Well thank goodness it’s 2012!
The last few months of 2011 weren’t that great for me. And that’s an understatement. I wasn’t sure where my relationship with L was headed. Without confidently knowing that our relationship had a future, the last thing I felt like doing was blogging about intercultural relationships, or anything remotely related. It would have felt fake.
I flew to my parent’s for Christmas and New Year, giving me and L a well-needed break from each other. And although I’ve only been back home for a couple of days, I’m pleased to write that we’re slowly getting back on track.
NYE was fantastic. Being with my uni friends again meant I had the fun, wild nights I never would have had in my current town. It almost makes me miss the big city (almost, but not quite. I’m still not really a big city kinda girl).
But of course being at my parent’s meant I had to confront their questions, worries and fears about my relationship with L, especially given what they saw when they visited us last year. My mum approached the issue in her usual way: demanding to know what my plans are, insisting I was causing unnecessary stress, and then when I refused to talk about it (how could I, when even I didn’t know where our relationship was heading at that stage, and my mother can hardly be relied-upon for neutral relationship advice?), subtly falling back on the betrayal trope. Well, at least she was subtle about it.
Dad took a different approach, for which I’m eternally grateful. He recognised that any conversation involving me and my mum is always going to become emotionally intense and unproductive. So while Mum was occupied with the tennis one night, he called me upstairs asked me to tell him the whole truth, promising confidentiality. Without being confrontational, he also asked what I see in L, whether our values and interests match, whether we’re compatible (in arranged marriage speak, I guess) for a long term future. I know my dad is so worried about me, and for him it means so much that his kids are open and honest. And he came close to guessing the truth…maybe not the details, but he certainly guessed that our situation is uhhmmm…let’s call it ‘high pressure’. But as I’ve said before I can never tell him the truth, he simply wouldn’t understand. And the last thing I want to do is cause more stress. So I tried to be as honest as possible about the state of our relationship (i.e. that I wasn’t sure where it was heading, and that being under pressure to provide an answer on the “what are your future plans” question was extremely stressful), while outrightly lying about the reason.
Not the most satisfying answer, but he didn’t press the point. Instead, he noted that “a good thing about living in Australia is that you can live with a partner before marriage”, and make a more informed decision about whether you really should commit to them forever. As he didn’t fully understand the good things between me and L (I was pretty stunted in communicating this, as I wasn’t feeling great about our relationship at the time), he seemed a bit perplexed about why I was with L; when after a year of living together we were still being tossed around by strong undercurrents of turbulence. “Maybe you’re only with him temporarily? I don’t know why you would do that. Maybe so you don’t feel alone? But that’s not for me to judge, it’s your life”. I assured him that L and I had always intended living together to be a permanent thing.
Despite his cultural generosity, he obviously held onto a flicker of hope that perhaps I would ask for his involvement in my marriage one day. “You know, you can always tell us if you want help in finding someone.” I always get defensive at ‘hints’ like this, even if they’re meant with little or no pressure. “Dad, whatever happens between me and L, I will always find the person I want to be with. I don’t need anyone’s help.” He leant over then, and lightly touched my wrist, “That’s ok, chhori, you don’t need help. I understand that.”
Oh please, I hope we’ve clarified that expectation now, for good.
It was one of those talks, you know, where you’re supposed to come out feeling great (and I hope my dad came out feeling great, or at least less concerned), but I came out feeling awful because I know I was hiding so much of the truth. Uggh…that awful burning feeling, knowing he was so close to the some of the truth (but not the whole truth, not the positive things, because that’s what he wouldn’t understand) and I was responsible for steering him away from that. Responsible for steering him away from the truth he values so dearly.
A lot the negativity I feel about this conversation reflects how I was feeling about my relationship at the time. L and have talked a lot since I came back, and we have solid plans and resolutions. Which gives me hope. We know there’s going to be no miraculous relationship blitz. Some habits are hard to change. But we have done it before and there’s nothing like a new year to revitalise and inspire us into doing it again.
So bring on the hard yards, the joy and the love, 2012!!