Forming and maintaining healthy relationships can feel challenging. You may deal with interpersonal conflicts, disagreements, and difficulty with commitment or communication. In some relationships, arguments, and disagreements may escalate to an unhealthy level.
Resorting to physical violence in a relationship can have detrimental impacts on your partner's mental and physical health. In the US, one in three men has reported physical abuse or domestic violence from a partner. For this reason, tackling harmful behaviors head-on is essential for preventing future patterns of violent behavior in relationships.
The United Nations website defines domestic violence or intimate partner violence as any act that frightens, intimidates, terrorizes, manipulates, hurts, humiliates, blames, injures, or wounds someone else. Domestic abuse can affect anyone of any gender, race, social status, class, or sexuality. Additionally, anyone of any gender, race, social status, class, or sexuality can act abusively toward another person.
Hitting someone intentionally, regardless of the reason, can be defined as abusive behavior. Abuse often accompanies a pattern of behavior over time. However, hitting a partner even once can have harmful impacts, just as much as hitting someone multiple times. Even if your intentions are not to hurt someone and even if you love your boyfriend, hitting them is still a violent act and is considered abusive behavior.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline notes that those who act abusively can change their behavioral patterns with effort, willingness, and support.
If you have recently hit your partner, you may be wondering why. You may have felt out of control, overcome by emotion, angry, or incapacitated. In any case, your actions can significantly impact your relationship.
Although you may have had other intentions, you must accept that your behavior harmed your boyfriend. Taking responsibility for the action itself can be a powerful step toward changing unhealthy patterns.
You may have hit your partner due to lessons you learned as a child or adult. You could have witnessed familial violence or an abusive relationship between your caregivers or someone close to you. Many people who act abusively have experienced abuse themselves. However, these experiences do not necessarily excuse or take away from potential harm, much like intent may not take away from impact.
There are certain stigmas around the mental health of men and boys. Men may fear reaching out for support when experiencing physical violence due to these stigmas. Society might spread messages that a man being hit by a partner is not experiencing abuse or that a woman cannot be an abuser. However, men experience physical violence too, and it can be damaging to their mental health.
If you found yourself hitting your boyfriend because you felt you could do so due to their gender, this may be due to a societal stigma or cognitive distortion about the roles of men in society. Anyone of any gender can act unhealthily toward anyone else. Unpacking these beliefs and doing the work to destigmatize the mental health of men in your life can be beneficial.
What Could I Have Done Instead?
To understand how you could have reacted differently, you may want to pinpoint the urge or emotion behind your action. When you hit your boyfriend, were you feeling angry, sad, anxious, disrespected, guilty, hostile, or irritated? There may be different methods of managing emotional distress depending on the emotion you're experiencing. Below are a few options.
Leave the situation immediately if you feel the urge to resort to physical violence during an argument. Take time to examine your urges in a safe and comfortable area away from your boyfriend. Do not return until you feel the urge has passed.
- Deep breathing exercises
- Mindfulness or guided meditation
- Journaling about your feelings
- Taking a "video journal" by talking to your camera about how you feel and saving the video for personal use without posting it
- Screaming into a pillow or blanket or going to a secluded location to yell
Avoid driving while angry or upset, as your emotions may distract you, and driving could be unsafe.
How To Work Through Physical Violence Urges
If you want to develop healthier coping mechanisms for conflict and interpersonal relationships, consider the following:
It can feel isolating to deal with intense emotions alone. If you trust someone in your life, open up to them about how you feel. Studies show that connecting socially is essential for mental health.
Anger management skills training classes have been proven effective in reducing aggressive urges and behaviors. If you experience anger often and find that the emotion accompanies your urge to hit your boyfriend, an anger management class can teach you new ways to release this anger healthily.
If you struggle to understand your emotions or find yourself suppressing them often, you might unknowingly be causing emotional build-up. Studies show that suppressing your emotions can cause physical and mental consequences to your health. Learn to identify emotions by researching the signs of each emotion in your body. For example, when you are feeling fear, you might notice your palms get sweaty, or your stomach begins to churn.
Additionally, you might feel your emotion in a specific part of your body, such as your back or legs. These queues can teach you a lot about what you're feeling and help you avoid future emotional outbursts. When you feel an emotion coming up, labeling it has been proven impactful in reducing its intensity.
You may be wondering how to approach your boyfriend after hitting him. In this case, move forward cautiously and be aware of your boyfriend's feelings and what they communicate.
A healthy and genuine apology can include several parts. Try to follow the below steps:
- Ask your boyfriend if they feel safe having a quick conversation.
- If they agree, tell your boyfriend you feel sorry and regret your actions. Label the action and let them know you saw its impact.
- Commit to improving in the future and stick to your word.
- Let your boyfriend know you are open to hearing their thoughts, feelings, and boundaries.
- Do not apologize for more than once for the same mistake.
Once you have apologized, it is up to your boyfriend whether or not they will accept your apology.
Accept Their Decision
Your boyfriend may decide whether they want to stay in a relationship with you after you hit them. When they give you their decision, accept it. Although losing a relationship you cared about can be painful, you may see this as an opportunity to grow and make healthier choices in the future. Your boyfriend may no longer feel safe with you, and it may be time for them to move forward.
If your boyfriend accepts your apology and stays in a relationship with you, accept their decision and continue to strive toward growth. You and your partner may decide to attend couples therapy together or you might see an individual therapist to discuss what happened.
Commit To Getting Help
Let your boyfriend know you are committed to getting help and working on your behavior. If you have signed up for anger management classes, tell them. If you are going to see a therapist, communicate this. If your boyfriend is open to the idea, you might also try couples counseling to discuss the situation together in a neutral and therapeutic environment.
Commit To Self-Care And Future Healthy Behaviors
Outside of your relationship, commit to increasing healthy behaviors in your life. These might include getting enough sleep each night, eating a balanced meal, and attending therapy when your sessions come up.
Additionally, do not internalize your desire to hit and start hitting or harming yourself instead. If you continue to feel these urges, reach out to a professional for support.
Online Therapy With BetterHelp
Talking to a therapist about what occurred with your boyfriend may help you prevent these actions in the future, your therapist may listen and provide feedback throughout the process. Additionally, if you and your partner are interested, a couples counselor could provide healthy communication skills and ideas for a healthier future together. They can help if you're learning how to stop yelling in a relationship. It may also be beneficial for your boyfriend to see a therapist independently as long-term abuse may cause post-traumatic stress disorder or other long terms mental health conditions.
If you are ready to try online counseling, consider signing up for a platform such as BetterHelp for individuals or Regain for couples. Both platforms offer a growing online database of counselors specializing in mental health topics, such as relationships, anger, and communication. If you struggle to find the time for traditional in-person therapy, online-based interventions may be a viable alternative option. You can search for a therapist who has experience with couples and relationships as you start your journey toward healing.
Online counseling allows you to attend therapy from any location with an internet connection. Research also indicates that online counseling is often effective for couples. As an example, 70% of couples in one study felt telehealth therapy benefited their relationship overall. In the study in the photo below, 94% of couples found online therapy beneficial.