My Maturing, Multicultural Marriage

B and I have been married for over 5 years this past July and our marriage has been a journey. As in all marriages, there have been ups and downs, but because we are the people we are, we’ve constantly pushed each other to grow as individuals and that makes our relationship much stronger.

We question everything about our own behaviors because we are trying our very best to take responsibility for our thoughts, actions, and emotional responses. Neither of us wants to go through life just behaving according to our childhood conditioning. We’re both lucky to be with a spouse who looks at these issues the same way. We are both very individualistic and independent, and it’s nice to have these things in common. We give each other the space to carry our cultural differences while being interested in sharing them with the other.

When we do have arguments or issues, we’re realizing the core of these issues typically just boils down to being raised in different families. I think that’s normal in any long-term, live-in relationship. Different families just do certain things differently. At this point in our marriage, we’re realizing (mostly) which issues are worth mentioning and which are worth letting go. There are still some things I do which really irritate B, and vice versa, but we generally can decipher which are important and which are not. We are also taking hard looks at why we do what we do, where our viewpoints on certain issues come from, and how to use our respective cultural habits for good or which to leave them behind. For example, we ask ourselves, “Do I do x this way just because my family did or is there a better way?”

The fact that we come from such drastically different places in the world doesn’t seem so new or important to us anymore. We’ve settled into a sort of homeostasis where we do some American things, some Bengali/Indian things, or we don’t. We’ve done a lot of emotional work that has helped us lighten the load of our baggage we carried into our relationship at first. It takes work to make any relationship grow. We’ve been committed, from the very start, to growing as individuals and helping the other person to grow as well.

Our multicultural roots and interests generally do still manifest in our lives, but these days it’s typically relating to food. We spend much of our free time eating, cooking, or talking about food. We have been interested in traditional recipes from all over the world recently and will probably continue to cook old fashioned foods and soups as cooler weather comes.

I have been thinking for a while that I don’t have anything new to add to this blog because the issues we deal with as a couple these days don’t really have much to do with our cultural differences, but with regular ole marriage and relationship growing pains. I have considered deleting this blog, but since I put so much effort into it and it may help other people going through something similar, I will keep it live. Maybe I’ll just post when something strikes me.

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My Indian In-Laws are Here!

When a family grows, it usually happens gradually, by one or two people at a time. Maybe it gains a child or a set of in-laws. Under normal circumstances, the family has time to prepare and understand most of the challenges that will come along with the new addition. They buy the things they will need, they arrange the living space, and they mentally prepare for their lifestyle to change. Obviously, there will always be unexpected issues that arise and unforeseen things that need to be adjusted.

The point is that most people don’t wake up one day with five new family members all at once in their house for the very first time.

Most of my husband’s immediate family is here for a visit with us. This includes his parents, one of his sisters, and her husband and son. They are all from India, but the sister and her family currently live in Dubai. Our house went from being evenly divided between Indian and American to having a strong Indian majority.

Luckily, my husband and I have been preparing for this visit for quite a while. We’ve planned our approaches for navigating many cultural differences and methods for how to accommodate this number of people in our two-bedroom house. We’ve even tried to collect some magazines and brochures for the adults and some activities and toys for the child. We’ve also made our master suite a kind of getaway for ourselves when, not if, we need some quiet, alone time.

Our visitors have been here for a week so far and I am just now able to sit down to write about it all. It has all been kind of a blur of cooking, cleaning, organizing, talking, translating, laughing, crying, then cooking and cleaning some more.

One thing that has happened so far is that for a split second, I forgot I was sitting at my dining table in my own home. We were all seven sitting around our dining table eating and everyone else was speaking Bengali. I was listening, trying to pick out some of the words I know, while thinking that I wanted a second helping of the pulao. I wondered for a split second if these people would mind if I ate some more of their food, since I was a guest in their house. I momentarily forgot that it was at my house and I had even cooked the pulao!

I am gathering more of my thoughts and plan on writing some honest posts about what it is like for me, an American, to host all these Indians. We’ll laugh, we’ll cry, and we’ll definitely talk about the food!

