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Question 

I am a wife with no children. My husband and I have been married for three years. My husband is a nice person and love traveling around the world. I am an Asian – with not much understanding about the outside world until I met him almost seven years ago. But he knew that and still loved me and decided to get married to me three years ago. I have my own career as a manager in a small company. We are in the marriage with a lot of misunderstanding and we usually have small fights mostly about how we expected each other acting differently and culture differences and language barrier.

My husband recently told me he was tired of leading all the time, tired of being my editor (I am not very fluent in English), he complained how I could not spend time with his friends and never curious about anything…he was not sure he could live with me longer…and then the next morning when we woke up, he said he wanted to get divorce. I was sad but tried to keep calm enough to tell him to give me a chance to show him what he thought about me was wrong. After that, he told me he can give me a month… rather than that, he can not wait. From that day, we are both trying to force ourselves happy, talking with each other, and we still making love… But I can tell how differently he treated me… very cold and distant. Can you tell me if I still have hope in this marriage and what can I do?

Answer

Please don’t panic and feel like you have to do an immediate overhaul on your personality, language skills, and cultural awareness in order to save your marriage. Your husband has known you for seven years and not one of his irritations are an urgent crisis that needs to be resolved immediately. Your husband obviously hasn’t been open with you about his needs, so it will take some time to sort through them and make any needed adjustments.

I’m glad he’s sensible enough to give your marriage at least a month before he pulls the plug. While I don’t believe it’s enough time to make a decision about a marriage, it’s important to take advantage of the time he’s willing to give you to have these conversations. This is a good time to make sure the expectations of what needs to happen in this coming month are clear so you’re both working toward healing the marriage.

There are, no doubt, some frustrations with cultural differences. Even though oceans separate your two cultures, every couple ultimately comes from a different culture. There are family cultures, community cultures, and other differences that cause us to see the world in unique ways. Both you and your husband need to adjust to each other’s cultures.

In his book, “Drawing Heaven Into Your Marriage”, Wally Goddard described coming together in marriage with the following analogy:

“I think of the allegory of a man who had two friends in the manufactured-home business. When he wanted a new house, he asked each friend to send him half a house. He gave no plans. He provided no specifications on size or style. He left them to design as they would. So each friend sent a lovely half-house. When the two halves arrived at the site, they were jarringly different. Rooms did not line up. Utilities did not match up. Roofs and walls between the two halves did not connect. This is a pretty good symbol for marriage. Each of us is created in a different ‘factory’ or family. Two people come together assuming that they will readily connect. But we soon find that our traditions, expectations, assumptions, and ways of life do not line up. The more time that passes, the more clear the differences. Unfortunately, we apply value judgments to our differences; ‘Your family doesn’t care about punctuality.’ ‘Well, your family doesn’t care about people.’ Each of us is inclined to believe that the way have chosen (or been raised) is the better way. And we are tempted to pull our half-house down the road until we can find a better match. But we never match up perfectly with another human being.”

See if you can ask your husband to slow things down even more and give you both time and space to better understand where these strong reactions originated. He may assume you can’t possibly know what it’s like for him, but with adequate time and effort, his concerns will make more sense to both of you.

As you explore these feelings, don’t be afraid to ask him hard questions about what prompted his sudden change. Has he started an affair with someone else? Does he have other secrets he doesn’t want to share? What tipped him over to suddenly decide the marriage needs to be over? You have a right to ask these questions in the same way he has a right to have concerns about your marriage. Of course, if he’s willing to seek out marriage counseling to have someone help you guys talk through these challenges, then please make sure you work with a trained marriage counselor.

If your husband chooses to stay silent and puts you on a one-month probation without a willingness to engage in meaningful conversation about your marriage, then the marriage may be difficult to save. As long as he’s willing to keep discussing and sharing how to fit these two lives together, there is hope for the marriage.

If it’s important to you to continue learning English and improving your cultural competency, then keep moving forward with those goals regardless of what your husband decides. It takes time to assimilate into a new culture. Trying to speed that up so your husband doesn’t leave you isn’t something you should feel pressured to do.

Use this next month to show him that you are not only willing to work on the marriage, but you also expect him to share and open up about what he needs. Both of you working together can fix this marriage.

 

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at geoff@lovingmarriage.com

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.

You can connect with him at:
Website: www.lovingmarriage.com
Twitter: @geoffsteurer
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT