The Arab/American marriage six years later

It’s difficult for me to believe we’ve been married for six years. And it’s even more difficult for me to refer to us as the ‘Arab/American’ couple.

Life for T and me is pretty much exactly what it was last year at this time… and the year before and the year before. Our cultural differences are quite minimal at this point. We’re a typical married couple living a very American life. If anything has changed it’s how close we’ve become and how much we rely on one another to truly be there and I like to believe we’re not letting one another down in that department.

Last year was a whirlwind of medical issues for me ranging from a medical malpractice issue (anyone knows a good Attorney?) to almost a year of just not feeling like myself. Like literally, I remembered the old me but had no clue how to find her again. I’m still struggling a bit, but have recently been diagnosed with Post Sepsis Syndrome which at least offers answers. My short term memory isn’t what it was before the surgical fiasco and I struggle daily with anxiety, mild depression, and all over muscle aches, but I am slowly getting better. And best of all, I’m not doing this alone. If it weren’t for the patience of my husband and him reminding me I’m not alone, I would have probably had a complete breakdown by now.

A little over a month ago we had to make the painful decision to have our precious Sultana (dog) put to sleep. She was suffering from a severe case of pancreatitis, diabetes, and a suspected long-term endocrine disorder. Her prognosis was poor. From the day she came to us from Kuwait, we had promised her she would never ever feel pain or suffer again as long she lived. In the end, we knew it was right to keep our promise to her. The decision was heartbreaking for both of us and to this day we still cry. However, we’re both slowly healing, focusing on our other pets (3 dogs/3 cats), and giving them all the love we possibly can.

When I first met my husband years ago in Kuwait our ‘dating’ was very brief at best. There was something about us that clicked. Something inside of me knew he was the person I had always hoped to find and I suppose something about me felt the same for him. Within weeks we were married and neither of us has looked back. We’ve gone through major life changes together; international relocation, families intertwining, cultural differences, home buying, businesses, jobs, as well as the things I’ve mentioned above, but we seem to do it with each other’s best interest at heart. I suppose that’s what any relationship should be, and it’s definitely been one of the things that keep us together.

Our marriage today looks absolutely nothing like it did in the first weeks, months, or even years. It’s ever-changing and evolving like everything else in life. But, for now, it appears as though it’s changed for the better. Don’t get me wrong; we’re not perfect. We argue and disagree like everyone else but we don’t hold onto those arguments. Or at least I don’t. He’s not as expressive so while I assume he’s not holding a grudge he might be visiting with the divorce Lawyer and I’m blissfully unaware.

Referring to him as ‘Arab’ and me as ‘American’ feels a bit silly at this point. I can’t look at anything in his life or how he lives and say, “Yes! That’s the Arab in him” and the same goes for me being an American. Our lives have completely meshed, and what might have seemed like different cultures in the past just feels like ‘life’ now.

For now, we’re both looking forward to Fall weather. I’ve started to invest a lot more time in photography as a way to clear my head. Not sure I’m any better at it, but I certainly enjoy it. As the weather gets cooler we seek out outdoor dining options once a week and find new places to walk afterward so I can take photos. I think he understands it’s therapeutic for me and he enjoys the walk.

Our big holiday of the year is Thanksgiving and we’re already planning for that. We host at our home every year and both his family (brothers studying here in America) and mine come for dinner. He always helps me cook and we always make far too much food, but it’s great to have everyone together for the day. Exhausting but wonderful.

I’m not sure when, or if, I’ll blog again. Sometimes I wish I could get back to it regularly, other times I want to make the entire thing private and turn it into my personal journal. Writing has always been my outlet and has allowed me to vent things I might not otherwise discuss. It’s been a method of sharing, growing, and healing when things were painful. Now, while dealing with my personal psychological changes, I don’t feel I can find words the way I once did. It’s almost a chore to put a sentence together and make it appear coherent. I feel as though my writing has become fragmented and without emotion. Stepping away and giving myself more time to overcome this battle might allow me to find me again. Here’s hoping.

The Arab/American Marriage; many years later

My initial ‘Arab/American Marriage‘ post was in August 2012 and I’ve tried to provide an update each year since.

While reading over my original post I realize not a lot has changed other than our geographical location. We move to America in 2013 and haven’t looked back. For the first several months I’m sure I experienced far more culture shock and missed Kuwait much more than my husband did. I looked forward to the visits back and had even continued to remind him we should probably consider moving back one day. Well, that’s no longer the case.

