Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Kreng jai and relationships...

While the coffee brewed, I flipped on the TV to check out the morning news. The first face I saw was that of Dr. Laura, promoting her new book about marriage. Given some of the things I was thinking about yesterday, it was timely.

Let me make it clear that I have a love/hate relationship with Dr. Laura. I think she is often overly simplistic, rather mean-spirited and has a far more punitive approach to the world than I do. She can come across as harsh and shrill. When she began to attack gay people, I found it completely unacceptable and stopped listening to her. My very best friend in this world, the one person I trust completely and without reservation, happens to be a lesbian. I have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to gay bashing.

But.. like the proverbial broken clock that is right twice a day, even Dr Laura is right occasionally ~ about some things.

Her comments this morning on the Today Show sounded to me like a westernized, watered down version of kreng jai. I'm all for promoting kreng jai, even a watered-down version. It's a start.

Her suggestions for a good marriage include some very solid points. Unless there is violence or addiction, some other unbearable condition, we should stick with our marriages. We should learn to treat our husbands like men. Men should treat their wives like women. We should do what we can to make each other's lives better. We should not deny our partners sex because we "don't feel like it". We should give more freely, without constant focus on our own wants and needs.

Of course, these are just the Cliff Notes.

There is a wisdom in what she says, if you look between the lines. What does it mean to be a man and what does it mean to be a woman? I believe women want to feel loved. Men want to feel respected. This does not imply inequality. It implies difference. Those differences are something to embrace, not reject.

Just throwing this out on the table. I'd like to open a dialogue about this. What say you?




Anonymous said...

Chani, I hope you get a lot of interesting responses to this. I think this touches upon what is missing from and turns many women off of the "women's movement."

When I looked up Kreng jai, one item I read stated it is the "single most important lesson every Thai mother seeks to impart to her children." That got my attention!

meno said...

I listend to her briefly a long time ago, and then stopped because she was so judgmental, and, as you say, mean.
Plus she has been divorced herself.
Anyway, without saying "all women want" this and "all men want" that, i do agree that people need to do more to stay married, especially if there are children involved. As you said yesterday, Love is a behavior. Sometimes our whiney insistance that we are "not happy" is so damn self centered. Chances are pretty much 90% that your not being happy has nothing to do with your spouse and EVERYTHING to do with you. But that's a conclusion that can be avoided by divorcing and starting again, where lo and behold, the same issues pop up again.
Sorry for the sermon.

Pam said...

I believe women deserve equality but I also know that the differences between men and women need to be respected. We ARE very different in many ways: how we approach problems, express our love and handle emotions, to mention a few. I hear partners complain that marriage is too hard, that they are not understood. Hell, life is hard, and to be understood you need to be able, first, to understand. And accept. Marriage is a balance.

Anvilcloud said...

You need to be committed for sure and not bail at the first sign of imperfection. We have to try to meet each other's need whether they're stereotypically gender based or other wise.

However, other than agreeing with Laura (and you)on this, I don't listen to the woman.

MsLittlePea said...

I also believe in accepting the fact that we are different. And also understnding that 'compromise' does not mean surrender. I also think it's important to understand that people aren't mind readers, you have to ask respectfully for what you want and be open to the other person's needs as well.
I don't think anyone will ever come up with the perfect formula for marriage and I agree with Meno-one cannot look to his/her spouse for happiness and fulfillment, that has to come from within. Having a spouse can enhance one's life but to me, that depends on the individual's attitude. We can choose to look for the best in a person or harp on the worst in them.
I don't always leave comments because I'm usually struck speechless and can't think of anything witty to say-but these 2 posts made me think a lot because most of my married friends are getting divorced and it's sad to see people who once promised to love each other, attack each other so ruthlessly.

Thailand Gal said...

De, I hope for lots of interesting responses, too. I might leave it up for a few days to give more opportunity for people to pipe in.

I agree with you completely on the alienation from the "women's movement". It seemed to get lost somewhere that "equal" doesn't mean "the same". As one who grew up in the infancy of the movement, I always resented that.

Kreng jai is the one principle that would probably bring worldwide peace in a few generations.


Meno, Dr Laura can be an absolute twit.. and sometimes I can't stand her for five minutes. Yet, at the same time, she is having a positive impact on the culture with her "it ain't always about me" principle.

Agree with you completely that "happiness" is rather overrated and it's not someone else's job to create that for us.


