Relationships are all about meeting expectations. If you can consistently meet the expectations that your friends, family, and lovers have, everything is great. If you don’t, “What the fuck is wrong with you, anyway?!” seems to be a fairly common response.
Why are relationships so hard?
Sounds pretty easy, right? I mean, just having to meet a person’s expectations is a fairly simple thing to grasp… yet actually achieving those expectations can be challenging. What gives? When it comes down to it, two things mess everything up:
- There are no objective measures for how well we’re doing–it’s measured in emotions!
- It’s all subconscious so that the other person doesn’t even know what their needs are or how they can be met–the best they can do is tell us if our attempts are getting warmer or colder.
So, let’s see if we can dig in and figure out some tricks, techniques, and tools for making this problem of meeting unknown, unmeasurable expectations any easier…
Bowling in the Dark
People have an array of physical and psychological drives, most of which they need the help of others to satisfy. We try to collect around us those people who are most willing and able to consistently meet our needs and the dynamic doesn’t necessarily need to be a healthy one (physically and emotionally abusive relationships are a great example of this). Upping the complexity is that different drives are more or less compelling depending on our current life stage, and personality. Just think about adolescents. For them, sex and romance are not high on the list but often become core drivers a few years later.
It’s quite a bit like bowling in the dark. We can know when we hit a few pins, and we can even hazard a guess as to how many, but we don’t know which ones or where they are, and we definitely know if we throw a gutter ball. So, how can you win?
It’s Just Like Aluminum Foil
The first thing we have going for us is culture. Culture is a set of rules, mores, beliefs, and behaviors that when put together meet the psychological and physical drives of it’s members better than those of other cultures in a Darwinian type process (hence why agricultural cultures have superseded non-agricultural cultures wherever cultivation is practicable).
So, while humans all have the same core drivers, cultures have different beliefs and strategies for meeting them. Within cultures, each family (…and within each family, each person…) has slightly different strategies and beliefs about how to meet them.
An experience that I had a few years ago, illustrates this really, really well. I was at my older sister’s place for the first time and she was off at work. I was looking for the aluminum foil… I searched in places we’d keep it in our house growing up and, while it wasn’t in the exact same place on the door under the sink, I found it very close by.
If I was at your house, though, I’d have no idea where to look but, once again, because of a shared “culture” I’d start looking for it in the kitchen and not in the bedroom!
In a great book called, “What Do You Say After You Say, ‘Hello'”, by Dr. Eric Berne, he calls these patterns of interaction we have, “scripts”. You grew up with a set of “scripts” that you picked up in your environment for how to deal with the various situations in life. For some people that means that when they find themselves in a contentious situation, they fight back, for others it means they run at the first sight of trouble while others would just cry helplessly and still others would get help so they could retaliate later.
This is a good thing, because it means that each one of us has set “scripts” or strategies for meeting our psychological and physical drives and on the reverse side, we have set “scripts” and strategies for helping satisfy other people’s psychological and physical drives. So, that means that we can happily stumble into someone who has a “mostly” matching script and everyone wins. Still there are going to be some mismatches here and there but by and large this is why people tend to spend time with other people like them–it’s easy.
So, What’s the Asian Script Like?
If you’re dating an Asian girl, especially one who grew up in Asia, things usually get a lot more complicated very quickly. The homogeneity of Asian countries means that there is a lot less variance among families and people than in western countries and so Asian girls are not so accustomed to wide variances in behavior among people. If you ask an Asian person what people in their country eat for breakfast, you’ll get a handful of answers at most, and more likely 2 or 3.
Ask that same question in a western country and the answers are much more varied. As a result Asians tend to have more set expectations so that when you violate them they take it very seriously and think you’re personally treating them badly rather than accepting it as an individual difference.
What’s even worse is that they watch western tv shows and assume that everything happens just like it does on tv and apply those to expectations to you. Alternatively, if they have done a home-stay, or dated one foreigner before they will often expect that you’ll act the same way. A westerner will often understand that your behavior is due to your upbringing or your specific background rather than seeing it first as a character flaw or a personal affront.
Running relationships well will require a lot more conscious thought than you may be accustomed to. All this doesn’t mean it can’t work, it just means that you’ll need to learn their culture and a lot more tricks, I mean “scripts”!