After overcoming my missing of Kuwait (which didn’t take too very long) I genuinely started to embrace life here in America. Probably as much as my husband embraced it from the beginning. We’re both fully committed to being here for the rest of our lives and enjoying our Kuwait visits with family when possible.

At this point I don’t think we have any cultural differences to overcome — we’ve already done that on so many levels. I do still get a giggle when he occasionally mistakes the B for a P and ‘barks the car’. Otherwise, I sometimes forget he wasn’t born and raised here.

Some people have asked if my husband has changed since moving to America. I suppose we both have to some degree. I can say his love for animals, while it always existed, has really intensified. We started a nonprofit together to assist rescue animals abroad and he’s just as dedicated as I am to making a difference. He loves our pets (4 dogs and 2 cats) as if they’re our children and treats them as such. Anytime we’re out shopping together he’ll grab little toys or treats he thinks the pets might enjoy. On the other hand shopping, while one of my favorite things, is not on his list of pleasures.

In many ways I guess we’re simply the boring couple now. We spend weekends doing home improvement projects and weekdays working on business projects. We travel only if it’s convenient for our pets. He hates grocery shopping yet gladly carries all the bags into the house. We have mutual ‘couple’ friends as well as a handful of friends we hang out with independent of one another. I enjoy waking early and going out for coffee, he likes to sleep in and grab a quality brunch later in the day. We watch the same television programs, like the same movies, and have similar taste in music. Yeah, we’re just the typical married couple at this point. Best friends, one another’s biggest fan, and always displaying a mutual respect.

For those who continue to ask for advice regarding their Arab boyfriend/fiance, I would have to say the most important thing is to like one another. Forget about culture, background, religion, etc. Look at that person and ask yourself if you really like them enough to spend the rest of your life with them. If the answer is yes, then everything else is simple stuff. But if you’re with someone and think, “Oh I can change him/her down the road” get out of that relationship. Don’t disrespect yourself or someone else with such immature thoughts. Find someone you share a true common bond with and embrace them for who they are.

My husband and I were very fortunate that we both had a deep understanding of one another’s culture from the beginning. I respected his and he respected mine. There were no games or nonsense which resulted in hurt feelings. We were both honest, up front, dependable, loyal, and real. That’s what makes any marriage a strong one.

Long weekends, home improvements, and rainy weather

Though I’m fortunate enough to work from home and set my own schedule I still look forward to the long weekends. It’s a time my husband and I can actually plan to take care of a few things we’ve been putting off due to lack of time. Vacations? Not a chance. Our long weekends are often filled with family time and home improvement projects. Sure, it might be nice to get away for a few days from time to time but with the number of pets we have, we’ve decided our time with them is more valuable than travel and the boarding them.

This Memorial Day weekend was rather rainy so there was little opportunity for outdoor time which worked out rather well considering the work we’re doing indoors. My husband, who is starting to embrace being a hands on home improvement guy, spent the weekend replacing all the flooring in our family room and my office. I spent the weekend choosing new paint colors and making numerous trips to and from Lowe’s as he remembered items he had forgotten on trip number one.

My hope is that we build a new house on our land in a couple of years. Right now it’s just the 2 of us and I feel our current house is perhaps a little large for our needs. I long for something a bit smaller with a cozy feel. My husband, on the other hand, isn’t a fan of spending the money. His theory is ‘our current home meets all of our needs, why bother with another’? Could be why he’s embracing his home improvement side. He figures if he does everything to our current home I won’t be asking for yet another one. He’s the sweetest, kindest, most generous man in the world until I ask for something he deems unnecessary.

Mexico has their El Chapo, Kuwait has its El Cheapo — and apparently I married him.

 

Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy Birthday to me

It’s been so long since I’ve posted that 4 major holidays (yes, my birthday is a major holiday… just ask my husband) have passed. These past several months have been much busier for me than usual but in a super positive way. I’ve been spending a lot more time at the gym, focusing on my physical presence as much as my mental well-being, volunteering for a great cause, actively working at our nonprofit, and over the holidays… events!

One of my favorite things about being involved with a group of positive, like-minded people is the number of events we get to attend. Or are at least invited to attend. It’s not always we opt to leave our pets at home alone, especially if it’s going to be a late evening. However, over the holidays we did attend some well put together events that got us out of the house for a bit. While I do enjoy creating the perfect look for myself, I’m finding it’s also just as fun to put something together for my husband. He’s one of those geeky kinda guys who’s perfectly happy wearing beach casual attire to meetings with other CEOs. I admire his style (or lack thereof) but it’s also nice to see him well tailored.

