A Victory from a Cultural Growth Standpoint

This post requires a little background information.

I am originally from a small, conservative, rural town where people tend to generally stick with people who are like themselves. This means that white people stick with other white people, and any other type of people stick with the same. It’s just the way things have been for a really long time and people in that community are sometimes slow to accept change and step outside their comfort zones. I’m not saying anything bad about anyone in particular, just making a generalization based on the fact that I grew up there for 17-ish years. I know this scenario to be true for a lot of people.

I am a white American girl married to a brown Indian man. He’s not white or anywhere close to it. In fact, there are plenty of people of African descent who have lighter skin than he does. My parents and my brother did not get to choose who I brought into the family. They did not ask for any other color to be added to their family tree. They did not ask to be expected to learn a little about a culture originating half a world away. But this is their reality now. And I’m very proud of them for accepting us as a couple and treating B just like a family member. B has been “redneckified” (as my brother says) on many different occasions, whether it was shooting shotguns in the yard, running across hay bales, or whatever activities were included in our visits to my parents’ house.

All this to say that my parents and brother have gone above and beyond and have proven themselves to be better people than a lot of their peers. I secretly hoped that me marrying B would help them get a little more comfortable with other cultures and a little more culturally aware. (I hope you guys aren’t offended…!) I felt the need to help them expand their horizons a little, simply because I have learned a lot by doing so myself.

My brother (J) and B have gotten along really well since before B and I got married. J recently went off to college, two states away from me, and I have only been able to talk on the phone with him twice since he left. One of those times was yesterday. We talked about how he’s adjusting, what’s going on with his classes so far, etc. At the end of our conversation, he told me that there is an Indian in his program. This was a bit unexpected for both of us since J’s program is not one you would typically expect Indians to be in. J told me this guy wore a turban and had a beard, so I explained to him that the guy could be a follower of the Sikh religion and told him why Sikhs usually have beards and turbans. He said that made sense. Then he said this:

“I may go up and talk to him next time I see him and tell him my brother-in-law is Indian, too.”

It’s difficult for me to explain all that I feel about this statement, but suffice it to say that I am proud to see this type of response from my brother. I’m happy for him to feel comfortable enough to approach someone different from himself with the intention to find some common ground and have a conversation. It makes me feel that having brought someone different into the family may be encouraging the type of growth I hoped it would. Obviously I’ll always hope for more growth and awareness as time goes by, but this little tidbit encouraged me immensely. I’m always up for helping people become comfortable with other types of people, and this is one good thing that can come out of multicultural marriage.

Accepting that there are different kinds of people and realizing it’s okay is essential to thrive in today’s world. The fact that people from over 25 different countries all over the globe are seeing a blog written by one little American girl living in South Carolina says so much about globalization. People can’t just live in their little comfortable bubbles anymore. I’m very happy that my family lives their lives these days with more cultural awareness than they did before. Getting out of your comfort zone is essential for growth, whether you step out on your own, or if you are pushed out. 🙂

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Celebrating One Year of Marriage!

B and I reached the one year (!) of marriage milestone at the end of July and we celebrated by reflecting on how far we’ve come as a couple and as individuals over the past year. We also spent some time being thankful for all of the people in our lives who have helped make us who we are today. This type of “celebrating” may not be the most traditional thing to do for a first anniversary, but we felt it was important for the type of relationship dynamic we strive to maintain.

Our reflections brought us to a major conclusion that I don’t think many people realize: The person you fall in love with initially and the person you are married to after any significant amount of time are different people. This is an interesting marriage/relationship-related phenomenon.

I can tell you for sure that I have definitely changed since I’ve been in a relationship with B. Some of the changes I attribute to simply growing up a little more along this short journey. Many I attribute to the fact that we have been constantly trying to better ourselves as individuals since we have been together. Take note, however, that I am still me. I may be even more myself than I was before. How could that be, you ask? I’ll tell you.

Since B and I have been close (which is only really about two years), we’ve talked about everything. I mean EVERYTHING. The good, the bad, the easy, and the really really hard things. We make a conscious effort to fully explain ourselves and fully understand each other. We believe this is the best way to have a successful relationship and we’ve tried to follow this method since the beginning. Clear communication is the key to our marriage. This is even more essential for us because we come from two completely different cultures. Like my earlier post says, an intercultural marriage really is a “Lifetime of Explanations“. (Not complaining, just saying…)

Some people, ladies especially, have asked me how we manage to be so happy and have no drama as a couple. This is absolutely my answer. When you are constantly trying to understand yourself so you can explain yourself honestly to another person, you have to really get to know what makes you who you are. Over the time I’ve spent with B, I’ve gotten to know myself so much better than I had before. And, for the most part, I am unapologetic about who I am these days. I have gained loads of confidence that I never had because I am realizing that I am valuable. I have also started being more able to manage my emotions than before. And I’ve learned to be more comfortable confronting people when I need to. I was previously very uncomfortable with confrontation and would bottle everything up inside of me in order to avoid it. I have started learning that this is usually not the best way to handle things.

It is a very big deal for a woman who has struggled with confidence issues to say that she is now realizing her worth. It is amazing the transformation that can take place in someone when he starts to be honest with himself about himself. Because I have started to accept who I am, I am learning how to better function in my partnership with B. My role in our relationship is becoming more and more clear. I am more and more at peace with myself as the time goes by. This is amazing to me. I did not anticipate this much change when we were first married, but I believe it might be one of the best “side-effects” of being married.

I’ve clearly done a good deal of changing since we’ve been together, but B has changed a lot as well. He’s now a much more patient person and less quick to get angry. He is becoming a more mature man who tends to think before he reacts to things. I am very much proud to call this man my husband and to have been married to him for more than a year. I would say we’ve both helped to change each other for the better, even though we were very much in love with each other before all these changes started happening.

People sometimes don’t realize that once you find “the one”, the journey is not over; it’s just begun. Here’s to many more years together, B! Cheers.