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Marriage in Translation

I can't say that my qualifications are glowing; I've only been married for about five years, come from a divorced family, am extremely introverted, and can't get past the first chapter in any self-help book. Yet I'm often asked: Do you have any marriage advice?

Trust me, it's not because I emit a rose-scented aura of wedded bliss. I think we are, and seem, happy, but not in a romcom, I-wish-I-had-what-they-have sort of way. We stand out because I'm American and my husband is Ukrainian. It's an international marriage, something fairly rare in my old homes of Texas and southern Illinois. That's all.

There are, of course, challenges that come with the territory. But I actually think it's helped us in the long run. Marriage (and any relationship, for that matter) is about finding middle ground. I don't necessarily mean compromise; it's just about acknowledging that you both come from different places. For us, that's true geographically as well, meaning we had to find a solution more quickly.

The cultural differences seemed, at first, comical. I laughed at his hatred of ice, and he scoffed at me asking for Coke when I felt a headache looming. He kept the AC off; I wanted to blast it. He called his family every day; I was content with about once a week. He went to the grocery store every morning; I stocked up once or twice a month. He walked everywhere; I was used to driving.

Even if you marry someone from your own country, you're still coming from a different microculture. We were all raised differently ways, have experienced various levels of trials and adversity, hold sometimes-conflicting values. And that's okay. We still bicker about our opposing perceptions of the world, but there's now a layer of acceptance and humour cushioning the conversation.

Part of getting older is realizing that eye roll-inducing clichés are now scaffolded by experience. I don't like the apparent shallowness of advice like put yourself in their shoes or remember we all come from different places, but they're repeated for a reason. Yes, we have more in common than not, but it's those differences that make relationships worth having. Just being aware of that is the best advice I can give.

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