To Hmong Women, Connecting Love and Marriage Is Laughable!
I’m reading “Committed” by Elizabeth Gilbert, who also wrote the book practically everyone in the world read — “Eat, Pray, Love.”
In the early pages of “Committed” she describes meeting a group of Hmong women and asking questions about their culture, specifically about marriage.
The Hmong people are an isolated ethnic minority, inhabiting the highest mountain peaks in Vietnam, Laos, China and Thailand.
The interesting thing about these people is that they never really belong to the countries in which they live. The Hmong are a free people and apparently you can’t tell them what to do, how to think, or where to go. They are fiercely independent nomads, storytellers, warriors and anti-conformists.
Elizabeth said being with the Hmong people gave her a very good idea of what “family” must have been like four thousand years ago.
A Funny Giant!
Elizabeth arranged a meeting with a village of women, and hired a young interpreter. The women thought Elizabeth was funny and they broke out in peals of laughter at the sight of her. Then they proceeded to put hats on her head, and gave her babies to hold — all the while pointing at her and laughing.
All of that hilarity was just fine with Elizabeth. She realized that she was a giant, alien visitor from a foreign culture. She decided that being their object of ridicule was the very least she could do in return for getting to know these women for a day.
In the Hmong culture, men and women spend very little time together.
Yes, you have a spouse and you have sex with that spouse, and your money is tied with that spouse. And it is even possible or likely that you love your spouse.
But other than that, men and women go their separate ways during the day. Men work and socialize with other men. Women work and socialize with other women.
He’s Not The Center Of Your Life
If you are a Hmong woman, you don’t expect your husband to be the center of your life — your best friend, the person you talk to, your intellectual equal, or someone who comforts you when you need it. It doesn’t happen that way.
Hmong women get their support and nourishment from other women. Friendship and connection is everywhere. All ages of women — sisters, mothers, aunties and grandmothers — do everything together. it’s practically impossible for a Hmong women to be lonely, because all her best friends are an arms length away. And when there is work to be done, many hands make light work.
When Elizabeth asked the women “where did you meet your husband?” Or “how did you fall in love,” the women found her questions to be humorous. But when Elizabeth finally asked “what’s the secret to a happy marriage” the women fell on the floor laughing. She never really found out what was so funny to them about her questions, because (Elizabeth decided…) the way these women think and the way Elizabeth thinks were just too far apart.
I’m giving you the short version, of course, and we’re talking about one single group of Hmong women for one single afternoon. But Elizabeth came away from that experience thinking that the Hmong people she met probably believe that romantic love and the actual reasons for marriage are not connected.
Such a contrast to the American way of life!
Whenever I read information about the traditions of another culture, past or present, I think to myself, “Wow. There are so many ways of making anything work.”
What’s Natural For You?
Your relationship just has to work for you and your partner. You don’t have to model it after the American way, or what your family taught you, or by what anyone else thinks. This I am very sure of.
How would you change things up if you could? What’s more natural to you than what you’re currently doing?
Checking to see where you might be mentally or emotionally following convention rather than following your heart is worth your consideration.
Compared to many people I know, Eric and I have an unusually open and friendly relationship with all of our past relationships, including boyfriends, girlfriends, and Ex’s.
Do What Works For You
Eric is in business with his ex-wife. They talk on the phone often. He sees her and spends time with her at business events. I love that he can do that and feels free to do that. I support this fully.
My ex- husband comes to visit, and sometimes even stays with us. The two of us (me and my EX) went out to dinner last time he was here — without Eric. I write to MacKenzie’s father on email. I write to another gentleman I used to live with and we stay in touch. In fact, he’s my therapist/consultant/coach.
Eric loves that I do that and that I feel free to do that.
Oh, believe me. By many people’s marriage standards, both us would be in trouble immediately. To some folks this “including the Ex thing and past boyfriend thing” sounds downright weird and scary — like why in the world would we do THAT? I mean that’s just asking for trouble, isn’t it?
Many marriages would not tolerate this sort of thing. You’d hear the gavel hit the table, and those past intimate connections would be forbidden, frowned upon. At the very least, they would be suspect.
But for us, it’s normal, effortless, surprisingly fun, heart-expanding and contributes greatly to our relationship with each other.
So that’s what we do.
My philosophy: Have it your way! Find what works and do it.
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committed, Elizabeth Gilbert, Hmong, In Care of Relationships, marriage, relationships, Terri Crosby, The Hmong
Patrick, my brother and Beth were together, as in lovers, partners etc. for 11 years, living cross town from each other in Manhattan. About 5 years ago they got married. Beth was leaving her job as Photo editor for People Magazine shortly, and by marrying, Patrick was now covered under her health insurance. They continue to be lovers, partners, and now married. They also continue to live cross town from each other. It works for them.
Carol Lani Johnson
Very interesting. After our Maypole Dance Sunday a few of us visited on a porch for an hour or more. Nothing is more satisfying than to be with women sharing a kindred activity. Talking is optional and can enhance during or after, but the connection goes way beyond words…
SO refreshing! I’m not actively seeking “a relationship” – wow, that term has come to feel heavy for me. S
Anyway, for those seeking/should I be, it seems finding someone one can Live With – have fun, thrive & mutually do whatever one chooses- comes ahead of finding someone one loves. Just sayin where I’m at for now …
Nicely writ! Among other things I now see what a great writer you are… 🙂
I’ve just recently begun (began?) a new relationship so I can totally relate. We have our separate places and, many times, we’ve noted that we’re not doing things according to Hoyle- and loving it. Thanks for the further inspiration. (she’s also a writer and her words flow beautifully like yours and she’s a strong woman… hmmm, I’m sure the two of you would get along famously!) Much love to you and Russ…