May-December Pairings and Other Relationship Thoughts…

So not too long ago we were at Chiang Rai Central Plaza, or what I call the Mall for short.  I won’t bore you with what we were doing, as that is not relevant to the topic, but out of the corner of my eye I noticed a familiar face.  Ends up it had been two years so I had to run the face through my built-in facial recognition pathways.  Even with a few extra pounds I placed her before my wife did.

Big smiles and greetings all around and then I put my foot in it, by asking about her farang husband.  When we first moved to Chiang Rai, and before my wife learned how to bake bread, we had a favorite bakery where we bought bread and visited almost weekly.  The new couple were expecting when we met and soon had a little baby girl resting on the counter in their shop, when we would visit.

They had a hard time trying to make it here in Chiang Rai, and after moving a couple of times in the area, they eventually moved to Bangkok and later to Phuket, I believe.  Anyway they are no longer a couple and I felt bad as our friend held back tears and told us her sad story.

Through this encounter I found myself pondering the many relationships we have watched disintegrate over the years.  Sometimes people you know as a couple simply drift away from you, when they drift apart.  Other times the acrimony forces you to choose one side or the other.  Of course there are other relationships which manage to stay together but have you wondering how, or even why, they would want to.  Then there are those who put on a good front while hiding the disfunction that exists at home.  Understand that I am not talking about the bar scene or short time pay for play but couples, married or otherwise, who really try to make a go of it regardless of where they came from. 

Common knowledge says you need to be the same to make things work, same age, same race, same interests, same religion, same education and same socioeconomic background.  Yet some statistics seem to show that May-December relationships are no more likely to fail than your average pairing, despite having very little in common at first glance.  Of course there could be many explanations for this.

Thailand is an excellent place to view May-December couples, with most western men not finding Thailand until later in life.  My guess would be that a certain level of dependency may lead to greater longevity in some pairings.  The man may have invested too much and feel it is too late to move on.  The younger woman may feel gratitude and a sense of obligation toward her, White Knight, who may have rescued her from a less than glamorous life.  Then again it could be the devil you know is preferable to uncertainty and loneliness.  Perhaps I have just forgotten the desperate lengths some people will go to in order to fend off loneliness.

Sure there is a lot which can go wrong due to age, language, culture and the like.  For example, if the woman is very young and childless I guess I can understand there might be pressure on the older man to have children, and quickly.  You still hear women say they believe a baby is the best way to lock a man into a relationship, even though their own experience disproves this old belief. 

More often than not, the women who are looking outside their own culture for a husband already have children from past failed relationships.  It is often that desperation which leads then down that path of finding a foreign benefactor to begin with.  The thing I don’t get, is why would these couples, who already have multiple children between them, choose to produce yet another baby with little chance of the father being around until maturity? 

Regardless of what I might think, making babies seems to be a priority for some, even in old age. If I were an older guy coming to Thailand after divorce and redundancy, the last thing would be looking for is to repeat past mistakes and go down the exact same path as before.  Then again I am perhaps not the best judge, since I didn’t get married until I was 45 and already had an understanding of myself and women, sufficient to know what was necessary for a relationship of mine to work.  It also helps that I never bought into the norms of society to begin with.

On a more personal note, I have found our twenty year age gap an advantage in many ways.  To begin with we have more time to spend together since neither of us work, and we relish the time we spend together.  In this modern age, with two working parents and the over-scheduling of their children’s lives, is it any wonder people snap under the pressure or find they no longer have anything in common after the children grow up.

One also hears gossip about friend's partners which makes them sound more like enemies rather than soul-mates.  While I consider my wife my best friend and confidant, I seldom hear that view from others.  If we were both working and spending the majority of our waking hours apart, I wonder if our last 15 years would have been so wonderful.

I can find no rhyme or reason in observing all the failed or struggling relationships I observe around me.  Perhaps it is something external in the pressure exerted by modern society, or maybe it is something in our genetic makeup.  After all, we seldom lived past our forties in the past, and what worked on an evolutionary level for a relatively short-lived creature, maybe just doesn’t work for a species which has more than doubled the lifespan, for which it was designed.

With my parents reaching their 90s having been together for something around 64 years, perhaps my expectations are not in touch with this modern era where most relationship do not last.  I seem to come from a minority background and hold a minority view on relationships.  For me marriage is a onetime deal and there will be no repeat performances in my future. 

I see more young people, especially the better educated and more affluent, looking for alternatives but still the pressure exerted by family and society is substantial and cannot be overlooked.  I suppose couples like us with our 20 year age gap and our decision to live a life not burdened with children, will never be the norm.  Our biology is just too hard to resist for most.  Maybe these May-December relationships will in the end disappear if economic discrepancies are eliminated.  The way things are going with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, with the world shrinking yet becoming more polarized, I think it more likely May-December relationships are going to be around for some time to come.



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