Cross Cultural Relationships and the Things Nobody Talks About

** This post is in no way meant to insult or belittle any particular group or culture. I hold no bias or hatred towards anyone and loved and appreciated many parts of my cross-cultural marriage. Every culture is different as is each family/relationship. No two relationships, regardless of culture or race will look the same. **

sunset sky over rippling sea
Thoughts from a divorcee

Cross cultural relationships are becoming so common place nowadays and it is a thing to be celebrated. Relationships outside of our own culture can be incredibly educational and really open our minds to things we never considered before. Every relationship is different and it is a beautiful thing to see people from all different cultures come together in love as society celebrates our differences.

We don’t realise that through our upbringing, we are conditioned to think certain things are normal from an early age. Therefore it is so important to learn and respect each others culture. We don’t know any different than what we are taught, so be willing to learn and embrace your cross cultures.

When you enter a cross-cultural relationship there are certain things I will warn you of. (I am by no means instigating hate towards any other culture, and every culture is different. I am merely telling my story and what I learned as a result of it!)

My experience in a cross cultural relationship

My ex-husband was a first generation American from South Asian heritage. And I am from Scotland, from what I would call a very typically Scottish family. My family are not religious, despite being raised Catholic. My ex was a self-labelled “westernised” American. He was an atheist, despite his muslim upbringing and he did not identify with his heritage much at all, other than his love of the food (which we both shared.) The fact that neither of us were religious was something important to me as I did not want to run into problems in the future.

photo of masjid during daytime

Due to our differences, our relationship ended in tears (and divorce papers). Here are some things nobody talked about before we got married in terms of crossing culture.

You will feel like the odd one out sometimes

Although more and more people are dating and marrying outside of their culture, it is still not that common. My husband was the only person in his family and friend group to marry a white girl. And the same goes for my family. Nobody had married outside of their culture and so this was a learning experience for both of us.

Although his family and friends were very accepting, sometimes I felt like the odd one out. The food I made was bland and basic in comparison to the delicious meals his family and friends wives could whip up (although I learned a few recipes!) and my wardrobe was completely different.

When we went to south asian weddings, I felt out of place. Despite wearing the traditional dress and embracing the culture, everyone stared at the white girl and I felt isolated. Most people were super welcoming and loved to see me embrace their culture, but as an introvert, sometimes I just wanted to blend into the background.

platter of foods

Societal Pressure

Although we lived in the USA without many hiccup for the first few years, when we moved nearer the South Asian community my ex husband grew up in, in Brooklyn, pressure got to us.

Although he was not connected to his culture in the traditional sense of religion, he felt the need to behave himself in the community so that people would not talk. This meant “act like everyone else.” As someone who didn’t understand what it meant to “act like everyone else”, things got difficult.

I remember going to our Pakistani friends bbq in the height of summer and my husband insisted I wore leggings under my summer dress. It was 32C outside and I protested. He told me, “what do you think everyone will say about you?” Societal pressure can be a real problem in cross cultural relationships… no matter how compatible you both are. My ex husband didn’t care if I wore a dress when we went out together as long as nobody from the community saw me.

You Will Be Ignorant

Whether or not you educate yourself and take the time to learn, there will be times you realise just how ignorant you are. It’s okay to admit where you have work still to do. And you’ll never stop learning. It’s important not to judge each other for your differences and learn to embrace them. I loved teaching my ex about my own culture and seeing him interested.

We’ve been conditioned to think a certain way and follow certain social rules. When those norms are challenged, it can feel like an attack on you personally. We like to think we were raised “the right way” or that we know what is best. But sometimes, you have to realise there is no right way and that our differences are what make us unique. It is important not to take things personally and to take the time to understand your differences rather than get defensive.

Family Expectations

a mother arranging tulips in a flower vase
What are your family values?

Let me preface this by saying, I grew up in a very tight-knit family. My mother lived with her in-laws as they grew older and sicker, as well as her own parents. She still lives with my grandmother today. I hope to do the same for my own Mother as she grows old.

Every family is different. However, in certain culture, the in-laws of a woman are the head of the household. Whether her son is married or not, his duty is to look after his mother first and foremost. No matter how demanding they are. This burden also extends to the daughter-in-law.

Now, not everyone’s experience will be like mines in a cross cultural relationship. My ex husband was the eldest sibling and only boy in a Pakistani household. All of the expectations fell on his shoulders to take care of his mother and sisters. This was something I understood before marrying him, although the boundaries were pushed to the limits. We financially supported his mother and sisters and were expected to open our home to then whenever they felt like it. Our house was, as his mother told me “our second home” and she could do as she pleased here.

