I said that I would continue my post about the issues that Luis and I find ourselves in, often. And so here I go. I am not a exhibitionist nor do I have ‘relative’ boundaries, quite the contrary actually. I prefer Capri’s to shorts and I am of German heritage. (ooo, interesting, I have written that and erased it a couple of times. I have my view of what being German means, but now that I have native German readers, I am shy about making any sweeping generalities….and we tend to do that about our heritage here in the States) Anyway, my point here is that it is not my custom to say a lot about anything and I have struggled for some time with even the idea of writing posts on this subject.
But I have decided to do it because I think if we are to have any hope of harmony in this world, we need to be willing to talk with one another about that with which we don’t understand or agree. In this case, what is happening in a marriage. It is my tendency to extrapolate from seemingly minor dynamics the seed of something grand, so we’ll see how this ‘big bite’ works. I have found that leaps of abstraction can work well in the context of motivational speeches, the jury is still out on how functional they are when trying to wade through the minutia of who said what, and what was really meant by it. Ooo, already deep and mucky, I hope you all are still with me here.
To the dynamic between Luis and I. We have what every married or ‘co-habbing’ couple have together first of all. In the largest sense it is the challenge to fine tune our individual rhythm of living with that of the other. The coordination of our sleep/wake cycles, general level of energy, expressing and coordinating our personal interests and passions, our idea of work/leisure, where and how and when money is spent, our sense of personal order in our environment, the role extended family play in our lives together, you get the idea…..the rythm is made up of everything that each of us hold as values or habits or comforts that make us who we are. These complete packages have to find their way to coexist. In fact even the concept of ‘coexisting’ becomes a topic for discussion or worse the undefined or unconscious place from where each of us come to do battle with the other. You know what I mean, too often we are not even aware of why we are fighting or what we are fighting for. We learn about our own values and non-negociables over time and around discussions in the context of trying to blend our life with another. We have all seen friendships come and go for this reason, our relationships with employers end, our association with clubs or groups terminate and for some of us, marriages dissolve.
Thankfully Luis and I talked about what our ideas of coexisting were in the beginning. So we had a place more or less defined from where we would find our common ground with one another, most importantly during the tumultuous times. Every couple need their ‘green zone’. A place they can go to together that is safe.
In the case of Luis and I, we both believed in and wanted to be contaminated by the other. We dared ourselves to expand with the influence of the other. The idea of blending cultures with a successful outcome had the lure of adventure and challenge and daring that appealed to each of us. As we began to compare our histories we could see that this attraction to the unknown was not an uncommon way we approached our lives prior to meeting one another.
Now there is culture and there is culture. One could argue that family cultures within the same nationality or race can be different enough to be fertile ground for all kinds of misunderstandings etc. And they would be right. So the level of culture coordination that has to be done between two people of different nationalities or races, well, where does one start to even identify or define it? Luis and I match up pretty well, relatively speaking and factoring in the equivalences between our lives within our own cultures. We both grew up middle class, our father’s were self-employed, church life was important, education was valued, our families lived on close budgets, etc.
How these elements played themselves out in our lives however were more defined by the values, traditions, histories, current political/social events of our respective countries and how they were expressed in our respective language.
Words in one language do not always equal words in another. We might use the word our dictionary says is the definition or the synonym of the word we want to use, but our respective culture can reek havoc on what is communicated by using that word. Luis was fond of saying for instance, “I am so happy with her.” , when he talked about me with his family. I had a lot of trouble with this statement because it felt like an valuation of me. “I am happy with my car.” “I am happy with my job.” etc. It took me a long time to realize that what he meant to say, he needed a verb to communicate. “I am so happy being with her.”
In this small seemingly insignificant example lies a universe filled with land mines. We had to learn quickly and we have to remind ourselves regularly that we need to take the time it takes to sort out and through what the other intends to say through the words they choose. Most times we will discover that there is a subtlety in the language that could easily bring down the unsuspecting passer-by. Sometimes we will discover that our life experiences were so different that we just can’t imagine what the other is talking about. But what we always do when these things come to threaten us is go back to our original pact with one another, we retreat to our “green zone”. From there we begin to find comfort in the strange and expanded new selves we are growing to be. With each pang of individual growth we fortify our relationship. When we recognize that this has occurred we get all gooey about how what we are doing between one another can maybe be done between waring factions within nations and maybe can even be extrapolated and applied to nations and their neighbors.
Altruism, romanticism, naivety aside we want the thrill of First Love to live on in our relationship and we have recognized that whether it is ‘us’ we want to preserve, or our passion for the others culture or language, we need to be alert to the first signs of disillusionment and misunderstanding. Then we need to retreat to the sweet luring inspirational roots of our First Love. With this foundation in place, and as our guiding template, we take the next step into the unknown together. There might be trouble in paradise every now and then, but I would have no other paradise! Que les encuentren en paradiso también. – Joan
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