I stand in awe of my husband. Sometimes I stand in frustration. At all times I stand in love.
My husband is an immigrant to the U.S. He is bilingual. He is biliteral. He is bicultural. He has overcome more difficulties than I can imagine. He truly comes from a world that is foreign to me.
Most of the time he seems just like me. White, middle class, educated … and then I see him interact with people from his home country, in their native language, and I am struck by the fact that he lives a dual life of sorts — and that with it he possesses a skill far beyond my understanding. He’s had experiences that I cannot fathom.
Sometimes that duality feels like a wall between us. Other times, I think that maybe I will never run out of things to learn about him.
Embarking on a second marriage is a huge risk. It is scary. Throw six kids into the mix and it is downright terrifying. There is so much at stake in creating a blended family. For those of us who have always dreamed of having a large loving family, but watched that dream die on our first attempt, it is a risk we have to take. I, for one, cannot let that dream slip away without giving my best effort to creating a successful marriage.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2 New International Version
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
1 Peter 4:8 New International Version
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
1 John 4:18 New International Version
My husband and I met where he worked and I lived. I’ve been mulling over how much to share about our history. I’ve concluded that since we are a blended family because of our romantic relationship, more details are better. 🙂
My husband was the maintenance man extraordinaire at the apartment complex I moved to when I left my ex. His duties included collecting all of the dumpsters and depositing the contents into the compactor. My parking space at my single mom digs was located near the trash compactor, so we saw each other a lot. Whenever he saw me he would smile and wave. I usually approached him to chat. There was something soothing and comforting about his demeanor. I enjoyed listening to him talk about his daughters. His fatherly pride and love for them impressed me.
I remember nearly every detail of each of our “chance” meetings. I say “chance” because I would often take my preschool aged son out for a walk, hoping I would run into him. And he reciprocated. Whenever he drove by in the maintenance vehicle he would pull over to talk to me. When I brought my trash out he would declare a smoke break so we could chat. I always made sure that I stood up-wind. It was strange, really. Me, a self-professed germaphobe who gagged at the slightest whiff of cigarette smoke, hanging out by open dumpsters to talk to a cigarette smoking man.
He had really caught me.
Next time, I will tell you why.
Only half of my husband’s family speaks English.
Have I mentioned that I am only proficient in English?
Differing gender role expectations.
Have I mentioned that in my 20s I was a self described radical feminist?
Let’s tackle the language challenge first. My husband is biliteral, not just bilingual. A biliteral person is proficient in speaking, reading, and writing more than one language. I knew him for months before I became aware that he was from another country. No kidding. It’s true! And when the person told me, I didn’t believe her.
When we started dating I was not made aware that many of his family members did not speak English. In fact, I believe we were driving to his sisters’ house when he mentioned in passing that she was just starting English language classes. Did I feel awkward when I met her? Yes. Was I worried that he would think I didn’t fit in because of the language barrier? Yes. To a certain extent the language barrier has been a problem.
It has also been a blessing. There have been times when I just felt like spacing out. Since I don’t speak the other language no one expects me to follow the conversation. I also stink at casual conversation and chit chat. No worries there! No one expects me to be chatty. I tend to be shy and a bit of a wallflower. Ahh! Being ignorant of the language suits me perfectly.
And then there are the times when it really stinks. Like when I met my mother in law. I could only say that I was pleased to meet her. After that we were not able to communicate. I spent a lot of time smiling and nodding. I’d like to say that my husband did an excellent job of translating for us, but he didn’t. And still doesn’t. Over time, and with a little study, I have gotten to the point where I can identify about 25% of a conversation. However, I still cannot participate and I am still struggling to learn the language. I am looking forward to the day when I can hold my own in a conversation. Then I will feel like I am really a part of the family.
We’ll tackle gender roles next time …