I’m under no illusions. I’m 52 years old, and my girlfriend, a lovely Cambodian woman, is 25. I only speak very basic Khmer and her English is minimal, but I enjoy just being with her, and she seems to be happy to oblige me. I’m educated – I know to most people there would seem to be something missing. The relationship is by no means equal. But, whether or not it’s a perfect match, I feel like it’s my only option: I’m divorced, pretty overweight and feel like this is my last chance to have some companionship.
I would be perfectly content, but the problem is, I have 2 children with my ex-wife, both living in Australia. The relationship with their mother ended badly, and I came to Cambodia soon afterwards. Neither of them will come to visit – which is a problem, as I can’t foresee myself leaving anytime soon. My daughter, in her twenties, flat-out refuses, as she disapproves of my new relationship. More than that, she is disgusted by it – my girlfriend, who may soon become my wife, is her age, she says.
How can I reconcile myself with my children without losing my girlfriend, who has become dependent on me?
While sexpats sleaze their way through Phnom Penh streets, there are honest, good-intentioned men who come to Cambodia and unwittingly fall for a younger Khmer woman, mistaking mutual dependence for love.
Is this woman worth ruining your relationship with your children? If you really loved her, it might be. Judging from your letter, though, it just seems as though you’re afraid of being alone. And celibate.
Think of it from your daughter’s perspective. There’s a rift in the family, and instead of facing it, you flee to a developing country where (she thinks) you have sex with hookers her age, thus sexualizing her peer group, and making you not only a coward in her eyes, but also a lascivious exploiter of impoverished women. In other words, your daughter likely thinks you’re becoming a creep.
The companionship your Cambodian lover gives you might be good, but your relationship with her seems to have nothing to do with who she is as a person. Do you really know anything about her? Or are you only interested because of what she gives you? If the latter is the case, do yourselves both a favour and end it. She may be content with the relationship too, but it’s unlikely that she’ll ever be truly happy. Like I said: mutual dependence. Do you really think she sees you as something more than a gentle fat man with a wallet?
Try to find yourself a meaningful relationship. In Western countries, there tends to be more single women in your age group then men. Many have been married and divorced. They know what it’s like. Many are still searching for love. Go home for a bit. See your children. Repair things. Hit the gym. Try playing the field. Ask your friends to set you up. Look at your divorce as another chance for love instead of a mess of screaming and lawyers to make you feel defeated, to make you flee to another continent for the numbing comforts of cheap love and beer.
Or, if you really do fall in love here, stay, learn the language, get married, take care of your wife’s people, put roots in this beautiful land. Love can transcend race, age and language – I know. It’s just that in Phnom Penh, that kind of love tends to be scarce.
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