In Search of Common Ground
My husband and I want different things for our daughter and to a lesser degree our son, who is still an infant. We grew up with different ideas of family and we come from different generations. How are we going to make this work?
I imagine as with everything else in our marriage, we will talk about it digging deep to the heart of the matter finding out the need that lies behind each image we have of a good childhood for our children. I am not discouraged by these differences; I’m just happy now that I know that they exist.
We have only just realized that how we imagine our children’s childhoods is different. I think this is because before I started caring about what I really thought rather than aiming to please, I never really articulated or more importantly knew what I wanted. Now that I am asserting my needs, my husband and I are finding out that our needs clash.
Until recently, I usually deferred to my husband’s wishes. It is not that he is overbearing or controlling, quite the contrary, he has always asked me what I think, and until recently, I always thought I agreed with him. However, for a long time, I have not been happy living in Japan, and it is emotionally painful to raise my children so far from their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I always imagined that my children would have close relationships with my siblings, their spouses and children, and my parents, and likewise with my husband’s siblings, their spouses and their children, and his parents. I imagined we would not only be emotionally close but also close in proximity. Every time we have decided to stay in Japan for one or two more years, I have felt torn between staying the familiar albeit less desirable life in Japan and pursuing a life worth living. I now realize that it is because I never wanted to raise children far from family.
This desire to be close to my family is a little ironic if you’ve read my About page..You know that the family in which I was raised was not very nurturing, but I am still very close to my parents, especially my mother, and my siblings, especially my older brother who has shown me nothing but love and respect my whole life. Although the low nurturance environment in which I grew up is responsible for a lot of my emotional scarring, my siblings, parents, and cousins are not the same people they were when I was growing up, just as I am not the same person I was when I was growing up. I love them no matter what and I want them in my life.
Part of learning to love myself is meeting my needs. This entails recognizing them and acknowledging them and honoring myself by meeting those needs with out judgment. I love and need my family, and I am no longer willing to sacrifice what precious little time I have remaining with them, especially my parents and my parents-in-law. The dream I have had of my children growing up along side their cousins has been deferred for too long, and I am anxious to get back to the States before the older generation passes on.
My husband is not so eager. In fact, he is dreading the idea of being close to his father, who was physically and emotionally abusive to my husband most of his life. Even now, his father says mean and nasty things to him about his weight and the fact that he doesn’t have a “job” because child rearing is not a respected occupation in our culture especially for men. Going back is to my husband like serving an interminable prison sentence.
That is where we are at the moment. I certainly do not want to drag my husband back against his will, but I do not wish to stay in Japan any longer than my current contract. I see my daughter suffering from lack of attention and affection, and although my husband and I do our best to give her what she needs, it is hard for me to admit it, but we are not enough. It takes a village to raise a child, and we don’t have one. Living in a foreign country as an illiterate adult with sporadic support is very stressful, and it has taken its toll, which is sadly in the form of my daughter’s peace of mind and sense of attachment. This has become a price I am not willing to pay.
So we stand at a crossroads. My path goes to the left and my husbands fades into the darkness. He is fully aware of what he does not want, but not so clear on what he does want. He is also less hopeful and optimistic about the future. We are at a stand still holding onto each others hand neither willing to let the other go.
When one spouse is growing and expanding and the other is stuck, where do they go? Does the one that is expanding halt their growth to accommodate the one that is stuck? Is self sacrifice the answer? I am leaning towards a resounding “No.” On the other hand, I want to stay married and I want him to want to grow and expand. However, as I’m sure many of you know, these things cannot be rushed. We must heal in our own time on our own terms, or we are not truly healing.
For now, I must wait. There is still time. My contract isn’t up until the end of March. We are in couple’s counseling so we have a guide to help us navigate areas of our marriage into which we have yet not ventured. I am hopeful. I have faith in my husband whose potential is boundless and whose talents are many. He has a wonderful heart and capacity to love unconditionally. He is my life partner, and I intend to stay with him for as long as I can.
There is so much potential for growth in this endeavor. As long as we believe in each other, I’m sure we will emerge from this stronger and closer than ever. I am open to where ever this part of the journey will take us. What wonders lie ahead?
Until next time, I wish you all the best.