Tradional Gender Roles

crop colleagues shaking hands in office
Being an educated working woman is something I am proud of

In these modern times, society is challenging gender roles, particularly in the western world. Women are finding their voices and pushing back against what is expected of them (although there is still a long way to go).

However, not all cultures will be so accepting. I worked in a male dominated field so this was not my experience. However, many women in South Asian households are expected to stay at home in a traditional housewife role. Men are more often than not, the financial providers. And they expect a woman who cooks, cleans, looks after their parents and children in return.

My ex husband thankfully did not fall into this category, however, his mother often made comments like “my son bought this home with his hard-earned money.” She knew fine well that we had split our savings to pay for our downpayment. Yet she seemed to refuse to accept, that I was also an educated, working woman who earned a good living, as well as being a good wife to her son.

Another example of ignorance towards women that I experienced was when my husbands uncle visited our new house. He was an older traditional Pakistani man but I did not expect to be completely ignored in my own home. I tried to interact with him several times and offered him food and drink. I even addressed him in his mother tongue out of respect. However, I was left red-faced when he ignored my existence and continued to address my husband as though I was not present… all because I was a woman.

My ex husbands “suck it up” attitude caused a huge argument when I voiced how I felt about they way I had been treated. If this had happened to my ex husband, I would have leapt to his defense.

Celebrations and holidays will be different

top view of a family praying before christmas dinner
Holidays become a hybrid of cultures and it’s fun!

Holidays, whether you are celebrating Christmas, Eid, Hannakah or something different entirely, will become a bit of a learning experience. My husband had never celebrated Halloween, so we wen’t all out and decorated the house. And sometimes holidays become a bit of a hybrid of both cultures. I never expected to see pakora and samosas as a starter on my Christmas menu, but that is cross culture right there!

The Second Woman In Your Husbands Life

This is probably not the norm, but was ultimately the reason for my marriage failing. My Mother-in-law was my husbands number one priority. And he made that clear. She could do no wrong and I could set no boundaries with her. That was his mother after all. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my own Mother. We talk everyday and I would never stop my partner from spending time with his loved ones. However, it’s so important to set boundaries of what you will accept. In certain cultures, saying no to your mother-in-law is cause for divorce. This was absolutely the case with my ex husband and his mother.

Now that I have given some insight into my cross cultural relationship, I would love to hear from others about their experiences. I had many positives and learned many things that I will carry with me for life, although my marriage did not work out. I always try to focus on the positives and learn lessons from my past. I’d love to hear your feedback if you have any similar experiences! Thank you as always for reading!

Written by Jade @talkthirtea

Being a Pakistani Divorcee in 2021

I just want to say that not all Pakistani women and families experience whatever I have. Sometimes the stigma behind the south asian culture can cause a rift of what is and isn’t so it’s important to say that my experience is entirely my own. If you relate in any way just know you are not alone and I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

I don’t know about anyone else or if you’re able to relate, but don’t you feel like you’ve had enough of being silent & hearing others bullshit about your marriage? The marriage you tried so hard to save and make work? The marriage they so happen to have the most opinions about?

If you happen to be south asian like me then this might be a hi5 moment as I discuss my experience as a Pakistani divorcee in 2021.

My Parents

Where do I begin? I remember being told at the age of 12 years old by my mother that I needed to learn how to kneed the dough, cook curries and clean my house to please my husband and just in case I lived with my in-laws.

My mother had the privilege of being born in the UK. However, my father was born in Bahrain and raised in Pakistan. So, he was called to the UK, 3 years after being married to my mother. In this case, my mother didn’t live with in-laws, however my father was very cultural and opposed certain laws onto my mother such as not going out on her own, covering her face if she ever visited a certain part of Birmingham and being a housewife. But, soon as we grew up and my father got with the times and watched the generation change where women became more independent and were out there working hard and striving to meet their goals, my father changed.

When it came to my divorce, after me constantly trying to make my marriage work and my father watching me day and night, watching me cry and not eat, he would speak words of comfort to me. Now, not every south asian man or woman gets this treatment and till this day we are hearing and seeing people commit suicide or suffering at the hands of their husbands/wives/in-laws. But, not my parents.

All praises to God, my parents are so supportive.

The following words of comfort and encouragement are some of the things my parents said to me when I was broken and ashamed of whatever was happening:

God wanted you to be happy and that’s why he removed the one thing that wasn’t making you happy.”

Aslong as we are alive, no one can say anything to you or question you about whatever happened.

Live your life and if you want to work and travel the world go for it.”

A good man will enter your life and will support you and love you for the good woman you are.”

