Darika answers your questions about relationships....

Dear Darika,

Bet you have never heard a story like mine before. I have been living with a guy in (it does not matter) for the past three years. We can call him "Lin." We are in love with each other. He asks me for very little. We both have good jobs. Our domestic partnership could not be better. He irons. I cook. We still have a pretty great sex life.

Lin recently returned from a lengthy visit to his family, who live in a village about three hours away. Within hours of his return he announced that he will be getting married. His parents have chosen a girl who they think is suitable. He does not seem to be particularly upset at this turn of events, even if it means he will have to move back to his village and become a farmer and produce a bunch of kids. It is clear that he thinks he has no choice.

I am devastated. I want him to do what he thinks is best for himself and his future. However, I feel that I have invested heavily in our relationship and am entitled to a vote. By the way, I have met his family several times and they fully understand our relationship.

Please tell me what to do.

Dearest,

Sadly, I have heard this story many, many times and it always upsets me.

One thing that concerns me immediately is that Lin seems unable to explain his choice and his apparent unwillingness to seek your counsel. Yes, you are entitled to a vote. In fact, you have an obligation to speak your mind. I hope that my modest advice will help prepare you to do so.

For generations people like Lin's parents have arranged the marriages of their children. The fact that he already has a relationship with you is completely irrelevant in their minds. This is what parents do in order to have grandchildren and to insure that their child has someone to take care of them when they grow old.

Let me tell you the story of one of my dearest friends who was forced into an arranged marriage a few years ago. We talked at length about what he was being forced to do, but eventually caved in to his parents' wishes. Things went badly from the beginning. He no longer fit into village life and quickly returned to the city, where he still lives. Although he is only in his twenties, he took certain blue pills in order to fulfill his monthly sexual obligation. That ended a year ago with the birth of a child, who lives with his wife and his parents in the village. He lost his boyfriend, who did not like the idea of him having intimate relations with a woman.

The end result has been bad for everyone. He sends money home ever month. He has not returned to the village since the child was born and has slowly resumed the life he had. His daughter will never have the kind of father his parents had in mind. His wife is now "spoiled" and will never be able to marry again, even though she is not yet thirty. The whole story is tragic and so unnecessary.

Try your best to make Lin understand that the world has changed since his parents were married. This tradition has no place in this century. He needs to understand that he has a choice, and that he can refuse as long as he makes it clear to his parents that he means no disrespect. (Maybe a new refrigerator would be a great consolation prize.) They may reject him if he has the strength to refuse. However, you are his family now and your relationship seems to still have a promising future.

Ultimately, the decision is Lin's. However, be prepared for the impending wedding. You can take the high road, attend the wedding, and become an uncle some day. However, I would not blame you if you told Lin clearly that he would be closing the door on you and your relationship for good if he marries. The more important thing you should be thinking about right now is what you will do when he gives up and wants to return to you. Or worse, when he doesn't.

Good luck!

Love, Darika

smooch

Dear Darika,

My partner and I are an iconic couple, well known and respected in the community. We are both very social and love to entertain. While we both have a few friends that are mostly our own, we have a wide circle of friends and acquaintances who we share. We are, and have been for more than ten years, a single unit, Siamese twins, The Borg. We are always invited and celebrated as a couple. The only things that do not overlap in our lives are our careers.

Both of us seem to have come to the same conclusion simultaneously that we no longer want to be together. We have discussed this like adults and realize we will always be best friends. Neither of us has a "boyfriend" that is pushing us to separate. We are both too busy for that. We have simply grown in different directions and feel that our relationship is placing limits on both of us.

One of our biggest concerns is the impact that our split will have on all of those friends we have. We have seen similar relationships come to an end and the result is a tug of war between friends. Some remain loyal to one person, while others shun him. We have seen bitterness, ugliness, rejection and drama. Dividing our material possessions is not an issue. We do not have a weekend home or a dog to fight over, and we are both reasonably secure financially. Darling Darika, we need your help to find a creative way to end it all peacefully.

