb at 10:08 AM on July 9, 2014 [13 favorites]

It sounds like this not about domestic violence or off color jokes. It's about a you holding a double standard and lacking empathy to see your behavior from his point of view (I don't know if it's a valid issue, I just strongly suspect that is the problem that is frustrating him).

It's not about sociopolitical hot buttons. It's personal.
posted by dzot at 10:20 AM on July 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Your boyfriends full of shit. Poking someone in the side is no more domestic violence than throwing a wadded up piece of paper at them.

You're not going it in anger
You are not in a rage
You are not trying to control him
He's not afraid of you
You're not controlling him in other ways, like financially or socially.
posted by fshgrl at 10:50 AM on July 9, 2014 [10 favorites]

I'm surprised that nobody has brought this up yet, but "women hit men all the time and it's not reported as domestic abuse, TAKE THAT, FEMINISTS!!" is a rising trend on MRA and other misogynistic forums. There's a lot of outrage in the manosphere (and general male-centric sites like reddit) about how awful and misandric and abusive women, and especially feminists are, to the men in their lives, and how there's a huge hidden epidemic of violence going on that's being kept hidden by feminist hypocrisy (also enforced by trans people, the gay agenda, angry "toxic activist" poc, etc). Obvs female on male domestic abuse happens and should be taken seriously, but I would be more concerned about the hitting complaint (which you've already made the correct decision to stop and to be more mindful about in general, btw) if it weren't directly in response to you asking him to stop making offensive jokes, and if you hadn't already posted an Ask about him having a tantrum about being personally oppressed by the moral hypocrisy of internet feminism. I would bet cash money "He had no idea whether or not I had any sort of moral system in place anymore" is a phrase he picked up online somewhere and is parroting back at you because he's sick of you telling him to stop being such a bigot.

Not only is this dude a sexist, homophobic racist asshole who is manipulating and gaslighting you, he can't even come up with his own ideas. You can do so much better.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 11:08 AM on July 9, 2014 [30 favorites]

Hitting someone hard is wrong, but equating light, playful "stop that" hitting with domestic violence is fucking insane. Seriously?!?

If it bothers him, you should stop. I hate when people touch me to prove a point, and I find playful hitting really annoying. But you should stop and then never talk to him again, because this guy sounds like the fucking worst.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:24 AM on July 9, 2014 [10 favorites]

Just seconding Ruthless Bunny. More specifically - I've been close to all sorts of people who have undergone physical abuse, and for most of them, especially when there is any distance between their current and former lives, there is a very, very large line between a poke in the shoulder and a punch in the face.

This guy seems to be turning the argument around on you because he won't face his own behavior. Without acknowledgement and apology for that sort of thing, it wanders into deal-killer territory.
posted by cnc at 11:36 AM on July 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I had a father who was verbally abusive and controlling (and my bf knows this), and perhaps I should know better than using any sort of physical violence as a way of getting my point across.

You have a boyfriend who *knows* you experienced/witnessed abuse within your family, but then uses a claim of "domestic abuse" as a weapon against you in your relationship.

Do you realize that this is a form of emotional abuse?

Witnessing abuse in our early socialization is tough, because it means we have to be very vigilant about learning how healthy relationships work. The relationship you've described in your post is toxic.

He then brought up that I hit the side of his body with my hand after he makes offensive comments (ie. pretty off colour racist/sexist/homophobic jokes) in front of his friends, he said that that upsets him and that it wasn't ok for me to do that

If having a partner who is not racist, sexist or homophobic is important to you, then find a partner who is not racist, sexist or homophobic. Playfully hitting your boyfriend is not the answer. I say this as someone who used to have a partner who made racist, sexist and homophobic remarks -- I would try to correct them, argue with them, etc -- until I realized, after the relationship ended - that my ex was not to blame for having attitudes I found objectionable ..I was responsible for my daily decision to stay in a relationship with someone who did not share my values.

