September 8, 2018 at 12:44 pm EDT | by Michael Radkowsky
Should one angry shove be a deal-breaker?

(Photo by Siam Pukkato)

Michael,

 

All my friends are telling me to leave my girlfriend because she socked me.

 

She’s telling me that I also have to take some responsibility for the fight, but my friends say there is no excuse for physical abuse.

 

We were supposed to have a fun evening out. It was our six-month anniversary. I planned a really great night: dinner at a popular restaurant where I had to reserve a table two weeks early, then dancing at a club we love. 

 

At the last minute, Cheryl had a work “emergency” and I was majorly pissed. I had taken the time to make this night special. I yelled at her on the phone that she is always putting work first. She’s an associate at a law firm and she claims she “has to” work late and on weekends pretty often if she’s going to get promoted.

 

I canceled the dinner reservation and was at home fuming. I decided to go out to the club rather than stay home by myself. 

 

Right when I got there Cheryl texted me that she’d been able to finish and wanted to start our evening. I was so mad at her that I knew I wouldn’t have a good time with her so I ignored her text. I know she texted me a few times after that.

 

Anyhow there was this really attractive woman there and we were looking at each other and after a while we were dancing together and then we were making out a little.

 

My luck, Cheryl had shown up and sees this. She tracked me on my phone.

 

She interrupts us and starts yelling at me and we go outside. I told her to “f— off” if she can’t be bothered to put our relationship first on a night I planned a whole great evening. When I turned to walk back into the club she pushed me so hard that I fell down and badly skinned my knee.

 

Since then I’m not talking to her. She keeps texting me though. She apologized but says I have a role in this too.

 

If I hadn’t had a few drinks, I probably wouldn’t have been making out and I probably wouldn’t have cussed Cheryl out. But she had really let me down and not for the first time.

 

We did have a good relationship except for the job stuff. I’m wondering if I should keep dating her or if I should consider her behavior unforgivable.

Michael replies:

Should Cheryl have pushed you? No.

Should you have yelled at her for staying late at work, ignored her texts and cursed at her? That’s up to you to decide, but you sure were being hostile to her. 

So when you’ve been sticking it to your girlfriend in all sorts of ways — and let’s include that makeout session with your dance partner — I think it’s a stretch to consider her pushing you to be unforgivable physical abuse. 

I get that you don’t like Cheryl’s putting her work first, but she is clear with you that she believes she must do so at this point in her career. If you can’t abide by that, then don’t be in a relationship with her. Cheryl’s making a choice that you don’t like does not give you license to berate her and otherwise treat her badly.

If you do want to stay with Cheryl and have a good relationship going forward, accept that she is going to break plans with you, evidently with some frequency. Drop the sarcasm and judgment about this and start a conversation with her about how each of you manages your behavior when the other person irritates you or lets you down. Both of you could stand to improve here.

I’m curious if you lash out at anyone else in your life when they don’t behave the way that you want them to. If so, I’d wager you’re putting other relationships at risk. If not, why do so with Cheryl? 

People often tell me that they subject their significant other to all sorts of bad behavior, believing that their partner should love them unconditionally. I think that concept is baloney. Who wants to love someone who treats them badly?

You didn’t mention any previous episodes where Cheryl struck you so I’ll take it that nothing like this ever happened before. If it has, you have more reason to be concerned about being in an abusive relationship if you stay with her. 

That said, if there’s a pattern of Cheryl hitting you after you’ve been yelling at her or otherwise verbally harassing her, then you’re a matched set; and I’ll reiterate that both of you have work to do with regard to handling your frustration, disappointment and anger.

 

Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who works with LGBT couples and individuals in D.C. He can be found online at michaelradkowsky.com. All identifying information has been changed for reasons of confidentiality. Have a question? Send it to Michael@michaelradkowsky.com.

© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2018. All rights reserved.