Be your Own Advocate

Getting ready for Christmas - done exactly how it's always been done in MY family.

Getting ready for Christmas - done exactly how it's always been done in MY family.

Especially around this time of year there's a lot of chat about husbands, family and in-laws. Most people would agree that I am 'lucky' that my husband is very supportive of everything I do and that it's also fortunate that his family is easy to get along with and also supportive.These comments are true to a certain extent but shouldn't be entirely attributed to 'luck'. More than anything I think this mindset has been cultivated. Positive reactions have been nurtured and negativity has been nipped in the bud.

I can't speak for your situation but if I were to analyse my own and it might be helpful to you then read on.

Mr. and I have had discussions or even disagreements about dishes, the washing (laundry), rubbish & recycling, housework and childcare. Some of these things came up even before we were living together and long before we were married. I'd learned from my parents that stewing over something or not speaking your mind only made matters worse so I always speak up for myself and make my position clear. I'm sure there's room for improvement in my approach but I seem to get a more favourable reaction to requests that are made reasonably.

Having a voice in the marriage is essential. You must be able to raise issues with your husband without fear of being rejected, belittled or (worst-case scenario) abused. Not letting things slide, talking over concerns and trying to be on the same page are part of a mutually respectful relationship. You both deserve that.

In all marriages I think it's important to maintain your own personality. That is to say don't pretend to be someone you're not in order to please the other person. You'll end up resenting him for it when it's not even his fault. It's okay to have disagreements. It's not okay to keep your opinions to yourself or to always be the one who has to compromise.

Knowing yourself and having a strong sense of self-worth are critical. When my confidence was at a low-point after my second child was born I began to doubt everything in my life - including the wisdom of my decision to live here. I'm glad I worked that issue out.


The International Marriage

Success in a foreign country relies on having a partner you can count on, no matter what. I'm not suggesting there won't be ups and downs. But without the baseline trust when things are bad everything can disintegrate quickly. My husband is my best friend and confidante, my biggest supporter, all that. But he's still a guy and I can't always fathom his thought patterns. He can be irritating. We don't always see eye to eye. That's why it's vital to keep your own circle of friends.

Unique to the international marriage is the need to be aware or sensitive to his culture and asking for the same in return. My husband isn't totally convinced that Christmas is an important holiday but he would never in a million years suggest that we don't celebrate it in exactly the way I want to. By the same token I'm not overly keen on many Japanese traditions or religious events but I follow his lead. If it's important to him then I get onboard. If it makes me happy then he's happy. Don't you just love Christmas? I said to him last year. "Not really" was his reply. That's OK. I love it and he loves me so Christmas is a big part of our lives.


Has anyone ever said to you "You've really changed"?

My last point is on growing vs changing. I came to Japan when I was just twenty four. I hadn't travelled much. I had only worked full-time for two years. Even though I had lived away from home while at university I was still very dependent on my parents during those years. I was young and inexperienced in many aspects of life when I made the decision to leave New Zealand. I've grown a lot in my nineteen years here. Of course. But have I changed and become a person I don't know anymore? I don't think so.

At times I have felt diminished and I've felt like I haven't achieved my full potential - but not because of anything my husband has or hasn't done. He's always been a big advocate for me. And I am my own advocate. You need to be too.