Here on the island of Phuket in Thailand there are many mixed Thai-western marriages. We hear many stories about the strange and unreasonable behaviour of Thai wives. What about the other side of the coin? Are western husbands always a fountain of reason and fairness to their Thai wives?
There is one thing I often notice from western husbands that I always think is unfair and will cause relationship problems. It is the belief that their Thai wife should be grateful.
It is far from all the western husbands that are guilty of this attitude. However, it is common enough that it is worth discussing. These men believe their wives should be grateful for the improved lifestyle they have given her. They believe this means they call the shots and if the wife doesn’t like it, she is being ungrateful.
Is this really a healthy basis for a relationship?
When these men are discussing their latest spat with their wife, you will often hear similar comments. “She forgets where she came from. When I found her she was living in a shack and sleeping on the floor.” Does this means she must be meek and subservient? Cannot have any control in the relationship? If you do not respect your wife’s opinions, how can you expect her to be happy just because she has a nicer bed?
Of course, gratitude is a factor in relationships. Many of the western husbands in Thailand have made great sacrifices for the benefit of their Thai wives. Their wives should be grateful for these sacrifices but not to the extent that it diminishes their role in the relationship. The Thai wife also contributes much to the relationship for which the husband should be grateful. In a healthy relationship, gratitude is a two-way thing.
Many men come to Thailand with the intention of finding a wife. I think a lot of them arrive with little knowledge of the local culture and naive ideas about what they will find. They think they are going to ‘save’ a Thai girl from her life of poverty and give her a better life. In return, the girl will be eternally grateful and will be a doting and attentive wife.
Well the bad news is most Thai women do not feel like they need ‘saving’. They love their country and their family. They usually have plenty of friends. They like their lives in Thailand. Yes, a lot of Thai women are poor but that does not mean they are unhappy. They don’t want to change their lives. They just want more money so they can make their current life better.
Many Thai women are amenable to approaches from Western men. Thailand has one of the most open and tolerant societies in Asia and they do not fear mixed-race relationships. One of the things Thai women like about western men is that they can provide greater financial security than most Thai men can. However, they are still looking for the other things women expect from a good relationship such as love and respect.
They don’t want a one-sided relationship where their husband constantly expects them to be grateful. Who would like such a relationship? To be endlessly treated as a second-class partner with no say in the decision making process because they do not provide the money. To be constantly reminded where they come from.
Marriage is about give and take. Both sides need to be able to compromise and respond to their partners needs. It is true that some Thai women are not the best at controlling the purse strings and if the western man is providing the money then it may be best for him to control the money. That does not mean the Thai wife should have no input on where the money goes. It does not mean she has to be subservient to her husband on all issues.
Here is the reason why Thai women are not as grateful as their western husbands sometimes think they should be. They are not afraid of their previous life. They are not afraid of sleeping on the floor in a shared room. They are not afraid of taking cold showers from a tub of well-water. If this is the life they knew, they are not scared to go back to it. They are not massively grateful for their new comforts because it is not the most important thing to them.
There are two things most Thai women will put before their own comfort. Firstly, most Thai women want to help support their family to some extent. Some are happy to make a small contribution while others can never give enough.
The second thing is obvious. It is what everybody wants from their relationship; to be loved and respected; to feel important. All the possessions in the world cannot make up for being treated like a doormat. It’s the same for them as it is for us. They want to feel like they matter.
A while ago, I found myself in the slightly embarrassing role of translator for a Swedish man who was proposing to a Thai girl. This Thai girl was a neighbour and friend of my wife. The Swedish guy did not speak any English so he had a Swedish friend translating for him. The Thai girl did not speak any English so I was translating to Thai for her.
This Swedish guy was on holiday for two weeks and looking for a Thai wife. He was very pleased with himself that he had not chosen a bar girl. He kept on repeating that he was too clever to marry a bar girl and that was why he had approached our friend – a nice Thai girl. He had seen her eating at a Thai restaurant and asked her out. They had gone out together several times but could barely communicate. She is a very beautiful young lady. Of course, he had no way of knowing she is also a lesbian.
So we all went to a restaurant. Finally, he had a translator and could get his message across to this young Thai woman.
“I will marry her.”
Our lesbian friend was a little surprised by this proposal. Apart from being a lesbian, she had only been out with him a few times. However, like most Thais, she kept her cards close to her chest and let the Swede continue.
“She will move to Sweden with me.”
This is one of the classic mistakes western men make. Many men are convinced they can offer the girl such a better life in their own country that the girl could not possibly turn down this generous offer. Well here is a general truism – Thais like living in Thailand. The reason many Thais do move abroad is to make money. They do not go for a better lifestyle. The lifestyle they like is in Thailand. They go abroad because they have the chance to make better money than they can at home, and often they plan to move back to Thailand as soon as they have enough money.
“She will learn to speak Swedish.”
Learn a new language – only a small request. Our friend humbly agreed this was a fair demand.
“She will live in my house.”
Very generous. Let the wife live in his house.
“She will cook, clean the house and do the laundry.”
Yep, this guy really knows what he wants. A beautiful Thai lover and maid. I wonder that he couldn’t find a Swedish woman to fill his requirements.
“If she wants to send money to her family she must get a job and earn it herself.”
He has obviously done some reading up on Thai wives. He knows they like to send money home to the family. Well only reasonable that he should lay down the law and make it plain he is not going to pay for this inconvenient tendency. After all, she will have plenty of free time between her household chores and nuptial responsibilities.
Notice the total lack of question marks in this dialogue. It really never occurred to this Swedish guy that a Thai woman might say ‘no’ to his proposal. Surely, she would be grateful!
Our lesbian friend gave due consideration to the proposal. What she was actually considering was whether she could get any more money or free meals from this guy before she let him off the hook. She decided against it. The Swedish guy’s chin hit the floor as she told him she did not want to move to Sweden. He could not believe this girl did not want to be ‘saved’. How could she be so stupid as to turn down such an opportunity? He gruffly said so and left.
I tell this story just to highlight the strange ass