My Girlfriend Thinks I Tried To Hurt Her

A man wonders how play-fighting with his girlfriend could have turned out so bad.

Originally appeared at She Said He Said

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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About She Said He Said

Eli and Josie, friends since college, realized how lucky they were to have one another—an honest friend of the opposite sex who tells it like it is. They wanted to share that with the world and so www.shesaidhesaid.me was born.

Comments

  1. Hmm… regendering:

    Dear Sexes: My boyfriend and I were horsing around (tickling/poking) in bed one morning and he got a little too rough. We’ve always playfully swatted at each other when we do this, but this time he thinks I maliciously tried to hurt him to get him off me. I’m trying to be patient and tell him that he was too rough—-it WAS an honest accident—-but now he has me in the doghouse. He is a survivor of past assault, and I am well-aware of his triggers, but how do I best convey my side of things?

    Sounds like you guys identified the wrong problem here.

    ‘He’ initiated something that was too rough for ‘her’. ‘She’ responded by ‘trying to get ‘him’ off of ‘her’ and _’she’s’_ the one who needs to tread carefully?

    First of all, getting on top of someone is an aggressive act. If you initiate that kind of rough housing, be prepared for people’s survival instincts to kick in.

    He said: “You’re supposed to tussle with someone your own size. ”

    How… is he supposed to prevent _her_ from initiating this?

    SHE initiated the rough housing, and HE found it too rough so he did what he could to stop it. Now she is emotionally blackmailing him based on something that happened to her in her past. Her triggers are her responsibility; she doesn’t get to set up situations in which she can be rougher to him then he’s comfortable with and then complain when he defends himself because it’s ‘triggering’.

    This is abusive. He’s in an abusive relationship. He should either ask her to acknowledge her abusive behaviour towards him and end it. Or he should leave.

    There is no common ground here and considering that abused men get zero resources or protection from society, if she starts to escalate her abusive behaviour he can expect to be trapped in it. His only line of defence is to walk away now before he makes any serious commitments (marriage, children.)

    • Don’t figure he can stop her from initiating tussiling, but he can say, “Guess what. You didn’t like how last time ended and I don’t trust the situation either.” Passively resist (in terms of getting physical back), call out the manipulation, separate, etc. Don’t tolerate the games.

      • The problem is, Julie, this sounds like grooming to me.

        ‘I’ll violate your boundaries and see how you react. If you don’t protect them, I’ll violate them a bit more next time.’

        My concern is that the precedent is set. It’s not just that _she_ got too rough and he responded to protect himself, it’s now that she’s trying to control his right to have boundaries as well. How far will she take this?

        Couple this with the fact that a man in an abusive relationship has few options to get out of it safely and can end up jailed for having been abused…

        I hope he’s reading this, it’s his choice to make, but she sounds like she’s setting him up as a punching bag. ‘I get to hit you and you don’t get to defend yourself, because .’

        • I get that. I’m agreeing. You either stop it, get some real boundaries set (maybe with a therapist) or you separate.

          • BUT YOU JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND–oh wait.

            • When agreements collide? ;)_

            • Joanna Schroeder says:

              Yeah, and hello, that’s what I said. I said that play fighting wasn’t a good idea, and also that her behavior sounded passive-aggressive. Just because I didn’t use an inflammatory and accusatory word like “Abusive” doesn’t mean that I ignored a manipulative behavior (potentially) on her part:

              “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.”

            • If she initiated ‘play fighting’ that was too rough for him and he hurt her _getting her off of him_ she has more responsibility to take then he does in this situation. And not only is she not taking that responsibility, she’s guilting him into taking responsibility for something she initiated.

              Assigning blame to both of them equally is absolving her of responsibility for her actions.

              Her being on him is unlawful confinement. It’s illegal and a form of assault. Do we know if he told her to stop before he got her off of him?

            • Well, if we believe the writer of the email it was begun as a silly game. This is the only place I differ with you. Silly games turning into something else …. some form of communication was lost between the silly and the rough. They can either deconstruct it to determine what happened, both owning whatever needs to be owned, or if she is playing out a pattern of bait and switch, he should get out.

              Dumb-ass accidents do happen no matter who starts the roughhousing. I see it with kids all the time. The trick is to teach them, if you will, a safeword that means “Hey for real cut it the fuck out” so that this other bullshit doesn’t occur. If it STILL occurs, then there is probably boundary transgressing, manipulating etc. So don’t stay in that relationship.

