What Women Want in a Man

The reason why I am addressing this topic is because I entered my relationship without having any clues about how relationships work and about how women think and what they really want.

I had to figure it out years down the road and this caused me a lot of unnecessary problems.

There is actually one thing I figured out before committing and that is that women are incredibly drawn to men who have plenty of options and don’t actually need a relationship to be happy.

I was that way at age 32, when I met the Filipina who 5 years later became my wife: getting married and setting up a family was the very last thing I wanted because my life was very very comfortable. I could afford to travel abroad up to three times a year, I was saving up for the future, I was engaged in a very rewarding international volunteer work and I had plenty of free time for my passions like hiking and a bunch of other things that were filling my life with a lot of pleasure.

So I was not really desperate about getting married, let alone having kids.

When I bumped into the woman whom I eventually married I basically told her that I liked her a lot but I didn’t want to give up my freedom.

What I started noticing was that the more I tried to push her away the more attractive I became which led me to draw my first conclusion about what women want in a man:

  • they want a man who is not needy and who has plenty of options

In other words they want a man whose life is much bigger than the relationship itself, a man who will not fall into the darkness of despair should his wife die or leave him, precisely because his life and life purpose are more than the relationship itself.

This was the first and only insight that I had about what women want in a man before even committing to my wife.

But apart from this early insight there a lot of things that I had to figure out by trial and error years down the road.

After only about one year of marriage, it became pretty obvious that I was not really meeting my wife’s needs.

I used to think that if I only could get my wife to give me a list of what she wanted then I would have given her everything she wanted on a silver platter.

I started to naively push my wife to spend long weekends together once in a while and I tried countless times, to no avail, to get her to use these opportunities to get clear about what we wanted from each other and I was suggesting to her to sit down and take pen and paper so that she would give me a list of what she really expected of me and I would do the same, such that we could get crystal clear about what we expected of each other.

This never happened (and never will).

  • I realized that women want their man to figure out what they want and they will never be the ones to give you a “grocery” list of the things they want so that you can effortlessly know what these things are and give them to her.

We did actually have plenty of long weekends together but I never managed during those weekends to get her to do what I thought was right, namely to get clear once and for all about what we both wanted and write it down on a “list”

So, after years of chasing my tail around in circles, the second conclusion I was able to draw about what women want in a man is that they want a man who has enough sensitivity to figure out for himself what they want and need. Directly asking them pushes them away.

Another insight that I have acquired is that for a woman

  • little things are more important than big ones

A little thing that drives my wife crazy, if I fail to do it, is that she wants me to always, and I mean always, close the lid of the toilet’s bowl no matter how early I wake up to go to work, how in a hurry I am because I have to rush to work and how many hours I need to work.

In my mind if I am making the huge sacrifice to get up early and support the family I can afford to neglect a little thing like closing the lid of the toilet’s bowl. Not so from the standpoint of my wife! The huge sacrifices I make for the family count for absolutely nothing if I fail to honor the little things that are important to her.

Another thing that, based on my experience, women want in a man is:

  • they want a man willing to give them emotional connection when they need it not when he is ready and they want a man who is willing to push aside even important things like necessary and urgent work

Last Friday night, for example, I received a very important WhatsApp message from a potential new client but, between 9 and 10 pm, I usually give my wife a massage. Well, she made it clear that in that moment the massage was more important than getting that new client…

  • Presence of mind: we got a new dog and my wife is trying hard to train this unruly dog and she needs me to watch if there is any cats around when we walk the dog but I forget and I forget and I forget and get distracted and she can’t stand it.
  • They want to be heard and they don’t want a man to give them solutions

and all the more so because my wife is Filipino.
She comes from a culture where men themselves don’t think in terms of solutions and are rather emotional so offering solutions to an emotional Filipina and trying to get her to think in rational terms when all she needs is emotional connection doesn’t work. It doesn’t work with a Filipina and I am assuming that it doesn’t work with women in general.

  • They don’t like when you measure what they blame on you against what they are doing wrong or in other words they hate it when you make them wrong in response to their lashing out.

They can make you wrong all day long but you are not supposed to mention a single thing they did wrong.

This is, more or less, the list of things that, based on my experience with a Filipino wife and on my personal judgement, women want in a man, or at least what my wife wants in a man, which, I assume, applies by extention to more or less all relationships.

