Journey of Hope and Despair – The Sequel and Reflections
The three parts of my the story of my rocky and at times heartbreaking, not to mention expensive affair with a bargirl in Pattaya ended on an ambiguous note…hopeful about her commitment, uncertain about my own as the rollercoaster madness of being in
love cooled a little and I was able to reflect on what the relationship truly had to offer. By late last year she had returned to Thailand after her months with me in Australia, and by early 2007 had completed Beauty School and commenced employment
as a hairdresser/beautician on 6000 baht a month for a 12 hour day, seven day a week, one day off a month working life. If that was my lot I'd sooner take my clothes off and jiggle in a go-go bar for 6 hours and sleep and eat the rest too,
(but I'd still forgo the fat farang affair bit)!
As for me, my fixed term contract ended in August and the next job fell through leaving me unemployed again – but this time with no redundancy package to rely on. By the end of 2006 I was sinking into debt and cutting back the monthly contributions to my Thai lady. I continued to travel to see her, trying where possible to combine employment interviews in the region but these all ended in disappointment. The expat life is nice if you can get it but more and more companies are cutting back their expat programs and it is very rare to get an expat role from the outside.
Christmas was a lonely and empty time. I spent some time in Pattaya with her but although I still loved her, it felt increasingly empty, and the questions about her previous betrayals remained. The end came in March. I arrived unannounced to her work near closing time. Her pleasure was unaffected – of that I am sure – but when I arrived at her room – there was a new TV and DVD player, and the large photos of me were missing from the wall. I questioned her – "where did these come from" and she claimed she had bought them from her earnings but in my heart I knew the answer. Then into the room walked a man, who immediately began to remonstrate with her and I knew for sure. Despite my straitened circumstances I had continued to meet her needs (including her sense of obligation to a grasping mother) but not her greed, and she had gone elsewhere to get those, thinking to have her cake and eat it too.
I told her it was over and repacked my bag. Her friend in the next room arrived to try to persuade me to stay as my girl really did love me. – and in her way she probably did, but for me it was the last time. I felt incredibly sad but also to be honest, relieved.
She tried everything to get me to come back but I had decided and was now firm in my resolution. I felt sad for her. I had given her enormous opportunity, but she had wasted it. I'm not bitter…I made choices for which I am responsible, and I can't judge her too harshly – after all I was still married when I met her, so no sinless stone throwing from me… just sadness for my own wasted love and sadness for her too.
So now, perhaps you are thinking I have learned my lesson, never trust a Thai girl especially from the bar, rent but don't buy….etc.
Well actually no. I developed an acquaintance with Noy – a 40 year old mother of two teenagers pushed by the breakdown of her marriage to a lay about alcoholic husband, to work in a go-go bar long enough to build a house in her village and perhaps to start a business that would give her a life. She made a choice – not a choice I approve but one I understand. When I met her the shell of the house was already completed. You would not believe Noy is 40, she is lovely and had no shortage of suitors – indeed I took her away from one. We are truly happy together, she has not lied to me once about anything, and we have been able to build an unlikely but happy partnership based on trust, communication, some common interests, and I won't deny it, an incredibly good, mutually satisfying sex life. Her mother is dead but I have been to her village and met her father – who asked me for nothing but gave me a gift when I left, and the rest of her extended family as well as her children.
I have now found employment in New Zealand that will give me an opportunity to dig my way out of debt and am hoping that Noy can come to study English and be with me for a while as I am now unable to travel. Meanwhile she has gone back to her village, goes to English/Business school in the mornings in the nearby city and is continuing to build her home. She is a delight to me – she enjoys red wine in moderation as I do, she will try Western food and genuinely enjoys some, she is open to new experiences…
Am I a fool who still has not learned his lesson? I don't think so – at least no more than any other man who risks in love – and it IS always that. I have listened to advice and read both Stick's and Readers' views and by way of conclusion wish to offer my own perspective based on reflection on both my own experiences and published research.
Somewhere between 40% and 50% of marriages in the West end in divorce, and men are more damaged by it at least emotionally if not financially. That is the statistic for marriage – think about the still serious relationships that never get that far before they self-destruct, not without damage. There are many reasons…relationships are difficult even between people who have a common cultural background and some genuinely shared interests. But what kills relationships in the post-modern West I believe is the huge weight of expectations brought by both partners. We somehow expect our partner to bear the weight of all our hopes and dreams, to be the consummate fulfillment of our needs – and we alternately become disillusioned and crush each other. Those who succeed develop many relationship skills (and also almost invariably demonstrate skills absorbed from successful parents, it is a sad fact that if your parents' marriage failed it is more likely yours will also).
