A man wonders how play-fighting with his girlfriend could have turned out so bad.
Dear Sexes: My girlfriend and I were horsing around (tickling/poking) in bed one morning and she got a little too rough. We’ve always playfully swatted at each other when we do this, but this time she thinks I maliciously tried to hurt her to get her off me. I’m trying to be patient and tell her that she was too rough—-it WAS an honest accident—-but now she has me in the doghouse. She is a survivor of past assault, and I am well-aware of her triggers, but how do I best convey my side of things?
She Said: First and foremost, this is a trust issue. While rough-housing can be really fun, a great stress reliever, or even erotic, it’s kinda risky. Trust has to be had on both ends for a few reasons. First, you both need to trust that you will never intentionally hurt the other. Second, you both need to trust that the other won’t use an accidental slip or poke to passive-aggresively take something out on the other that’s been simmering. Right now, based upon this little bit of info, it seems like you guys aren’t there.
Horsing around is especially risky if your girlfriend is an assault survivor, as it’s possible that she may be triggered by something that’s entirely unintentional on your part.
As far as how to convey your feelings? Try something where you recognize her feelings first, then say your piece, then let it go. “Hey, so I just wanted to say that I really hear that you felt I was being aggro when we were wrestling last night. It’s important that you know that I didn’t intend to upset you or to hurt you. I would never intentionally hurt you.” Hopefully, she can hear that and believe you. If not, I fear you’ve got bigger problems simmering.
He Said: There’s a reason wrestlers compete by weight-class. You’re supposed to tussle with someone your own size. I understand that tickling and poking is a different ballgame, but there’s still the risk that your partner’s competitive (or survival) side will come out, even while horsing around.
To be blunt, in your particular situation, I have to recommend not wrestling much with your girlfriend. That type of play is fun, and it’s terrific that she trusts you enough to engage in that way, but there’s just too many possible pitfalls (related to her triggers). For now, reassure your girlfriend (as you already have) that you had no ill intentions, and you would never try to hurt or harm her. Give her a little time and space, and you’ll be out of the doghouse soon enough. Also, make sure to take a little siesta from your wrestling sessions. And whatever you do, DON’T watch “Girl Fight” together! That’s a recipe for disaster, trust me.
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