I just lost a huge response online. You have a culture clash--perhaps in part because it didn't do either YOU or YOUR MOTHER any good to obey your father. So you're guilty of UnVietnamese Activities when you do not obey your boyfriend, also known as Americanization or "Women's Lib." For a traditional man, when a woman disobeys him he could argue with her. But it's well known among men that women are far better at ARGUING than men are, in fact QUARRELSOMENESS is the most common complaint of husbands about their wives in cultures in many parts of the world.
Since I've been able to sneak up on many men who were discussing this widespread problem, I've learned that these are the main issues involved in such couple
relationships: If a man gets into an argument with a woman over something she's
done that he considers disobedient and thus WRONG, she should not defend herself. But if she does defend herself, she frequently pays no attention to the logical arguments against her action, because emotions are not logical, unless he, the man, actually feels the same thing, or quickly realizes that he would feel the same thing in the same situation. But women don't care whether their arguments are logical or not, that is logical with the logic that the man involved would be using at the same time. But they don't give up, and don't stop feeling their own emotions just because a man says they shouldn't feel what they feel. If they persist in emotional arguments, their intensity will become INFECTIOUS and the man will get intensely upset.
If this INFECTION is beginning to cause a fever in the man, he has only 2 choices:
1. beat her up in order to make her shut up-but that's illegal in USA, and far too many women know it; and 2. withdraw his energy from the relationship and punish her that way for her misdeeds. This way has the tremendous advantage of relieving him of the necessity of convincing her by his own logic (which, unfortunately, is based on his own emotional issues in the situation and has little to do with HER emotional issues). So he doesn't have to argue with her, since his withdrawal and silence passes the judgment that she's WRONG and has disobeyed him. Now he has a chance to recover his normal polite face, while she knows that she's being punished, so she flipflops back and forth between anger that he's avoiding her, and sorrow that she can't be with him with the light of his "so-friendly-to-women-eyes" shining onto her like an admiring mother, and even fear that maybe this time he won't want to take her back.
But you've written that each time you initiate contact, and apparently propose a
resolution, the problem gets solved. So apparently when he's had time to get over his own (womanly) emotions, he's willing to understand what moved you and make some short-form resolution-statement so both of you can resume being together.
So try this: Make a list of "the problem" that was the conflict each time when he
withdrew and waited until you pushed the communication open again. You sense
when he's too "irrational" ("womanly") to be able to discuss a resolution, and
that's when you feel abandoned, because you don't feel like pushing against his
Now the value of long term relationships is that you get to keep revisiting the same problems over and over again, so you can get a little better at reaching acceptable resolutions, and YOU CAN GET USED TO BEING UNCOMFORTABLE FOR A WHILE BEFORE MAKING THE BRIDGE BACK INTO COMFORT AND HARMONY.
So forget for the time being that you're trying to outlaw his withdrawal time, or
force him to be the one to reopen communication first at least ONCE, to show
you that he won't hold back until you slip the note under his door first EVERY
Make a 4 column list with "the problem" or "the trigger for his withdrawal" in each incident so far in column one. In the second column, list what you did to move towards resolution; in the third column, what the resolution was: his contribution; fourth column, your contribution.
Each cycle of conflict could be setting a precedent for later issues. What precedents have you set so far? What precedents has he set? You can write to me by my other address and attach the list with the columns. Once you have the list with its precedents, you can write him an email that lists the progress you have made so far on the relationship problems you've run into that make him upset enough to pull back into withdrawal and Silence. I'll help you.
Then you can write him also, that you can sense how upset he must be to pull back
into silence, and how you hold back from calling or writing him at those times because you don't want to hurt his feelings even more and you don't want him to
lash out or just remain silent and hurt your feelings even more than his Silence is already hurting your feelings. So one GIFT he could give you that would be every bit as wonderful as anything he has ever bought for you would be for him to write to you FIRST and explain a little of what he was thinking when he pulled back and didn't say anything to you. Explain that you always end up speaking or writing to him first, in spite of being afraid that he's going to bite your head off for intruding when he's not ready to communicate, because you miss him so much, and knowing that he still cares about you is WAY more important than who was right or wrong in the conflict that drove you apart. So you're still willing to write FIRST most of the time to explain what made you do what obviously bothered him; but you'd love to have him surprise you by writing first ONCE, because you'd be overjoyed to think that maybe he misses you as much as you miss him.
[In actual fact, he might be slower to write you NOT JUST because he doesn't have
much practice at knowing what to say or write, but also because he has so many
more people in his life that want his attention, including not only family but also many many students-so he isn't alone in his person-to-person relationships anywhere near as much as you are. When you're a teacher, you have so many other people (and in his case a mother too) approaching YOU that want relating from you, that you don't have to learn how to approach the people you want to relate to-so you'll naturally want them to do most of the approaching just as everybody else approaches you when they need something.]
So you see, what I'm saying here is NOT that it's awful that you have had to write him first 3 times, because in my 29 year relationship I've had to write or speak first maybe 25-50 times and my wife's had to write or speak first a whole lot of times too (of course we're both Americans, so pretty likely to commit Americanized Activities). And your boyfriend's split loyalties between your need for closeness and harmony with him and his mother's need for closeness and harmony from him are not going to resolve 100% in your favor either, though 90% would be a desirable goal for an American man and 75% for a Vietnamese man. By getting a clear summary of what the conflicts have been and what the steps and compromises in resolution have been, you can show yourself and then him that the goal of long term relationship is not a rigid obedience to rules system (sorry Vietnam) but an acceptance of some discomfort and recognition of what each of you wants and mutual rejoicing that you are slowly making some progress towards better ways of dealing with these differences that don't have to be hidden, denied or eliminated for you to be happy with each other.