If your partner hits you once, leave.
No debate or discussion. No second chances. No allowances made for the gender of either the hitter or the hittee. No excuses made for a dramatic, Hollywood-style slap in the face. No hitting allowed, period!
To be fair about it, make sure that you've communicated this consequence at the very beginning of the relationship, and then follow through should the hitting occur.
Now, if you think that this suggestion is too harsh, you can use a modified version: after the first hit, the partner is warned and sent off to seek counseling help. After a second hit, impose the consequence and just leave.
If you're concerned that your partner is basically a good person and deserves a second chance, then let him or her create another opportunity in their next relationship. If you're worried about abandoning a relationship that could have been salvaged, then show more love and respect for yourself, protect yourself, and have confidence that you'll find a better partner and that you're strong enough to withstand some loneliness until that happens.
Your body, life, family, and career are too important to put at risk by remaining with a low-odds-for-success partner who hits. Not only can you do better; you must do better.
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If I were to summarize everything clients have said to me about their troubled or bad relationships, I'd say that there are too many instances of a partner "not having my back." We don't get into loving relationships for a little bit of support; we want a large amount of consistent, loving, protective partnership, and we don't want to have to worry about whether we can depend on it being there.
The ultimate betrayal is being physically attacked. You end up having to protect yourself from the person who's supposed to be helping to protect you!
For woman who date men, this issue can be a matter of life or death. Be sure to seek out the advice of domestic violence support systems when leaving a violent partner. I also give my women clients tips on how to spot controlling behavior in men, which can be red flags for serious emotional abuse or violence occurring later. Establish a zero-tolerance policy for these controlling behaviors in the same way you would do for hitting.
Men may have mixed feelings about the advice I've given. Here are a few final notes for men who may feel that it's too unmanly to walk away from someone who hits you, whether it be single Hollywood-style slaps or round-house punches:
- Of course you're big and strong enough to take it. You're also big and strong enough to walk away despite any verbal grief you might get from anybody. There are more types of strength than just being able to take a physical hit; don't let emotional weakness stop you from leaving.
- If your partner can't control emotions enough to refrain from hitting you, in what other ways does this person not have your back when overcome by a mood or when blurry from too much alcohol or drugs? In what other ways are you vulnerable to betrayal by this person?
- If you can't hold it in your mind any other way, think of it as protecting your reputation and career. The more you allow the physical disrespect to escalate, the riskier the situation becomes. Punch back once, and you can ruin both of your lives.