Gentle readers,

Thank you for your thoughtful letter. Darika congratulates you on the mature way you are handling an issue that most couples do not deal with at all until it spirals out of control into chaos and bitterness. Thankfully, I have not had to experience this trauma. With a few early exceptions, all of mine have simply died of old age, leaving me to fight only with their progeny through our lawyers over the spoils of their estates.

I sense you want to end your partnership on a high note that will be a crowd pleaser and that the end result will be that you are invited to the same parties, dinners, and weekends at the beach. The best way to keep all of your friends is to involve them in the process. My suggestion is that you celebrate your separation ("divorce" is such an ugly word) as you would a wedding.

This could even be fun. Make a list of all of the friends you mention, set a date for your "uncoupling" and send out invitations to an unmarriage ceremony. Darika would be willing to preside if you cannot find anyone else. This will cause an avalanche of telephone calls and emails (not because of Darika, of course), which will give you the opportunity to tell your friends that you both love them equally and that this is not necessarily a sad occasion.

You will need a best man and a maid of honor to stand with you and organize both a bridal shower and a naughty bachelor party for each of you. All of your friends should be invited to all of these festive events, although you should not attend each other's. Gifts are optional but should be encouraged. One of you is going to need a new blender, so why not?

And a honeymoon? Darika fondly remembers her divorce trip with Louis Enrique Mendez de Hermossillo in 1975. It was my first big break-up. The two of us went on a camping trip in Redwoods National Forest of Northern California, and both had a great time. It cemented our friendship, and we went our separate ways remembering that the time we had together was priceless and that we would always be friends. He died of HIV in 1980 and I wore black for months.

All of that said, Darika hopes you are prepared for the great possibility that you may, after all of this is behind you, find that you are still in love, and that you are open to the possibility that you might find your time apart unbearable. If I were your mother I would tell you that big love transcends all differences. But why listen to me? I'm just an old drag queen with a lot of dead husbands who often invade her dreams. I wish I could have some time back with each of them. I suspect both of you will as well.

Love, Darika

smooch

Darika,

I just recently started to date this woman and she is really sweet and everything but we dont talk a whole lot, its not because we don't want to but we dont know what to talk about. Could you please give us some topics or questions to talk about to each other?

-- Amanda

Dear Amanda,

Thanks for sharing your issue with Darika. Your problem is probably more common than you realize. I occasionally read of couples to do not have conversations for years, often ending in a bloody murder. Just as often I have read about someone who has murdered his or her spouse because they will not shut up.

As you probably know, Darika has had vast experience in the world of dating. The men in my life have ranged from the silent type to my current love, Mister Chatterbox. I love it that he has something to say and speaks his mind freely. In the case of the silent ones, we had little to say to each other because, for the most part, other things were a lot more interesting than conversation. These fellows were typically good at one thing only, and it was not chit-chat. As I age, however, I realize how much more I appreciate a guy who has something to say, which is usually evidence of a functional brain.

You have not really said whether you think your current dilemma is caused by one or both of you. If you have come to recognize that you are not the great conversationalist you thought you were, you still have time to learn. Perhaps nobody is better at conversation than those who make their living interviewing other people on television. Some years ago, Barbara Walters wrote a wonderful book entitled How To Talk To Anyone About Practically Anything. More recently, Larry King wrote How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere: The Secrets of Good Communication. Darika recommends that you read one or both.

Giving you a list of things to talk about (the weather? baseball?) and things to avoid (religion? politics?) will not help you at all. Being a good conversationalist begins with being a good listener. The truth is, everyone's favorite topic of conversation is themselves. Look back at some of the most wonderful talks you have had you will probably realize that the conversation was mostly about you and that the other person was an attentive listener who asked good questions and showed a genuine interest in you.

Perhaps you should set your relationship on a new path by showing a genuine interest in each other. You should, of course talk about your favorite topic--each other. Learn everything you can about her by asking her questions. Read the newspaper together and ask what her opinions are. However, Darika warns you that you might be disappointed. You could ultimately learn that she really has nothing to say and she might turn out to be one of those girls who is good at one thing only, and it ain't talking. Our would that be such a disappointment at all?