My Friends

My friends have been so supportive and kind. Not out of sympathy but because they’ve known me for years on end and know that I would have gone lengths to fix my marriage. ‘Fix’ was not the problem in my marriage, he is a narcissist that couldn’t get fixed.

My friends have encouraged me to start building back my confidence through skin care, getting dressed, putting on some makeup and double dates! And let me tell you, most guys don’t care if you’re a divorcee. I’ve been told my past is the past and they only care about the person I am today. It was an experience that has made me a stronger person.

Driving around the countryside, going to different cities, parks, restaurants and spending quality time with family and friends really is helping me with my mental health and well-being.

Choosing Yourself

It’s really sad that in today’s society women are being forced to stay with abusive partners and to ‘accept’ their fate because ‘daughter-in-laws’ are to take care of everyone and not have a life of their own.

I was always told from my ex that no one would look at me the same after knowing I’m a divorcee because I’m a woman. But, ever since i’ve been back and met new people, being a divorcee doesn’t affect most men’s opinions of you. This really helped my confidence.

I had to choose myself for the sake of my own mental health, to feel secure in my own skin, to be independent and have the choice of having my own bank account (I know, crazy right?) and to be loved unconditionally.

Being a Pakistani divorcee in 2021 has really shown me a different perspective of what other men actually think of you and how the community sees you and to be fair it ain’t all bad. You just have to remind yourself that you’re a bad ass bitch regardless and no one can judge you with this ‘label’ of being a divorcee.

Written by Layla

My PCOS Journey: Living with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Living with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, this is my PCOS journey and story. Before I begin, I just want to praise and acknowledge anyone who gets up everyday feeling optimistic and accepting their PCOS journey. Even though you may question why this has happened to you or feel you may not be worthy of being a mother, know that God or whatever you may believe in has a better plan for you.

Below I explain PCOS and some symptoms I face:

What is PCOS?

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is a condition that affects women and how the ovaries function. Nowadays it is thought that about 1 in 10 women in the UK suffer with PCOS. It is a hormonal condition and it is not known what causes this. Living with PCOS can be very difficult.

Common Symptoms or Signs of PCOS?

  • Excessive hair growth (face, chest, back)
  • Irregular periods or no period
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulty getting pregnant
  • Oily skin
  • Acne
  • Hair loss or hair thinning from the head
  • Increased risk of getting type 2 diabetes
  • Depression
  • Sleep Apnoea
  • High Blood Pressure

My PCOS consists of all these common signs and symptoms except type 2 diabetes (all praises to God). However, when I was seen by a gyno 8 months ago, she told me I was borderline type 2 diabetic. I was in the middle of my emotionally abusive marriage which I know was not helping my condition either!

Anyway, I only ever started my period naturally maximum 3 times in my whole life! Once when I was 11 years old and my period lasted 1 day, again at 15 years old and my period lasted 2/3 days and lastly at 27 when my marriage broke down. But my gynocologist mentioned I may have miscarried due to stress during my marriage breakdown. As you can imagine, living with PCOS and in an abusive marriage was extremely taxing on my mental health.

At the age of 21, having no period was obviously very abnormal. PCOS can run in the family and my cousin had been diagnosed with PCOS so I was pretty sure I had the same condition. However, I was neglected by the NHS when being checked by doctors at the age of 16 and was ruled out as having a “hormonal imbalance”. At 21 I had the same scan again and was finally told I had PCOS. I cried my eyes out because the thought of not being able to have children was daunting.

Toxic Relationship and PCOS

For me personally, I now see my PCOS as a gift. Why you may ask? Without a doubt it has saved me from my biggest regret. My marriage. I know if children were involved my life would have been over because he would have used my kids against me. Being in a narcissistic relationship didn’t help me or my health when I was trying to get pregnant. And thanks to my PCOS, I was saved from an abusive relationship longterm.

My ex husband was adamant that we would have children, despite knowing about my PCOS before we married. I stopped taking my contraception pills and began to see a gynocologist to help me conceive naturally. Unfortunately after some scans and blood tests I was told I would need to go through IVF. IVF is a procedure where the sperm and egg are fertilised outside the body by scientists and then inserted back into the female. This comes with some risks and is very expensive, however, many have been successful.

I would have mental breakdowns due to my ex’s comments on my weight as well as me not being able to conceive. He would embarrass me in front of other people. I had never hid my condition from him but he made me feel like less of a woman due to my infertility. Due to this I became suicidal, and had constant panic attacks. Thanks to good friends and supportive family members (who lived in the UK whilst I was in the US) I managed to escape my marriage.

