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My wife does not get along with her family
Dear Emma,
Contrary to popular opinion it would seem not all Thai people are so entangled and intertwined with their families. In fact, my wife’s relationship with most of her family could be termed “hostile”. I wish I could blame it on her marrying a farang but that is not the case as they did not get along long before I appeared on the scene.
My wife has been very successful in her life, she worked hard and started her own small business with money she saved from her job. She is a savvy businesswoman and has done quite well for herself. She used to help out her family financially but it just got to be too much. Her sister always had some sob story needing money and of course the “loans” were never paid back. It turned out that her sister was actually gambling and used the money to not pay her gambling debts but to gamble further thinking she would make the money back that way, like a true gambling addict.
So, my wife and her sister had a huge argument and have not spoken since. Strangely her mother has chosen to take the sister’s side even though she is clearly in the wrong. My mother-in-law’s argument is that she is family and you help your family. But of course when my wife was starting out and working long hours, nobody offered to help. So it seems, at least in her family, help is one way street.
My wife’s father doesn’t get involved and I can’t say as I blame him, it is all a really ugly mess. My mother-in-law calls my wife up regularly to berate her for being a bad daughter. Every time she calls my wife ends up crying. I support her and her decision and she knows it is the right one but I wish there was something I could do to show her mother how hurtful she is. My wife says she is used to it, that the sister was always the favourite child. This kind of family relationship is unfathomable to me, it is very destructive and is causing my wife great pain. I don’t know how I can help.
Loving husband

Dear Husband,
You sound like a lovely man and I am sure your wife appreciates your support. One thing you must learn or, if you already know this, then remember is that women don’t always need a solution. Most times we just need you to listen. She already knows what needs to be done, she is just not ready to do it yet. It is a hard decision to tell your family to leave you alone and even harder for Thai people where the bonds of family can be like chains.
Just hold your wife when she cries, reassure her that she is a good person and stand up for her if they do it in front of you. However, from the sounds of it, she no longer visits her family and that it is mainly just the phone calls that are so distressing. You might want to consider suggesting to your wife that when her mother phones, you answer and tell your mother-in-law that your wife is not currently available. And then disconnect.
It is not the best solution but it will at least delay your wife’s pain a few days.
Getting involved in complicated family issues as the husband (or wife for that matter) is never a good idea. Family dynamics go back so far into the person’s past that you cannot possibly comprehend all the little hints, innuendos, twists and turns. Stay out of it as much as you can and show your wife as much support as possible. She will need it in the years to come.

My wife is a terrible cook
Dear Emma,
I have a serious problem, my friends think it is funny but my wife is a terrible cook. To make matters worse, she thinks she is pretty good and insists on cooking dinner. I am actually a pretty good cook and my food, even some of my Thai food, is better than hers. I’d prefer to eat at the nearby food stall than to eat her food, it is that bad. She overcooks everything, manages to find the worst cuts of meat full of bone and gristle and then salts everything so much it is close to inedible.
I keep offering to cook but she brushes me aside all the while muttering “Men can’t cook”. Which of course, is patently untrue but she will have none of it. She is convinced that solely because she is a woman she is a better cook than I.
I have taken to eating out and that way, at least, when I get home and pick at her meals, I am not continuously hungry. I don’t want to hurt her feelings and I certainly do not want to make her angry but how do I get across to her that her food is not good? It is not healthy, nor tasty and certainly nothing I want to eat!
Hungry at home

Dear Hungry,
This is certainly difficult as no person, especially a woman, likes being told that she is a terrible cook. I presume your wife is Thai and this is a culture in which women learn to cook from their mothers. Presumably she learned how to cook from her mother who most likely also served terrible food. It is important to remember, however, that if your wife comes from a rural or poor background, she may be used to the gristle and bone and prefer it. You may wish to do the grocery shopping to ensure the meat at least, has meat. You might want to let her know that you don’t like bone and gristle and that you would appreciate it if she adds meat to the dishes. The overly salty issue is entirely different of course and may be something she is less sensitive to you than you so she over salts.
You may want to consider signing yourself up for a Thai cooking course and then you can announce proudly to your wife that you need to practice your new found cooking skills. If you can get her into the habit of letting you cook she may give up the spoon as it were.