Wedding Woes

Yes, this is abuse.

Dear Prudence,

My son Jackson came out as bisexual last year, and my husband and I do not have a problem with that at all. Sexuality doesn’t matter to us, and we were just so happy he decided to open up. Jackson introduced us to Nathan about a year ago. Nathan seemed like a great guy—smart, funny, got along with everyone, and was great with Jackson—and it seemed they were very much in love. For the past year, their relationship has been going seemingly smoothly, and they are glued together whenever we visit.

But about three weeks ago now, we witnessed a rather troubling fight between them. There is no street parking outside their apartment, so we had to park a while away and walk (we were slightly early for a planned lunch outing with the boys). As we got closer, we saw Jackson and Nathan having what looked like a heated argument between them in a public street. Nathan shoved Jackson in the chest. Before my husband reached the boys, Jackson had already responded by punching Nathan in the face. It honestly looked brutal. I have never seen Jackson punch anyone before, even as a child. Nathan retaliates by punching back, and now they come to blows in the street. My husband gets the boys off each other. Nathan walks off, swearing loudly and just leaves. Jackson, obviously fuming, won’t even look at us or let me see his swollen eye, which definitely was going to bruise. He is so worked up, he just tells us he will see us later and shuts himself into the apartment and turns off his phone.

I’ve been worrying about this ever since. What if it has been a female partner my son had blown up at? A punch like that thrown like that could have seriously hurt or even killed a girl, and it would be a very worrying example of domestic violence. My son obviously has anger issues I was unaware of, and it seemed his boyfriend has them as well, suggesting that they are not a good combination.

Anyway, my son spent a week ignoring us. The only text he replied to was that he was coming to a family dinner with his brothers and their wives. Jackson then turns up with Nathan.
Holding hands, leaning into each other; I even caught them kissing passionately in the kitchen like teenagers when they thought they were alone.  My husband and I were blown away, as we did not expect Nathan at the dinner, as we had just assumed we had witnessed the end of their relationship.

My husband broached it with Jackson alone, and Jackson was offended by the idea Nathan wouldn’t be invited. He told his dad that there was nothing wrong, they just had a fight and it got heated and they both lashed out. My husband told me it sounded like this wasn’t the first time they have come to blows like this and that it didn’t sound like a huge deal, so my husband definitely changed his tune to something like: “Maybe this is just more normal/accepted when two men date?” He has started to approach it from the angle that sometimes his (straight) friends can come to blows over an argument, but then shake it off and be fine with each other. I feel my husband is oversimplifying this with a “boys will be boys” mentality, and that what we saw was domestic violence.

I want to ban Nathan from the house and tell Jackson I’m not comfortable with their relationship anymore and won’t support it. My husband disagrees entirely and believes we should just ignore it and go back to when we were thinking they were this happy, perfect couple. Should I put my foot down? Or am just totally out of the loop and just trying to place my “straight relationship expectations” on my son? I love my son and am supportive of him and his sexuality, but I know next to nothing about the LGBTQ community and so from my husband’s perspective, maybe I just read the situation wrong?

— Domestic Violence Dilemma

Re: Yes, this is abuse.

  • LW needs to stop trying to fit this into a queer vs. straight relationship narrative slot.  Two dudes punching each other, friends and roommates or lovers, is violent and unnerving. 

    However, when someone is experiencing intimate partner violence...this type of behavior is extremely common.  Jackson locked himself in his place and turned off his phone after his parents witnessed this because I'm sure he felt embarrassed and deeply ashamed his private issues were brought out so publicly and in front of them.  And being lovey dovey in front of mom and dad is an unspoken way to reaffirm their relationship to LW and their H. 

    You have to tread lightly in these situations.  LW needs to provide support to Jackson, but banning Nathan will only serve to push them away and isolate Jackson.  I don't think LW should let them fight at their house/in front of LW and H, but taking Jackson at his word that it's resolved and keeping an eye on the situation is all LW can do to maintain an open communication channel.  

    banana468short+sassyei34charlotte989875
  • CharmedPamCharmedPam Chicagoburbs member
    5000 Comments Sixth Anniversary 500 Love Its First Answer
    If you love someone, you don’t punch them/hit them/lash out/hurt them physically or emotionally.  Their gender should not be a qualifier. LW needs to talk to her son and tell him it’s not ok. 

    ei34charlotte989875
  • Of course this isn't a healthy relationship.  But I'm disturbed the LW seems to put most of the blame on Nathan while, at the same time, talking about that Jackson threw the first punch and has an anger problem.

    Quite frankly, LW, your son might be abusive with everyone he dates.  Maybe just the men, but maybe the women also.  This is just the first time you all have seen it.  That's a "your son" problem and not a "Nathan" problem.

    I suspect both people are abusive.  As such, even if they break up, that's not going to solve the problem.  Because her son is still abusive and is capable of punching his next partner.

    Unfortunately, there isn't much for the LW and her H to do.  I'd speak to Jackson and encourage him to go to anger management, preferably with Nathan.  But it doesn't sound like he'd be receptive to that.  So then at least reassure him the communication lines are open.
    Wedding Countdown Ticker
  • You didn’t misread the situation but alienating your son and his partner isn’t going to stop the abuse. I would reach out to PFLAG chapters online/in your area to see if they have resources to help with intimate partner violence (many IPV organizations are focused on straight women) and see what you can do to educate yourself. 
  • MyNameIsNotMyNameIsNot Atlanta member
    Knottie Warrior 10000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    Of course this isn't a healthy relationship.  But I'm disturbed the LW seems to put most of the blame on Nathan while, at the same time, talking about that Jackson threw the first punch and has an anger problem.

    Quite frankly, LW, your son might be abusive with everyone he dates.  Maybe just the men, but maybe the women also.  This is just the first time you all have seen it.  That's a "your son" problem and not a "Nathan" problem.

    I suspect both people are abusive.  As such, even if they break up, that's not going to solve the problem.  Because her son is still abusive and is capable of punching his next partner.

    Unfortunately, there isn't much for the LW and her H to do.  I'd speak to Jackson and encourage him to go to anger management, preferably with Nathan.  But it doesn't sound like he'd be receptive to that.  So then at least reassure him the communication lines are open.
    This. If the violence has escalated to the level that it's coming to blows on the street, it's not the first time there's been violence. It's hard to tell if Jackson, Nathan, or both of them are the catalyst, but it's pretty clear that none of this is healthy.

    Banning Nathan isn't going to do any good though. You can't force your adult child to be healthy, but you can keep on talking to them. Or you can just wait for him to get arrested, because that seems like the direction this is headed. 
    charlotte989875
  • levioosalevioosa Southern California member
    Seventh Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    PPs have mentioned a lot of good points. IPV in queer relationships is a huge issue, with the LGTQ community experiencing comparable or even greater numbers of DV than cis het couples. There’s a ton of nuance that goes into that statement of course. Coupled with the fact that resources for the community aren’t just scarce, they’re downright nonexistent in some parts of the country. 

    It sounds like Nathan and Jackson are both involved and neither one is blameless. That said, abuse is wrong. Full stop. There’s also a sickening dose of “boys will be boys and fights are fights” that LW is leaning hard into. 


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    charlotte989875
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