As Good As It Gets
When I first came to Thailand in January 2009 I quite literally fell in love with the place. I wrote on here sometime around July / August that year about how quickly I had settled in and made friends, including a nice Thai girlfriend. I spent the full first 30 days exploring with a platonic Thai lady friend who I had met through a university exchange programme. We flew up to Ubon and rented a car to travel around Isaan and enjoyed a homestay in a tiny village complete with buffalo and communal sleeping arrangements. After one night in Bangkok we said our goodbyes and I headed for the islands for my last 10 days.
It took me just short of six weeks to arrange a retirement visa, sell my car and give up my rented house and fly back to LOS.
The girlfriend I met at the start of my last 10 days, turned into a six-month relationship until she started to get too serious and clingy and talking about marriage. I tried to let her down gently but it turned out to be quite upsetting for both of us. Not violent, just very emotional. I should not be putting myself in this position in my late 50s and re-learning the lessons of my youth. It was hard for both of us for a few months until I found a new, less demanding partner. This eventually prompted the ex to move on.
I have been with TGF #2 for 3 years now and find myself in a quandary. Although we are both content with things the way they are, I am getting itchy feet. Not for a new relationship, but to explore new people, places and experiences.
She became ill about 18 months ago and was surprised to find that I stuck with her and ‘took care’. I felt strongly enough to do this because of my feelings for her and I would have stayed anyway because that’s the right thing to do. Now fully recovered and relocated closer to her family she is more or less independent again. One byproduct of all this is that she is now tied into the family business and probably does not have the chance to travel with me even if she wanted to.
Despite the 20-year age gap we have many common experiences and make similar basic demands of our relationship. In short, we have very quickly become a comfortable pair of old slippers. She spends time with her family and I spend some time with my friends, and we like to curl up together on the sofa with a good movie. It sounds idyllic and in many ways it is. The only thing we expect of each other is faithfulness and given our circumstances and our previous failed relationships, it’s no real hardship for either of us. Neither of us is interested in marriage but we both enjoy the benefits of a stable relationship. GF #2 is not at insecure as the first one, although her favourite nephew aged 5 sleeps over when I am away.
The best thing for me about our relationship was how completely open and honest she was about her past. Within a few days of meeting her, I knew the good, the bad and the downright awful history of this pretty, petite woman in her late 30s. It was a revelation for me, a westerner brought up in a religious almost Victorian family where feelings and emotions are to be hidden rather than expressed and shared. This open attitude of Thai women to their personal history is quite common in my limited experience. The women who are open to farang relationships have a similar history of marrying young, having children followed by desertion by feckless Thai husbands. Similar stories abound with both my relationships here and with the partners and wives of farang friends. (It was so common it occurred to me that this was a widely circulated fable that Thai women used to placate curious farang?) <I think it is more a case that many Westerners find it easiest to meet Thai woman who have been let down already and are therefore willing to try something new – Stick> They also enjoy the opportunity to converse and practice their English. It certainly gave me encouragement to be more open and I feel better for not bottling up feelings and emotions.
I had 2 long-term relationships in the west and tried to be a good partner and friend with my loved one. The epitome of modern man in many ways. Despite my best efforts both situations ended badly. I never expected to meet a beautiful open-hearted woman whose sole aim in life was to be totally supportive of my wants and needs. It was both refreshing and overwhelming. She likes me out of the house early so she can clean, so I usually clear out and visit friends, or go for a bike ride. Her great joy is to watch me eat as I devour the lovingly prepared Thai or western meals she cooks in the evenings.
I am left with the feeling that I don’t deserve all this good fortune and wracked with guilt that there are more deserving causes than me out there. Two that come to mind are my favourite contributors on here. Phet the broken man repaired, and Old Bill in Cyprus are surely much more deserving causes.
So what is it that makes me want to up sticks, move on and travel again? I suppose the approach of three score years and my impending mortality is the main motivator. So much to do and so little time. It has been my practice to visit UK once or twice a year to see family. I know she understands why I go, but it does not seem to make it any less painful for her. There is no clingy jealousy involved, I have simply noticed the change in her as my trip gets closer, and the pleasure we both get when I do return.
I am reminded of a quote from one of my all time favourite movies. As good as it gets:
Melvin Udall: [to a group of depressed psychiatric patients] What if this is as good as it gets?
That's a nice and refreshing change from the she done me wrong stories. Long may your happiness together continue!