Getting married is exciting. Being married holds more surprises than most of us expect. This is because marriage isn’t like any other relationship you’ve ever been in. It has features of many of them but it is these very similarities that can leave you off balance. 2017 is lining up to be my year for international travel. While it’s really exciting, I’ve found it to be a bit more challenging than I originally thought. The parallels to marriage smacked me upside the head in January.
I started the year going to a family wedding in Santiago, Chile with my mother, two sisters, and two nieces. We came in from different parts of the United States but all landed the same morning. We were supposed to meet at baggage claim. I was the first one to arrive and I was all by myself. No problem, I thought. I’ve traveled alone before and I had no real concerns. That is until I got through immigration and realized, past that point, no one who worked there spoke English. And, I don’t speak Spanish.
I was caught off guard because I was in an international airport in a capital city and the signs were in multiple languages—including English. I realized that I had made some assumptions that didn’t appear to be accurate. It dawned on me that this is what marriage is like for a lot of people. Because you’ve been in romantic relationships before, you think marriage won’t be much different.
This wasn’t the first time I had been to a foreign country. While my previous experience was proving to be enough to keep me from panicking, it wasn’t enough to make me confident about what to do next.
I logically focused on what was familiar. I knew the airline and flight numbers for my family so I looked at the screens for the baggage carousels. There was only one airline listed–LATAM, the Chilean airline I had taken. Not a single other airline from any other country was there. Now, I was really confused. Was there more than one international terminal? Did the other airlines land somewhere else? How was I going to connect with my family?
I took a deep breath. And then another. We were going to use What’s App to stay in touch with since none of us had international phone plans. So, I tried to connect to Wi-Fi. Easier said than done. Again, just enough difference to make me feel insecure. Staying in baggage claim didn’t seem to be working—too many people, no good vantage point. Now what?
I was noticing that all the other travelers had some paperwork as they lined up to go through what I finally realized was customs. It was then I also realized that the language barrier had occurred long before I landed. I hadn’t been paying attention to some things that turned out to be pretty important to my current predicament. This is akin to glossing over bumps that appear early in a relationship that become more apparent and important once married.
Flying to Chile, I wasn’t surprised that the flight crew spoke Spanish. I thought we communicated well enough about what I wanted to eat and drink. And, all the official communication was done in both English and Spanish. I didn’t think any more effort was needed on my part. So, I didn’t pay much attention when they were distributing the customs forms. I had no idea that it was something I needed. This self-focus and assuming I knew all I needed to is at the heart of a lot of the difficulties that occur in marriage.
My family and I finally connected and the rest of the trip was wonderful. It was made much easier by the translation abilities of my niece and the warmth of the Chileans, many who did speak some English. The wedding ceremony was in both languages so everyone felt included. Real language differences are pretty obvious and not necessarily something you will experience. But discovering that you don’t really understand each other even though you share a language is one of the surprises that comes with marriage.
The differences between you and your spouse and between your previous relationship experiences and marriage are often easy to miss. Because you’ve had a similar experience before, you think you know how to successfully navigate the one you’re in now. It’s a good place to start but making room for the differences will help your marriage journey a smoother one.
Are you looking for better communication and greater intimacy? Check out The Last Communication Tool Your Relationship Will Ever Need.
Lesli Doares is a therapist, couples coach, and the founder of a practical alternative for couples worldwide looking to improve their marriage without traditional therapy. Call Lesli at 1-919-924-0463