I will create a part 2 of this post should I come up with more insights….

La mentalità filippina: “ningas kugon”

Tipica costruzione filippina con il tetto in “kugon”

Ningas Kugon significa più o meno “fuoco di paglia” ed è, fondamentalmente, la tendenza tipica dei filippini ad eccitarsi all’idea di un progetto per, forse, una settimana o due, al massimo pochi mesi.

I filippini gettano le fondamenta di un progetto, poi cambiano idea e gettano le fondamenta di un altro progetto.

Quindi, ad esempio, potrebbe accadere che la moglie filippina di un occidentale proponga al marito di trasferirsi con lei nelle Filippine, prospettandogli di investire in un’attività economica che servirebbe a sostenersi finanziariamente.

In seguito potrebbe cambiare idea e, forse, decidere di rimanere nel paese occidentale del marito (dopo aver speso un bel po’di soldi in un progetto che poi rimane lettera morta). Dopo un po’ ‘potrebbe riconsiderare di nuovo di andare per sempre nelle Filippine. Quindi ripensaci di nuovo.

Più spesso che no i filippini non hanno una missione di vita e una visione chiara. Intraprendono miriadi di progetti che svaniscono facilmente nel nulla e non si concretizzano.

A chi sposa una filippina questo potrebbe costare soldi inutili.

Ad esempio, circa 15 anni fa, mia moglie avviò una specie di mensa di fronte al Bulacan Agricultural State College e fece trasformare il piano terra della sua grande casa in una sorta di ostello per studenti universitari, perché dovevamo trasferirci lì per sempre.

Da allora c’è stata un’alternanza di momenti in cui voleva seguire quel progetto e momenti in cui sembrava essere più interessata a stare qui in Italia e (dopo 15 anni) non so ancora cosa succederà in futuro.

L’espressione ningas kugon descrive in modo appropriato questo tratto filippino: ningas significa sostanzialmente fuoco mentre kugon è fondamentalmente il materiale utilizzato per costruire il tetto di un bahay kubo (una tipica costruzione filippina in bambu) che è, essenzialmente, erba cogon, un tipo di materiale che si accende molto facilmente e, dopo poco si spegne.

Nel mondo occidentale siamo generalmente più inclini a fare piani a lungo termine e seguire tali piani mentre, come ho appena detto, la maggior parte dei filippini sono esattamente l’opposto.

Quindi, per chi fosse interessato a sposare una filippina, una delle tante cose da prendere in considerazione è il fatto che fare piani a lungo termine con una moglie filippina potrebbe rivelarsi estremamente difficile.

How to Experience “Real” Adventure in the Philippines

Driving in Manila is a real adventure

(I stumbled upon this old post that I had not categorized when I created it so I am reposting it)

The Philippines has so many remote islands, jungles, rough roads and so on that the opportunities to experience adventure at its peak are endless.

I’ve had the chance to visit remote parts of the Sierra Madre Mountains where there is not even a trail and where the NPA hide.

Yet, scuba diving, bungee jumping, driving a jeep on a rough road leading to some remote waterfall, hiking in a jungle etc are certainly not the only ways to experience adventure in the Philippines.

You don’t by any means need to go to some remote area to experience adventure: just try driving in Manila during rush hour (that in Manila practically means almost any hour) where cutting in lanes and tailgating is routine or even in the province where buses overtake cars or buses in a curve and you have to resort to your best driving skills to avoid a crash, or try walking alone in some slum area like Tondo or Quiapo (I’ve experienced Quiapo by night) and you will experience “adventure” in the real sense of the word.

But even more adventurous is being married to a Filipina as the various aspects of culture shock that I’ve abundantly touched on in this blog can turn your relationship into a real “adventure” that can cause other kinds of adventures like swimming among the sharks or hiking in a trail infested with cobras or pythons to pale in comparison.

You will find yourself dealing with mainit ang ulo, hinanakit and other highly emotional traits of Filipinos or moving on the razor’s edge of trying to budget your money while sending substantial amounts to relatives in the Philippines (not my situation but it can happen to some) who expect help and those things definitely qualify as “adventure”.

But if you are willing to view the bumps on the road, the challenges and the obstacles as an opportunity to step up emotionally your relationship with a Filipina will definitely offer you an opportunity for an exciting adventure, a ride second to none.

