My partner hit me… I’m devastated

Ask Ammanda Domestic Abuse

After 15 years with the love of my life, things have imploded. I believe my partner is either a functioning alcoholic or alcohol dependent, and things have been getting worse since her children left home for university. Two weeks ago for no reason during a row she hit me. I’m in my fifties, I have never been violent and am devastated by what has happened. We live in a house which is in my partner’s name so now I’m temporarily with my daughter and her husband so this is far from ideal.

Ammanda says…

The shock of being physically abused by someone we love and who we thought (or hoped) loved us back is devastating. Let’s not make any bones about this: what has happened to you is wrong. Any domestic abuse in any relationship is not OK and of course, it’s not just about the physical stuff either. Emotional, sexual and financial abuse all come under this heading.

From your letter it sounds like your relationship had been under considerable strain for a while. Stresses like children leaving home often result in relationships going through a difficult time because when children move on issues that have been previously ‘managed’ can suddenly get put under the spotlight.

You’ve also mentioned that your partner may have a relationship with alcohol. I don’t know if this is a point you both agree on or whether it’s been something that bothers you but you haven’t spoken about together. Perhaps you’ve found yourself in the role of making things ‘ok’ for her – something that often happens in in adult relationships (and in families too) where one person is drinking a lot. Depending on individual circumstances, this can mean literally mopping up the faeces and vomit, buying alcohol for a partner and lying for them to quietly feeling worried about the extra glass/can or bottle that seems to be making a more regular appearance.

Alcohol causes major problems for lots of people and is often present when domestic abuse happens. It’s not surprising that we’re currently devoting a whole week nationally to alcohol awareness and the risks of drinking. It’s not unusual for a partner to blame the alcohol for their abusive behaviour either but this really doesn’t wash and should never be accepted as justification.

I don’t know if you’ve had any discussion about what’s happened. Maybe you’ve tried to talk together, maybe she’s sorry for what happened or maybe (and very understandably) you’re too scared about getting into any sort of conversation with her in case the same thing happens again. I’m guessing you’ve gone to your daughter partly due to this worry and also to give yourself time to sort out in your own head what you want to do now.

I can completely understand how upset you are with what’s happened and how the ‘pull’ towards hoping it’s a one off (if it was) may be feeling very powerful. But this is not the answer. All relationships are complicated and the first port of call for making important changes is to sort out ‘what belongs to who’ emotionally. Sometimes Relationship Counselling can help with this as you can both explore what you each contribute to your relationship, what’s helpful and not helpful and find ways of dealing with problems differently.

Whether or not you access professional support, making changes often means accepting responsibility for certain types of behaviour. Domestic abuse and misuse of alcohol are definitely issues your partner will need to address for herself. You didn’t cause them and only your partner can address them. This is often a very tricky point for the non-drinking or non-abusive partner to take on board: sometimes it’s easier to accept the responsibility for our partner’s behaviour – especially if they aren’t inclined to work on resolving the issue for themselves.

I’m afraid there’s no easy answer to your problem. But what is good is you’re asking for help at a very difficult point in your life. There are a number of things you might want to consider doing from here. Firstly, recognize that it’s your partner who must address any alcohol related issues. Secondly, make contact with the CAB about your living arrangements. They will be able to advise you about any rights you may have regarding housing. Thirdly, think of being with your daughter as the safest way of protecting yourself at the moment. At one level, you may be feeling desperate to be with your partner, especially when from your letter, you’ve clearly had many good years, but things have taken a serious turn now. I’ve worked with many couples where alcohol misuse and/or domestic violence have been experienced by one or both of them. Sometimes, couples are able to recover from the legacy that both issues bring but usually not until each of them has received appropriate support and help.

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