Love, Darika

smooch

Dear Miss Darika,

My boyfriend and I have been together for about three years. We are both busy professional people. Sam (not a real name) has a job that requires him to travel away from home about 50% of the time. Lately he has been traveling quite a bit, so we try to spend as much time together when he is here. We both enjoy swimming, shopping and movies. He has always been quite enjoyable to be with.

Sam left three days ago. He said he was going (to another city some distance away) for four days for his business. Not long after he left someone was knocking on the door. Outside was a very handsome guy about my age. His t-shirt fit him quite snugly and it was obvious he spent a lot of time at the gym. He stared at me and said nothing for a long time. He looked very serious. Finally he said "You are my boyfriend's other boyfriend. I wanted to see who you are."

I invited him inside.

He explained to me that he had known Sam for about two years and that they lived together only about five km from here. He became suspicious about Sam's frequent trips when Sam's passport did not have many stamps. He paid one of his friends to follow Sam to our/my apartment.

There is more. He also learned that Sam also has a wife and small baby about half an hour away and his friend discovered where they live. He is with them now.

This news made me very upset, of course. At first I shouted at this visitor and I said some really terrible things to him. He did not react the same way. Unbelievable, he spoke softly to make me calm. Eventually I began to cry. I was hysterical. He put his arm around me to comfort me. It did not take very long before our clothes were off and we comforted each other quite well. I have to admit that it was stupendous. I can think of nothing but him for the past two days. Last night he phoned me to make sure I am alright and he is thinking of me as well. He wants to see me again soon.

Sam will return tomorrow. What can I do?

-- Donnie

Dear Donnie,

Confrontation is the easiest solution, of course. Wouldn't it be delicious for Sam to return home and find both of you waiting together? However, Darika pleads with you to consider your other options calmly. It is obvious that "Sam" plays an important role in your life. It is also clear that the other boyfriend considers him important or he would not have bothered to visit you. Two or three years is a long time for a gay relationship to last, so part of it may be worth saving.

If you think you are unable to behave normally when Sam returns, try not to behave badly or let him know that you know what he has been doing. Tell him you had a very bad day at work and that you have a terrible headache and want to be left alone. Give yourself some time to get hold of yourself and to think carefully about whether or not you want to end your relationship. You did not say you are finished with him, so I am not sure if this is an option for you or not.

The next time Sam plans to be away, phone the other boyfriend. If Sam plans to visit the wife and kid, you have the perfect opportunity to continue to enjoy each other. Sooner or later Sam will be the suspicious one. If you and the spare boyfriend plan to continue your own relationship with each other, the three of you may even be able to come to a creative solution that does not involve deceit.

Do not bother Sam's wife. (How do you know they are married anyway?) If she is any smarter than Sam's two boyfriends she will use her own creativity to protect herself and her child. If not, maybe you could all live together in a big house in the suburbs.

Good luck! --Darika

smooch

Dear Darika,

Some months ago I met a young man who works in a go-go bar and fell in love with him. We recently traveled together on holiday. Before we parted he gave me the letter below. I am not sure what to think about it. What is your advice?

-- Bertie

"From the first of our holiday together I needed to say sorry for what I did to you. First, I used the best trip that you had in your mind to test some crazy kind of life by not having sex with you. But I wanted you to know that I only wanted to have a stable love when I am giving all my heart to someone. And my love must come first, not sex. If you can stay with me without having sex I will be glad. I believe that you have only me, regardless of how far away you are. Secondly, I know that you are not happy with my use of drugs and I swear all this new year that after the holiday I will not do it again. I will not make you sad. Thirdly, I know that I made myself boring, nonsensical, brainless, especially when you asked me what I wanted to do, where to go. And my only reply was "up to you, if you like." I know it was a boring answer. I must go to visit your home in (your country) and it will be the most wonderful time for us. That's what I hope. Thank you very much for the love you have given me. I feel warm, safe and happy, and I swear that I will be true to you until hell freezes over. I have never wanted to leave you and would like you to love me forever, and hope I will be your last love, just like the last page of this letter. Please take good care of yourself. Oodles of love. PS... You have passed my test. I will believe and accept the fate. I love you."