Those who fail…well most try again…and despite the best of intentions are even more likely to fail again because the previous disappointment makes us long even more intensely to find the one who can deliver and so the cycle continues: more second marriages fail than first.
It seems to me that many of those who come to Thailand and start a relationship there are those who have experienced significant relationship failure, and many are embittered by it. To be 40, 50 or 60 and single again – well there are not many desirable partners available in the West.
But Thailand…in fact in any poor country…there are women whose relationship paradigm is more basic, whose expectations are lower…for whom a man who is a decent economic provider and basically decent person is a promising partner. And here lies the paradox. Logic suggests that if 40-50% of marriages within a culture fail then even more cross cultural marriages will fail – because of gaps in expectations, communication and interests, and that is surely what does happen. But there is another more promising dynamic at work also – a Thai women whose expectations are genuinely more restrained – even if they sometimes appear to the Western romantic mindset rather exploitative, while the obvious cultural divide also shakes many men loose from their own overgrown expectations. Perhaps a partner who gives great sex, and takes reasonable care both of one's bruised self-esteem and household does not also need to be philosopher and confidant, sports partner and career mentor….perhaps other friends can do these things…. I suggest that for many men who have successful marriages to Thai girls from all parts of society, one of the keys is that the cultural divide has forced them to more realistic expectations of their partner, while the expat experience creates an openness to new friendships that meet many of one's other needs.
I can't accept some of the facile generalisations I have read about Thai girls or Thai bar girls – yes generalisation is a necessary simplification for living in a complex world – but it is a complex world and people are both complex and different, regardless of their backgrounds. Of course the bar life is damaging, and the longer a girl is there the more damaged she is likely to become – but not everyone responds to the same things the same way. A noted financial writer in Australia previously worked as a prostitute – she could have ended up a drug addicted HIV sufferer but she didn't. Is it good advice to look somewhere other than the bars if you are coming to Thailand to find a partner – well of course! But that advice suggests men are consciously looking. I think more the reality is that men who find love in the bar whether good or bad were NOT consciously looking, they had given up, only to rediscover the possibility while looking for something else…..
So what I would say to men who are consciously looking would be the same as Stick – there are more promising opportunities and odds of success outside the bars – but be careful about your expectations. To those who have come to the bars for relief or escape from disappointment in past or present relationships I would say "guard your heart", because you are vulnerable and the gf experience can be intoxicating…but that doesn't mean you have to be completely cynical or exploitative….
If you find yourself becoming seriously interested: take it slowly, learn from the myriad bad experiences of others, and apply some common sense. If you are an older man, that sweet 21 year old probably isn't smitten with your good looks, but if you are lucky enough to find (as I think I have) an older woman who is still attractive but has some life experience and realistic expectations you may have a good chance. In the short term though, you have to get her out of the bar and that means you will have to support her – and until you are either living in Thailand or she can migrate to your country, you will have to visit her reasonably frequently – because for every one of the bad stories you know about lying cheating bargirls she knows two more about lying cheating farangs who don't keep their promises.
Up country Noy's near neighbour is a farang, his lovely Thai wife who I think he met in a bar, and their young daughter…their relationship seems to be working. I can't say why exactly but here's some pointers – they're both out of Pattaya, he is with her, they have a child, he's learned to understand and speak a fair amount of Thai…
As for me and Noy, well I can't be there right now but I know where she is and we communicate every day. We are both making a big effort to learn each other's language better. We both have open minds to new experiences while being able to say freely what we don't like. We have some common interests and enjoy each other's company but don't feel the necessity to be in each other's pocket to be secure. Is it going to work? I am hopeful…but not desperate…I am prepared to walk away if I need to … but so far so good, I'll update you either in a year or so or before if anything dramatic happens.
It sounds like being settled for a while is just the tonic you needed. I would caution about leaping into another relationship so soon, even if the signs are good. I personally believe it is best to have a bit of quiet time after a relationship ends although I know many do not share this view.