An Ordinary Life – Part 1
I have a good line of work that's allowed me to live and work in multiple countries. I've spent half of my life, and most of my adult life, living and working overseas. Because of that I don't feel at home in my own country any more. When people ask me where I come from I'm careful to tell them I have a passport from xxx (omitted).
Let me introduce the characters of my story. All names are changed to protect the innocent … or guilty, as the case may be.
|Ian||Yours truly; in my late 50s; a handsome, dynamic man who would make George Clooney and Brad Pitt pale in comparison; I hope you understand I have a sense of humour|
|Dawn||My ex-wife; a Thai national; 3 years younger than me; someone who is described on these pages as a "good girl"; a university graduate, no less|
|Peter||First born son; just turned 21|
|Paul||Second born son; just turned 18|
|Mary||I don't have a daughter but if I did she would have this name to complete the group|
|Udang||My current partner; pronounced "oo-dung" in English; Thai national; 21 years younger than me (!)|
|John||Udang's son; 15 going on 16|
I was married to Dawn for 20 years. She left me for a reason I'll explain later. She didn't do that until she acquired a passport from country xxx. Coincidence? Maybe, it's hard to say. The more cynical of you might think I did well to make her wait that long to get the passport. We were married in 1992; divorced in 2012. Peter & Paul are a product of the marriage. Both are intelligent guys; they were fortunate in the DNA lottery called conception to get Dawn's good looks and my smarts — apologies if that sounds boastful; only time will tell if they got Dawn's deceptive nature. Peter goes to university in my (and his) home country. Paul will go to college in the US starting in August. Udang is a nice lady but she might be playing me, it's hard to say. Her son, John, is a bit difficult and seems to think his lot in life is to have me buy expensive presents for him. In his defence I doubt any teenager likes the idea of an older man "doing" his mother and that's probably magnified tenfold if you're Thai and the doer is not.
Sometime last year (August or September?) there were submissions about the success or failure of farang-Thai marriages — whether failure is built into the personality of Thai women or more the result of deadbeat farangs. One submission gathered statistics of perhaps a dozen couples from one location in England comparing marital success/failure rates, good/bad girls, good quality/deadbeat guys and age differences. It concluded that marriage failures were generally a result of deadbeat guys and the fewer years of age difference between partners the better to make a successful marriage. Whether the Thai lady was originally a good or bad girl had little bearing on the success and happiness of the marriage.
I have a different point of view. Everyone has their own circumstances. I have nothing against these statistics and I'm sure they're true. However, 100% of my experience is different; my marriage failed yet I think I'm a good guy, my wife was a good girl and we had only three years of age difference.
I plan to tell my story in six parts:
Part 1 gives the basic story and sets the scene for the remaining posts
Part 2 covers the bad years
Part 3 gives more information about Dawn, her background and what motivates her
Part 4 deals with the aftermath of the divorce and its effect on my family
Part 5 considers my current girlfriend
Part 6 offers some other final thoughts
If I get encouraging feedback it might become seven parts. That would make me the Douglas Adams of the Stickman site, and wouldn't that be special? (If you don't know what I mean by that, Douglas Adams wrote Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, originally a radio show that turned into a series of short books. It was a trilogy and he then added another so it famously became a trilogy in four parts and is marketed that way even today. The difference is my attempt at writing will never be available commercially. And I'm not sure about the number 42.)
I started living outside of my home country when I was 23. I was married when I was 35 and lived overseas for 10 of those 12 years. From the age of 23 I wanted to meet the right girl, get married and settle down. However, I was not the most successful guy on the dating scene. I had five girlfriends over those 12 years — always sequential with no hanky panky on the side. I took each break up badly with a year or more between girlfriends. But I wasn't a monk so in the dry patches I learned about nightlife in the cities where I worked. I managed to sample a decent amount of nightlife but I was neither reckless nor a hard core party boy. I simply learned where I could go in most cities to meet accommodating ladies who would expect some compensation for their time.