So here is my top five list of adventures one can experience in the Philippines:

  • Tondo by night
  • Quiapo by night
  • E.D.S.A. Avenue at rush hour
  • Your Filipina’s relatives who ask for money
  • Your Filipina’s mood when she is having buwanang dalaw (menstruation)

Have a great time in the Philippines!

Mabuhay!….or mamatay

My Perspective on the Car Culture in the Philippines

Traffic in Manila
Trapik and usok

I remember getting up one morning at 4 am to go from San Ildefonso, Bulacan to Tagaytay.

Here in Italy people get up that early to avoid being stuck in traffic and all you can find on the road at 4-4,30 am is few people who work night shifts and little more.

Sure enough, even in Bulacan, the National Highway was clear at 4,30 am and so was the North Luzon Expressway. But when we got to the toll gate and entered the E.D.S.A. Avenue……… naku po(gi) grabe ang trapik! (“my goodness, traffic was a heck of a mess”).

It took us more than 5 hours to make it to the South Luzon Expressway as traffic was not moving an inch on the EDSA but, once on the South Luzon Expressway traffic was smooth again and we made it relatively quickly to Lake Taal.

But why are cities and even much smaller towns in the Philippines so jammed with trapik?

One reason is certainly the cronic lack of adequate infrastructures but, as a foreigner married to a Filipina, my idea is that way too many Filipinos often use cars, tricycles and jeepneys unnecessarily.

The palengke of Barangay Pinaod where my wife is from is only situated less than 500 meters from my wife’s house and yet people would rather flag down a tricycle than walk.

My idea is that one of the root causes (besides of course lack of an adequate rail system) of the trapik and usok (“smog”) problem lies in the deep-seated car culture of Filipinos or, more in general, the sasakyan (any means of transportation) culture.

I am one of those who used not to have a car and I had no desire whatsoever to have one, I walk a lot and I love biking.

Yet, after marrying my Filipina, things changed for me because of the car culture of Filipinos (at least the ones I interact with).

I remember being repeatedly told by many of my Filipino friends “Italyano ka, bakit wala kang kotse?” (“You are an Italian, how come you don’t have a car?”). For them mayaman (“rich”…..well, I am not rich but many Filipinos here only have dealings with their rich employers and so in their mind all Italyano are mayaman or rich) equals dapat may kotse (“you have to have a car”) and if you don’t you are tanga (“very stupid”).

Not all Filipinos have a car here but the ones who don’t have one are simply the ones who, right now, can’t afford one but, as soon as they can, buying a car is their number one priority, also because here trains and buses don’t take you to every single corner of the city and you can’t avoid walking at least few hundred meters to get to the bus or metro stop and we don’t have any tricycle service here…

As for me, simply going out for a walk with my wife (as I used to do with my old friends) doesn’t compute, going out equals going to a restaurant (or anywhere else) always by car.

So the strong car culture of Filipinos (or sasakyan in general) and lack of willingness on the part of many to walk even a short distance is largely responsible, I guess, for much of the trapik and usok in the Philippines but it seems to me that wherever they go Filipinos carry the car culture with them.

I have noticed that there is a debate going on in the Philippines about modernizing jeepneys, some would like to modernize them, some resist the change, but modern jeepneys don’t have wings and can’t fly and, even if they introduced electric jeepneys they would still jam the roads.

And maybe building new skyways invites even more cars.

I am not an expert so I can’t suggest long-term solutions but I think kaunting lakad (“a little willingness to walk a bit more”) would help reduce usok and trapik at least to some extent.

As for me, the bright side is that I can at least rely on the diskarte (“ability to creatively fix things”) and the bayanihan spirit (“helping one in need”) of most of my Filipino friends to fix my car at almost zero-cost….

A Filipino friend of mine spent the whole afternoon fixing a few issues my car had and he didn’t even want any money….I had to insist to give him something

Are Westerners More Sincere than Filipinos?

A typical house compound where different family units belonging to the same extended family live

The “Culture Shock Philippines” book defines the Filipino culture as a culture that is “people oriented” while Western cultures tend to be more “goal oriented”.

So the question “are Westerners more sincere than Filipinos?” must be viewed in the light of the “people oriented” over “goal oriented” frame that Filipinos operate from in almost every situation.