You have to decide what you stand for -- and stand for it. Use this relationship as a roadmap to your comfort zone and boundaries. You have learned, among other things, that you do not like boyfriends who make sexist, racist or homophobic remarks. So get another boyfriend.
posted by Gray Skies at 11:38 AM on July 9, 2014 [9 favorites]

Ruthhless Bunny: You're not abusing him by giving him a smack in the ribs when he's being an ass. And FWIW, it wouldn't be abuse vise-versa either.

I doubt very many people would agree with that statement, although woman-on-man violence is tolerated by a lot more people than the reverse.

I grew up being beaten almost daily. I have really deepseated reasons for disliking your absurd idea that it's OK to physically attack someone.

I've been called out on this, so I'd like to clarify. There's a chasm between the 'poke in the ribs' and 'squeeze on the arm' and 'physically attacking' someone. Now, it's entirely okay for someone to say, "I don't like that, please stop," and you should stop. Absolutely. I had a friend who would smack me for emphasis so hard she'd bruise me. I get it. (BTW, that wasn't abuse or a physical attack, it was enthusiasm.)

I think we know the difference between hitting with malace and the desire to hurt someone, and a physical nudge to let someone know that they're being inappropriate-or that you're really happy about a new pair of boots.

I do not condone violence of any sort. However, I acknowledge that there's a difference between violence and touching someone.

I do not appreciate having my words ascribed to me as though I am okay with hitting.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:45 AM on July 9, 2014 [19 favorites]

Gosh.. I just realized that you also posted this .

I'm starting to really wonder if your boyfriend has past trauma around abuse that he has not dealt with. Regardless, you are not his therapist. You can't work this out for him. You two obviously do understand gender, patriarchy and sexism in the same way.

With compassion, I suggest you look into therapy to explore why you have remained in a dysfunctional relationship with this guy for as long as you have. Hopefully your therapist can also help you leave him.

This is not the way good relationships feel or work. Trust us.
posted by Gray Skies at 11:48 AM on July 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

It sounds like this not about domestic violence or off color jokes. It's about a you holding a double standard and lacking empathy to see your behavior from his point of view (I don't know if it's a valid issue, I just strongly suspect that is the problem that is frustrating him).

I read your previous threads about your boyfriend, and while I think you might want to be careful about hitting people playfully to make a point because it may be misunderstood, I think you should give unhelpful advice like that a pass.

You'd be much better off dumping the sexist, racist, gaslightly zero like a hero, take a break from dating, and see a therapist to unwrap the patterns that made you attracted to unsuitable men.
posted by Tsukushi at 12:08 PM on July 9, 2014 [10 favorites]

I am a man.
I like telling lewd jokes occasionally.
I do not like being hit.

If my girlfriend hit me over a joke, really over anything, I would end that relationship. It is a deal breaker for me.
posted by I am the Walrus at 12:36 PM on July 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

The final arbiter of whether something makes someone uncomfortable is the person on the receiving end of whatever it is that's going on. One individual doesn't get to say whether or not another individual was abused.

You should not be hitting him. That's not OK. He should not be telling pretty off colour racist/sexist/homophobic jokes. That's also very much not OK. The adult way to handle this would have been for both of you to apologise for doing something that bothered their loved one, and then tried to not do it again. It reads like you did the adult thing, but your boyfriend didn't.

he said that he had no idea whether or not I had any sort of moral system in place anymore

I think that most people, if they suspected that their loved one was a psychopath, would run the fuck away. I don't know what his game is by saying that to you, but it's not a good game to be playing. It's fair enough that he was upset at being called out on his bullshit. It's not fair to attack in return.

It might be that he misunderstood what you were trying to say to him, or it might be that you didn't communicate clearly. Ask him what it was he thought you were trying to say last night. There's a thing where a person says "What I'm hearing you say is...." and then says their understanding of what the first speaker said. It can be useful sometimes to get a read on how another person's filters work. He might be hearing a very different thing to what you're actually saying.

All that said, I still think you're better off getting rid of someone who likes telling racist jokes. And I think you maybe would benefit from spending some time thinking about why you think hitting people is OK.
posted by Solomon at 12:41 PM on July 9, 2014

I think moonlight on vermont's comment needs to be stressed: But "women hit men all the time and it's not reported as domestic abuse, TAKE THAT, FEMINISTS!!" is a rising trend on MRA and other misogynistic forums. There's a lot of outrage in the manosphere (and general male-centric sites like reddit) about how awful and misandric and abusive women, and especially feminists are, to the men in their lives, and how there's a huge hidden epidemic of violence going on that's being kept hidden by feminist hypocrisy"

Because when reading your other questions about this guy, I was thinking that he sounded exactly like a MEN FIRST kind of guy, angry about his lot in life and how women hold all the power and why doesn't anyone think of the poor men?

It could be how you phrased things, but to me he sounds like he's utterly not worth the effort.

Whether you playfully slapped him or punched him in anger is unknowable by outsiders. I agree that you should probably not do that again unless you are trying to save your own life. But I think his response is very telling and should set off warning bells for you. Do you want someone who's so angry in your life? And who makes you so angry? Cut him loose.
posted by clone boulevard at 12:46 PM on July 9, 2014 [7 favorites]

Why are you dating a racist, sexist homophobe who accuses you of wrongdoing while refusing to acknowledge the problem with his behaviour when his behavior upsets you? He sounds like a shit.
posted by windykites at 1:23 PM on July 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

Nthing moonlight on Vermont and clone boulevard, just above.

This guy sounds like an unoriginal asshole reading internet crap and spouting ridiculous hyperbole as a way to avoid doing self-work and working on his own emotional maturity.

I agree you can be wrong about hitting him, but you already understand this.
posted by jbenben at 1:27 PM on July 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

He wants to claim victim status as a way of claiming a perceived moral high ground and as a way of controlling the dynamic.

I used to do it. It's really toxic behavior coming from a very insecure place.
posted by PMdixon at 2:46 PM on July 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

Thank you for all for your advice.

I spoke to him tonight. I apologized again, this time without justifying myself like I did the times before. What a lot of you have said about women hitting men really hit the nail on the head for me, thank you-- I hadn't really considered how the gender dynamics were coming into play in that situation, and just kind of thought to myself that since I'm a woman, a playful hit was an acceptable response to an offensive joke. really, though, it isn't.

I also brought up with him that I didn't think he had been 'playing fair,' when we talked yesterday night, and that he wasn't justified in attacking my morality in the way that he did. He acknowledged this and apologized.

I have my first therapy appointment tomorrow.
posted by Ocellar at 3:13 PM on July 9, 2014 [19 favorites]

I'm glad you're feeling better. Good luck with your therapy appointment.

On the chance it will be useful to you, I'll say this: I find characterizations really unhelpful. They are often problematic because people disagree on what fits under the umbrella. (Eg, what constitutes "domestic violence"? Or "cheating"?) And at worst, they are poisonous to discourse. There is, as you felt last night, a world of difference between being told, "Please don't hit me," as opposed to, "You just committed domestic violence." If the two statements—the literal, and the characterization—can get you to the same place and solve the problem equally, then it is almost always preferable to use literal language.
posted by cribcage at 4:09 PM on July 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Same guy as last couple posts?

You might want to rethink this relationship.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:46 PM on July 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

I hadn't really considered how the gender dynamics were coming into play in that situation, and just kind of thought to myself that since I'm a woman, a playful hit was an acceptable response to an offensive joke. really, though, it isn't.

Well, let's put things into perspective. That could have been taken from any given episode of Everybody Loves Raymond (or any crappy sitcom, and probably 3/5 low-conflict, non-pathological marital exchanges). "Raaaay!" (loving maternalish censure, light frown, stern look, on to talk about cookies and the promotion at work). That's what it would have been for really a lot of people.

He said "nope don't like" -- fine, important to agree to that, because yeah, it's not ok if there isn't a shared understanding. But sounds like your action was very much in alignment with generally accepted scripts (which as people have argued is worth reviewing critically, absolutely). Compared to norms, his reaction was out of proportion to the event, and so (therefore) imo is the heaviness of your regret around it. (Though i get that you're responding to responses here, too).

As others have said, it does sound like he fakes victimization to manipulate and destabilize you. How often do you apologize? He wins all the time, that way. It works for him, so he's not going to stop.

