Saturday, September 1, 2012

Facing New Realities

Most days, as I may have mentioned before, I don't dwell on the fact that I am in a relationship with a Chinese guy. I am in a relationship, that's that. But recently, as we move closer to bigger steps and a permanent future together, the realities of what life as a foreign wife/mother in China have begun to sink in. Most days, it's interesting and alright. While my boyfriend and I are constantly reminded of what an anomaly we are, we don't care. But, as someone who tends to overthink things at times/deal with anxiety by letting it quietly build, I found myself collapsing in tears one day when my boyfriend teased me about forgetting to make spaghetti like I'd promised the day before.

Classic example of "he said, she hears", magnified by my stress over the prospect of spending a lifetime as a wife in China who is not Chinese/still clueless about Chinese household management.

Boyfriend: You forgot didn't you. If I wasn't reminding you now, you wouldn't make it.
Me: I remembered, I just forgot to buy beef, that's why I didn't make it for lunch...I can make it for dinner.
Boyfriend: Yeah, but admit it, you forgot.
Me: (bursts into tears)
Boyfriend: (stares at me bewildered, then quickly blurts out as many men have learned to do, "I'm sorry, I'm such a jerk sometimes")
Me: (continue with the silent treatment and sob for another hour until his mom peeps in, asks what's wrong, then whacks him for making me cry).

So, that was what he said, but in my fragile, on-edge emotional state, I heard: "You are a complete failure as a girlfriend, and are going to be a failure as a wife." Not at all what he was saying, but yeah...

Later that night I started to sniffle again, feeling overwhelmed and lonely. My boyfriend heard me and got up. He sighed (doesn't usually respond well to tears). "What's wrong with you?" This escalated into a very confusing conversation in which I tried to articulate all my fears about not knowing how to respond to a Chinese mother-in-law, to parenting in China , to how lonely I felt sometimes because I didn't have anyone going through a similiar thing to talk to, to how I felt homesick and was dealing with culture stress because I still hate being stared how people always talked about me right in front of me, as if I were a zoo animal....needless to say, it was a long conversation, and my boyfriend wasn't really understanding (all he heard was "I'm not happy...being with you is misery.", which is not what I was trying to communicate...I finally sputtered "of course I'm happy with you, I love you, but I need you to be a friend to me sometimes, listen, and give me a hug, not just get mad because you don't know how to fix these things!").

We continued to talk, with me sputtering and him getting irritated, until I finally was able to articulate with the statement. "I love you. I know I want to be with you. It's just that I think the reality just hit me that I'm not going to be in China for just a few years, I'm going to be here forever, and there are some things that I will have to give up. " He was quiet for a moment, then whispered, "I'm really selfish sometimes. When you said that....I never thought about how much you will have to give up."

The conversation continued after that (until like 2 a.m., poor guy), and things have been better, but I am realizing there are some things I do need to talk through as we prepare for marriage. And, any of you fellow bloggers with similiar experiences out there, of course would love to hear from you as well!

Issues that are difficult include:

-Being American I am not very tolerant to the constant unwanted opinions/advice that are given me even by people I don't know well. How does that translate into merging into my Chinese family/raising my own kids? I told my bf outright I wouldn't be able to tolerate people telling me how to raise my own kids.
-The fact  that raising kids in China, even though we will raise them to be bilingual, means that Chinese will be more of their mother-tongue...and they won't be growing up in the culture I am familiar with, which makes me feel at a slight parenting disadvantage.
-Sadness over the fact that we are distant from my family (of course grateful for this age of e-communications)

Even though kids are still at least a couple of years in the future for us, we're looking at marriage next year, and are finishing our apartment (a necessity for marriage in China) in the next few weeks. I think it's really important to be on the same page for those things.

To end on a positive note, any relationship has its challenges, we just have some different ones than most people. It's the really sweet moments that remind me how exceptionally blessed I am in spite of exceptional challenges. I was praying with my bf and his mom before bed one night (his mom is a woman of great Christian faith). She prayed in earnest before God, "Thank you for sending Julie to us from so far away, I'm so happy. Bless these young people." She also added "And God I really hope that her parents will like my son as much as I like Julie." So cute.

1 comment:

  1. I know what you're talking about. Even though life in China like it's right now is something that I could imagine doing forever, but being a wife and a mother in China is a totally different thing. You two are planning to marry next year, we are probably not going to make any plans for that while I'm still studying for the next 1,5 years. But still, as turning 25 soon, I also worry about the future and have the need to have some kind of plans for the future.

    I agree with your top 3 difficulties. I'm not tolerant to unwanted opinions or advice either. I've grown to be a bit more tolerant during these two years, but I still feel hurt in situations where Chinese people wouldn't get hurt.

    I guess the scary part is that you can't know what being a mom in China is like before you actually are on, and can't know if you really want to be in China forever before you do that.

    Talking about marriage, raising kids and that sort of things is very important before marriage I think. For examample ideas about raising kinds can be very different in different cultures, that's also someting I'm slightly worried about. It's a situation where everyone disagrees but everyone is right. So how to decide if something is done like in Finland/America or in China?

    Sorry I have more questions than answers for you Jules, but wanted to let you know that you aren't the only one with these thoughts!