Monday, November 11, 2013

Communication with a Dominican Man

I receive lots of emails and have lots of chats with ladies who have a Dominican boyfriend or husband. There is one common denominator in that there tends to be communication problems and the woman often does not understand their man’s behaviour. This is usually the case when they are not physically together and when communication is made from a distance – phone, texts, skype whatever. However, as I receive so many emails I can see there is a common thread in all of them – both appear to want or need something different from the relationship. The women want love, affection, reassurance and the men usually want ‘things’ and to talk about their problems. I know this is not true of all Dominican men - but obviously the only people who write to me are the ones who are having issues with their relationship.

So when mulling this over and trying to understand this, I remembered studying this chap Maslow.

Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist and he wrote a paper in 1943 called ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’ and then a book, which suggests that people have to fill certain needs and wants before they can move on to the next stage of needs and wants. He described it in terms of a pyramid.

The lowest levels of the pyramid are made up of the most basic needs, while the more complex needs are located at the top of the pyramid.

There are five different levels in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:

Physiological Needs
These are the most basic needs that are vital to survival, such as the need for water, air, food, and sleep. Maslow says that all needs become secondary until these physiological needs are met. Given the level of poverty in the DR, which is around 80%,  many Dominican try hard to satisfy this level with many not knowing where the next meal is coming from.Those that work in hotels do not have this problem with food, but often their families do and they will be under pressure to help the family out. Sleep, however, does not appear to be an issue – I have never known a Dominican unable to sleep anywhere or anytime. Maslow's premise is that people cannot worry about emotional needs until these physiological needs are a given. How many people from first world countries worry about where the food will come from?

Danilo asleep on a river outing

Security Needs
These include needs for safety and security. Examples of security needs include a desire for steady employment, health care, safe neighbourhoods, and shelter. Official unemployment figures in the DR are around 16% but higher among younger people. Many work in the unofficial labour market. Health care is sporadic, although the social security system is improving, but if you or a member of your family are sick it can put a tremendous strain on resources.

Social Needs
These include needs for belonging, love, and affection. Maslow says that until the two basic needs at the bottom of the pyramid are met, then people cannot start worrying about social needs and for many Dominicans these are met by their own family as most families are very close. The foreign ladies who come here, however, and have relationships with Dominican men don’t have to worry about food or shelter or jobs or healthcare as they usually are a given. They come looking for love and affection and whilst the Dominican man can talk the talk and give that for a week or two, once the lady goes home then they are back to the bottom of the pyramid and meeting their physiological and security needs are more important.

Esteem Needs
After the first three needs have been satisfied, esteem needs becomes increasingly important. These include the need for things that reflect on self-esteem, personal worth, social recognition, and accomplishment. Again these are all wanted by the females from abroad. Dominican men are superb in boosting your self esteem but their need for social recognition tends to be met by having the latest iPhone or the latest brand of sneakers.

Self-actualizing Needs
This is the highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Self-actualizing people are self-aware, concerned with personal growth, less concerned with the opinions of others, and interested fulfilling their potential.

Many people say that Maslow’s triangle and his hierarchy of needs cannot be proved, especially the top one, self actualization.

However, I thought it was an interesting way to look at how the cultural differences play out in long distance relationships. I would be interested to know what anyone thinks – especially those of you who are involved in a relationship with a Dominican man. To be honest I think this might be true for all relationships or friendships between first and third world cultures - that the lack of comprehension of each other's way of thinking or doing is due to where you are in Maslow's triangle.


  1. This is so interesting, Lindsey, I used to post Maslow's model on our website for the orphanage we help in Haiti, as it seemed perfectly to help me understand some of the communication challenges I was having in that Ministry. I took it off in the end as it seemed a bit too academic for our purposes, but I still think it covers it all. I have never thought about it in terms of communication with Fray, my husband of nine years, but I guess it could be applied there, too.

    I have just finished the chapter in your book of when you were shot. All the time I was thinking that God had a reason for saving you because no human being should have survived that ordeal. I guess one of your purposes is to help people in cross cultural relationships to have a bit more understanding of what is going on. Thank you!

  2. Thank you Linda - I am glad you found the post interesting. I am also pleased you are reading the book, and many people say that God had a reason for saving me. In fact one of the most challenging times after the shooting, and it still is, is trying to work out why! Maybe you are right re the cross cultural relationships - it is certainly very interesting to understand the differences and to make the relationships work.

  3. This made so much sense to me. I am involved with a guy from the Dominican Republic and this explains so much to me. Thanks for your blog.

    1. Thank you so much for letting me know it made sense. Glad you enjoy the blog. Shameless plug - if you like the blog and you are involved with a man from the DR please do read the book. I know you will love it.

    2. Thank you! I really hope you enjoy it and please do let me know what you think.

  4. A few of my nephew's Dominican relatives have tried to flirt with me after they find out I am fluent in Spanish. Some of them are 30 years younger than me putting a whole new meaning to being a cougar. But I lived in Mexico for several years and managed to keep my head, heart, and money so I think I can deal with a Dominican man. However, that doesn't mean that I can't drool over a fine looking man like Hector.

    1. I will try and find a replacement for Hector to photograph for you Rita.