Pam, it's all about balance. We need female energy and male energy. The women's movement lost that by implying that we were all the same, there are no substantial differences between us. Combine that with the "me, me, always me" culture, and that's a perfect recipe for implosion.


Anvil, well-said :)


MsPea, please don't feel like you have to be "witty" to comment here. Your thoughts are important. This isn't a competition. It's just a bunch of people sitting at the roundtable, shooting the sh*t.

Agree with you on the rest. The grass is rarely greener on the other side. It's just a different type of grass. Same problems. Same issues. Kindness, imo, is the answer.


Peace to all,


CyberCelt said...

If someone wants to share their sexual orientation with me, that is fine. Otherwise, it is not my business.

Is Dr. Laura the woman with an accent that talks about sex? I am not sure.

I have been lucky in love. I am married to th my best friend. We know where all the warts are and we truly care about each other.

Before him, I had sworn off relationships because I kept meeting men that wanted to make me their mother, the reason for their unhappiness, reason for being or something wacky.

I would rather be alone (I say in a Greta Garbo voice).

Happy New Year!

jen said...

i don't like that chick, but i'll move past that.

i think that there are differences. J and I have long debated it, and difference doesn't need to mean inequity, but rather bending and flowing to meet our seperate needs, biological and otherwise. the trick, though, is that BOTH parties are doing their part.

i prefer to think of staying married as staying committed...and yes, we should try to honor our commitments.

i like what everyone else is saying here as's complicated and simple at the same time.

My Heart Runneth Over said...

Just brilliant Chani! Why is it I wonder are so many people willing to throw away marriage and time? I was thinking this as I read in just a few of the newspapers and even here on the internent about a couple a billionaire couple who split amicably with out the need of a divorce attorney! Bravo to them... my thought is this. If they are so amicable with this.. shouldn't that mean there is room for mending whatever is broken in the relationship? What is everyone looking for? What do they think they can find that is better? It's just so sad... Thank you from the lesson on Kreng Jai... it's something I have believed in with out knowing where the idea of the origin took place!

Thanks again! ~M

EDW said...

It's interesting, because there's many of the same beliefs about marriage in the Christian tradition - I think Dr. Laura comes mostly from a Judeo-Christian perspective. Anyway, I've always thought that there are universal truths inherent in every tradition about respect and commitment and understanding differences in marriage. It's not easy, and it is a choice to love, and even if the other person is your soulmate, you are still coming from a different place much of the time. But knowing you're going the long haul makes a big difference, I think, in how you approach conflicts.

Thank you for coming by my blog - I am enjoying yours!

KC said...

I have to admit I have no idea who Dr. Laura is. Dr. Phil, yes. Dr. Laura, no. In general, I am wary of anyone who is to referred to as Dr.Firstname. It's creepy.

I'm not sure how I feel about her points. Yes, you should try to make your marriage work, but I do think that sometimes people make poor choices to begin with and sticking with it is not always the best option for any party (including kids). Maybe more emphasis should be paid to making the decision to get married in the first place.

And this treating men like men and women women, I'm not sure what this means either. I think both sexes want to be both loved and respected We are different in the way that all individuals are different. I don't see a need to make any traditional male/female gender roles explicit.

Yes, being more giving and making each other's lives better are critical to any marriage. But I also feel that if you have that enduring love in the first place, this comes naturally.

Laurie said...

I feel that people need to put more time and thought into the decision to marry. It's not one to be taken lightly and I for one can attest to the fact that if you marry someone after knowing them only a short time, you may have made a mistake (at least in my case).

I did end up with the best son in the universe from this union and I can't imagine life without him. I got what I needed out of the relationship and my ex got what he wanted, a college degree paid for by me. Once again, I'm speaking from my personal experience.

By the way, I had a meeting run really late and I'm not firing on all cylinders. Feel free to disregard this comment if it makes no sense at all.

Julia Scissor ;-) said...

Hi, I came in from the blogging chicks blogroll. Great blog! I'll keep coming back for more. Happy New Year!

Julie Pippert said...

I need to say something more eloquent adn evolved than, "I thought the same thing," however true that might be.

I guess I first learned about Dr. Laura a decade or so ago from a friend who was a fan. I've tuned in and out of her now and again. Yes, she's like a salad bar. I really don't care for about 50% of the offerings, can't stand 25%, and occasionally find something good or useful out the remainng 25%.

