First, let me state for the record that I love my husband and have never regretted our marriage, although it’s been a rough road at times. He is compassionate, sweet, intuitive, a great dad, brave, and smart in all the ways that I am not smart. But we fight a lot. Like really, a lot. So for those of you who are viewing this through Facebook, that magical land of rainbows and unicorns and my-life-is-oh-so-perfect-all-the-time, and sweetheart-you-are-my-sun-moon-and-stars-and-our-marriage-is-pure-heaven, let me just get real for a minute:
WE FIGHT A LOT.
The thing is, my husband and I don’t speak the same language. No, really, I’m being literal. He’s Mexican. Like Celia Cruz, his English is not very good-looking, and like most of my gringo friends, my Spanish sounds like el crap-o.
When we were dating it was sweet. Like OMG, I’m learning SPANISH!!! He would cook me fajitas and quesadillas and margaritas (mostly margaritas) and we went out salsa dancing every weekend and we would fight and break up and get back together and it was dramatic and blissful. When he would text me things like “you get done work hourly today?” I thought it was cute and endearing.
But, as it turns out, when you have to manage a household and babies and full time jobs, constant miscommunication can actually be quite frustrating. (Shocking, I know.) So now when I get a text that says something like “the baby made a mas on the carpet,” I want to scream, “Learn to spell in English! And by the way, are you talking about poop, or food?”
Needless to say, we get frustrated with one another. We blame the other person, for everything. Somehow it becomes my fault that there’s a bottle of what was once milk under the couch that is now full of cheese and smells like dirty diapers. Or maybe that smell is actually coming from dirty diapers. Or maybe it’s the trash, or the dirty dishes. Who knows, our house always smells like that.
And clearly it’s his fault that our three year old screams “I WILL NEVER LISTEN TO YOU!” in the church narthex, or that he hit his sister in the cornea with a toy stethoscope the other day.
Then there are the “cultural” misunderstandings. I’m usually a pretty laid-back person but in the context of our marriage, I find myself obsessing over plans and goals in a very American way. And I find him always saying these very Mexican things that boil down to “let’s just go with the flow,” or “it’ll happen when it happens,” or “I’ll do that in a little while,” which could mean anything from 20 minutes to 46 days and it makes me think my head is going to explode.
The funny thing is, as more of my friends get married and have children I find them making the same complaints as I am. So I’m starting to think that some of this stuff is actually pretty universal. A couple of our main struggles include going the extra foot to put your clothes in the hamper instead of on the floor, and of course, the correct way to load the dishwasher (my lack of spatial intelligence apparently makes this difficult).
We also have a hard time with the division of labor, and the amount of time we spend together (or don’t spend together), and whose fault that is. These are not things that are going to drive us to a divorce, but they are things that cause real hurt. And that is where I would like to introduce my words of wisdom:
Don’t marry a Mexican.
I love being married to a Mexican man, mostly for the music and food, but also because Mexican culture stresses love for family, and church, and other things that I like. And all joking aside, being married to someone from a different world has forced us to learn how to see the other side of the story, understand the viewpoint of someone very different from ourselves, and learn how to find common ground and peace and most of all love when we are frustrated and perplexed. And it has been challenging, and often joyful, and really, don’t all couples have to do this to some extent? That’s the beauty of marriage – how it teaches us on an intimate level how to relate to someone outside of ourselves.
So back to the words of wisdom:
No matter how compatible you are, there will always be things that bother you about your spouse, and that’s partly because we are all different and partly because none of us is perfect. So I will dedicate this post to someone very special to me. No, not my husband obviously, I just spent the last 6 paragraphs talking about how he makes our house smell like diapers. But I will dedicate it to one of my best friends whose big day is swiftly approaching – the day when she will walk down the aisle to wed the love of her life.
There will come a day, my sweet friend, when he lets you down; When one of you says something thoughtless and hurts the other’s heart; When he, even he, will make you cry. Heck, you might even make him cry. And there may be a little seed that drills deep down into your gut telling you that maybe, just maybe, you married the wrong guy. But you just tell that little seed before it germinates that HEY THIS IS MY GUT, NOW GET OUTTA MY GUT, WHAT IS A SEED DOING IN THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE, I’M NOT A FREAKING BIRD.
Stop judging me, it’s late.
So what you might actually tell yourself is: this too shall pass, and nobody’s perfect. Though it may not always seem like it, there is a plan in place, and I can show him love even when I don’t feel like it. I can show him compassion when really I just want to slap him across the face. And when you do choose to show him love instead of annoyance, you’ll find that compassion breeds compassion. (It does – it’s science – I saw it on BRAIN GAMES).
And you’ll find that it does pass, and that you will both come out understanding grace, and true love, and peace that passes understanding much better than you ever imagined. So don’t expect it to always be a fairy tale. Don’t expect it to be Facebook-perfect. But do expect it to be something much better: a living, breathing picture of God’s grace in a flawed person showing unconditional, intimate love to another flawed person. And free yourself to experience the joy that comes from that powerful, lifelong love.
And I promise, no matter how much I complain about my husband’s less-than-awesome English and unusual housekeeping skills, I will do the same.
9 thoughts on “On Marriage, Mexicans, and Misunderstandings: I’m not a freaking bird.”
I have lived in that land of rainbows and unicorns for over 38 years and could not have said it better Emily.
Well, you guys are a good example for us, who have only been there for 4!
Hmm, I wonder if all men have a problem with the way their wives load the dishwasher; certainly happens at my house. To that I say: you better do it then since you do it correctly. I’ve read that division of labor is a major stress on a marriage. Husbands and wives have communication misunderstandings when they speak the same language so with two languages, twice the miscommunication I guess. There will be easy times and there will be hard times; such is life.
Yup, standard reply = you do it then! 🙂
Hi! I came across your blog through your comment on Jamie the VWM’s guest post contest. I, too, married an undocumented immigrant (from Guatemala). It’s so fun to read others’ stories about cross-cultural marriage and the unique challenges. (I also get some crazy text messages that I can only respond with a question mark. We’ve pretty much switched all communication to Voxer because chatting is easier than writing back and forth!) Anyway, I’m so glad I stumbled upon your blog. I write at http://www.alifewithsubtitles.com if you’re interested! 🙂
OH, i’m interested. Let’s be friends.
I am the Mexican and my husband the American, and after 11 years of marriage, I have the same experience about laundry and clothes on the floor instead of the hamper.
It is not just cultural, it is about “males”.
Of course some times the language barrier or miscommunication is present, but patience on both parties is the key to success.
You got that right 🙂 Love is patient!