I have already touched on this aspect in my article about the Filipino concept of sincerity and, again, I must give credit to the “Culture Shock Philippines” book by Alfredo and Grace Roces where I got this idea from that greatly helped me understand my wife’s psychology. https://buildingfilipinowesternbridges.com/2018/09/19/dealing-with-the-filipino-concept-of-sincerity/

The book says something along the lines of ‘a Westerner doesn’t hold back from telling it “as it is” if a CAUSE or a higher goal is at stake. For example a Western boss will likely not think twice before scolding a secretary for arriving late at work and even if she cries he will keep scolding her because the cause of punctuality is more important than her feelings and if she gets hurt so be it’.

Filipinos prefer keeping SMOOTH INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS and, more often than not, would rather sacrifice a cause than hurt somebody.

How does this knowledge affect your intimate relationship with a Filipina?

Often you have to put a “smooth relationship” with both her and her family above other goals and values.

For example, it might happen that your Filipina spouse will try to please both you and her extended family, even if this entails saying one thing to you and it’s opposite to her family, because SMOOTH INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS always take precedence, and I have seen it happening countless times.

So when your Filipina seems to be dealing with you in half-truths, as Filipinos often do, the question “are Westerners more sincere than Filipinos?” should be replaced with “how is she trying to move on the razor’s edge of trying to be both loyal to me and to her family or to other fellow Filipinos?”

Another thing to remember when the question “are Westerners more sincere than Filipinos?” arises in your mind is that probably us Westerners tend to be more straightforward in one to one relationships but in my country, as well as in most Western countries, politicians, business people, advertisers, car dealers and many others deal not just in half-truths but rather in plain lies.

Here in Italy politicians promise new jobs (like a former prime minister who promised 1,000,000 new jobs in few years), new infrastructures, better social welfare and lower taxes (which is a very tall order to fill, as social welfare is supported by tax payers) and many other things but once they secure for themselves their 12,000 € a month wage or above, all those promises turn out to be propaganda at most.

When you buy a second hand car here in Italy, car dealers or former owners sometimes lie on the actual mileage and some pass off cars with many miles as slightly used and mechanics sometimes do more repairs than what the car actually needs and if you don’t have some diskarte and have limited knowledge of how a car works, they will most likely cheat you (a mechanic tried to charge me 90€ to change two LPG filters that barely cost 10€ each).

So here in Italy, as well as in much of the Western world, people often deal in outright lies but often Westerners who interact with Filipinos get mad at their perceived lack of sincerity and so did I for many years.

Also the Tagalog language has a rather limited vocabulary to talk about such diverse concepts as “sincerity”, “faithfulness” and “loyalty” and, as I have pointed out in my article on the word tapat https://buildingfilipinowesternbridges.wordpress.com/2019/04/02/faithful-or-loyal-tapat-or-tapat/, they only have one word to talk about people who are merely “faithful” and those who are actually “loyal” (or people who show up as sincere without necessarily being truly loyal) and not just “faithful” and, therefore, the distinction between those diverse concepts is difficult to highlight in Tagalog.

So, sometimes, for the sake of being “faithful” (tapat) to everyone Filipinos may sacrifice being “loyal” (also tapat) to a higher cause. But that also happens in the West, it is just that we can be very good at saying things in somebody’s face in the name of loyalty to a higher cause like punctuality and so on but we are also very good at forgetting all about other higher causes (and even one to one sincerity for that matter) when money and self-interest are at stake.

So, are Westerners more sincere than Filipinos?

I have come to the conclusion that us Westerners, and particularly us Italians, have little to teach to Filipinos when it comes to sincerity.

Marrying a Filipina in the Philippines

My personal experience teaches me that, whenever possible, it is cheaper and easier to marry a Filipina in a Western country than it is to marry her in the Philippines.

The only instance in which your only option is to marry a Filipina in the Philippines is when she lives in the Philippines and there is no legal way to get her to a Western country.

If she lives in the Philippines and she doesn’t meet the requirements to get an entry visa to a Western country or she was a clandestine immigrant in your country and she got caught by the police and expelled, and therefore it is very unlikely to get her to return to your country in a legal way, your only option is to marry her in the Philippines.

