Knowing When to Become A little Selfish and Intolerant
I am a white American, raised in Kentucky and I met my husband who is a black Nigerian, raised in Nigeria.
We have been together 9 years now. I went into it with complete tolerance and open-mindedness. I respect his culture and his family very much. But I have learned that if I am too tolerant I will become a doormat.
They expect me to become 100% Nigerian, and they accept me based on how much I do that. Everyone loves me because I have truly taken the culture in and done things that the culture expects but many Nigerian women living in the US do not do anymore. And my husband was very proud of that.
But there is a lot of women to women bullying in the culture. I know the culture very well now. But even when the culture should be in my favor, like when someone younger than me disrespects me, everyone still finds a way to take the side of the "African".
Women have used the "it's cultural" excuse to treat me in ways that I know are not okay, but they can find a way to say that it is culturally acceptable. M
y marriage is doing well, but I recently had an experience which made me feel like we can never be completely normal, no matter how hard I try.
His sister-in-law has been very brunt with me, and she is constantly asking me why I stay home with my kids and why I don't do anything and making fun of my freckles, and saying that I am pregnant when I am not. And when I say that I am not, she will say that I look like I am.
In our culture that is rude, and she is even in America. So, I wrote her a letter letting her know that I didn't like that, that she seems like she would like to be close but then she says things to me that make me think that she doesn't consider my feelings when she talks to me. And that I understand some of it could be culture or perspective so that I wanted to be open so we could understand each other better and move forward.
She then showed my letter to the entire family. And they all cornered me at the movie theater and they were so upset by the letter. It was as if they were looking for something to make me look bad, but the only thing they had on me was that I was so petty and sensitive. It was as if they were just excited that they had something they could use on me.
And it was hard because my husband took their side. He said that it was my fault for writing the letter in the first place, I put myself out there. But he doesn't seem to see any fault in how she showed the letter to everyone and rallied everyone, and how no one called me to talk or let me know before bombarding me.
That they didn't say that my sister in law can be brash, because they have had issues with her brashness as well... they said that I had a personality problem. It was completely one sided.
I realized that they will never look at things logically and they will always be looking to find something on me. They are nice to me, but behind my back they tell my husband he should not help me with the kids or anything, that we cannot live near my family or I will leave him.
I feel like I have their support, but then if they call me and I don't call them back they will call my husband and "tattle" on me. One Auntie leaves me messages in their native language and then called my husband on the night of our anniversary to complain about me while we were out on a date.
This has been a challenge because when you marry someone from a different nation you are not just marrying them, you are marrying their family. And as much as they are Americanized, their culture and family can continue to tug at them their whole life. I am lucky because my husband is not easily influenced, but he travels to his home country several times a year so I do see subtle changes.
Culture is difficult. I always try to put my husband in my shoes. For example, what if my parents or siblings were telling me that I shouldn't do things for my spouse, I shouldn't have sex with him, or other things that are good for our marriage. How would he feel if I defended them that they mean well. But it is never "the same thing" as when it happens in reverse.
I believe on some level culture is irrelevant. People either do and say things that have your interest in mind, and the interest of your children and the marriage in general or they say things that would poison the marriage.
He doesn't listen to it, but they keep telling him that he is the man he is above doing things for his kids and for me.. etc. And sometimes I worry that one day he could start feeling entitled because they make him feel like he is above me. He can fall into that way of thinking, and it's like I have to make him snap out of it.
I use to think I could even move to Nigeria, my husband and his family would love that. But I have recently decided that our marriage is not ready for that. I am not ready to deal with those kinds of changes. If at any point my husband subsided to the culture I worry it would be the beginning of the end.
I just continue to pray that God brought him into my life and that he has a plan that will keep us together and happy.