Our adult son’s in a longstanding gay and open marriage, with a young son. They have a third mutual partner who doesn’t live with them but spends a lot of time with them. He’s very good with their child and we find him very likeable. His own family isn’t supportive of his choices.
Our daughter’s husband is uncomfortable with this person and the arrangement. The couple, who have a young child, now avoid coming to our place when the other family’s present. Our daughter feels pulled between her husband and her brother.
Also, humour among the threesome includes gay jokes. It makes our single adult child uncomfortable, but she still attends dinner.
Concerns: 1. Is this threesome situation healthy for my grandson? 2. Is this a healthy relationship?
- The “uncomfortable” spouse feels left out of family gatherings, with strong negative feelings about this. We’re questioned why we don’t “put our foot down.” I fear our good relationship with him is at risk.
My wife and I have conversed openly/respectfully with him, but he still decided to not attend.
He’s been very accepting of my son and partner in the past. He feels that vows are important, that the “open” relationship will be harmful to their son and confusing to his young daughter.
- My wife and I will speak to our son and his husband about the situation they’ve put us in, and look for solutions so it doesn’t happen again. Should we alternate who comes to Christmas in the future?
Supportive but Concerned
You may be surprised to hear that, among the diverse relationships that have developed over two generations of considerable social change, your story is not unique.
Same-sex marriage is not uncommon. Nor is raising children within that family.
The term “open marriage” was introduced in the late-1970’s, and mis-read by some enthusiasts to simply mean “open” to adulterous group sex.
Today, by contrast, what your son and his partner have embraced as “open” is the presence of a third partner in their life and in raising their child.
Still, it’s not widely accepted and your son-in-law’s discomfort with it has understandable concerns.
However, the acceptance of you and your wife for your adult son’s choice will help your grandson grow up in an environment that’s loving and “healthy,” so long as it’s maintained.
Still, his family needs to be prepared for changes in the boy’s perceptions as he enters adolescence/teens and figures out his own sexual identity and attitudes. That happen to some degree in every family.
Is this a “healthy” relationship? Plenty of so-called conventional families aren’t healthy when there’s neglect, coldness, abuse, etc. Meanwhile, some “different” family structures work just fine.
With your son-in-law, keep contact ongoing. He and your daughter are equal members of your family needing their own attention. A group gathering isn’t always necessary.
Alternate Christmas gatherings? Try it. Finding reasonable solutions is what keeps a family intact.
“Gay sex” jokes? Unnecessary at these gatherings, especially if it makes an otherwise-accepting sibling uncomfortable. There has to be a level of respect on both sides.
While humour is often used to bring “hidden” truth into the open, to normalize it, there’s already understanding at your Christmas table that these three men have a gay lifestyle, including sex. Humour on this topic, just like heterosexual sex jokes, sometimes just crosses the line for some “captive” listeners.
Generally, I find your family is admirably trying to honour, accept or at least understand each other’s differences.
FEEDBACK Regarding the question whether “revenge on an ex who dumped you ever feels satisfying (December 30):
Reader – “The wording “who dumped you” has been around a long time, often used in office gossip. Saying it directly to a person is very hurtful, as opposed to “left you.” In this era of correctness maybe your readers could toss this phrase in relationship conversations in 2020.”
Ellie – The question: “Does revenge on an ex who dumped you, ever feel satisfying?” was asked by the letter-writer, which is why I answered with her phrase: “there’s no joy in telling the man you once loved, that dumping you didn’t turn out well for him.”
However, this feedback writer makes a valid point. Being “dumped” is graphic in an ugly way, as if we’re all disposable objects.
Yet people have a right to move on from an unsatisfying relationship. It’s far more acceptable that way.
We can do better: Language matters.
Tip of the day:
With family differences, work towards understanding, and solutions.