Yet, based on my experience (both with the Italian and the Filipino bureaucracy) I’d say that the option to marry a Filipina in the Philippines can be complicated and, obviously, more expensive so, whenever possible it is much easier, if one has the chance to do so, to get legally married in a Western country and this can generally be done by either marrying one who already lives in the West (legally or illegally) or by finding the way to help her get a fiance or a tourist visa.

If a Filipina does live in a Western country as a clandestine immigrant, generally speaking it is not a problem to marry her.

Let’s say that undocumented Filipinos here in Italy (and Filipinos in general) are not viewed as a threat so it is highly unlikely that they get expelled, let alone physically deported (I mean put on a plane at the expenses of the government that can barely afford to deport those who pose a real threat).

Here in Italy marrying an undocumented Filipina is very easy and the authorities never ask an illegal foreigner to show her permit to stay in the country while going through the legal process of marrying a local citizen. All they need is their passport, their birth certificate and the certificate of singleness and that’s it, no one will ever impede the marriage if a Filipina is an illegal immigrant (which happens very rarely by the way here in Italy as most Filipino workers do have a permit to stay).

What about helping her to get an entry visa to your country to marry her where you are and avoid the hassle of going through the Filipino bureaucracy?

As far as I know, US citizens can bring their Filipino fiance to the US by means of a fiance visa but here in the E.U. this is apparently not possible.

As far as I know this kind of visa expires after 90 days which, I guess, is too short a period of time to get to know a Filipina properly, given all the things that a Westerner needs to weigh, like the relationship with the extended family, the fact that her relatives might need financial support, having or not having children and so on.

What’s possible here in the E.U., at least theoretically because European embassies are very strict when it comes to issuing Shengen visas, is to apply for a tourist visa, but that would also only be valid for 90 days.

So, getting a Filipina to a Western country either through a fiance visa or a tourist one to eventually marry her in a your country is the easiest way to avoid extra bureaucratic issues but it doesn’t give you much time to get to know her properly.

You can of course visit the Philippines multiple times as a tourist and go there back and forth multiple times, if you are retired or otherwise have no work obligations and have the money to do so, and that would, of course, give you more time to evaluate whether to marry her or not but for common mortals who need to work and cannot take much vacation time this can be hard.

If a Filipina was expelled from a Western country or there is otherwise no legal way to get her to come to a Western country to get married, the option to marry a Filipina in the Philippines is the only one available.

As I’ve said earlier, marrying my wife here in Italy proved to be a very easy, cheap and straightforward process.

Marrying her in the Philippines would have been way more complicated for me.

The main reason, at least based on my personal experience, why it can be very difficult (or even impossible in some cases) to marry a Filipina in the Philippines is because the Philippine Government requires all foreigners to provide a “Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage” from the embassy of the country where you come from and in some countries (like mine) this certificate is not easy to get.

This certification affirms that there are no legal impediments to the foreigner marrying a Filipino.

I have read somewhere that the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines provides U.S. citizens the opportunity to sign an “Affidavit In Lieu of a Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage,” a self-certification that the U.S. citizen is free to marry in the Philippines.

The Italian Embassy does not provide the opportunity to sign said affidavit and, as a result, an Italian who goes to the Philippines to marry a Filipina in the Philippines has to get there already having that certificate.

The big problem is that very few government officials here in Italy know that this kind of certificate even exists.

After having been told by the Italian Embassy in Manila that, if I wanted to get married in the Philippines (an option that I was considering at that time), I had to produce the Certificate of Legal Capacity, I went to the local town hall asking for the certificate and they said “what is that? We have never heard of that!”.

I called back the Italian Embassy explaining the situation but they insisted that there would have been no way for me to get married in the Philippines without that certificate.

I went to the town hall multiple times and I even, eventually, bumped into an official who admitted that he had heard about that document but his colleague (the one in charge) just didn’t want to help, she maintained that they have never issued that kind of certificate, they knew nothing about it and therefore there was nothing she was willing to do to help.

So, the bottom line is that I had to discount the possibility to go to the Philippines to marry a Filipina, namely my wife. I could have hired a lawyer and eventually found the way to get that certificate but that seemed to be too much of a hassle.

I did everything in Italy and it cost me nothing, the legal process was fast and smooth and I didn’t have to produce any “Certificate of Legal Capacity”, just my passport, birth certificate and few other things.