            • Yes I see what you’re saying.

              In that case it might be useful for him to explain that he has a right to boundaries too and when she escalated he responded to get her off of him.

              And also that being on top is an extremely dominating position. Any action taken in that position is instinctively more threatening then the equivalent action in any other position.

  2. medic mind says:

    He didn’t say exactly what he did and he could have been aggressive and even angry. I don’t understand why grown adults don’t see how these antics could end badly,anyhow.
    They need to go their separate ways because it will happen again and he may find himself in need of a lawyer.

    • sweetsue says:

      Best advice yet! Remain friendly acquaintances after a suitable time apart – at this point get out of the doghouse by taking a time out – exit stage left. His best bet is to gently but firmly extract himself from this – clearly he needs time to sort this out in his head, maybe talk to someone and find a way to have his boundaries respected. This way he can extract himself before he needs a lawyer and doing it well will reduce the likelihood of her becoming a bunny boiler! Just get out!

  3. Jamie Reidy says:

    Dump her.

    • This. If she can’t trust you over something stupid, move on.

      • That’s kind of what I was thinking…except for the fact that he says she has a history with assault. It puts otherwise irrational behavior in a different perspective, and I think makes it a bit more complicated of an issue.

        • Kirsten (in MT) says:

          It puts the behavior in a different perspective, yes, but that doesn’t mean she should be in a relationship. If she hasn’t healed to the point where she isn’t confusing her boyfriend’s behavior with someone else’s, then she isn’t ready to be in a relationship.

        • It might mean that he “should” try to look at things differently and take her past assault into perspective. But it doesn’t mean that he has to just take whatever she does. If she hasn’t healed to the point where they can be compatible then breakup may be the only option or else they run the risk of her not feeling safe and him walking on eggshells. Such a relationship will fail or become cold.

        • GirlGlad4TheGMP says:

          I have to agree with Josh…it’s pretty clear-cut to me. If she cannot trust his intentions to not hurt her, she probably shouldn’t be with him intimately if or until she does.

      • Yup she needs to be dumped, but this ain’t about trust AT ALL.

        This girlfriend is playing the “But, I’m a girl” card. She is acting out so that her boundaries and her feelings to take precedent over his. She wants her boyfriend walking on egg shells around her and quite frankly he’s halfway there. I mean think about it. He’s writing strangers to ask how he can get out of the dog house.

        • sweetsue says:

          This is the advice that would most likely be given if the genders were reversed and quite frankly – getting out maybe for good maybe not depends on how the two people evolve. Some couples can part only to end up later after therapy and etc. – for now however getting out is the wisest thing this man could do for himself is get out.
          Bottom line: No means No regardless as to who says.

  4. Kirsten (in MT) says:

    “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.”

    I would be very careful with this kind of language. It sets the tone that he’s at fault, when from my reading of the situation, she was the one who necessitated some defensive action on his part because SHE was getting to rough with him.

    I understand the idea of trying to calm the situation down, but it seems to me that should the situation ever recur or, FSM forbid, get into a legal situation, this is a little too much like an admission of guilt- guilt which doesn’t exist. To be an aggressor, you have to be the one who initiated force, and he didn’t. He was acting defensively.

    I would suggest he give some thought to rewording this in a way that in addition to offering and olive branch clearly communicates where the problem began- further back in the timeline when she wouldn’t stop roughing him up -and seeks agreement on how to prevent this in the future. She should be apologizing here, too.

    And, yes, I know that she was a victim of a past assault. I say this as someone who has been there and done that. If she’s not ready to differentiate individuals based on their specific behavior rather than expecting all men to be the same, then she’s not ready to be in a relationship.

    • Kirsten (in MT) says:

      Ack- “too rough”, not “to rough”!

    • sweetsue says:

      Good call on the rewording – clearly they have failure to communicate – the situation escalated – he conveyed his discomfort at the escalation of “play” had exceed his limits; but that was ignored. Play is only fun if everyone is enjoying it.

  5. Wise man say “if you hear train acommin get off the tracks”.

  6. i have a problem with my girlfriend where she always engages in rough play, i’m only 18, and i’ll stay stop when she gets to rough or i’m not in the mood and she wont. at this point i restrain her and she gets even rougher and i always unintentionally hurt her. she always gets the shits with me and makes me feel like i’m the biggest asshole in the world. i’ve said i’m going to accidently hurt you and every time it happens she acts like it wasn’t coming. what do i do?

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