A divisive issue in my relationship with my girlfriend appears to have been resolved. I’ve learnt a few things from the process.

A few weeks ago, due to some cultural ignorance on my part, I embarassed her in front of her best friend. She decided to be totally frank with me about how she was feeling, and she made that decision because she realised that she likes me a lot. This also led her to decide to make an effort to accept me as I am, that is, to let go of certain standards of masculinity.

These standards come from her culture, which puts them on a level with virtues of character. She says that I’m non-materealistic, which makes me very attractive over her Korean suitors, who see their romantic relationships as just one more thing on a list containing their careers, their houses and their cars. But she once compared in one breath this virtue, which I took as a serious compliment, with the fact that I have no fashion sense, saying that the latter is just a serious pull on how much she wants the relationship.

A westerner cannot but see this as childish. I’m really proud of her for moving beyond these rubbish aspects of her culture, independently of the fact that I’m happy about the relationship having been put onto stronger ground. So much for what happened; this blog is not for writing about the ups and downs of my own relationship, but that was necessary background to the following more general observations.

Firstly, when my girlfriend and I resolved our fight over what happened when I met her best friend, I immediately felt really good and spent my afternoon that day at school churning out a really solid activity for my classes the next day with the extra energy. But my mindfulness training allowed me to realise that this was just one big injection of oxytocin that got blasted into my head as a result of the reconciliation, and so while I was feeling good, I was also depressed about having to deal with things like oxytocin highs as part of being in a relationship. They’re evolutionarily designed to mislead. We rapidly start thinking that in our relationship with our partner we’ve got something permanent, something permanent that can fill the hole within us, and now all we’ve got to do is ejaculate inside them. But said hole can’t be filled, we can only delude ourselves into thinking we’ve filled it for a short while. In the name of reproduction the body tries hard to stop us from being aware of this truth.

Secondly, I’m getting clearer about what I want out of a romantic relationship. This series of essays is my starting point. Manson says that we all need security, status and connection out of romance, and we differ in how much these different factors matter to us. Today my girlfriend changed her profile picture the smartphone texting application everyone in Korea uses, I really liked it, and I set it as my smartphone background that I see several times a day.

Now, before the past few days, I wouldn’t have set the picture because I would have felt anxious and insecure everytime I saw it. Monday was our 100 days anniversary which is significant in Korea,[1] and my girlfriend spent the day travelling back and forth across the city to hide a gift and a letter in my apartment (something that’s possible when doors are locked with pin codes rather than keys!). The amount of time she spent travelling across the city and back made the point that she really has decided to accept me as I am and wants the relationship as much as I do. Aside from being touched by the gesture, it has made me feel secure and my general mood has taken a real rise and as I say, I set her photo as my wallpaper, and I don’t care at all anymore when she replies to messages etc. (not that she was ever bad at doing so).

Assuming this is more than just deception from more of that damned oxytocin, which I don’t believe it to be, and following Manson’s taxonomy, I conclude that my biggest need in relationships is security. Having a kind of friend around whom I respect, that I don’t feel I am boring if I chat mundane daily things to, who wants to cuddle, who will prioritise meeting regularly, with whom there is mutual sexual attraction. Though I find my girlfriend very attractive she’s not got the body a lot of young Korean girls I see on the streets have, but I’m now very clear that that doesn’t matter to me, and the times at which it has are just cases of being affected by my years of built up sexual frustration. This is now finally releasing itself, just by being in the relationship, even though we’re very rarely in private and alone together for various reasons. It matters to me that she has left a hairdryer in my apartment for when she visits, and that she was here during the day while I was at work yesterday.

In summary, I now know that I really don’t care about being some hyper-attractive guy with a handful of friends with benefits. I want a girlfriend. Years with no experience, and some of the kind of people you find on reddit, made me very unsure about what I wanted.


[1] This comes from a baby’s 100th day of life being significant because it means it’s a lot less likely to die very young, which was an issue in poor, 20th century Korea.