Why Good Community is Hard to Find

I was walking in our town one day recently and, with it being winter, there are fewer animals around right now. I was walking past some houses and saw something move out of the corner of my eye and looked to see a sizable hawk with some prey in its claws. The hawk was sitting on the railing of someone’s deck, holding down its small prey, carefully balancing itself against the wind, since it was a gusty day. I stood and watched the hawk eating because I was curious about what kind of animal it had managed to catch.

I thought it might be some small rodent, in fact I hoped it. We like to think that if something has to die, it might at well be something we consider as a pest. I was a few yards away, so things weren’t as clear as I wished, but I didn’t move closer for fear that the hawk would fly away and I wouldn’t get to see what it was eating. After a few minutes of it tearing at the small animal with its beak, I noticed that the hawk was pulling out the animal’s feathers to get to the meat. As the small light-colored feathers fell much like snow onto the ground, I felt surprised and a little sad that the hawk was eating another bird. One of its own kind. As I began to walk back home, I considered my sadness and wondered why I felt sad? This was just nature, right?

It made me think about community and how we crave it. We desire to meet up and spend time with like-minded people so we sacrifice our time and sometimes money to be a part of a group or organization. But many times within those groups, we end up, consciously or not, looking for ways to tear those other people down. Or trying to find ways to make ourselves look better than the other people in the group. Competition is a huge driving force in nature. Many times, communities break down and fail due to individuals being unwilling to set aside that primal thing called ego and work for the greater good. Of course, in nature there are the groups that are blood relatives that stick together and take actions based on what would be better for the survival of the group, but those in the group didn’t necessarily choose to be born into that group. I’m just considering groups of unrelated people, like social, religious, and groups related to specific interests.

The best kind of community, a truly loving, encouraging, lift-others-up and diverse kind is very hard to begin and maintain because it doesn’t exist in nature. And going against nature is a very challenging thing to do. Look at all the families who had a “surprise” baby. Look at all the people who don’t want children and have to deal with the challenges that come along with the hormone fluctuations every single month, not to mention pressures from other people in their lives. Look at churches and religious organizations that are struggling to maintain active membership. Look at all the groups and organizations that spend so much time, effort and money on outreach.

I don’t have any suggestions or thoughts right now on how to build and maintain communities. I don’t have anything else to offer at this moment other than this.

Good community is hard to find because it’s a bird eat bird world out here.

The Things That Keep Us Up at Night

My husband and I have been married for almost three and a half years now. We have gotten to know each other pretty well and have talked about a myriad of things over the years. We’ve been through a few different stages in our relationship and have moved to different houses and states. I would say we have grown up and grown together a great deal since we first were getting to know each other.

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know that we are from different countries and grew up speaking different languages. Clear communication continues to be a challenge at times, just like in any other normal relationship, honestly. If you are in a relationship with someone who isn’t exactly like you, you’ve probably experienced something like this:

You both usually try to go to bed at a decent time. You cook, eat, clean up, get ready for bed and are feeling good about your time management today. You’re about to get plenty of rest. Then it happens.

One of you brings up some topic that’s been bouncing around in your head, keeping you from falling asleep. You start talking. You each talk about your opinion of the issue, why it is the way it is, you reach some common ground and then you hear it: the mispronounced word.

You try to ignore it because you know it’s not a big deal, you still understand what the other person is getting at. You start itching to clear up the mispronunciation because you want your spouse to clearly communicate with the rest of the people he or she may interact with other than just you. But it’s no big deal, it’s no big deal, it’s no big deal…

Finally, you can’t hold it in any longer and you blurt out, “It’s warm, not worm!”

What!?

This leads to a back-and-forth pronunciation game where one of you keeps saying it wrong, or not being able to hear the difference between the two. You argue about it then you laugh about it. Then you remind each other that this is one of the charms of your relationship. This is one of the things you love and cherish about being married to someone from a totally different culture than yours.

Then you realize it’s 3:00am and you have work in the morning. Yay.

“The True Genius…”

I’ve always liked the quote by Edgar Allan Poe, “The true genius shudders at incompleteness, and usually prefers silence to saying something which is not everything it should be”.

Not that I’m a true genius, or that my upcoming post will be everything it should be, but I am still writing! It’s been a long time, and I could make many excuses why, but I will give you something good really soon.

I’m doing a lot of growing at this stage in my life, but haven’t had the time to sit down and get it all on the screen.