And then it happened. In 1991 I met the perfect lady. I didn't have much experience of living in Thailand but visited for work from time to time. A friend introduced me to her friend and we just clicked. On that first dinner date we both knew it was something special. I was passing through Bangkok on the way to a new assignment in Indonesia so we arranged to meet again; a few weeks later we both travelled half way for a weekend together in Singapore. She had a good job so she paid her own way. I paid for the hotel and she said I tricked her by booking only one room, with only one bed. On the other hand she didn't exactly complain so the arrangement was consummated. I started going to Thailand regularly on weekends; once a month in the beginning, then every two weeks and finally every weekend. We were married after six months. I didn't even propose — we both just assumed we would be married. It was confirmed the day I met her mother; Dawn translated for me "She just asked if you are going to make me an honest woman?" I answered "Of course". I was engaged and hadn't even popped the question.
When the frequency of the visits became weekly it was all about planning the wedding. Getting the auspicious date from the monk, interviewing hotels and catering for the reception, choosing invitations, arranging transportation, clothes, photographers, legal formalities with my country's embassy, airline and hotel reservations for my parents coming from overseas, the obligatory gift / momento that we as a couple give to attendees of the wedding. I was mostly an observer to the wedding arrangements which is good because I didn't have the patience for them. I was perfectly capable of being involved for 36 hours every weekend and then losing focus for the next five days. And yes, I paid sin sot — it seemed like a lot at the time but looking back it really wasn't much.
Dawn started her working life in a 5 star hotel in Bangkok which is where I first met her. (The magical blind date when we first went out was actually a surprise re-introduction through a mutual friend.) She improved herself by getting a university degree in Communications. I can hear you saying "but it's from Ramkhamhaeng, anyone can go there". Yes, it's an open university but she did it herself with no help from outside or even, as far as I could tell, from her family. She was a go getter! After the 5 star hotel she went to the US for a few years and then returned to Bangkok to work for a respected US multinational company. And she gave up all of that for me. I was such a lucky guy.
The auspicious date for the wedding was Friday the 13th. The monk was aware of western superstitions and asked if I had a problem with the date. I put on my most confident air and said "No problem for me" — what did I care, I was in love. Considering we ended up divorced I can't think of anything more appropriate.
In a way I feel cheated because the biggest reason I wanted to marry an Asian lady is I thought she would have total commitment. I thought that even if she wasn't happy she would stay married for the benefit of the family. Especially a girl from Thailand, a Buddhist, would always be good to make merit for the next life; she would stay with me through thick and thin to get a better life next time around. I wanted marriage for life. When we said "til Death Do Us Part" I really meant it. And it's not like I'm a bad person. I was never violent; I never cheated; I didn't go out spending time with my buddies or other women; I always supported the family; I barely drink (2 or 3 beers a year); I don't gamble, smoke or do drugs; I even gave up golf because it took me away from the family for too long on weekends. I may not be perfect but I think I'm pretty good.
Fast forward 20 years and I was divorced.
When I get into my reflective and analytical state of mind I can honestly say I was happy for the first two years, they were great. The next eight were a steady, downhill path; and the last ten years were quite uncomfortable. We had our first son after two years of marriage. When she was pregnant she said things would be different because she would be looking after the baby and have less time for me. I laughed it off at the time but that's exactly what happened and to a greater extent than I ever thought possible. As soon as she had a baby she changed from the wonderful, gentle natured woman I knew into a Nazi Mom. It was her way or no way. If I had a different opinion there was no discussion of right and wrong. She was right, I was wrong. At least it was a simple position to understand.
But did things change because we had a baby?
After the divorce I found out she was telling her friends that she wanted to end the marriage on the second day of our honeymoon. Even the two years I thought were happy were an illusion. The entire marriage was a lie from day one (or should I say day two?). When I first heard this I laughed. Laughter is a defence mechanism; sometimes you laugh because you're embarrassed or you want to show people that something doesn't hurt. Maybe I'm more Thai than I thought.