So, if you choose to marry a Filipina in the Philippines because there is no other legal way to do it in your country, before getting too emotionally involved, make sure that your country’s bureaucracy doesn’t get in the way and that you can easily get all the papers that the government of the Philippines requires.

Also make sure that, if she was previously married, her previous marriage was legally annulled (there is no divorce in the Philippines, there is only the possibility to annul the marriage).

So, before exploring the possibility to marry a Filipina in the Philippines, consider first (in my opinion and based on my personal experience as an Italian) if there is a possibility to avoid going through all the complicated bureaucracy and get her to your country and marry her there and only, as a last resort, do it in the Philippines.

Getting married in Italy was no-cost and easy for me.

Of course I don’t know the bureaucracy of each Western country so you’ll have to find out for yourself depending on where you live.

Marrying a Filipina is already a challenging experience, it can turn out to be an amazing relationship but there are many cultural challenges that are going to arise, so I recommend avoiding unnecessary legal complications if possible.

How to Deal With an Emotional Filipina

The Philippines have a hot and humid tropical weather and quite a few people there seem to be a little hot tempered or, as they say in Tagalog, mainit ang ulo.

Emotionalism is one of the hallmark characteristics of Filipinos and….of women in general.

Many relationship experts have come to the consensus that the best way to deal with emotionally charged people and situations is by keeping one’s cool and by keeping on showing kindness so that strong emotions will slowly but surely melt away.

Like many concepts that relationship experts across the planet talk about, even this concept of treating with kindness a person who is treating you lousy is nothing new, in fact it is very old.

A passage from the New Testament reads “do not render evil for evil…but keep on conquering evil with the good”.

A similar concept can also be found in the words of Socrates “then we ought not to retaliate or render evil for evil to anyone“, providing further evidence that human psychology was designed in such a way that loving relationships (not just romantic relationships but all kind of human interactions) are only possible when one of the two partners breaks the pattern of anger by raising above it to the point of showering it with kindness in circumstances in which showing kindness is a very counterintuitive move.

It has been said that success comes from counterintuitive moves, we succeed in every aspect of life including intimate relationships by going against the grain, by going against what our psyche naturally wants to do.

What our psyche naturally wants to do when someone lashes out is to vent back but that kind of behavior only calls forth further anger.

The Philippines is one of those cultures where, generally speaking, people quickly overreact when provoked and there are drivers who carry a tubo or a knife in case someone cuts them off.

So a Filipina comes from that kind of environment where the degree of emotionality is a little higher than in other countries. Yet there are cross-cultural gems of wisdom, that can also be found in modern psychology and relationship coaching, that can make a world of difference.

Indeed success in anything in life comes from counterintuitive moves and one of the most effective counterintuitive moves is conquering evil (well, an angry spouse is not “evil” but the pattern of lashing out creates pretty lousy situations) by raising above it and becoming masters at showing kindness in an emotionally charged situation.

Indeed the One who created human psychology knew better and I can say from personal experience that this principle does indeed produce amazing things.

Acceptance vs Tolerance in an Interracial Intimate Relationship

Few days ago I wrote an article about the role of acceptance in an interracial marriage.

Some Westerners who marry Filipinas (or who otherwise interact long-term with Filipinos for some other reasons) begin to shoot upon the reality that they themselves have willingly chosen to embrace, or as the “Culture Shock Philippines” book puts it, develop a frustrated and antagonistic attitude and live “marching to the beat of a different drummer in a place where there are no drums” thereby feeling ill at ease.

The only cure is acceptance and almost all relationship experts talk about it.

But what does acceptance really entail in an interracial intimate relationship?

Many Westerners who marry a Filipina probably go through the process of getting to know her without seriously weighing their readiness to deal with the inevitable culture shock that is going to show up before long.

What makes things trickier in a relationship with a Filipina is what the above mentioned book says in the introduction: “the elements that produce culture shock for the foreigner…are often extremely subtle and microscopic. Only upon accumulation does the full impact reach the bone”.

In other words the real magnitude of culture shock is hard to discern in the early stages of the relationship and so many Westerners go through the relationship underestimating the challenges that lay ahead and perhaps thinking “I’ll figure out how to deal with it somewhere down the road” and, sure enough, because it is not quite that simple to “figure it out somewhere down the road”, a culture shock that they didn’t quite anticipate hits hard and they find themselves ill-equipped for it and many react by putting on an antagonistic attitude.

