I have a new problem with my live-in boyfriend. Lately he has been getting into fights when he goes out. He has always been the quiet brooding sort, but never violent: I’ve known him to be a lamb and, I thought, a pacifist. It all started in January when this drunk asshole hit him at a bar. I think it was a misunderstanding, and that the guy didn’t even mean to hit my boyfriend. Well, long story short, my boyfriend proceeded to beat this guy up. His friends had to pull him off. He was shaken and very solemn the next day. I felt terrible and played the consoling lover. After a few weeks, he got into another fight. I wasn’t there, but he said some guy started it so he had to defend himself. This time he took a bit more of a bruising, but the next day he was less somber and more riled up. Since then, he has been in two more fights, and broke a finger last time. When I ask him why this keeps happening, he says he “must be a target for assholes” or something lame like that. I am not stupid; there is something going on, but I don’t know what. One of his friends confided in me that he started the last fight. What should I do? I suggested that maybe he shouldn’t go out for a while, or try hanging out at some better places with fewer jerks, but he said he isn’t going to let a bunch of drunk assholes change his life.
I want to be clear that he is never violent towards me, or even raises his voice. I am certain he would never harm a girl. I am just worried he is going to get seriously hurt, or seriously hurt someone else, or end up in jail some night. How do I find out what is going on, and how do I make him stop? I love him, and I just want him safe and happy.
— Living with a bruiser
Worse yet, what if someone busts up his face and your boyfriend comes home ugly? You’ll have to kiss Sylvester Stallone for the rest of your life.
This is serious and you should be concerned. It is good that he is always kind and gentle with you, but if that ever changes — even once — get some distance, and fast. This behavior is clearly progressing, and you don’t want to get caught in the train wreck if he turns on you.
Maybe “quiet brooding” equals suppressed and repressed anger and resentment. Getting hit might have set off a release for all the built-up emotion and tension he carries around. He might continue to fight because he has a lot of shit to let out, or he could enjoy the adrenaline rush he gets from fighting. It’s not like professional fighters do it for the cultural enrichment. Maybe he would like to take boxing lessons. There are gyms where he could take lessons and fight under the supervision of others, with safety gear and without the dangers of a bar (booze, glass, concealed weapons, and entourages). Boxing is also very macho, so it’s not like you’re asking him to take up yoga or something he might find emasculating in trade for the bar fighting — though yoga and/or meditation are also good options. Or Tai-chi and Kung-fu: The best of both worlds.
If he has some other issues that he is struggling with so much that bar fighting is his preferred therapeutic outlet, he may need more than a kind ear. This is best suited for a therapist or counselor. Be supportive. Let him know you care about him and want him to be happy and healthy, but don’t hound him. No need to put more tension between you two.
In the meantime, ask his friends to help keep him out of trouble best they can.
Much love and less war,
Your Uncle Mat
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