But this cut to the core; it's the one piece of information I've obtained since the divorce that hurts, amazes, clarifies and disappoints me all at the same time. I was devastated. My entire marriage was a lie. How could she do that to me? I still can't answer that question.
During the mandatory separation that's required before divorce in my home country I asked her, in one of those quiet moments you have with another person, why she wanted a divorce — after all, I'd been a good husband. Her answer jarred me then and still does today. My Thai is quite poor but she looked at me and simply said "khun mai sanook". The entire justification for the divorce was because I am no fun. It turns out she wanted excitement — and that wasn't me. I was reliable but that wasn't enough.
I think about these things a lot. I didn't picture her as a party girl — as I said, she was a good girl. But I also remember on our honeymoon when she heard the thumping vibe of the hotel disco she said we should go dancing. I said I didn't want to, it wasn't something I enjoyed, so we didn't go. Was that the second day of our honeymoon? I can't exactly remember but maybe it was; maybe that was the seed of my own destruction; all the years of being a good husband, father and provider weren't enough to make up for the fact I didn't go to the disco on my honeymoon. Is she really that shallow? I don't know, but maybe.
I don't take breakups well. For 1½ years from the time she told me she wanted the divorce until it actually happened and another seven months afterwards I moped around and was unhappy with life. I maintained my focus at work and while I came close to breaking down outside of work I never let it get to that stage. I managed to hold myself together but I wasn't a happy camper. I did not cry; I said to myself that I would not cry for this woman and held myself to that promise.
After two years of feeling down in the dumps I finally kick-started myself by going on holidays. To Bangkok, where else? And it was certainly different than going to the family house which is far away from the city, in a development with security guards at the entrance, where no one else speaks English, taxis don't pass through, there is no other transport and my Thai driver's license has expired. I forgot that Bangkok is full of nightlife targeted at men and has ways to keep you occupied. What a revelation!
I went to Bangkok on holidays several times in 2013 and met two ladies. One didn't last long and was a very naughty girl. I couldn't have met anyone better to shake me out of my misery — think Sexual Healing by Marvin Gaye. She doesn't feature in this story but she was wonderful for me. After three weeks of sex with her (and a few others), as far as the marriage was concerned, I was "over it" and had "moved on". Maybe I should have done that earlier but I wasn't mentally ready for it.
One thing that struck a chord with me on these first few trips to Bangkok was the reaction of the women when I said I was divorced. All the ladies I met at this stage were naughty girls. They had trouble believing I was unattached so I told them my story and how Dawn had done me wrong. They all asked her age. When I said "same as me" or "50 something" every one of them, without exception, screwed up her face with a puzzled expression and said either "why?" or "she's crazy". It makes you feel so good to be vindicated.
The second lady I met in 2013 was Udang, my current girlfriend. Maybe she's playing me, too, it's hard to tell. Sometimes my gut says "run" and when I read some of the posts on Stickman that feeling grows. But there is something about her that makes me want to stay.
So there it is, the bare bones outline of my story. The purpose of this post is to give an introduction; I'll give more details in upcoming posts. The thing that hurts me most is the realization that my entire marriage was a lie.
Going back to the guy who submitted the statistics from England and said he's been happily married for 10 years, when I read that I thought "just wait buddy, it might not be what you think". I don't intend to be mean-spirited here, if you're happily married I compliment you and if anything I'm envious. A successful or failed marriage depends on the circumstances of the individuals. Your reality applies to you 100% of the time; statistics don't cater for the emotional baggage we all carry. In Part 3 I'll propose another reason why my marriage failed; and finding out how someone thinks takes time, something we don't all use well when we pursue a partner. It might be worth trying the Thai Professor's two week test.
Please keep the faith and read Part 2, titled The Bad Years, which I promise is more interesting and will follow soon …