The Filipino culture is filled with things that create friction in a long-term relationship with a Westerner, and in my blog I have abundantly mentioned many of them, from the bahala-na approach to things, that Westerners view as serious, to the relationship with the extended family and many others.

Yet, a Westerner may seek out relationship advice and stumble upon this nice concept of “acceptance” that may appear a little outlandish at first but it kind of begins to make sense as one dwells on it and tries to figure out why it is important.

So a Westerner may go: “I have made my mistake there is nothing I can do to change this situation I don’t like but I care about the relationship so I’ll find the way to accept the unacceptable and tolerate bahala-na, the role of the extended family etc”.

But you see, this is not acceptance: what you are doing here is you are tolerating and showing resignation”.

You are no longer “bashing the environment that you have chosen to inhabit” openly but you are still doing it in your thoughts and that is everything but acceptance.

Real acceptance, the only kind of acceptance that can make a relationship like this work, is when you figure out ways to appreciate what’s positive about the things you are just trying to tolerate.

Maybe you are a staunch saver while your Filipina has this bahala-na or casual and easygoing approach to money and you can’t stand it, what could you possibly appreciate in this kind of scenario? Maybe your Filpino wife’s spontaneity and enjoyment of life and her greater ability to enjoy the moment compared to us Westerners.

In my experience what really got me to figure out ways to develop real appreciation for things that I would have done much differently, had I never married a Filipina, was commitment and the idea that marriage is sacred and that it has to work no matter what.

It has been nicely said: “if you must you can”. What is a must happens while shoulds rarely happen.

Commitment may sound like a far-fetched, outlandish and wishy-washy woo-woo concept in our modern culture where marriage is viewed as nothing more than a trial period.

Yet the idea that the “two will become one flesh” and that what has been “yoked together” should not be unyoked is, in my experience, the most powerful driving force to look for ways to get past culture-shock and embrace loving acceptance, a kind of acceptance that is not mere tolerance or resignation.

After all many who scoff at the idea of commitment in marriage commit to other things like financial goals and chase after these goals with a pitbull-like attitude because they view these things as musts.

I’ve found out that a similar attitude is vital in an intimate relationship and all the more so in an interracial one.

I’ve found out that the One who created the marriage arrangement knows better and that if you operate from the idea that “you must” you definitely can successfully work your way through massive culture-shock and find countless ways to appreciate what you can’t stand or barely tolerate and make your interracial marriage a success.

Acceptance: One of the Keys to a Happy Interracial Marriage

Many relationship experts talk about this idea of “acceptance” and they say that one of the major keys to a thriving relationship is accepting your partner the way he or she is.

Acceptance doesn’t mean that you sit back and don’t try to do anything to improve dysfunctional situations that may arise in your relationship. One who is in a relationship must obviously try to do what is humanly possible to take the relationship to a higher level, to make it grow, or better yet thrive.

However there are aspects of your partner’s culture, habits, values and so on that might never change and this is certainly true in a multicultural intimate relationship.

Certain ethnic groups, such as Filipinos, are so set in their ways and their values that trying to get them to change their core values about what constitutes a family and the role of the extended family, for example, can create a lot of friction and frustration and can get their Western spouses to “bash the environment that they themselves have to inhabit” (as the “Culture Shock Philippines” book, that I keep quoting, says).

Now this expression “bashing the environment that they themselves have chosen to inhabit” is very interesting because it points to the core dysfunction of many interracial intimate relationships (and of other kinds of relationships for that matter).

Bashing the environment that you have chosen to inhabit amounts to resisting reality. The reality is that you knew that your future spouse was a foreigner, you knew that he or she had very different core values, but you decided to go ahead anyways and marry that person and now you are resisting that reality.

What causes much of our suffering is when we resist reality.

I remember hearing a nice illustration about poor conductors and superconductors: if current passes through a wire that has high resistance heat is generated and the wire melts. If, on the other hand, current passes through a superconductor that has zero resistance no heat is generated and the wire doesn’t get damaged. What damages the wire is not the current, rather it is its resistance.