Also, the pressure of his mother always complaining about me not being pregnant was constantly on my mind. She would make remarks about if me and my ex were using protection and would discuss this with her friends in front of me. I would be so embarrassed and my ex was okay with it. He would defend his mother and tell me she can say and do what she wants.

How to Cope with PCOS

So what do I do, while living with PCOS to cope? I remind myself every day that I’m beautiful in any shape or size as PCOS does make losing weight difficult. My weight fluctuates but I don’t let it bring me down. Yes, I do experience bad days but I try to eat healthily but never starve or deprive myself. PCOS is a mental challenge more than anything so it is very important to keep and have an optimistic mindset.

PCOS does not rule out having children for me. It just makes the journey to become a mother more difficult but I know that God has a plan for me. I surround myself with people who will always love and support me.

It really does affect my mental health and I always try my best to support charities who help orphaned children and women struggling with fertility. This gesture gives my mind comfort that I’m helping those less fortunate than me and I begin to show more gratitude.

I have started to try and drink green juices every morning, I avoid dairy products as much as I can as I become bloated! I was also advised to eat gluten and dairy free products to avoid diabetes and increase in weight. So you might want to look more into that!

For excessive hair growth I have had laser treatment done and it has really helped with my confidence and self-esteem. Laser has many benefits as it also clears up your skin and any hyperpigmentation caused by PCOS.

Remember ladies, having a supportive partner is so crucial when facing difficulties in life especially involving fertility. I wasn’t as lucky BUT not being able to have children doesn’t define who I am as a person or a woman. Just remember after hardship comes ease and if we are not blessed to have children, we will be blessed in other ways.

Written by Layla

Being Childfree at 30

silhoette of woman
Photo by Ilzy Sousa on Pexels.com

Here I am, a few weeks after my 30th birthday, divorced and childless. Not exactly the image I had of myself when I was in my early twenties. I was in a stable long-term relationship throughout my twenties and truly believed I would be a mother by my early 30s. This is something that has been weighing on my mind recently. So let’s talk about it.

As my marriage came crumbling down around me, I have had to get used to the feeling of discomfort. And one of the major sources of this discomfort has been the realisation that motherhood may not be on my radar. I have not cancelled out having children altogether. Not by a long shot, but right now I am single and it is certainly at the forefront of my mind.

Here are some of my recent thoughts on whether to have children in my thirties or not:

It is Okay to be Unsure, Even at 30

For lots of women, their maternal instinct is strong. They have this deep sense of urgency to be a mother from an early age. They know that starting a family is their calling and have zero doubts about it. Take my mother as an example. She met my father at 19 and by 22 she had me, with no doubts in her mind. The idea was not intimidating to her and it felt 100% natural. However, for me, I have moments of broodiness. I catch myself tearing up at photos of babies and longing to be a mother. But I am also used to being childless. The idea of having a baby to look after 24/7 is terrifying. And I am selfish. I enjoy my weekends, brunches and spontaneous city trips despite my ticking biological clock. And I know I am not the only one like this.

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

At the age of 30, almost everyone I know is either married or has children or both. I can count on my hands, the people I went to school with who haven’t started a family yet. However, comparison is the thief of joy. As happy as I am for my friends when I see their swelling bellies and baby scans, I am also happy to wake up late on a Saturday. I like to do my yoga unbothered and spend the day how I want. It is ok to do things in your own time. Do not feel pressured to join the club, just because it is society’s expectation of you to be a mother.

Educate Yourself on Fertility/Options

By this age, you’ll definitely have heard comments like “So any plans for starting a family?” And while these comments can get really irritating and feel like a personal attack on your womanhood, it is important to educate yourself on future options.

Only recently have I really started to think about different future options. At around the age of 30, our fertility decreases and at 35, we have an even sharper decline meaning the chances of falling pregnant naturally can be difficult. Modern medicine is our friend here. Thanks to the miracle of freezing eggs, IVF, surrogate mothers and of course fostering/adoption, we have plenty of options for the future. However, it is important to educate yourself if you think you may want kids in your late 30s.

yellow and brown textile
Photo by Anny Patterson on Pexels.com

Being a Mother Does Not = Womanhood

Your womanhood is not determined by having children and there is still a stigma around women who choose not to have a family. We are portrayed as lonely, cold and unlovable, while men who choose not to have kids are “career-driver” and “successful.” However, the reality is that more and more women are choosing not to have children nowadays. We are going to break the stigma by having conversations about it.

And while I myself am still undecided about whether or not I will have kids, I am open to having the conversation. I am starting to look at my options and educate myself to get a better understanding of what my future might look like!

I hope this advice is somewhat useful and would love to hear your opinions on the subject of motherhood and fertility in your thirties!