It has been said many times and in many ways that if you are in an intimate relationship you need to consistently ask yourself the question: “do I want to be right or do I want to be in love in this situation?”
- Why insistence on being right gets in the way of intimacy
The author of a book called “Communication Miracles for Couples”, Jonathan Robinson, says something in that book: “The bad news is, if you want a happy and loving relationship, you’re going to have to give something up: your insistence on being right. When you insist on being right, what you indirectly communicate to your partner is that she is wrong. You simply can’t insist on being right (a form of blame) and have intimacy. Believe me, I’ve tried. It’s like trying to have complete darkness and light in the same room. The good news is, if you’re willing to let go of being right, you can easily experience plenty of love, harmony, and fulfillment in your relationship”.
Making people wrong creates separation while choosing to be in love and letting go of the need to be right creates intimacy (in the sense of “into me see”, as the author suggests).
- Why being in love rather than right can be tricky in an interracial marriage
I am married to a Filipina and when a Western guy is married to a woman who comes from a developing country he is basically married to a woman who runs her life according to the very mindset that accounts for the fact that her country is where it is socio-economically.
As I have abundantly mentioned in this blog, the Filipino mentality has many aspects to it that stunt the progress of the Philippines as well as the socio-economical progress of many Filipinos who live in more developed countries.
For this reason the urge to feel quote-unquote “right” can be particularly strong for a Westerner who is married to a Filipina, or to a person who comes from any other quote-unquote “less developed” (at least economically speaking) nation, hence the tendency to “bash the environment that he himself has chosen to inhabit” (as the book “Culture Shock Philippines” by Alfredo and Grace Roces puts it).
The Filipino mentality (and the third-world mentality in general) can sabotage the efforts of a well-meaning Western husband who is trying to run his family’s economy (and everything else that is connected to it) in an efficient way and the inevitable urge to argue and correct arises pretty often in this kind of relationship.
Yet the author of the above mentioned book (as well as several other relationship books) says that you’ve got to drop the righteous mode and put on the loving one thereby letting go of your entitlement to be right for the sake of “into me see”, for the sake of loving connection and for the sake of union vs separation.
It’s tricky, I must admit to that. It is extremely hard but, if you are married to a woman from a developing country who sends you into a frenzy when she acts out her “developing country” ways, playing the righteous will not get you any positive results.
I learned to bite that bullet and let go of the need to argue and correct my wife all the time.
- How can I help my spouse to grow if I completely let go of the need to be right?
On the other hand the “Culture Shock Philippines” raises a very important question: “If all I do is play a part, adjusting my behavior to my hosts, then what will I be contributing to the community?” And, “Should I be, and can I be, actor enough to be false to what I value as right and good?”.
So how can I balance the need to be in love rather than right with the need to uphold my standards of right and wrong and contribute to the little Filipino “community” I have chosen to share my life with? After all isn’t creating added value what entering a relationship entails? A person who adds value touches something (or someone) and makes it better: if you do nothing and say nothing for the sake of love what are you “contributing” and how are you making a difference in your partner’s life? Isn’t it the case that a true friend is the one who brings out the best in the other person? How can I bring out the best in my foreign spouse if I drop righteousness? Isn’t there a risk that if all I do is let go of any need to make my foreign spouse wrong (when she is objectively wrong) and create this amazing atmosphere where there is nothing but love, peace, flowers, rainbows and butteflies not only will I fail to be the true friend who brings out the best in his mate and helps her to grow but I will also be chopped down to her quote-unquote “third-world” level and, as a result, my savings and my efforts to run my family wisely (at least financially) will go down the drain?
- Mind your communication style
Jonathan Robinson goes on to say “It (blame) can gradually creep into the entire way couples talk to each other—until all the love once shared becomes completely polluted” and this is the point: the key is mastering the ability to help your spouse to grow and adopt your quote-unquote “first world” standards without putting on a blaming mode and using a blaming language that will make the way you say things that need to be said ineffective and will only close the mind of your foreign spouse and make her even more entrenched and set in her ways.
Filipinos are particularly keen to closing their minds when they sense that you are making them wrong.
So, as Italian husband of a Filipina, I have come to the conclusion that, yes, my responsibility is to be the true friend that brings out the best in my foreign wife and help her to part with the aspects of her culture and mentality that get in the way of her progress and, as the”Culture Shock Philippines” book says, heeding the advice to be in love rather than right doesn’t mean that I have to be “actor enough to be false to what I value as right and good”.
I do have the responsibility to help my wife do what’s right but I have to figure out a way to do that by coming from a place of love, intimacy, connection and rapport and by paying extra attention to the way I communicate that something that my wife is doing needs to change.
Dale Carnegie in his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” said that “if you want to gather honey you must not kick over the beehive”.
So, trying to get your foreign spouse to do the right thing by putting on the righteous mode, by bashing and attacking her culture and mentality will get you no results.
The only way you can expect to bring out the best in your foreign spouse is by coming from a loving place and dropping, for a good long while, the urge to argue, blame, correct and attack and only when intimacy and rapport is built can you, very patiently, start the process of getting your foreign spouse to change.