How Do I Handle Physical Abuse & Snarky Comments in Relationships

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Hey Wendy,

I love your work and wanted to run something by you. I’m 23, and I got into a heated argument with my boyfriend yesterday. He made a “low blow” comment about my having a large butt. I didn’t insult him or say anything that would warrant this. I guess he was just trying to “get even” by hitting me where it hurts.

I twice demanded that he apologize to me but he refused. So, I walked over to where he was, slapped his face, told him it was for being disrespectful to me and to leave my apartment immediately. He got angry and shoved me out of the way on his way to the door. Not sure where to go from here.

Kimberly M. – Vallejo, CA


Hey Kimberly,

Thanks for loving my work! And I’m glad you reached out.

So, um…no, girl. This is all unacceptable.

We don’t treat people we love like this. While you may care about each other, you two need a serious time-out at minimum—followed by a goodbye if you can’t have a meeting of minds and agree that these types of behaviors in a healthy relationship won’t stand.

Here are my top five do’s and don’ts for you two to start working on:

  • No striking, shoving, or physical touch of any kind that isn’t explicitly positive or at least neutral. None. Ever.
  • No shitty, hurtful, disparaging remarks, no matter how angry you are.
  • Promptly say you are sorry for any harm you do to your partner (on purpose or by accident).
  • Put the needs of your partner above your ego.
  • If you can’t be good to each other, don’t be around each other. At all.

I don’t know what went down before the butt comment, but in the future when things start to escalate, you use one of the following examples to stop the downward spiral:

“Hey, we’re both getting upset. Let’s stop now and say goodnight.”

“Hey, I don’t think I can give you what you need right now, and I love you, so let’s talk tomorrow when we’re both in a better place.”

“Hey, that felt mean, and it really hurt me. Let’s take some time to cool off and then talk about it later.”

Don’t try and sort it out when one or both of you are pissed, it doesn’t work. What’s that old saying? “Emotions high, intelligence low”? There’s a whole lot of truth in that.

It concerns me that he can’t say he’s sorry when he’s disrespected you. This is not a good sign, and perhaps an indication that he may not have the emotional intelligence to be in a mature relationship. Shoving doesn’t help his case. Granted, you definitely shouldn’t have slapped him, but the fact that he then escalated the situation by shoving you and walking out speaks volumes.

Personally, I’d walk, but I have a zero-tolerance policy for this stuff. And guess how often I’ve found myself in this situation? Never. Having boundaries is awesome. It’s a kindness to the people around you when you have boundaries, and when you stick to them, you likely won’t even have to say, “Here’s my line. Cross it and find out what happens.” People can naturally sense it, and anyone who wants to pull that kind of stuff will just go looking for someone else who has a little more wiggle room around what they’ll tolerate.

Good luck, sweet girl. And for the record, I and many others love big butts. Your butt, however—big or otherwise—deserves something better than snarky comments and slap fights.