Dear Bertie,

Those who have read the classics remember the story in Homer's Odyssey about the isle of the Sirens. The songs of the nymphs on this island were so magical that sailors smashed their ships into the rocks. To pass safely, Ulysses filled his sailors' ears with wax and tied them to the masts. It seems you have met a modern-day nymph whose song is very strong.

It is universally understood that people of this young man's profession provide sex and the illusion of love and affection in exchange for money. The luckiest of them may from time to time meet one or more gentlemen who request more than just one night of pleasure. This becomes a financial opportunity for them and for their families, and sometimes even an opportunity to travel. Darika makes no secret of the fact that she knows many such young men and has found herself helping them from time to time. Unlike many other Westerners, however, I do not do this to "save" them because I do not object to prostitution as long as people are not forced to do this work against their will.

While stories like yours are told daily in in this part of the world (Darika has heard every possible version) I can not help but find myself somewhat outraged by the letter you received. Is it clear to you yet that the letter is all about him and nothing about you? Did he tell you how wonderful you are? How caring? How generous? Or what a wonderful companion you are? While he professed his love, he offered nothing, yet asked for a lot.

Darika must admit that she finds the entire matter of abstaining from sex to be somewhat insidious in several respects. He has managed to take advantage of your generosity without performing any of the obligations that you probably intended him to perform during your holiday together. At the end he reconciled this as some kind of a test. If you had known from the beginning that you were being tested you might have made different choices. This was a childishly cruel and dishonest thing for him to do. There is no suggestion from him that this no-sex arrangement will ever change, yet he implies that he expects you be his and his alone.

Your friend's use of drugs is alarming. Drugs are, of course, illegal here. In some cases the penalty for possession of drugs is death. Aside from the obvious health implications for your friend and the fact that you may be unwittingly sponsoring his drug use, you could be in a great deal of danger if the police find you in the company of anyone who has drugs in his possession. If this young man really has an addiction problem do you think he is going to tell you the truth about quitting? (Darika lied to her boyfriend for months about her tobacco addiction but was finally caught in the act. He was angry and disappointed with my dishonesty and I was embarrassed. No more Havanas for me, darling!)

Whether or not you have a future with this young man depends entirely on your needs and expectations and I suggest that you examine those very carefully. Long distance relationships practically never succeed, so you face multiple challenges. Darika shares your love for beauty and youth. When we are with a handsome young man we bask in those things as if they will magically rub off on us in some small way. There are plenty of decorative young men in Thailand to perform that service, and they may be replaced at will. However, if it is a loving, committed relationship you are looking for, this would be a good time to fill your ears with wax.

smooch

Dear Darika,

I am 24 years old and my boy friend is 27 years old, we are not living together but practice the monogamous relationship.

Of course i need to worry since there are none of my friends can keep their relationship to last. For me, gay relationship is fragile.

Sombat

Khun Sombat,

Congratulations for keeping a monogamous relationship. That is difficult for most men, especially at your age. You are right that gay relationships are fragile. There is no pressure from society, religion or law to stay together. If you want your relationship to last a long time the key is probably honesty and communication. It is OK to disagree as long as you both understand that disagreement does not spell the end of a relationship. Never go to bed angry. Never stop writing love letters. Give him little gifts for no reason. Remember that it is better to show someone that you love them then tell them. Take things one day at a time and enjoy every day you have together. Just remember that diamonds are forever, but nothing else is. After all, we all change with time and need different things. In 1968 Darika bought a beautiful new Volvo (which I named "Becky"). It was the loveliest car I ever saw and I vowed to keep her shiny and new forever. I washed Becky every Saturday, kept her in a garage at night, and made sure the oil was changed regularly. After about twenty years, however, I realized that it was just a junky old car. I bought a new Jaguar and gave the Volvo away. That Volvo gave me a lot of wonderful memories (particularly with Sven, my mechanic, who loved to help me test the parking brake at night). So I guess my best advice to you is that you should get as many miles as you can out of the sporty car your are driving now but keep in mind that the newer models look better and better every year.

