I am in a relationship with a Filipina and this kind of relationship is the epitome of how conflicting rules and expectations that are not openly discussed before getting married can lead to serious problems.
The “Culture Shock Philippines” book by Alfredo and Grace Roces says that “when the alien culture behaves contrary to their expectations some people become frustrated and antagonistic”.
In the Western world we have a set of expectations when it comes to family life, raising kids, budgeting and so forth that are radically different from those of the average Filipino.
Generally speaking a Westerner wants to get married to share his life with his wife and kids alone and independent from the extended family while, by and large, Filipinos want their parents to continue to live with them in the same house compound or even in the same apartment.
A Westerner may want to save up any extra money he has while his Filipina may want to send all the extra money to the Philippines to support her relatives.
And the list could go on for hours.
On top of that every human being has his or her personality and set of rules about what needs to happen for him or her to be happy.
For example, in order to feel a sense of connection with my wife, I need to spend a weekend together at least once a month and I need to go on a date once a week.
All of us have a set of requirements that our spouse has to meet to make us feel fulfilled but, more often than not, we get married not bothering too much about finding out what our rules and our spouse’s rules are and we assume that we will figure things out down the road somehow.
We sort of understand that there might be conflicting rules and expectations in the marriage but we are so blindly in love that we sweep the problem under the rug. This is at least what I did initially.
I didn’t precisely identify what my own rules and expectations were in all the major areas of life, nor did I really bother to go deep and carefully investigate what my wife’s expectations were in those areas. I only had very fuzzy ideas not a clear and detailed picture.
And, sure enough, I had not considered to what extent I was willing to flex some of my expectations, for example I hadn’t asked myself the question “what if my Filipino wife wants her mother to live with us? Will I be able to adjust to the Filipino kin-group culture?”.
Because I had failed to consider these things I found myself in a position where my wife’s expectations and mine were a lot different in many areas and that I was everything but ready to flex my rules.
The positive thing is that I eventually decided to learn more about how relationships work and I stumbled upon a principle that worked wonders for my relationship:
the principle is contained in a phrase that I heard in one of the many videos on relationships that I watched and the phrase was “do I want to be right or do I want to be in love?”.
I was absolutely convinced, and I still am, that many of my rules and expectations (especially when it comes to budgeting money) are right but I have discovered that, more often than not, one has to let go of most expectations and rules for the sake of being in a constant state of love.
I have come to the conclusion that, when a relationship is driven by expectations, needs and desires it suffers and that, if in order to feel good a lot of things need to happen, there are going to be conflicts on an ongoing basis, especially in a multiethnic marriage. The longer the list of requirements that our spouse needs to meet for us to be happy the greater the chance that our rules will be broken and, therefore, the more we are likely to suffer.
A Zen proverb says: “if you understand things are just as they are, if you don’t understand things are just as they are”.
I honestly struggle to understand some of my wife’s expectations and rules, especially the ones that are closely tied to her culture and background, but I have realized that, because things are just as they are and people are just as they are, the best and most rewarding way to go through an intimate relationship is by being driven by love rather than too many expectations and rules.
Does it mean to say that I passively cave in to all of my wife’s expectations and rules in order to maintain a peaceful atmosphere in which there is nothing but love, flowers, rainbows and butteflies?
Not at all. What I have discovered is that, by creating an environment where I am more loving than attached to my expectations and strict rules, my wife is more willing and more likely to meet me half way and we are more likely to find a loving compromise.