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of emails asking a variety of ‘newbie’ questions about Kuwait and most of them are from Americans who mention their new job on Arifjan. It seems like a major contract change has taken place and I’m just totally out of the loop. For those of you who do have questions about Kuwait, I’ll gladly do what I can to answer. But I have to admit, my travel to Kuwait has been minimal recently and there are so many changes taking place there that my advice could be totally outdated. And, well, useless. I do suggest you check out DesertGirl’s blog as she always has a lot of advice and guidance for those who are new to the region.

For those of you who have emailed with questions about relationships, dating, etc. I am not ignoring you. I promise. I will get to those emails today.

Though I haven’t been keeping up with my own blog, I have found a number of unofficial newsworthy blogs here in the US. Most flow in the direction I would like to move towards. But of course there’s the desire to appeal to current readers. And, as I’ve mentioned before, starting a new blog is just such a daunting task and I’m not that invested.

On a more positive, less whiny note, I’m happy. Our life has become what some might consider ‘mundane’ — same thing day in and day out. And perhaps, every now and then, I wonder if we’re just incredibly boring people. But as my husband reminds me, we’ve found our happy place. And not only have we truly found it, but we live in it. We embrace it. And we don’t question it. So yeah, I’m happy. Yeah, I’ve been happy for several years now, but I believe I’ve failed to recognize it as ‘happiness’. It was more like, “new relationship butterflies’ or ‘relocation excitement’ or ‘home remodeling thrills’ or ‘yay, new furry family member’. I didn’t recognize the steady stream of happy events as genuine happiness. I suppose, as I’ve said before, I was just waiting for that tragic moment when it all came to a screeching halt. Now I’m just enjoying the ride.

Ramadan is coming!

Every year around this time I get super excited. Kinda like a kid on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa to arrive.

While living in the Middle East full time there was this overall ‘build up’ in anticipation of Ramadan every year. And everyone seemed to share in it. The super markets would be so busy there was no parking, grocery prices would skyrocket, work slowed down in offices as everyone prepared for a month long semi-shut down, and families started preparing long in advance. Here in America (especially in the area we live), one would never know Ramadan was coming… or that is was here once it arrives. Nothing changes. Nothing is decorated. And only occasionally do we see a random church wishing a happy Ramadan to Muslims on signs in front of their congregations. But, it still holds a very dear place in my heart. I’ll still allow myself to get excited and prepare just as if I were in Kuwait.

*Google Image

*Google Image

Not too far from our home is an Arabic market which sells halal meats, seasonings, spices, Vimto, lebneh, dates, and other Ramadan necessities. I’ve been popping in there lately in hopes of finding l’gaymat and sambousa jibbin. So far no luck but I’m tempted to put in a special request in hopes of being accommodated. I do miss my mother in law’s cooking!

My husband totally understands my desire to indulge in our favorite treats during Ramadan and I’m sure his compassion comes from a place of sharing the same desire. As of today he’s started seeking out bakeries between here and NYC that makes all of our favorites. It’s an hour flight… and would be totally worth it. Or, well, I could just learn to make them myself but how disappointing would it be if nothing turned out edible?

No, of course Ramadan isn’t just about food (it just happens to be on my mind a lot as I start preparations). It’s truly about ensuring we’re being the best person we can be and to make a conscious decision to make improvements where we see fit. Sure it’s something everyone should do throughout the year, and I like to believe I do, but Ramadan is a nice reminder. Years ago I attempted to do a Ramadan post for the entire month by sharing little ideas of things to make someone’s day a little better. However, I simply no longer have time to invest in daily posts.

While things are certainly different during Ramadan as compared to when we’re in Kuwait, it’s still a time that brings excitement and anticipation.

Wishing you all a wonderful Ramadan with loved ones.

Intercultural marriages; where to live?

When my husband and I were first married 4 years ago the question of where to live came up… a lot. No, not which city, or which neighborhood. We had to decide which side of the world we were going to call home, settle, and plan our future in. This meant one of us was going to spend much of the year away from the country and culture where we spent our childhood and made a number of memories.

By the time we were married I had already lived in the Middle East for a decade, so in a lot of ways it too was my home. However, all of my family was still in America. All of my memories and childhood friends as well. But, my family is quite small, consisting of only 4 immediate family members. While my husband, on the other hand, has about 25 immediate family members. Then of course there’s the cousins, the aunts, uncles, etc. I don’t have any of those in my family. So staying in Kuwait seemed like the logical choice. But, it wasn’t the the choice we made.

