Saturday, May 31, 2008

Maintaining Strong Marriages In A Different Culture

Transitioning to living in a new culture is often difficult enough for anyone. However, for married couples it doubles the stress of acculturation due to shifting roles. My friends and I have been discussing how to keep our marriages strong while living in a different culture. Displaced African had an excellent point about collectivist cultures where marriage means being married to the family as well not just the individual spouse.

I learned marriage was a communal affair when observing my extended family at home. In the Kamba tradition (Kenya) the girl 'lost' her bed in her parents home and was no longer expected to spend the night if she had a fight with her husband. I remember family members encouraging fighting spouses to work it out and everyone got involved in keeping the marriage strong. Sadly, that communal support is hard to find living here in the US or other developed nations that are moving away from traditional marriages. As a married woman and a marriage therapist in training - I've learned a few things.

Research shows that couples who stick it out when they feel unhappy in their marriage will often change their tune within 5 years. I know this goes against radical feminist ideas on 'individual rights to happiness'. The right to happiness is highly overrated when it trumps the long-term health of your children and the family unit. I know it sounds dark agish but hear me out. I'm an educated woman, but my education and life experience have taught me that love relationships are all about compromise and as the Bible puts it "putting others welfare above our own". Marriage is NOT a 50/50 affair, its switches to 90/10, 30/70 depending on the situation. One spouse gets sick, the other has to do double duty, one gets laid of, the other has to work harder etc.

It's difficult to make it in America on one income. One struggle my friends and I identified is the dual-earner role that most couples assume due to college bills, childcare and healthcare costs etc. Some husbands do not realize they are no longer in their home countries where nannies were easily affordable. Husbands need to realize the wife is just as tired when she gets home from work and offer to help bathe the kids, prepare dinner, do the dishes, pack lunches etc. If you want to score in the bedroom - it begins in the kitchen. Wives will not be sexually inclined when they are thoroughly exhausted and feel the husband does not acknowlege their efforts at home. A recent study showed men who performed housework often had more sex - there's one for ya! Happy wives make happy homes!

The wife also needs to realize the additional pressure her husband is experiencing. Chances are his qualifications and education back at home are not being recognized as a new immigrant here. Providing financially is a man's badge honor, help him by not nagging him over working several jobs in the meantime. Male egos are really fragile - surprise, surprise! That macho African man (any man) is putty when you question his ability to provide for the family and insinuate he is not man enough. Be tenderhearted and encouraging and do not try to usurp him or compare him to other more established men. In Biblical homes men are the head of the home. Hold on - remember wives are the neck - and we know the head goes where the neck turns!

Find legal ways to provide an additional income and you'll be surprised at the information available from your local chamber of commerce and local non-profit family agencies. A good source of direction is your local library, a United Way website and churches among others. In the meantime, remember to keep your marriage strong, don't give up because of transitioning stress - it will make you stronger as a family. Call your parents and family back home and ask for emotional and prayer support. We might not live in community here as we did at home but we have the internet, the phone, church and often great neighbours. There's help, don't let your marriage tank.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Noggin: Little Bear Show - "Panties" Comment

I sometimes let my preschooler son watch the channel "Noggin" while I do my class work or counseling prep. Before we start the "TV, no TV argument" hear me out! Most parents of preschoolers will tell you its godsend and educational! Not to mention the incredible "Little Bill" cartoon show from Bill Cosby - my son adores it. I'd cut his hair the other day - and he totally resembled Little Bill!

Today's story though is about another good show "Little Bear". It's about the adventures of a little bear cub and his friends. My son watches it every couple of days. The other evening my husband was watching the show with him and can you believe it - the little bears were teasing a little girl that they could "see her panties" WHAT??!! My husband is the most easy going guy but he was mad! I didn't understand why the director believed it was okay to leave that content in the show. So I wrote the show online to protest.

I'm not usually up in arms but off late, I've been bitten by some parental bug. I'm waiting for the Noggin guys to respond. I was polite - I just stated I was disappointed with the "Panties" episode. If they are teaching kids about bullying or teasing, they can use other statements. I'm antsy about introducing "panty" conversations to preschoolers. I however, do believe we should tell our kids about appropriate touch and why no one is allowed to touch their genitals. The show however was not about that - it was about teasing/bullying which is good - I just disagreed with the "panties" conversation. I'm beginning to sound more conservative each day - blame it on the parental bug! At least we are trying to screen shows.

For folks arguing "no TV" good for you, really. I'm know your argument is strong and backed by research, I have reviewed most of it. For some of us, some shows and DVDs (Veggie Tales, Hermie & Friends etc) are a great break. Noggin, as I said is an incredible channel that shows awesome educational kids shows - so I will continue to keep an eye on what my son watches - and applaud or complain as necessary.