I even suspect he only accepted your explanation of the morality thing (which was outrageous, beyond the pale, for another reference point) and apologized to you to futureproof his next gaslighting attempt -- he knew that if he didn't, it would invalidate his whole strategic approach.

He doesn't agree to your sense of reality (or you) at all, and that decentered, unreal feeling won't leave you until you leave him. I really hope you do, because the fact is, feeling the way you feel with him, for years on end, is just a shitty way to spend the limited time we've got on earth.

I am really, really glad you went for therapy.
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:54 PM on July 9, 2014 [7 favorites]

Everyone else has already covered the important points, including playful hitting being Not OK (unless specifically verbally OK'd and consented to first).

I came here to recommend that perhaps you might enjoy a martial arts, self-defence or boxing class. It can be tremendously liberating and therapeutic to do some hitting in an environment where that is OK and safe. So, yes, hit people: but get some instruction, do some practice, and then (under appropriate supervision) hit people who are OK with getting hit, wearing protective gear and have a sporting chance of hitting you back.

I spent a lot of my childhood fearing the unforeseen blow that comes out of nowhere. Martial arts have been incredibly helpful at dispelling that old fear, and with it many lingering anxiety and self-esteem issues. Also, you get a lot better at hitting.
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:18 PM on July 9, 2014

Honestly WHY are you hanging onto this guy so tightly? He's not the last man on earth. How many of your boxes is he ticking really? Other than Male, what does he do for you. You come here about once every three weeks telling a story about how you're upset with him because of bah and foo and blah, and we all agree, he's an ass, not nice and generally messing with your mind. And you then go and make up with him, until some other egregious thing happens.

This whole thing got derailed over hitting. THAT WASN'T THE FUCKING POINT!

He said he didn't like it, you agreed to stop--AND HE PUSHED IT UNTIL YOU FELT TERRIBLE.

Why is that okay with you? Do you enjoy feeling terrible?

How about you take a break from him? Live without him for a few weeks, talk to your therapist, and I'd like to leave you with some wisdom:

You don't have to stay just because it's not horrible. You can leave just because you want to. Not every relationship is workable, just because there's no compelling event, doesn't mean you have to stick it out, having long earnest conversations and defining and redefining yourself until you've lost sight of who you are all-together.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:55 PM on July 9, 2014 [18 favorites]

I told him how I thought it came across as just being playful, rather than hurtful.

If someone doesn't like the way you are touching them you should stop. That you thought it would be a playful way to touch them doesn't mean it's OK to do.
posted by yohko at 5:59 PM on July 9, 2014

I disagree with the growing consensus here that 'hitting' someone in the ribs in response to a bad joke is inherently wrong. 'Playful hitting' is like any kind of physical rough-housing, tickling or verbal teasing—it's totally fine if everyone's having fun, and it's not fine if someone isn't.

Apparently he isn't having fun when you hit him in the ribs, so yeah, you need to cut that out. But you're not having fun when he tells sexist/racist/homophobic jokes. Is he going to stop doing that?

Like some others here, I get the impression (from this question and your previous ones) that he's a sexist, racist and homophobic ass who is also extremely skilled at manipulating you. He knows where your buttons are and how to press them. He knows how to derail conversations about shit he's doing by flipping things around and making stuff your fault.

You can do so much better than this relationship. In five years' time you will look back and wonder why on earth you tried so hard to make it work.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 6:35 PM on July 9, 2014 [7 favorites]

One more guy here who's had a woman get abusive on him - when I broke up with one of my first girlfriends, I had to call the cops on her.

Ever since then, I've told every girlfriend I've had, early in the relationship, that "if you strike me for any reason, this relationship is immediately over. No exceptions."

It's come off as somewhat assholeish, but it's a barrier I have to make explicit.

And despite what others are saying, you are doing this to control him. You don't like his behavior, so you're using hitting to get him to stop doing it.

There is no excuse for domestic violence.
posted by Hatashran at 9:08 PM on July 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

One thing that concerns me, between this question and the "feminist blog" one... this guy really seems to be committed to seeing himself as a Victim of Women, and as such he is actively looking for things to be hurt and offended about, for any excuse to have this same fight, over and over again. And he particularly wants to have this fight with you, to the point where he starts a fight over something your friend wrote because you weren't supportive enough of his imagined victimization by the evil feminists.

