How to Know if You`re Really in Love/Help me out here


Hello Carl
I've been reading some stuff you've written to others and I like what you've been saying and I'm wondering if you could help me out too. The thing is I've been in one bad relationship after another and it's very frustrating. I'm always attracted to women that seem to be stern or cruel in a way. My last girlfriend yelled at me I'm front of my friends and it made me so angry we ended up breaking up. Why do I always seem to get into these disfunctional relationship? I remember when I met my last girlfriend she had this dark energy that pulled me in. I feel like I'm always trying to help them cheer up. It I made any headway at all it's small I guess I need to let go of that part of me that wants to help them? But not helping feels bad. After things fall apart I feel like I know I shouldn't get into that kind of relationship again but it happens again and again. My brother thinks I'm an idiot my mother tells me that I'm not a man. I'm so depressed over this. I don't like being alone either so maybe that's what pushed me into these relationships? I don't know jut help me out I'm willing to work on myself so lay it on me here.

Dear Tom,

How are you?

You are a man. Your mother wants you to be a more self-respecting man. That's why she said such a harmful thing as "You're not a man."

You are not an idiot; your brother is over-stating a feeling he has that you should act smarter.

I understand you. We Western men living in South Korea are full of conflict because if we love someone here, we are almost always forced into seemingly antique relationship modalities that we were taught to reject; then, to survive and thrive in a relationship with a Korean--whose society still codifies in primitive ways, the roles of men and women--we find it 'necessary' to act in ways we were taught strictly not to, and to accept exceedingly inappropriate behavior.

The women here act '1950s "Betty Boop" Helpless' one minute, and 'Mommy Dearest Sadistic and Cold', the next.

To "drive them" as they say, we are encouraged to act like near-chauvanist brutes on the one-hand, and 'Pink-Sweater-Wearing, Gentle Boys' on the other. At the same time, we have to be Therapist and Seducer, Older Brother and Kinder Father-figure, but still strong in the face of a virtual child one day and a dominatrix the next. They are beautiful, Korean Women--but a handful, right? I've heard them described as follows:


"A Bag of Daggers"
"A Roller Coaster Ride"
"Drama Queens"
"Without Exception, All Having Emotional Issues"

And yet, they can be so sweet and demure, supportive and kind, mature, and helpful....

And we get drawn in by an interest in helping them, as you said, perhaps because we know their lives are so controlled, and because we want to give them a better sense of self-worth than they've been handed in domineering housholds and in a generally male-dominated society (which has basically been responsible for causing the current, imperious role-reversal, in which the females of South Korea are becoming--in the words of the title of a popular book, here, "skinny bitches", making demands on the men--to provide more stability, luxury, and faux authority--or be rejected, whilst offering nothing but princess-like behavior in return).

We come from a socially advanced society--relationship-wise, so, we must not degrade the lessons that our society instilled in us.

While being sensitive to the pressures and unfair rules and expectations placed on our Korean girlfriends, we must not tolerate the dysfunctional behavior it causes in them; the lying, duplicity, abuse, neglect, manipulation, irresponsibility, turn-key taciturn-ness, and the lack of faithfulness.

We can choose to use their methods, so they understand; We can attempt to be harmonius and quiet, allowing small infractions to go by, but once a pattern develops, this will have proven to have been an irreversible mistake.

So, here is what we should do. Once, tell your girlfriend you understand her pressure-filled life, and the stress of the culture differences between you, but that you do not feel you both must be victims of it.

Tell her you can be loving, kind, understanding, and supportive, but that you cannot do that at your own expense.

You want dialog; communication in which you both lovingly discuss issues. As soon as either of you feel flustered--and it WILL happen, because Eastern and Western minds always insult one another's' sensibilities...accidentally, just stop and resume talking, later, once you are both calm. Our cognitions are different before they acclimate to one another's, and so are our expectations.

Korean women are intelligent and actually good at taking a break, but just mention that as a condition of seeing one another again in a relationship-fashion, the discussion must continue; not a fight; a sharing session.

Failure to resume the discussion--bringing both your views and feelings out for validation and resolving the issues, will result in what Koreans have with each other; outer-harmony and inner-pain; dysfunction, break-ups, and divorce.

It is torturously arduous to explain to a Korean woman that your way is better. So don't do it. Lead by example.

She will tell you--until the cows come home--that dialog is not the answer, because she was not given the option to her domineering, paternal-centric home. She is litterally both unequipped and terrified of challenge. She has not the logical skills to argue peacefully. Dialectical discourse is not taught or experienced--genarally speaking--in the Korean home or school. She will avoid peaceful confrontation with you until you hear she has been married off.

So, you tell her you will listen, and you should listen well. She needs an ear.

The Korean world is not kind to women--where what's real and important is concerned, anyway. So you must be kind and listen, listen, listen.

When she is finally quiet, you speak kindly, simply, and firmly.

Don't fight with her. You'll always lose. You are a foreigner; the lowest "member" of Korean society. If you are a teacher, you carry some respect, but not much. There are bilingual teachers here now that are held in higher regard, even if many or most of them don't speak and write English perfectly. Korean Grammar teachers get more respect, too--even though they are a major part of the fluency conundrum in Korea. They "learned" a foreign language; You teach your own. That's how they look at it.

