Relationships Require Compromise and Openness.
One sided relationships can be the fault of not just men, but women too.
Relationships are always a work in progress. It requires not just one person give all their time and energy and resources towards the person they love, but the other person should be willing to do their part too. If you truly love them you should be willing to go out of your way to meet the other person halfway. Whether the person is a man, woman or nonbinary relationships require an equal amount of effort on both partners. I have put in a lot of time and effort into the relationship over the last month, have been there for her, and gone out of my way to see this person, loved her, offered her help, comforted her, drove her hundreds of miles, and never asked for anything in return, not even paying the tip. But lately it feels like she doesn’t seem to think or even consider my honesty as genuine signs of affection for her, and it really kills me on the inside.
Let me explain our history together.
She’s a Cambodian who’s been in the United States for about three years and is on a ten year visa. She occasionally has a tough time understanding American culture and said she wants to learn more about it from me. She is a very bubbly and wonderful person, likes occasional dark humor like I do, loves going on hikes, is very extroverted, and teaches me new things about Cambodia culture every time we’re together. She may not be able to understand 1/4 of the university vocabulary I say to her, but she is okay at reading body language, prefers openness, hates people who lie, and is clear that she want’s to have kids. She says she’d rather be poor than have money.
As for me, I’m a little different. I’m a born and raised Seattleite, have nonverbal learning disorder with some anxiety and am an extraverted introvert who may come across as shy at first. Personality wise I’m very open, honest, straightforward, easy going, passionate about what I believe in, speak from the heart, and believe in helping others even if it means neglecting my own work and studies. One of the things I struggle with is understanding subtle body language. It’s something I’m always going to have to work on towards improving myself.
When we first started going on in mid-July, she had this positive energy about her that I found very attractive and this easy going nature that was similar to my own. I didn’t care that she grew up in poverty, what her previous relationship experiences were, or that she had sisters she needed to send money to in her home country. I care about her because she’s a good person with a really big heart who goes out of her way to help others, even sacrificing sleep to do it. I find that to be a rare quality in the United States, and something everyone could learn from. It’s also something we have in common because I want to make a difference and make sure everyone is happy and enjoys life.
And here is where the differences begin and the learning curve starts.
She told me something last week that was something that I did not expect. In Cambodia, in a relationship the man usually provides financial support for the woman in the relationship and the woman usually takes care of the kid. To me that seemed to be a society based on sexism, and is one of the reasons I think she wanted to come to the United States. “There’s more rights and opportunity for women over here than in Cambodia” my girlfriend said to me. And that it’s not uncommon for people in Cambodia to go into poverty but still be able to survive.
As much as I loved her I had to tell her the truth about living here. I said gently that while it’s true that there is more opportunity for women here, I said to her the United States is the only major industrialized country not to have universal healthcare. A country where 600,000 families go bankrupt due to medical bills alone, where $10,000 is spent to have a baby, and where adjusted for inflation wages have not kept up with inflation for 50 years. After that exchange she grew quiet and despite assurances that she was okay, she seemed…distant.
The next day I got up and out of the blue she accused me of obsessing about money. When I listened and explained to her it had to do with wanting a future together, she doubled down. Completely misunderstanding the whole point of what I told her yesterday. And that brings us to compromise.
Compromise is Not One Sided
Over the last month I have been meeting more on her turf than on neutral ground. And I felt like this relationship was becoming one-sided. She said she values quality over money and says she hates people in America who obsess about money. Yet expects me to drive to her place, drop my schedule when it’s convenient for her schedule, travel 200 miles together on a trip without getting a simple thank you, expects me to make all the plans, and expects privacy at a hotel for the weekend while expecting me to pay all the bills. And oh by the way is a little hypocritical when she claims she doesn’t care about money yet when I ask if she can help pitch in $100 out of $200 to stay at a cabin for two nights she feels “uncomfortable.” Then she had the audacity to accuse me of obsessing about money for wanting to spend time together. I didn’t care about money, I cared about her.
She has a job, I have a job. Is there something wrong with asking your partner to pitch in a little bit when you both have little resources to have a great time together? Is it wrong to ask a girlfriend who you want to spend your life with to show that you care to spend time with the person you love? Is it wrong to cut one of my classes short to go see her when I know she’s feeling down? Is it unreasonable to set boundaries early in the relationships so that the relationship does not end up being one sided where one partner sacrifices everything and the other barely provides emotional comfort? Is it wrong to learn about body language every day so that you can adapt to the needs of your partner so you can become a better person in the process? Is it wrong to be completely honest with that person? Do you think any of this is unreasonable?
That’s all anyone wants in a relationship, to be an equal partner not a doormat for the other person. Relationships are an equal partnership where both make genuine sacrifices for the other, that’s what defines a genuine relationship where both people love each other. Compromise is necessary among both parties not just one. Learn to set boundaries early and often so that neither party can have an unfair advantage over the other. If you have a feeling that your partner is taking advantage of you, speak up and tell them often.