After a couple of years of marriage I started longing for life in America. We visited several times a year, but it just wasn’t the same. And with each visit I was reminded of so many things I truly missed a lot more than I had previously thought. My husband, being one who never meshed with his culture, also started missing things from America. So, we packed up most of our belongings and our beloved cats and made the move.

Should all women married to Arab men expect he’ll be willing to do the same? Probably not. That culture is deeply rooted in family. And for a man to make the decision to move to the other side of the world with his Western wife is a pretty big decision. But, over the past several years I have met a number of American/Kuwaiti couples of have relocated to America together. I’ll admit, I was surprised.

So, how is life now that we’ve been here a couple of years? Well, we’re completely acclimated, have a large group of awesome friends, invest a great deal of time into the happiness of our furry family members, have our favorite coffee shops, restaurants, and a solid schedule. We live what most people would consider the ‘typical American life’ and we couldn’t be happier. I’ll occasionally ask my husband how he feels about the possibility of moving back to Kuwait one day and he doesn’t seem to be to keen on the idea. Right now he’s perfectly happy with a few visits a year to spend quality time with the family. And I suppose I’m OK with that too.

Respect; the glue which holds a marriage together

I get a number of emails every day asking questions about what makes the Arab/American marriage really work. Some share their own experiences, both good and bad. And others are hoping for just a little insight into a very confusing situation. And though I’m certain I’ve blogged about this before I figured I would cover it again since my own marriage has grown and changed.

Of course there’s no magic answer to any of their questions though I wish there were. I like to think that every now and then I do spout something that provides a little comfort to at least one person needing some peace.

In most cases I find myself looking at my own marriage and trying to identify what really makes it work. Is it perfect? Nah. Are we always running around chipper and happy? Of course not. But are we deeply in love and share a genuine concern for one another’s well being? Absolutely. And then it hit me — respect.

*Google images

*Google images

I know I’ve said this before, but in the few years we’ve been married my husband has never once raised his voice at me in anger or called me a derogatory name. He’s still very protective of my feelings and gets bothered if something upsets me. Not as much as he was when we were first together — he’s learned I’m a bit melodramatic. He knows when I’m really upset as opposed to just being a spoiled drama queen and he reacts accordingly. Yet I always know when I really need him he’s there without hesitation. He doesn’t allow me to worry about anything and he’s always making sure I’m well taken care of.

On the same note I hold him in the highest regard. I have the greatest respect for him as a man and my husband. And though we trust one another implicitly, I could never imagine doing something (especially publicly) that would be shameful to him or put him in a negative light. Not that we care what other people think, but it simply comes down to respect. Especially in his culture. Not that culture should really matter when it comes to respecting another another in a marriage.

Since meeting we’ve faced a number of challenges that neither of us had any control over, yet we somehow seemed to not only overcome, but to come out on the positive end. Our biggest challenge has probably been adapting to life here in America. Something we were both really excited about but hadn’t completely thought through. Yes, we knew it was going to be different but I’m not sure either of us knew exactly how different. Fortunately, and after several months, we created habits and a comfort zone all while growing closer together. We were open and honest about any feelings we had and we were compassionate towards what the other was going through.

And while loyalty, compassion, honesty, and humor are all very important traits, I don’t believe they can exist without respect.

The most emotional week of my… life?

If any of you still read my blog you’ve certainly noticed my blogging has come to a crawl and more recently, a standstill. I only blog from my laptop; I’m not one of those tab bloggers and probably never will be. I can only read news, check blogs, and work from my laptop. Everything else is done from the phone or tab. And considering I haven’t been on my laptop in over a week, I haven’t read the news, checked blogs, or even worked in a week! Much less written a blog post.

When my husband and I were first together there was a lot to blog about. New love, new life, new experiences. I found a lot of people were curious, would send emails with questions, and that would prompt another blog topic. Well, the same happens today but how much can I really say about my marriage without setting up video cameras in our home?

The positive side was that during that time life was so calm. Everything I had ever wanted seemed to be happening. No stress. No worries. And just genuine happiness. Again, not the greatest blog material. Surely my oh-so-chipper happiness gushing gets boring. If not sickening.

Well, none of the great happy stuff has changed — for years. Which sounds like the perfect life but I’ve recently discovered that’s not the case at all.

