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Western views on relationships

Do we really need our partner to be our everything? How can one person be your lover, friend, provider, father to your kids and much more?

I started reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s follow up book to ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ called ‘Committed’.  If you haven’t heard about the ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ phenomenon that swept through the country in 2006, followed by the film in 2010, let me summarize it for you.  Elizabeth chronicles her failed marriage, her desire to be and do something more than just be a wife and a writer, when she decides to take off on a world-wind adventure to Italy, India and Bali, Indonesia where she eats, prays, meditates and eventually meets her man, Felipe at the end of her travels. If you haven’t read it, go read it now! 

The book leaves us wanting more, what happens with her and Felipe? Is there a happily ever after? Do they stay together, do they get married, does Elizabeth finally feel at peace with her life as a woman, writer and lover?  As a Matchmaker, I had to know if they were still together, but as a woman I NEEDED to know that they were still together! So when I saw the follow up book, ‘Committed’ at a local book store, I had to get it in order to get the answers. Not only is the continuation of her love story with Felipe interesting, but it also made me think and want to discuss it with my clients.  Mainly because Elizabeth talks about the various countries that she’s traveled to and how they approach relationships and marriage. It is fascinating to say the least! Having always been a very curious individual when it comes to people’s relationships, learning about other cultures and how they see marriage and love is incredibly fascinating. One of the places she visited while waiting for Felipe’s American visa to get renewed, is in the mountains of Northern Vietnam. (They had to leave United States because his visa expired.) This small village is on the border of China, and that’s where Elizabeth met Hmong women who are members of a small, isolated, ethnic minority, or the ‘original’ people. The Hmong people are nomads, they don’t belong to any of the countries that they live in and remain their own people, meaning they stick to their own traditions and cultures. This is where it got fascinating for me and hoping it will do the same for you.

As Elizabeth started to talk to the Hmong women, she learned a great deal about their relationships, how they view marriage and what role a man plays in a woman’s life. What was so interesting to me was that the women would laugh at most of Elizabeth’s questions when asked about their view on 1. soulmates 2. love at first sight 3. how they knew their husband’s were the ones, etc.  To make a long story short, the women described how they form tremendous relationships with other women first and foremost; they work together, they live together and in very crowded and closed quarters. They confide in each other and have strong and long lasting bonds with the women than with their partners.  There could be as many as a dozen people all living together in one small room, sleeping next to each other on the floor. The Grandparents, the parents, the children, the Aunts and Uncles, and cousins. The men were basically there for reproductive purposes and as hunters, gatherers, farmers…  Of course men and women have bonds and love each other, but their bonds aren’t like the bonds we in the Western-modern world have.  They don’t put so much pressure on “true love” and finding the “right one” before settling down, they don’t think or worry about their man being their sole confidant and the one and only person they share their most intimate desires with. Instead they spend their days with other women, sharing work and life and their thoughts with. Their biggest and most important relationships are those with the same sex, whether its men or women. That got me thinking. Are we putting too much focus on what our partner is supposed to be like? Are we, Western civilizations making our lives more difficult and stressful by waiting to meet the “right one”, the one that has all of the qualifications of a soulmate, the one that we can share our most deepest and darkest secrets with, confide in and him be there for our every whim and need?  Are we just focusing on the wrong relationships? And instead of enjoying and appreciating the relationships we have with our female friends and relatives, worrying about the men in our lives and if they’re the ‘right’ ones or ‘perfect’ enough for marriage or future with? Of course our lives and worlds are very different from the Hmong people or others with similar traditions, and it wouldn’t be fair to compare our intricate and exhausting lives with those that don’t have all the materialistic things that we require; no gigantic mortgages to pay for, or college tuition to afford, but do we need all those things in order to be happy?  Do we truly need our men to make a certain amount of money in order for us to feel equal?  Why can’t we be happy with less? Or if we, the women make great money, why do we require the men to make the same amount and more?  What is it about our culture that tells us we must strive for the best and only the BEST will do?

We all need to take a moment, or a few moments and re-evaluate our priorities and our prerequisites as they pertain to our current or future partner. We need to strive for a simpler life! No you don’t have to get rid of ALL your musts on a list for a partner, but does he really have to be 6’3″ when you yourself are only 5’5″?  No, he doesn’t… The big lesson here is that we can’t have every quality in one person, it’s unrealistic to constantly be looking for a partner that will be our lover, our friend, our confidant, a great provider, a great father to our kids, and so on. One person can not be our everything, it’s simply unrealistic and a lot of pressure to put onto a single person. We need to have our own village of people to turn to: our friends, our families, our co-workers and even strangers that we can lean on and learn from. If you don’t have that support group, make one. Start meeting new friends and start delegating certain responsibilities to those that you trust, even if it’s just people to vent to about your day. Anything and everything helps!

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