Relationships in Burma (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this series, I started writing about how people engage and perceive relationships in Burma within the young adulthood setting, drawing an example from my own personal life, seeing my brother currently in a relationship. The main point I concluded was that developing trust and a loving bond takes time and every relationship has its pace, we shouldn’t overlook the cultural context which heavily influences how the dynamics of these relationships. Here in Part 2, I will write about the same topic, but from the social circle of adulthood, mainly through examining how the relationship between my parents work and how society perceives them in turn.

Parental Views on Young Adult Dating

I think a proper segue from my previous post to this post is to bring up a convo I had with my mom about how my brother’s dating and surprisingly, for the most part, she approves of the relationship. So as her long as her son has the upper hand, so as long as she sees that her son is in a position of power, she seems happy about it. One particular point I noticed was when my brother started receiving friend requests from other women on Facebook, she told him to be careful because “these types of women are always up to no good”. To all these statements I gave a rebuttal, using the points of my previous blog, though admittedly it was quite watered-down. Then my mom questioned why we’re having an argument, and by implication, why I’m not on my brother’s side. It’s not about picking sides and it’s not about how ‘blood is thicker than water’, because even if I want to stick with this truism (again, I don’t), I would be more inclined on focusing my attention to making sure my brother respects the women he’s seeing. But more fundamentally, this type of discourse presumes that these women are of secondary importance, based on how they relate to my family and myself, and we have to do away with this assumption. We have to recognize the humanity inherent in every individual and yield respect, not only when we see an ongoing relationship, or a potential to be added into the family.

Relationship Dynamics Between Mom and Dad

Having said this, it is now time to the dynamics of marriage (or lack of) between Mom and Dad. A lot of the criteria I’ve mentioned in my previous article still applies, so for example, there’s hardly any trust as the relationship currently stands; they each view relationships as some form of battleground, a field of dominance and subjugation; and finally, we have a total breakdown of communication. They’re still in the same house but they don’t talk to each other directly or at all. Imagine for me how awkward it feels to stay under the same roof and bear witness to this ongoing interaction, or lack of. Honestly, I feel completely helpless at times, but I have come to accept that the marriage isn’t as strong as it used to be, but of course I’d like to know why. I do know there is a mention of an extramarital affair, which Mom explicitly says and which Dad doesn’t deny (though he does deny that I have half-siblings, for now). One of the most interesting aspects of this conversation is that whenever my parents used to fight, Mom would always say that affairs are something people of higher social status simply don’t do. Well, obviously, I hate to sound real cheeky but she would have to either read Anna Karenina or look around her own society more closely to see otherwise. The thing I don’t understand is why she deflects this issue to social status and wealth, rather than gender issues which are considerably far more germane to the issue at hand.

That’s not Mom and Dad. That’s a stock photo. I just wanted to show you how our wedding garments look like 

Maybe an honest conversation with each of them separately would help me understand and process this, but I will have to save it for later. For example, I should try to understand what prompted the affair to take place in the first place. It could very well be Dad’s extremely misguided attempts to find romantic love. Nonetheless, as I said before, that’s just speculation so I’ll only write down concrete details as the talks develop. It is extremely taxing on me to breakdown many components which influence every aspect of the relationships I see, and it is even more enervating to enflesh a lot of hidden assumptions and cultural mores lurking underneath.

And Divorce?

Well, then what about the question of divorce? Ha, that’s easy to say, but it’s extremely difficult to enact. Divorced couples are ridiculously stigmatized in my country so that’s not happening. For one, most of the property is signed under the male head of the family, so that would mean Mom would hardly get anything out of it, and I know this is true for material property and capital, but I’m not too sure about children custody (though my brother and I are 23 and 22, respectively). It’s very likely that Mom’s side of the family would file a counter-lawsuit to try to win property back, which also costs money in the first place, and would therefore be ridiculously #scandalous. And even if both parents are willing to subject themselves to stigma, there is hardly any support in terms of therapy, especially emotional abuse (no one talks about mental health issues in Burma or even sees that as a legitimate health issue), hardly any form of support for single-mother families, and so, hardly any notion of reintegrating into society. I think here, once again, cultural values are back at it again, with the prevailing notions of how couples have to “rough it out”, and even then, this discourse places particularly heavy burden on women, who are expected, and even romanticized, to stick through the abuse and stay strong. It’s an impossible burden to bear and once again, we have an idealistic but ultimately myopic view of relationships which, as I said in my last post, neither satisfies or is satisfactory.

That’s not Mom and Dad either. Actually on the top-right, their marriage date is December 11th, 2013. And yes that’s Burmese! It’s really, really round. Again, stock photo!

Now at this point you’d probably want to ask me about my own relationships. xD I’m not seeing anyone now! I am more than willing to write about perceptions of gay relationships, but that’s a story for another day! (this is the only section of LGBT issues I can speak of with most confidence, seeing as how I am gay myself hahahha)

There is no legalized same-sex marriage in Burma, but this is an engagement ceremony two years ago which made headlines. 

Meta-blogging commentary: And as always, thanks a million for being a part of the process in unpacking my thoughts. If you have suggestions about how to make long posts engaging, let me know! I try to include images in my longer posts as it’s always nice to see a cute pop of color and in this post, I started using headers to ‘chunk’ off my posts. But always let me know how to best engage y’all with my content. (Yes I use y’all. The Midwest has rubbed on to me)




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