Domestic Abuse?

My husband and I had an argument in which I continually asked him to stop talking to me because he was making me angry. He continued to get "in my face" about it, so I slapped him on the cheek. Then he grabbed my arms to stop me. This hurt me, so I bit his arm to get him off me. Now he says I am a physically abusive person because I slapped him and bit him and he was just grabbing my arms to stop me from hurting him more. I think a woman slapping a man on the cheek hardly constitutes physical abuse - correct? and I only bit him to make him let go of my arms. That was self-defense as far as I am concerned.

Ben's Answer:

In an argument, usually neither person is in a "reasonable" state of mind. So telling him to stop talking to you may have fallen on deaf ears. Walking away may have served you better than trying to control him, and challenging his ego.

As for the physical abuse part - I can see both sides in this situation. If he had called the police, they would have had justification to arrest you, since you hit him and bit him (if he had any marks to prove it). By the same token, if you had called the police, and showed them a bruise on your arm, they might have arrested him for domestic abuse. Or maybe they would have taken you both in!

I may sound like I'm joking, but I've seen a number of times, women who were clearly emotionally abused, and even physically roughed up, and provoked until they blew up and slapped a guy, only to have the police show up and put her in jail. Sad but true.

Best to avoid all that, and just agree to walk away from one another when you're in a pointless argument that is going downhill fast. You could save yourselves a lot of regrets and further damage to the relationship by finding a way to disengage from the drama when it gets too intense.

If you throw the first "punch" - even if it's a slap in the face - you have to realize the risk you are taking. I don't know many guys who would accept a slap in the face without reacting aggressively in some way.

One of the most common scenarios I've seen that lead to physical violence is when it starts with an argument, and one person tries to walk out - to cool down - and the other person, in their rage, stands in front of the door and refuses to let them leave. Very dangerous situation, because it usually has to do with an intense fear of abandonment - fear of being left. If you ever try to walk out, and he won't let you, then try to calm down and stick around until he's not looking... and then leave and go to a safe place as fast as possible.

Marital therapy
would probably be a good idea for both of you to figure out what's going on between you.

Take Care,
Ben Schwarcz, MFT
Santa Rosa Psychotherapist

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