19 February 2014

Blending Well #2: Communicate everything.

This is the second post in "Blending Well: A mini-series on cross-cultural marriage." You're welcome to read the overview and/or the first post about studying each other. The conversation continues here as we talk about communicating in three important areas: love, hurt, and confusion.

Communicate your love.
My husband is a fan of Butterfinger, which I will never understand. I crave Three Musketeers when we see a vending machine (on the American base here in Seoul), and he laughs as he sees me tear it open for indulgence.

If I bought him a pack of Three Musketeers candy bars for Valentine's Day, he'd be secretly sad. He would thank me and then never open a wrapper.  But of course I wouldn't buy him that! I get him the candy that he likes to eat.

Showing our love for our husbands should be like buying them the candy they like. Loving them in the way we want to be loved may be thoughtful (in our minds) but it doesn't translate that way to them. They want Butterfinger, not Three Musketeers.

Have you studied the Five Love Languages? It's worth a good long look because we may love our husbands with an indescribable, heart-pulling affection, but they may not receive it because we haven't communicated it well.

Communicate your hurt.
There is a rare disorder called Congenital Insensitivity to Pain (CIP)--the inability to feel pain. People who have this disorder injure themselves and don't know it, so infections spread, broken bones "heal" incorrectly, and minor irritations (like a speck of dirt in an eye) compound into major problems. Seeing the great danger these people face helps us realize the gift that pain is.

In a marriage, we must tell each other about our pain. You might be thinking otherwise: Can't I let it go? Am I not keeping the peace? It's really okay; he doesn't even know I'm hurting.  No. Allowing offense to roll off your back may be fine in other relationships, but in a marriage you are one. You and your husband are one flesh. So if you're in pain and not telling him, then he becomes like a person with the disorder CIP. You (and your marriage) are in danger of greater damage, but your husband doesn't even know anything is wrong.
~True story~
Telling [my husband] what I was going through and being really open and honest helped both of us. It opened his eyes to things about him that he hadn't noticed before.


Alert him when you're hurt. Just like physical pain is a gift because it tells you when your body is in danger, being honest about your emotional pain is a gift because it allows your marriage to be set right (like a broken bone gets set) so you both can be whole and healthy and truly one.

Communicate your confusion.
Blending two cultures will bring confusion--sometimes daily. While one part of the remedy is to study our husbands, another important part is talking through our misconceptions, misunderstandings, and miscommunications.

Does something not make sense to you? Talk about it.
Does something not line up with his character or yours? Talk about it.
Does something seem an issue to him that doesn't bother you? Talk about it.

We cannot let confusion go undiscussed. Open lines between us and our husbands is essential to blending well. However, let's be sensitive. Cultural habits are hard to break, and we tend to defend them like family. Try these suggested techniques to avoid backfiring.

1. Instead of using pointed "you" statements, use "I" to talk about your own feelings.
"You and your people confuse me." --> "I don't understand but I want to."

2. Instead of putting down a habit/custom, ask to know more about it.
"That's a dumb way to do it." --> "Why do you do it that way?"

3. Avoid comparing your family to his. Instead, focus on the family you're forming together now.
"My family doesn't do it that way." --> "Can we do it a different way?"

So as we communicate with our husbands, let's remember to love them in the way they will receive it, alert them of our pain, and sensitively discuss with them any cultural confusion. And remember to invite God into every part of your marriage: He's the author and the example of unity.
~True story~
It's always helped me to remember (when things get a little stressful and confusing) that God brought the two of us together for His glory and to become more like Christ through the union.

for love
for healing
for clarity
for oneness
...for your marriage.

{with much thanks to the women who shared their experiences and wisdom drawn from their own cross-cultural marriages}

What communication advice can you add? How have you been able to open the communication lines in your marriage and thereby blend well?

Coming up next in our series: "Define your family's culture." Please check back! Or you're welcome to connect with us through email (in the sidebar), FacebookGoogle +, or Pinterest.

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