Similarly what causes many Westerners to get mad at their Filipino, or otherwise foreign, spouse is not the fact that he or she is culturally different, rather is their resistance to their partner’s different reality.

It doesn’t make much sense to enter a relationship with a person who has an entire different set of values and then try to change that person through preaching and arguments: you either accept the huge differences or you abstain from becoming “yoked together”.

Imagine trying to “yoke together” a calabau (a Filipino kind of buffalo) and a little Yorkshire Terrier dog and get them to pull a heavy kariton (a Filipino kind of chariot): it is not going to work or, at least, it is going to be very hard.

To further illustrate this point: many people make fun of certain religious individuals who refuse to marry people who don’t share their faith. Well, to me what those people do makes perfect sense because if the person you are going to get “yoked” with has an entirely different set of values and priorities, beauty and good looks are not going to make up for the conflicts and arguments that inevitably arise. So the wise thing is: you either stay away from a person who does not share your core values or, if you go ahead, don’t complain and bash the environment you have chosen to inhabit. If you want to organize your life around your faith and “seek first the Kingdom”, as the Bible says, but you marry someone who doesn’t care at all about your faith and is only concerned with money making, it doesn’t make any sense to later regret and complain, argue and try to change that person.

Similarly if you are a Westerner whose idea of marriage is that the extended family should never interfere with your marriage but you like a Filipina who gives top priority to the extended family you have two options: either you avoid becoming yoked with a person whose values are radically different than yours or you accept the huge culture shock that is going to result from your life together.

The key to a thriving relationship is accepting your partner the way he or she is, resisting only creates unnecessary suffering

So before embarking on an interracial intimate relationship you’d better calculate the expense, for “bashing the environment that you have chosen to inhabit” will only make you sick.

The Challenges of Being Married to a Filipina: Being too Righteous

One of the sentences that I read in the “Culture Shock Philippines” book by Alfredo and Grace Roces, my main source of information about my wife’s culture, is that many foreigners who have regular social interactions with Filipinos begin to “bash the environment that they themselves have chosen to inhabit”.

Many foreigners who deal with Filipinos (including myself at the beginning of my intimate relationship as well as my interactions with other Filipinos) begin to find fault with many aspects of the Pinoy mentality and, as the book says, they develop this “antagonistic attitude” that gets them to retreat into the protective shell of their culture thereby erecting all sorts of barriers against the “habitat that they themselves have chosen to inhabit” but that is getting more and more difficult to get along with as it requires, as the book goes on to say, an extraordinary ability to “micromanage” differences that are often “subtle and microscopic” and therefore even trickier than the ones that are more “upfront”.

I have found myself in that kind of predicament and the principle that has helped me a lot to let go of much of my rigidity toward the Filipino culture is something that I heard from a relationship expert who asked the question: “do you want to be right or do you want to be in a relationship? Do you want to be righteous or do you want to be in love?”.

Interestingly, even an ancient scripture says something along the lines of “be righteous but don’t go overboard”. King Solomon, one of the wisest man who ever lived penned these interesting words in Ecclesiastes 7:16: “do not be overly righteous….”.

I strongly believe that the success of an intimate relationship depends upon following high standards and I think that by following the highest standards available, namely God’s standards, a marriage can hardly go wrong and all the more so because those standards are cross-cultural and apply across the board.

Filipinos, Italians, as well as other races share the same humanity and the same underlying psychology and so the only way a bridge can be built is by tapping into this cross-cultural wisdom that trascends the various local cultures.

On the other hand though, because each culture is different and because Filipinos, as well as other races, are so set in their ways, intruding into their culture with a heavy handed approach could result in “bashing the environment that one has deliberately chosen to inhabit”.

So, although I am convinced that, in order to succeed in a relationship, following the “right” standards is vital, I’ve learned that an interracial intimate relationship calls for an extraordinary ability to balance doing the right thing with being more loving than righteous under certain circumstances.

Another ancient scripture says that people would rather die for a “good man” than for a “righteous one” and the Greek word e·pi·ei·kesʹ, which is translated “reasonableness,” has been defined as meaning “not insisting on the letter of the law”.

So both ancient wisdom and many modern relationship experts agree that one of the core principles behind healthy human relationships is that being in a loving mode is often wiser than being right all the time and surely this insight is vital in an interracial intimate relationship.