The struggles of an international marriage - Waku Waku

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The struggles of an international marriage


The struggles of an international marriage

There are so many perks of being in an international relationship such as travelling or the excitement of seeing each other again. But what happens when the distance ends and this long-distance relationship is finally a normal relationship?

Eternally Mimi

Eternally Mimi

Published on 11 Feb 2021, 12:00

Now both of you are together forever and in your own little bubble of love and cuddles. However, you or your SO (Significant Other) is now in a new country, a new environment and possibly has to learn a new language too.

For today, I’ll just name up a few of my experiences and thoughts on how I dealt with things when I moved here.

There are language and cultural things that you must learn and adapt to

I may be from the rainbow nation of South Africa where diversity is around every corner and there are a million different languages and dialects spoken – but I only speak two of them, Afrikaans and English and I only really know one tiny part of SA’s culture.

So, even though I’m familiar and comfortable with how SA operates and how the people think and get along on a day-to-day basis, nothing in SA prepared me for moving to Japan; a mostly homogeneous society with a lot of rigid rules and a language that’s considered one of the most difficult to learn in the world!

The alphabets are the most difficult for me to memorise because there are three of them!

And some of the characters even look alike making it more confusing to learn. The pronunciation, on the other hand, is fairly easy so there’s a small silver lining right there.

My hubby and I [Photo by: Michelle Watanabe]
My hubby and I [Photo by: Michelle Watanabe]

So, how does this have an impact on my international marriage?

Well, I have to learn a bunch of new social rules that don’t even make sense to my husband but hey, we have to do them because what will people think?!

Then, of course, the language has a major impact on communication in a relationship. I cannot say that my Japanese is wonderful or that my DH (Dear Husband) is perfectly fluent in English and this does sometimes have a negative effect when one or both of us are unhappy.

We do need to find more obvious ways of communicating that we’re upset and why. Now, this part is easy, our faces are very expressive. But how do we solve the issue?

For example, we say to each other: "you ate the last chocolate!" or "You sometimes ignore what I’m saying and I have to repeat myself a million times over!".

When there is a language issue, beating around the bush just won’t help anyone. We’re both still learning each language and to have a successful relationship we need to help each other.

Although I must admit, none of this easy and I has on occasion randomly started using Afrikaans as a default when I get annoyed. It helped the frustration in those few seconds though, hehe.

Dealing with the stress of culture shock

Even though I come from a country with so many different cultures, I never actively had to participate in any of them (except for one tourism class in like 10th grade).

But moving to Japan and having a Japanese husband with Japanese only family members, I had to start getting used to a new culture.

One that’s vastly different from my own. And let me tell you, I did not do so well at first. I was a hormonal wreck (I fell pregnant) and I don’t know if it was the hormones, the sudden shock of thinking I’ll go back to SA and then never actually going, or not getting to see my friends or family for a long time, leaving behind my pets and all my belongings…

Actually, for me, it was all of the above.

It was a lot of stress at first and because of that, I started off rejecting anything and everything, the language, culture, the food.

It took me quite a while to fully deal with the stress and shock of it all! Now I have a 2-month-old and I can finally say I’m doing much better, an entire year after moving! Seriously, it took me a whole year before feeling comfortable in my own skin here, and that’s okay.

It’s okay to move and feel stressed out and even to an extent slightly reject things, for a short time at least.

You need to get used to new things, a new environment, new food and cultural traditions. If, like me, you stick to what you know for just a little while because eating the western food in an Asian country helps you feel a little less stressed and a little more at home. Do it.

But eventually, you’ll have to climb out of that bubble, start getting used to new things, places, people, languages and traditions.

All I really have to say about this is it’s okay to take your time just as long as you don’t keep rejecting your new life and culture. That would be a cause for concern and a re-evaluation of your life choices.

Dealing with the stress of being alone/lonely

As if leaving everything you know behind isn’t difficult enough now, you’re in a new country and have no friends or family close to you.

Making friends as an adult is so hard! Or am I the only one struggling with this? Or is it because of my anxiety and introverted personality?

My family in SA
My family in SA

I miss my friends and family! And thank you Covid-19, now I can’t even go and visit them for a week or meet new people outside of my house, or even go exploring.

It’s natural to be lonely when you were so used to being close to everyone.

Unfortunately, I have no idea how to deal with this problem because I can’t go to SA for a visit, my family and friends can’t come here, DH seldomly invites his friends over and honestly, it’s just too dang hot for me to leave this house with a 2-month-old baby. Midsummer in Japan has a large heatstroke risk on top of covid-19 and I’m starting to feel stuck.

However, if Covid-19 wasn’t such a prominent issue right now, I also wouldn’t have this major loneliness issue either. So, let’s just blame Covid-19 for my lack of a social life =D

Eternally Mimi

Eternally Mimi

Hi! I'm Michelle from South Africa and currently I live in Japan with my husband and baby boy. I hope to share with you our experiences of family life and travel in Japan!

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