With my kids, I am often pointing out, "You don't have a right to always get to do what you want and be happy." Or message to that effect. Usually when it comes chore time.

I was not a fan of my parents divorce, no matter how many times the allege it was to my benefit and better for me.

No it wasn't.

They were more awful to and about one another after they divorced. Gloves were off.

We were bones between dogs more often.

And we left a great middle class house in a great middle class neighborhood to move in first with my abusive grandparents (that was a rude awakening) and second a series of poverty apartments (with more "education" bewildering to us).

It wasn't just our standard of living that suffered; it was our education, our safety, our self-esteem, and our belief in our personal value, including, but not limited to, how to have a healthy relationship.

I never did quite grow to believe that divorce benefitted the kids (outside of removal from a dangerous and/or abusive situation), although as an adult, I can certainly see why some decide to go for divorce, and that it wasn't always as awful as our experience.

So all that to say, I agree that it seems like sometiems we have false expectations of mariage and our partner, and we do need to respect our equality and our differences, all while putting forth the effort any healthy relationship requires.

Other commenters have a good point about not entering into marriage lightly.

I wonder if it is easy to treat marriage lightly with the mindframe of "oh well, if it is a mistake, it's not irrevocable, I can always get a divorce." The old "I'll give it a try and if I don't like it I can make a change" as if it is a new sandwich at a deli.

Maybe things have become too disposable.

Hmm this must be on my mind. In fact, I wonder if it is why i was inspired to write my current blog post. Hmmm

Good topic!

dawn said...

I think it is a generalization to say "men want this..." and "women want this..". I want respect. I also want kindness and love. I want communication. I want to give all of those back.

I think that denying sex may be a separate issue from not feeling like it. Sometimes a person's sex drive is just not stimulated or something may be imbalanced. To force ones' self to have sex simply because a partner wants it is not fair to either. It probably won't be as good.

This comes back to communication. Understanding and talking to one another about these issues helps with all of that.

Thailand Gal said...

Cybercelt, Dr Laura is not the one with the accent. She sounds kind of shrill and high-pitched, like someone who drinks too much coffee.

I would rather be alone than to be in a bad relationship also. I hope it never has to be either/or. The older I get, it seems the more important relationships become.


Jen, I don't like that chick, either... but, as I said, even the broken clock... :)

Communication is the most important thing ~ establishing a "contract" of sorts, where everyone knows the expectations. In my case, because I am a homemaker, I do expect to give a bit more since the man takes the responsibility for our financial well-being. It's a "division of labor" in a way. Sometimes his needs will come before mine.. but that's just something I am willing to give without resentment. Everyone really needs to establish their own "contract" though.


M, I believe we have been acculturated to see everything and everyone as disposable when they no longer perfectly meet our needs. In my humble opinion, it is something we'd better get over or there will be a lot of lonely people running around. There's no such thing as exact equality. Sometimes one person will give 75% and the other 25% ~ and the roles switch as needed.


EDW, I do enjoy your blog. Sometimes it amazes me how much access we have to wisdom from so many people now. It didn't used to be that way.

Ditto on all else you said.


KC, I agree about the "Doctor John" business. I want my doctor to be "Doctor Smith"... or even "doctor"... but not the cutesy stuff that is designed specifically to juvenilize clients (patients).

I can see your points. Have to give more thought to some of them.


Laurie, well.. you do pretty doggone good for not firing on all cylinders. You made perfect sense. :)


Julia S., thank you.. very much. :)


Julie, of course I agree with you. I also come from a divorced family... and I'm not sure the feeling of having been so easily disposable ever goes away. When my father left, he built a whole new family and my brother and I were relegated to "past history". It was truly devaluing and had long term consequences. My relationships with men were terrible for a long time. I could never trust them to stick around.


Dawn, generalizations are destructive in many cases. Sometimes it is all we have, especially when it comes to social science.

As for the sex thing, I am one of those who never denied by ex.. and I always found I was able to get "into it" and it was fine. But.. here's the rub.. I am a bit submissive by nature so it worked for me. Everyone's mileage will vary when it comes to those thing. As long as it's communicated (as you said), it should work out. The key is to keep those channels open and not use denial as punishment or a way to communicate dissatisfaction in another area. But then, that's a whole 'nother post. LOL.


Thanks to all of you for sharing your thoughts. It never ceases to amaze me. Truly. :)