Your girlfriend isn't cruel for looking down on you. It's all she knows. Korea was "The Hermit Kingdom", the country that shut out foreigners. It's been attacked thousands of times and conquered several. There are American troops here. We twist their arms to buy our fighter jets and our sub-standard grains and rice. They smile at us and resent us. They have a secret agenda--many of them, with a xenophobic, bure-blood, one-race-dream, too. In most cases, here, you are up against the most pre-modern, crotchety "city hall" there is besides that found in  Wahhabism, and, in older times it had a strict class system. So, prejudice is a deeply set part of the Korean consciousness. Young people will tell you it is changing; wrong; THEY are changing. To have their parents turn over a new leaf and accept you is possible, but requires the leverage of a crow bar.

But the biggest reason you will lose in an argument with your Korean girlfriend is, as her boyfriend, you have no power-status in her life. You are not a blood or marriage-relation. So, you are the one person she doesn't have to listen to, once upset or offended, which is very easy to do as Koreans have thin skin due to a system based on face, not equality, and the one person she doesn't have to respect, is one from "outside".

In her world, everyone older, richer, better educated, or situated, is her superior. She gets to arrogate with you, because you exist virtually as a non-person, traditionally-speaking. She is able to arrogate more with you, as a non-Korean, than even with a Korean child.

So you establish respect with unwavering kindness, flexibility, and boundaries. The last part is key.

Koreans are raised with iron-clad strictures. And they think we foreigners are casual and easy-come, easy-go, living without rules. Establish yours and do not bend, but don't punish, either--because your Korean girlfriend has had far too much of punishment, and you'll see how much when she ignores you; that's what happened to her, with her father, mother, and elder siblings (when they weren't screaming at her).

Instead of punishing, alter your interactive style. You don't engage when brow-beaten, ignored, or walked away from, and you stop extending invitations until she maturely decides to talk to you as an adult.

And when you do talk, talk responsibly. You explain your side once, clearly, briefly, and without excuse or apology, in a loving, firm way.

When apology is necessary, give a sincere one and offer no excuses. She can ask why you've done or haven't done something.

As far as dealing with a girl who needs cheering up; welcome to the former wife-beating capital of Asia, perhaps the world. If your girlfriend doesn't need (or doesn't think she needs) cheering up, you're not dating a Korean. Korean girls have very little freedom; thus the shallow, obsessive materialism, addictions to masturbation, alcohol, cigarettes, the procrastination, inability to manage time and physical directions, and the abusive behavioral patterns.

Cheer her up, but not at your expense.

Never let her tell you what to do.Though apparently cute and endearing at first, letting her tell you what to do (and expecting such from you) reinforces the totalitarian nature of her Confucian, position-and-status-run world; not helpful in preparing her for a healthy relationship with you and for the egalitarian world outside The Dae Han Min Gook Walls.

Let me know what uou feel, think, and do.

How to Know if You`re Really in Love

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Mando (Carl Atteniese Jr.)


I've read, thought, written, and taught about love for over eleven years. I've had thoughtful love-oriented relationships only--for about twenty-eight years. I struggle endlessly to be a supremely thoughtful, compassionate, fair, and empirical thinker. This is crucial. I believe in the feeling and process of love. This is also crucial. As an artist, a poet, and an essayist--as a teacher of ESL in other cultures--I have had ample opportunity for the analysis of love... personally and inter-culturally, and this has made my introspection and analysis of relationships--with original ideas and those of my favorite psychotherapists--very fruitful. I will tell you three things, which will help you now--before you even write to me: To have true love in yourself and with another, you must: 1. Be Free. 2. Be Adult. 3. Be Honest. 4. Be Disciplined. 5. Find numbers 3~5 easy, because you are overcome with love. 6. Be willing to do virtually anything reasonable (and many things unreasonable from the point of view of others).7. Never settle (in other words, be with someone you do not love), thinking that you will grow into love. 8. Never take a match made by another; your heart and mind must choose your love--period. 9. Never allow yourself to be put into temptation--ever (this is also natural--if you are in love). 10. Be able to listen like you never listened before--to yourself and to your beloved. 11. Love humanity--both the conditions & qualities, and all people.


I've been fortunate to have helped many people around the world and I love to do it. I will be happy to help you, too--no matter whom you are. If I am busy or unable to help you right away, consider these books to help you help yourself--until I can respond: "Being Happy", by Andrew Mathews; any books by Dr. Wayne Dyer; "The Art of Loving", by Dr. Erich Fromm; "Love", by Leo Buscaglia, "True Love", and "Anger", both by Thich Nhat Hanh. Also Read "The Beloved" and "The Prophet", both by Khalil Gibran. Read "The Road Less Traveled" and "People of The Lie", both by Dr. M. Scott Peck.... Learn more about me at

Amnesty International Partner of Conscience (, Union of Concerned Scientists ( and (htp://

Korea Herald (, New York Newsday, The Planetary Review, The Long Island Catholic, Wake Up And Laugh (, The Ocean And The Stars (, Cradle of The Universe (

Certificates in recognizing violence in the home and child abuse, in preventing violence in school. Raised with an emphasis on loving all people and to be politically active. Studied Zen at Hwa Gye Sa Temple, Han Maum Zen & Culture Center, and The Buddhist English Library of Seoul, in South Korea. Taught seventeen years in the US and South Korea. Teacher Training in the U.S. at Berlitz and the Center for English Studies, NYC, and at Inlingua, Princeton. Studied Drawing, Photography, and Painting at the School of Visual Arts, NYC, and basic Psychology at Nassau Community College, Long Island. Fifteen years of experience teaching English as a Second language--many of those years abroad--has helped as well, as people from other cultures help us see ourselves and other human beings in a different light.

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My reward is knowing I have helped people.

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I have taught and counseled people of all ages, experience-levels, professions and religions, and consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity and thankful to those who have shared with me. Every such interaction is a learning experience, and an opportunity for growth and improvement.

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