This past week was perhaps the most emotionally draining and painful week I’ve experienced in, well, for as long as I can remember. It felt as though the unfortunate incidents just wouldn’t stop coming. And with each one I felt more and more weak and helpless. It’s as if the ‘perfect life’ provided such a sense of comfort that dealing with tragedy was overwhelming. To the point I found myself unable to breathe as pain filled my already heavy heart. And now, I find myself bracing for the next big hit, wondering if and how I’ll even handle it. There are some things even my husband can’t fix.

Last week started off as normal as all others. Puppies (we still had 3 from the litter) running through the house, destroying everything in their path, but giving enough snuggles to make up for the damage. My husband doing his MIT coursework and working much of the day. And me chasing puppies, feeding cats, and walking dogs in between trying to be productive. My husband helps with the pet care taking but I try not to bother him when I know he’s studying or working on something important.

By mid-week anything resembling normal was about to change without notice.

First, Melicka (our Lab who currently owns my husband’s heart) was hit by a car with my husband and I standing right next to her. We saw it coming. We saw her running towards the road, the car coming at a high rate of speed, and us standing there helpless. It was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen in my life. Fortunately it looked much worse than it was. After a day at the emergency Vet and several days of recovery at home, she’s back to being herself other than some slow healing eye injuries.

During that incident we had been standing outside with the dogs and 3 of the puppies. I jumped in the car as my husband loaded our dog into the back so I could rush her to Vet as he stayed behind to look for the 3 puppies that had seen the incident and were scared away into the woods… deep woods. We were certain our dog was going to die and the 3 puppies would be lost in the woods and freeze to death overnight. I can’t even express the sickness I felt. I wanted to fix everything but had the power to do nothing at all. (The puppies were found within the hour. Cold and scared but perfectly fine)

A couple of days later, and while still nursing our baby back to health, it was time for the remaining puppies to go to their new homes. They’ve been with us for 3 months. We’ve become attached. We love them as if they belong here — regardless of the stress and destruction. So, off they went. We’re certain they’ve gone to fabulous homes and remind one another of that fact a number of times a day. But it still feels like a huge loss. I find myself needing to see their faces and know they’re happy. And yet again, nothing I can do but try to take comfort in the choices we made regarding their re-homing,

The same day all the puppies left for their forever homes one of our cats went missing. Sheikha. My little white Arabian Mau my husband rescued from the abusive little kids of Kuwait. The one who flew (along with our other cat) all the way to America with us. She sleeps under the blankets next to me. We have a song we sing together. And she has a special spot in my lap she snuggles in when she’s cold. There are no words to describe the love I have for this cat. We called her, we looked for her, we drove around for hours… no sign of her. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t concentrate, and I burst into tears every few minutes thinking I might never see that little face again. Buuuuut, when I had finally accepted I was going to have to get some sleep I saw her beautiful little face at the back door. I cried again… happy tears. My world fell back into place as quickly as it seemed to be falling apart.

As of today everything seems to be going along normally. Other than the unexpected snow storm (I’m sooooo over winter already). But I find myself just waiting for the next bad thing to happen. And all of these ‘tragedies’ were all animal related. Some people would think, ‘What kind of tragedy is that?’ But for us animal loving pet owners it’s crushing. Especially when it all seems to happen at once.

I recall several years ago, before meeting my husband, life wasn’t perfect. I faced a number of challenges, dealt with a bunch of crap, and had to solve every problem on my own. But I did it. And I like to think I did it well. I felt as though I had some form of control over my life. Or at least my emotions. I allowed a very carefully chosen crowd into my life, those I could trust wouldn’t hurt me (made a few mistakes there). And kept everyone else at a distance. I was well protected, even if it meant controlling every aspect of my encounters. And then along came my husband. He made me realize how easy it was to love and love deeply. He has never, not even once, hurt me. He makes sure I don’t worry, stress, or feel anything that might ‘bother’ me — it’s an Arab man thing. And I’ve gotten quite comfortable. Perhaps a bit too comfortable. I’ve sacrificed control for love. I no longer keep my emotions tightly within. I’m pretty much a fountain of overflowing love and feeling. It makes me vulnerable and I’m not sure how comfortable I am with that.

Is it best to keep our feelings to ourselves as a preemptive defense mechanism? Or is feeling the bad along with the good just part of life? If so, then all the dreams I had of ‘maturing into a comfortable, carefree, stress free life’ were just that…dreams.