Kisses and good luck, Darika

smooch

Dear Darika,

I am approaching forty, professional guy living in Europe. Have had a relationship with a guy in (a beach resort town) for four years. Met him in a bar, but he soon stopped that when we started boyfriending. I am not rich but still send him 10 thousand baht every month. He works sometimes (when I am not there) as a waiter and makes additional money from that. Then to the problem - every time he goes home to see his family he gives them almost everything he has. Even money that should have been spent on the rent of his room. His mother seems to think he does not need a television or VCD in his room, so that is now in the family house. So far I have bought new TV set and DVD for him, and paid the backlog of rent for his room repeatedly. We have a fight every time, and he knows this is a burden on my finances. Now he has done it again, and the rent for his room is unpaid. His mother says he is the oldest son and so he has to help. I can not pay any more than I have done already, there is just no way I could ever afford to feed that whole family. Have visited the family once. They were nice, but his mother wanted a new professional fridge and a new motorbike for the father. I managed to decline politely. This would not be such a problem if I did not love him, and feel miserable when he is in a jam. He jokes about going back to the bar sometimes, which really makes me sad. I do understand that he is in a squeeze too, from a demanding family and a poor husband. Don't know what I should do. I lay my life in your hands, and hope you can provide me with some guidance.

- Happiguy

Dear Happiguy,

You are not the first, nor will you probably be the last to describe this kind of problem and ask for Darika's advice. I have even been asked to intercede from time to time, to translate love letters, make sure the tuition is paid for the English classes, to see that a passport is issued and even to pay for the boyfriend's girlfriend's abortion. I hope you can bear Darika's candid advice.

Status is a fundamental value in Thailand, so you are quite a prize for both your young friend and his family. Nobody is probably as concerned about the strain that this is putting on you financially or emotionally as you are. Parents expect their adult children to provide for them. Everyone expects your generosity to be limitless. Why shouldn't mom take the TV when she knows you buy a new one for the boy? Why shouldn't she ask for a new refrigerator or a motorbike? If you can afford the rent, you can afford a fridge. If you can afford a refrigerator, you can afford a car.

Ten thousand baht a month is really quite a bit of money. How much happiness are you buying for $300? Have you considered the possibility that you may not be the only foreigner paying him an allowance? And since the young man no longer needs to work, what is he doing with his time? Is he making the most of it to improve his life? If you really do love him and really do feel miserable when he is "in a jam" (e.g., irresponsible with the rent money), have you considered insisting that he take a little responsibility for his own life? There is nothing dishonorable about working for 7-Eleven or Burger King. And for many Thais, there is also nothing dishonorable about working in a go-go bar. A foreigner who wants to "save" someone from this kind of work is imposing his own moral values where they do not belong and may subconsciously attempting to wash away his own guilt for having paid for sex. When your friend jokes about returning to his previous occupation, he is undoubtedly manipulating you because he understands that his former place of work is evil to most Westerners.

Darika is not ashamed to say that she was once in your situation long ago before she made her permanent home in Asia. The boy's mum suddenly had cancer. The family cow died. He needed 25,000 baht (twice!) to avoid military service. On my regular visits, I redeemed the same gold necklace from the same pawn shop half a dozen times. Then there were the tearful long distance pleas for cash in the middle of the night, charges reversed. Clearly Darika was just a bag of money with big hair. Ultimately I decided that keeping what little self respect I had left was more important than keeping this "boyfriend."

Darika has never seen a happy ending to a story like yours. Your friend and his family will survive if you cut him loose tomorrow. After you have a big cry, I suspect you will feel no less loved than you feel now. I am sorry if this advice shatters your illusions about your relationship. However, Darika suspects you had already figured this out for yourself anyway.