He escalates the fight even as you are trying to be reasonable to him, making ever more bizarre and hurtful accusations until he is satisfied that he has convinced you that you have been a bad person to him.

Now he gets to sit back, all self-righteous and victim-y, while you second-guess your basic goodness as a human being and walk on eggshells around him because you feel terrible that you may have inadvertently hurt him or been unfair to him in some way; and you are determined to be extra careful from now on to make sure you are being a fair, kind and supportive girlfriend and not just another ball-breaky, hypocritical feminist grinding your stiletto heel into his forehead and making him feel all powerless and small and mad.

What a great set up, huh? He gets to be the victim and soak up all this kid-glove treatment, and all he has to do is make sure you keep feeling like shit about yourself.

People who do this tend to continue to do this, because they are good at manipulating. It's the easiest way for them to get what they want and they don't mind the drama it causes... in fact, it exhilarates them. It's all a big game to them and they play to win every time.

This is no way to live, trust me. Life is too short to tap-dance around the hurty feelings of some asshole who actively wants you to feel like shit.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:20 PM on July 9, 2014 [41 favorites]

he is actively looking for things to be hurt and offended about

Favorited so hard, this whole response is right on. I dated this same guy - or a least a fan of the same forums - and I tried and tried (and TRIED) to make it all better. But all better was not what he wanted. He wanted evidence for the file and he would get it come hell or high water.

It just occurs to me now why there was always so much anger in his voice when he talked about how nice I was. Geez.

Point being, please don't stay with him. People who think like this aren't interested in healthy, mutually fulfilling relationships. You can and will do so much better.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 9:40 PM on July 9, 2014 [10 favorites]

a) Don't hit people, even lightly, even when they are being a jerk, if they ask you to stop.

b) OMG DTMFA. If this is the same guy you have been asking about previously, just bolt. Not worth it. Open up room in your life for someone who does not treat you like this.
posted by ananci at 12:11 AM on July 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think you will get into this in therapy, so just a note to say that from my perspective, your actions in this relationship make total sense in the context of your background. I have a similar background. For me it is not simply realizing "oh hey this is bad I better get out" and "oh I was neglected and exposed to some really inappropriate behavior as a child" because that realization is relatively easy to come by.

The deeper understanding is "oh, I don't have to take care of someone who doesn't love me in order to be loved" and "oh, I didn't get what I needed because of them, not because of me, and nothing will change this." This is the understanding that will free you and it comes from the heart, not the mind. I wish you all the best in your journey.
posted by macinchik at 10:15 AM on July 10, 2014 [7 favorites]

Yeah, nthing DTMFA. This is some classic gaslighting.
posted by missrachael at 11:44 AM on July 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Total manipulative moves here. Don't feel bad for even a second.
posted by naju at 12:39 PM on July 10, 2014

Hey-- I hope I'm not spamming, but I've been thinking about this post all day, especially because of the talking point, "if the genders were reversed." There was recently another ask that's been on my mind, a painful one from a male mefite who is being very seriously abused by his wife. I reread both of your Ask histories and I see a lot of similarities in the patterns of false victimization and controlling behavior in these relationships, especially the hyperbolic accusations of some kind of abuse (abandonment, "domestic violence", cheating) and demands that the accused partner must provide comfort, while the accuser is not responsible for changing any of their own behavior. I do not think the kind of playful light hitting you describe, intended as play and stopped upon request, could be acceptably described as "domestic violence" if done by a man to his female partner. It is, in itself, point blank emotional abuse to level that kind of accusation against your SO in bad faith, and it is verbally abusive to tell them they have no morals and to otherwise verbally degrade their character like your boyfriend has done to you. I made a snarky post about MRAs, and hope the tone didn't detract from the message-- it was 100% serious about the gaslighting and manipulative behavior. Your relationship is very new and the dynamic you describe is nowhere near as serious as the other Ask, but I am still worried for you.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 4:13 PM on July 10, 2014 [8 favorites]

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