Thoughts on Cross-Cultural Couples and Difference While Having My Morning Yogurt

Sohee and I will be moving to Long Beach, CA in the coming weeks. I'll document the event as I drive a moving truck myself (Oh, yeah!), and get cheered on by my I-have-a-phobia-about driving-and-you can-forget-even-thinking-about-me-driving-a-truck wife. I think it'll be the event of the season. Of course, anything involving our crazy adventures together seems to be what I have the most fun experiencing in my life. I suppose that's why our marriage life seems so good to others, and, in actuality, is rather merry.

Is that true?

I think our happy life together is a product of us being a cross-cultural couple. You see, what you have to realize is that as a cross-cultural couple you're never quite sure about getting in a fight with your significant other, or letting one go past the "I want my way" stage, because how can you know that it's not just a misunderstanding of viewpoints based on upbringing, or a mistaken translation, or even just a misunderstood facial expression.

Sure, you can acknowledge that being asked to turn the fan off at night because you might be killed is a strange request, but, you can't really be mad about it after you find out that "fan death" is a significant contributor of death according to published newspapers in Korea, right?

And, who knows? Maybe your significant other was trying to enunciate a different phrase when she greets you in the evening with "Pimple!" and points to your face. Maybe she meant to say, "Please enjoy this nice rice dish with squid I have placed before you in a humble manner but first let me illustrate that I love and care about you by noticing your imperfections."

How can you truly be sure of the intention of anything when you're living with an alien?

Of course, my recognition that differences between two cultures can give rise to broader understanding and patience is not a new concept. Take a look at the greatest cross-cultural couple within recent human history: Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. These two were able to bring their countries to glasnost and the end of the Cold War. Sure, their policies may not have had this end in sight, but certain connections were made to result in the absolute breakdown of the Soviet Union, and a slow decay of the American sense of community and foreign policy.

Okay, bad example...

In all seriousness, the alienness of partners is something I propose is actually quite common for every couple regardless of race, religion, or sexual identity. Partners are simply different entities. Once we bring two people together we are bound to have serious disputes because of the naturally different way individuals perceive the world around them.

What is a beautiful evening shopping for a Balenciaga bag might be the pits of hell for an uninterested spouse. Likewise, a missing piece of leftover pizza might be the last straw for an overly stressed roommate. Take any such misunderstanding and trace it back to the sandbox of our childhoods, and we might find that what is present now, is simply a regurgitation of an initial interaction of two children -or mother and fallopian tube - that is being replayed on a continuous shuffle in our minds with the assorted characters of our lives. The roles of spouse, friend, lover, employee, attendant, friend, roommate, and other such identities within our consciousness are simply interchanged throughout our lives.

If we are to acknowledge that such an interplay of roles is in rotation within us, then wouldn't it make little difference what an argument is about? Does it really matter who ate the pizza? Are you really in the pits of hell? Is this really an argument? Am I really in a relationship with anyone but myself?

Before everyone fries their micro-processors and we go overly deep into dark waters, let's return back to the simplicity of difference. Every single person is different. Naturally, for a cross-cultural couple, this contrast is easier to acknowledge because the differences in physicality or speech patterns may be more apparent between them. Each is given a visual or auditory clue that what might be a disagreement could be a product of difference itself.

Now this is not to say that couples who are from the same country, sex, or regional dialect will be at a disadvantage in comparison. The differences between any two people is going to be infinite if one is able to recognize past surface indicators to the vast complexity of the brain itself, and how no two brains are going to process or send electrical and chemical messages in quite the same way.

Therefore, it's not the visual or auditory difference that makes a relationship any easier. It's simply that the mind is fooled into acknowledging that it doesn't know for an absolute fact the intentions of another human being. In other words, a cross-cultural couple's differences allow them to be suspicious of their thoughts. They stop believing in the reality that either party might know what the other intends.

Consequently, relationships with such an open policy are no different than anyone else's. We are all individuals relating in a world that is trying to assimilate sameness to make communication possible, and, who are simultaneously - at the heart of every conversation - different.

No comments: