by Rebekah Bled
I am American; Midwestern, in fact. Born in Kentucky, raised in Illinois and currently living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. My husband was born in France, raised in Uruguay and only heard of Tulsa when he moved here to marry me. We have a drawer with essential documents: three passports from three continents, a green card, immigration applications to France and the States, and pocket change from all over the world.
I guess you could say we have a cross-cultural relationship. Here are a few more examples:
On Saturdays I prepare Sunday school in English to teach to American high school students at FUMC, while my husband speaks in rapid Spanish to his mom in Uruguay, and later, to his brother in Brazil. During the recent Copa America we have streamed the games from Argentine and Uruguayan channels. I joke that when my husband passes, it will be from impassioned stress during a soccer game. “Football,” he corrects me, and agrees.
Christmas Eve in Uruguay is spent wearing tank tops, grilling, and watching fireworks as the clock strikes midnight. Christmas Eve in Tulsa is replete with ice storms, thick socks, hot chocolate and my favorite Christmas Blues album blaring.
The last New Years we spent in Uruguay, my husband handed me a pig kidney on a fork. The night before I had eaten marinated cow tongue. I was feeling stoic that day, but my stoic was his New Year’s standard.
Conversely, I can drive all day and all night, having grown up on endless road trips across this great big country. My husband’s stoicism comes out hour one million, when we are still only halfway there. But this is normal to me. I have my normal, he has his, and though we use the same language to reference what is, in our separate minds, the most natural thing in the world, the look on the other’s face tells us otherwise.
Our lives, before we tied them together forever in the covenant of marriage, were unequivocally different. We are from vastly different cultures, him and I.
But then, I bet you and your spouse are too.
No matter the contents of your “documents drawer”, you and your significant other are worlds apart some days, having come from different families, with perhaps startlingly different worldviews.
The big secret is this: Every relationship is cross-cultural.
If you and your spouse were born at the same hospital on the same day, grew up on the same block and dated since you were eleven, you are still in a cross-cultural relationship. There is a crossing of borders, some obvious and some invisible, that must happen for joyful long-term relationships.
So what do we do? How do we identify and cross these borders, into intimacy?
You are married to a fascinating person! Even if you have been married as long as you can remember, there are things you don’t know about your spouse. What are your spouse’s hopes and dreams? Not their goals, but their desires. What do they long and pray for after you fall asleep next to them? Ask and be ready to listen.
Do not hold back who you are. There is not one better, more exotic, smarter, etc. partner in a marriage, no matter where they or you are from. There are two vastly different people committed to walking and loving together, forever. This is a daily gift. Participate in the gift. Share who you are and who you hope to be with your spouse.
Celebrate who you married, where they come from, where you come from, and the fact that together you get to create a whole new normal.
Need a place to get a little help for your marriage? Try The Marriage Course.
Rebekah got her start in youth ministry at Christ Church in Montevideo, Uruguay and is now the Minister of Youth Discipleship at First United Methodist Church in Tulsa, OK. Rebekah is married to her soulmate, Philippe. Together they like to drink mate, play soccer with their dogs, and dream of traveling the world. Rebekah has read Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy six times.