Paying the Wife
There are now so many mixed marriages in Phuket that discussions about the workings of these relationships are a common topic of debate. The vast majority of these marriages are western men with Thai women and one subject that guarantees a bit of a reaction is the question of how much money husbands pay to their wives.
You wouldn't think it would be that big of an issue. It wouldn't be in the west. Everybody does their own thing, has their own arrangement. Maybe the husband works, maybe the wife works, maybe they have joint bank accounts, maybe the husband pays an allowance. Everybody has their own way of dealing with their finances and it is not a cause of any great controversy.
However, in mixed marriages in Thailand it is a bit more of a touchy subject. Some guys are very proud of how much they give to their wife and perhaps even her whole family. They may even boast about the house the have built their mother-in-law out in Nakon Nowhere. Other guys get very defensive at the mere suggestion they might be paying their wife. They proudly declare their wife has to make her own money.
The problem is in Thailand, paying the wife has connotations. There is the hint that the relationship is based on money rather than love. That the man has to pay his wife to stay, otherwise she might be off on the next gravy train. There is the reputation Thai women have for squeezing western men dry and then leaving them hanging high. There is also that subtle connection with the sex industry. Isn't paying the wife a little like paying a prostitute? Is that how the relationship started?
The issue of paying the wife often hits a soft spot that gets western men much more defensive than the subject really warrants. It really shouldn't be that big a deal. It is a relationship and it is normal that the two partners work together and share resources. That is how marriages work. Every couple works out their own arrangement and as long as it works, there is no reason to fuss. It is just about getting the balance right.
We should also remember that in Thailand, more than in the west, it is still traditional that the husband supports the wife. The husband takes the responsibility for making money and the wife takes care of the home. This is not a golden rule but it remains much more the norm. There are plenty of working wives around but often it is financial necessity that forces the women out to work. If a Thai husband is making good money then usually he will prefer his wife to stay at home.
Thai wives generally expect to receive some sort of financial support from their husbands. They are not being greedy or manipulative (well depending on how much they want). This is just the traditional way they do things in Thailand. I wouldn't presume to judge any couple's fiscal arrangements although I do think the few guys who expect their wives to be happy with no money of their own are being unrealistic. Equally, the men who give much more than they can afford are being unrealistic. It makes no sense to spend your life's savings on your wife's family and leave yourself broke.
Anything between these two extremes is a personal choice. You should only
pay what you can afford. You should not pay more than makes you happy but
also knowing your wife is happy should make you happy. It doesn't matter
if you call it an allowance, housekeeping, pocket money or pay. Making sure
your wife has some spending money is a normal part of any marriage in Thailand
or in the west.