This is another classic post from four years ago, when John and I hit some turbulence in our relationship. Stress, personal issues and cultural differences all exploded together just as the weather began to change. Maybe you’ve been there too?
In December, a sudden change of weather can really throw you off guard. One day it’s 16 degrees C, and the next day the temperature dives down to 6 degrees C — or less. Of course, the weatherman has a scientific explanation — it’s because of that cold front from the North or something else. Explanation or not, you’re left with the chilling reality that winter is here. And, you wonder when exactly did Autumn make its surreptitious departure?
Like the weather, relationships have their own rapid fluctuations — as I have discovered in this month. In only a few minutes, your congenial conversation might end with the thundering echo of a slamming door, just as ours did a few weeks ago, when John and I were sitting on the bed after eating dinner. I bolted down the street to my yoga class, hoping the asanas would help to cloud over the events of the evening. But in the end my eyes let out a deluge of tears. And, to my surprise, when I came out of the gym, there was John sitting on the steps, ready to clear the skies with an apologetic embrace.
This wasn’t the only inclement moment this month. Frankly, not a week has gone by without some petty quarrel — and it has brought me into a strange fog of anxiety and depression.
I should have seen it coming. We’ve both been burdened with a potentially explosive combination of ingredients: John with his thesis and test preparation; me with applying for John’s green card and my work. Throw into that your standard communication gaps between men and women plus cultural misunderstandings, and you’ve got a volatile combination that even the sturdiest chemistry lab hood couldn’t protect you from.
Ironically, I least expected cultural differences to get in the way of my relationship with John. When you’re in love with someone from another culture, when you treat them as your equal, it’s easy to forget that you learned different ways to respond to problems, and different ways to communicate. What I’ve learned is, I can lose my temper if John doesn’t understand what I’m trying to say — and John, on the other hand, can stonewall me, at a time when I most need him to talk.
The other weekend, John and I had lunch with Anya, one of his psychology classmates, and it turned into a “couples counselling session” after we admitted our recent domestic disputes. Anya pointed out the truth we missed — that John and I complemented each other. I am a sanguine, emotional girl who speaks her mind, and John is more placid and reticent, hiding behind his ubiquitous smile at times. There was nothing wrong with us. If anything, we were short of understanding because of our stress.
“You’re lucky to have each other.” Anya smiled so brightly from across the table that, suddenly, the fog of distress dissolved around us.
It may be winter, but I know one thing — John and I will weather this relationship.
Have you ever hit turbulent times in your relationship? How did you resolve things?