I am a legal consultant at a very prestigious NGO, in the human rights sector. When I come home to the apartment I share with my girlfriend, I like to talk about the incredible stories and tragedies that come across my desk. But I just can’t with my girlfriend, who doesn’t really read. She barely follows the news, doesn’t know who Kem Sokha is, and has some questionable opinions about development. She’s very loyal and supportive, but I’m not sure if this relationship can really have legs if she doesn’t change.
This cookie can crumble in two ways. Either you need to find a partner that shares your interests, or you should stop being such a work-consumed bore.
You’re not going to change this girl. If she’s not interested in the plight of land activists and the fist-shaking antics of CNRP leader Kem Sokha now, she’ll never be. And why should she? Is your job so important that everyone should care about it? In Phnom Penh, this particular affliction seems common with NGO people and journalists – they think that their work is so valuable and world-changing that it warrants constant attention and conversation. But if a plumber went on and on over drinks about a new drain cleaner he’s developing, you’d probably find him insufferable. Why? Because he’s not making the world a better place? I beg to differ.
Think about it from your girlfriend’s perspective. You spend your entire day at work, then come home wanting to talk about work. Do you dream about work too? Do you think of human rights when you’re making love? In the evening, most couples recap their days. Fine. But it sounds like you’re carrying the entire office home with you.
Want to take your intellectual preoccupations to new heights? The 4th century BCE Taoist sage Chuang Tzu says that one ought to be completely present in their labour, and completely present in their leisure. My man C.T. doesn’t want your ying and yang mixing together. He says: find balance between order and disorder if you want to be happy. Learn to compartmentalise. On this matter, it might be worth taking the mystic’s advice.
And by the way, do you share any spheres of concern with your girlfriend? Do you engage her in any of her interests? Maybe she makes similar complaints to her friends: “After working all day, I just want to talk about clothes and movies. But all he cares about is human rights. Ugh.”
Why are you in this relationship in the first place? What brought the two of you together? It has to be more than just sex and loyalty if you’re living together. You must have something in common! Try teasing this out. Re-discover your connection. For the next little while, focus your conversations on interests that you share.
At the end of the day, if things still aren’t working for you, you probably ought to find someone new. You’re a legal consultant, so I assume you’re a relatively educated man. And as an educated dude myself, I know how important intellectual stimulation is in long-term relationships. Support, loyalty, and good sex are important – but if a partner doesn’t challenge and excite me intellectually, I quickly lose interest. In your case, don’t fret. Cambodia is full of starry-eyed idealist girls who save the world by day, then drink themselves into oblivion at night. Cruise the bars on Street 278. I’m sure you’ll be able to find someone willing to entertain your human rights in bed.
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