In spite of the cultural differences between you and your Thai girlfriend, with love, compassion and an open mind you can create a relationship that transcends culture ? allowing you to be at home together anywhere!
As you begin to deepen your relationship with your Thai girlfriend, you?ll no doubt experience confusion, maybe even shock or embarrassment, as you uncover what seem to be vast cultural differences between you. Sometimes the gulf between you may seem too wide ? the frustration can lead to hurt; the hurt can lead to defensiveness or withdrawal.
You might feel foolish or naive. You might worry that you?re being taken advantage of. You might even try to force her to adopt your cultural ways, finding hers too ?strange? or ?foreign? to deal with.
The bad news is that the harder you struggle, the more uncomfortable these feelings can become ? ultimately dooming your relationship to failure.
But here?s the good news.
With patience, compassion, and a willingness to be open-minded, you just might find the gulf is not as wide as you imagine.
Think of building your relationship as a journey you are taking together, not a destination by itself. Sure, the path can be difficult. There will be times her behavior mystifies you. But guess what? Your behavior will be just as strange to her. That the path is difficult does not necessarily mean you are destined to fail.
If you?ve read our previous issues about the 7 basic cultural differences between Thailand and the West, you?re miles ahead of many of the Western men who come to Thailand in search of the perfect wife.
Ask anyone who has had a long, happy relationship ? in any culture ? and they?ll give you the same advice I?m about to give you here.
7 Secrets to a Truly Amazing Relationship with your Thai Lady
- Be patient.
You come from a culture that is more aggressive, more individualistic, and more confrontational. The idea of moving slowly and patiently as you develop a relationship might be strange to you. You?ll want to get physical quickly ? holding her hand or kissing her goodnight ? or even hopping into bed — to demonstrate your affection for her. Know this: she will find that quickness extremely uncomfortable and embarrassing, and is likely to pull away or shrink from your affection, no matter how much she likes you. Being Thai, she is inherently shy, modest, reserved, and concerned about her reputation ? and she expects you to respect that about her.
- Communicate gently.
Since Thai people value harmony and peace in relationships, it?s rare that we express our feelings, opinions, or desires directly. Your Thai girlfriend will most likely not express these things as openly as would a Western woman. She will smile, nod, and agree, rather than risk disharmony by speaking up for herself. She might drop hints, or talk around a subject rather than face it head on. You, as a Westerner, might think she is being less than honest with you when she does that. If you truly want her to speak her mind, tell you what she wants or what she thinks, you must make it safe for her to do it. Raising your voice, making light of or disagreeing with her opinions, or embarrassing her when she speaks up will only make her withdraw and become more indirect.
- Understand her needs.
For the rest of her life, your Thai woman will be committed to her family. Whether you live in Thailand together, or move to your home country, they?ll never be out of her mind or out of her heart. You must understand she?ll always feel the pull toward taking care of her parents, giving gifts to her siblings, and helping her extended family. You might feel that she?s constantly asking you for money or gifts for her family ? that you?re just their ATM. You might grow resentful and suspicious that you?re being taken advantage of ? that it?s not you she loves, but your money. If you?re involved in a relationship with a Thai woman of good family and reputation, you need to expect that you?ll be considered a provider not only for her, but for her family as well. It?s up to you to understand that need, as well as to gently communicate your financial boundaries so there are no misunderstandings.
- Express compassion.
Compassion literally means ?feeling with? someone. You may be the ?strong silent type.? You may not be accustomed to speaking gently, or expressing your feelings of uncertainty openly. You might even worry that doing so makes you less ?manly? somehow. But learning to freely offer the depth of yourself to another person, particularly to your Thai lady, can do much to build strong, deep bonds between you. If your Thai partner says or does something you don?t understand, ask for help in understanding it. If you have difficulty understanding her English, express compassion for the fact she?s trying to speak in a language that isn?t her own. If she?s struggling with trying to come to grips with your culture, express compassion (or feel ?with? her) for the difficulty she?s facing. Expressing compassion doesn?t necessarily mean that you agree ? it just means that you?re willing to let her be, and willing to be where she is, so you can feel what she?s feeling.
- Let her be herself.
Just like you don?t enjoy being with a woman who tries to change you, it would be unfair and inconsiderate of you to expect her to be any different than the way she is. She has her own preferences. Her own likes and dislikes. Her own rituals and superstitions. Her own emotions and reactions. She might not get as rabid about football as you would like. She might not enjoy big greasy hamburgers or blood-rare steaks. She might prefer making love with the lights off. Your job in the relationship is to love, respect, and support her for who she is, and if you want a really stellar relationship, celebrate how different she is from the women of your home country.
- Be curious and keep an open mind.
Part of the wonder of any successful relationship is exploring and delighting in the differences between you, and learning from the experiences you share. Remember how big, exciting, and wondrous the world seemed when you were a little boy? Every experience was an adventure. Colors, sights, smells, and sounds seemed more intense, more joyful. Every day brought something new to learn and grow from. In any relationship ? particularly a cross-cultural relationship ? you can regain that sense of exploration and wonder if you?re willing to drop your defenses just a little and let yourself be open and curious. No doubt in your time in Thailand, as well as in your relationship with your Thai lady, you?ll be exposed to many new and different ways of looking at the world. Let yourself explore them, and realize that just being open doesn?t mean your way of looking at the world is threatened.
- Keep your sense of humor.
No doubt there will be times when you make mistakes — finding yourself embarrassed, uncomfortable, or confused as you navigate the inter-cultural waters with your Thai partner. She will make many mistakes. But guess what — so will you. If you can remember that nobody is perfect ? that life is a rich tapestry of endless opportunity for human error, you?ll have a much easier time of it. Laughter is the great human leveler. We Thais understand that perhaps better than many in the West. We know that laughing when someone makes a mistake is a way to help everyone save face and avoid embarrassment and humiliation. If you?re truly committed to a lifelong relationship with a good Thai woman, your sense of humor will be a blessing to both of you.
Any long-lasting, fulfilling, loving relationship is hard work. Don?t let anyone tell you differently. The hard work doesn?t stop when you exchange vows ? it actually begins right then.
But in a relationship between a genuine, warm Western man like you and a decent, well-brought-up Thai woman, there might be more challenges than with a woman of your own culture. You value different things. You approach life differently. You think and express yourselves differently. You relate to others differently.
Your job, if you want a truly amazing relationship with your Thai partner that lasts a lifetime, is to embrace the challenges, commit to the journey, and celebrate the differences between you. If you are successful, you?ll build a relationship so strong you can be at home anywhere ? in Thailand, in your home country, or anywhere in the world your journey takes you!