The 5 fatal mistakes that will absolutely destroy any chance you have for a loving, lasting relationship with your Thai girl – and how to avoid them
Even with such different cultures and ideologies you can discover how to understand and learn from each other -- and build the fulfilling, intimate relationship you’ve always dreamed of!
Building any loving, committed, lasting relationship is a miracle. Men and women (from any culture) meet, gaze into each other’s eyes, and fall insanely in love, overlooking --or willfully blind to -- the little faults and quirks of their partner. “I love you,” one croons. “NO, I love YOU MORE!” their partner oozes. The cute nicknames. The thoughtful gestures. The passion. They live in a “golden bubble” where sappy music plays, the air sparkles, and nothing and nobody else even exist. For a while.
One day the heat and mania of “being in love” begins to fade. They come to. The little quirks become irritants. The irritants grow into flaws. The flaws grow into intolerable character traits. The cute little nicknames disappear, and words like “you never…” and “I always…” and worse…creep into the conversation. And after months, or years, or maybe even decades, the relationship dies a stormy death.
And that’s in ANY culture. You might have even been in one of those in your home country. And that may be part of what’s driving you to find a sweet, gentle Thai girl to start over with. Somebody new that you can slip into that “golden bubble” with. A small, graceful woman with long silky black hair and limpid dark eyes who will never argue or get upset. A grateful, willing partner who will let you be and accept you for yourself, smelly socks and all.
Well, snap out of it.
Building a loving, intimate, long-lasting relationship with ANYONE is work. Hard work. Sometimes painful work. In the best cases, the process is a “tempering” one – where you each polish the rough edges off each other – and where learning about one another is a lifelong process, with each day requiring give and take, conversation and compromise.
And building a meaningful, fulfilling relationship with a Thai woman may be even more challenging than building a relationship in your home country, based on the vast cultural differences that exist between your two worlds.
I’m here to help you navigate the tricky waters of Thai-Western relationships. Who am I to help? Someone who’s gone through the tempering process. A Thai woman with an Australian husband, who’s built a great relationship, successfully, I might say. We’ve had the conversations. We’ve made the compromises. I’ve changed to accommodate him – and equally important, he’s changed to accommodate me. We’ve polished the edges off each other. And we’re having the time of our lives.
Here’s what I know about you: You are considering a relationship with a Thai lady with all good intentions. You’re an honest guy. You’re curious. You have a lot to offer. You work hard. You want somebody to love, cherish, and take care of, who will do the same for you. You’re ready to start. And you want to start in Thailand, or with a Thai girl.
I want to talk straight with you based on my experience and the experience of dozens of disastrous relationships we’ve witnessed. There are tricky waters to navigate in getting this right from the start. The relationship “disasters” we’ve witnessed were almost always the result of a fatal mistake an honest, hardworking, genuine guy like you made – innocently enough – that completely destroyed any chance he had of building the relationship he was looking for.
Here are those fatal mistakes, in no particular order:
1. Getting too physical too fast
In your Western culture, it’s common for couples to hold hands, kiss goodnight, or touch affectionately in public. It might even be common to jump into bed right away if you and the woman both feel the spark. In Thailand, that’s almost horrifying to decent people. In Thailand, a more “feminine” culture than yours, modesty is paramount (in spite of what you might see in the bar districts!) Being overtly affectionate or sexual is counter to her culture and an insult to her family – it is seen as aggressive and rude.
My advice? Go slow. Take your time. Think about the old-fashioned idea of “courting.” It may take 5, 6, or more dates before it is permissible to even hold her hand, much less kiss her. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t like you!
2. Communicating too aggressively (swearing, sarcasm, raising your voice, gesturing “loudly”)
You were raised to take your stand, make your point, and win your argument. That’s an example of “low context” communication, where your words, tones, and gestures convey your message and meaning for you. She, coming from a more “high context” communication style, was raised to observe, take in, and experience the subtleties behind the message to absorb the meaning. Such aggression is completely foreign, very uncomfortable, hurtful – even frightening --for Thais. We don’t understand common expressions like “I don’t give a damn,” “it’s your own fault,” or “it’s not MY problem.” Because we don’t have anything like them in our language.
My advice? Calm down. Lower your voice. Soften your tone. Avoid sarcasm. Say your piece quietly, calmly, and reasonably. And gently encourage her to speak her mind by showing her that nothing “bad” will happen when she does.
3. Forgetting to be generous (or assuming you’re being taken advantage of)
When we talked about “individualism vs. collectivism,” I shared with you the importance of “naam jai,” or generosity. As a collectivist culture, in Thailand generosity is so natural we don’t think twice about sharing what we have. Your Thai lady will assume you’re willing to pick up the check for her and her friends, or buy her a gift to demonstrate your affection for her, or help her sister buy a cell phone. And if you aren’t generous, she’ll begin to think of you as cold, heartless, even cruel.
My advice? As your relationship grows, and she begins to ask for your help, gently tell her the truth about how much you can afford and are willing to spend. Maybe even agree on a monthly “generosity” or “naam jai” budget. Pick up the check once in a while. Bring little gifts when you call on her, her friends, or her family.
4. Misunderstanding or misusing the relationship of “power”
Let’s face it – as a man, and as a Westerner in Thailand, you have an elevated position in the power hierarchy, even though you came from a place where more or less everyone is “equal.” Some men get almost stupid once they realize the power they are granted in Thailand. Your Thai lady will defer to you, submit to you, and do anything to please you. Up to a point. Then it can get ugly. If you abuse your power, show disrespect to her or her family, or take advantage of be her calm, peaceful, gentle nature, you won’t know what hit you.
My advice? Be benevolent. Be kind. It’s okay to know that in the interconnected web of power you have some status, but take time to collaborate and discuss things, rather than be a dictator.
5. Taking “Meet the Parents” too lightly
I can’t stress this enough: if your Thai lady wants to introduce you to her family, she thinks you’re getting married. Period. Full Stop. Many Western men have underestimated how important a step this is. After all, in your culture, meeting the parents of someone you’re dating is no big deal. But here? Meeting the parents sets up a whole chain of expectations and you’ll start to feel pressure to set a date! And if you meet her parents, and then break up, you will have brought shame not only on her, but her entire family. (It’s that individualism versus collectivism dynamic again!)
My advice? If she wants you to meet her parents, and you’ve got no interest in marrying her, for god’s sake be honest and say so! And don’t offer to introduce her to your family until you’re serious about marrying her, either.
These are just five of the many mistakes that can torpedo your relationship with a decent Thai woman. Understanding the difference in your two cultures, and talking them over gently and patiently with your lady will help you both grow.
If you can avoid these fatal mistakes, you’ll soon discover that sometimes it’s more rewarding to give ground than to be right. Sometimes a symbolic gesture can make all the difference if you’ve made an honest mistake. Sometimes a little gift – or a grand gesture – can open your heart to the joys of sharing. And if you’ve found the Thai lady of your dreams, consider spending some time in the “golden bubble” exploring the ways you can blend your cultures to polish the edges off and make each other shine!
In the next issue…
”If she likes me so much, why doesn’t she show it?” I’ll guide you deeper into the mysterious behavior of your Thai woman and show you how to read the signals that let you know exactly how she feels about you!