Category: relationships

True Story: I Moved Halfway Around The World & Met The Man I Want To Marry

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting, challenging, amazing things. This is the story of Amanda, her life abroad, and her Chinese boyfriend.

Tell us a bit about yourself!

My name’s Amanda and I’m 24 years old. I’m from a small town in New Brunswick, Canada and I lived in NB my whole life, until just over a year ago, when I moved to China to teach. This is my second year teaching preschool at an International school in Beijing. When I’m not working, I spend time with my boyfriend and friends, read a ton of books and blogs, and write my own blog, Sunshine and Whimsy.

Growing up, how did you feel about travel or living outside of Canada?

I’ve always wanted to travel and dreamed about living somewhere else, but it just didn’t seem possible. My family didn’t have a lot of money and I paid my own way through university by working a lot and with a student loan, so I just thought, ‘Someday, hopefully…’

When did you become interested in teaching abroad?

It was always an idea in the back of my mind, but I became really interested while I was completing my Education degree. A company came and gave a presentation to my class about teaching in China and that was it. It seemed like the perfect way for me to see part of the world and pay off my student loan. I left the auditorium that day telling everyone, “I’m going to China!”

Tell us how one prepares for moving abroad.

Haha! Well, I don’t know how everyone else prepares, but I prepared by freaking out about paperwork and what/how much to pack. I must have checked the airline’s page about baggage limits a million times! Really though, it was pretty simple. The company I was hired through helped get my visa, so I just had to fill out a bunch of forms, get a complete medical check done, and mail everything to them. I also read a bunch of blogs to get tips for traveling and moving abroad.

This was your first time on a plane and you moved to China! How did the people in your life react to your decision?

“It’s your first flight ever and you’re moving halfway around the world?!”

For the most part, people were really supportive, telling me how brave I was, etc. I think a lot of my friends and family were surprised, but mostly because they thought I’d be more nervous than I was (I’m known to be a big worrier). For some reason, it just wasn’t a big deal to me; it was just this thing I was doing.

How did you and your boyfriend meet? What’s he like?

Tony, whose real name is Zhang Tao, is 24 and from Henan, another province in China. He works in the IT Department at our school. That’s how we met and I had a crush on him for months, but it wasn’t until a staff dinner (where drinks were free), that we started talking. Everyone always tells me how shy he is, but I forget, because once you get to know him, he’s so open and hilarious. He is also, no exaggeration, one of the hardest working and nicest people I’ve ever met. He loves trying new things, swimming, playing basketball and ball hockey, and has recently become obsessed with Seinfeld.

How has his family reacted to him dating a foreigner? How has your family reacted to you dating a local?

When we first started dating, Tony asked his mom what she would think if he dated a Canadian girl and she said, “It depends” and started asking him a bunch of questions: “What does she look like? How tall is she?” and finally, “Is she nice?” I haven’t met his family in person yet—we’ve only QQ-ed (the Chinese equivalent of Skype)—but they’ve been so friendly and curious. They’ve invited me to spend Chinese New Year at their home this year (a big deal in Chinese culture!) and now his mom asks us when we’re going to get married and tells me I need to learn Chinese. (They don’t speak English, but I’m taking Mandarin lessons.)

For the most part, my family has also been friendly and supportive. My mom mailed him a Christmas package this year! They’ve also only Skyped with Tony, but so far, they love him. Unfortunately, a few family members have had some not-so-nice things to say. While I don’t think this excuses their words and behaviour, I think it’s mostly because they’re worried their “little girl” will decide to live “so far away” in China forever, and because they fear the unknown.

Have you guys encountered any cross-cultural miscommunications?

We have miscommunications all the time, some because of cultural differences and others because of language. A couple examples:

After we had been dating for a few weeks, we went shopping together. Without thinking about it, I reached to hold his hand and he pulled away. This ended in an argument that night with him telling me he “just wasn’t ready” and me basically yelling, “So you’ll sleep with me, but you won’t hold my hand?!” After more talking, I learned that here, holding hands is a big deal. If you hold hands with someone of the opposite sex in public, that’s announcing you’re “official” and it’s serious.

Another time soon after we had begun dating, we were cuddling on my couch, watching TV, when all of a sudden, he grabbed my stomach and asked, “What’s this?” I took a deep breath and said, “Fat.” “No,” he said, “What is it?” While holding my stomach to show him, I explained, “We call it a roll. It’s a roll of fat.” He was still saying no and asked, “You know, that thing that kids wear swimming?” And then it hit me: “An inner-tube!” “Yes, that’s it!” And we went back to watching TV.

There are a lot of differences between our two cultures, especially in terms of money, sex, and beliefs, but so far we’ve been able to talk about everything openly and make compromises.

What are the benefits of dating a local? Any drawbacks?

One of the biggest benefits is that Tony can translate for me, making it easier to do things like take taxis, go shopping, order at restaurants, and communicate with other locals. But, this is also one of the only drawbacks I can think of.

So many people assume my Mandarin must be better since we started dating, but it’s actually gotten worse. I learned quite a bit before we started dating, because when I went out I tried really hard to talk to people. I’d practice new words and phrases with vendors at markets and waiters at restaurants, and I wasn’t afraid to make a fool of myself. Now when I go out, it’s often with Tony, and a lot of times, Chinese people will ignore me, only wanting to talk to him because they assume I can’t speak Chinese. It’s really frustrating.

Your relationship is quite serious. If you two got married, would you stay in Beijing? Would he move to Canada? Do you have a long-term plan?

We don’t have a specific long-term plan because there are so many unknowns. I don’t think I want to teach forever and we both are interested in traveling and possibly living in other countries. We do want to get married though, and we’ve both agreed we don’t want to live in Beijing long-term; it’s too crowded and polluted. We do eventually want to move to Canada together, but again, maybe not long-term.

What’s one thing you’ve learned from this that any of us could apply to our day-to-day life?

The biggest thing I’ve learned is to just go for it. If you’re thinking of doing something, big or small, do it! Go on that trip! Talk to the cute guy! Pack your bags and move! Chances are, it will work out, and if it doesn’t, you’ll have a great story to tell.Thanks so much for sharing, Amanda! Have any of your dated (or married!) people you’ve met abroad?

True Story: We’ve Had An International Long-Distance Relationship For The Last 3.5 Years

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Ashley and Peter and how they’ve made their Canada/Texas relationship work for the past 3.5 years.

Tell us a bit about yourself!

Ashley: Hi, I’m Ashley, a 29 year old life coach and I currently split my time between Texas and Canada. When I’m not helping women figure out what the heck they want to do with their lives + find the confidence and courage to actually go through with it, I’m training for marathons, obsessing over The Voice, and experimenting with new green smoothies recipes (apple cinnamon is my fav, so far).

Peter: I’m Peter. I’m from Canada. I’m a writer. And you should never ask a gentleman his age.

How did you two meet?

Ashley: Back in 2008, I had a personal blog where I mostly wrote about bad dates and fun nights out with friends. I remembered finding Peter’s blog through a mutual friend and thinking he was “so popular.” It took almost 6 moths for either of us to leave a comment on each other’s blogs (he had so many readers and I thought he was too cool for me). After a few years of commenting, we began emailing and gchatting as friends.

Peter: A mutual friend had linked to Ashley’s (long ago) blog and called her “my blog crush.” And since I think I should be everyone’s blog crush, I went to check out this Ashley person. It wasn’t long before I understood the crush. I loved how open and honest she is with her writing. I actually heard her speaking voice on her blog before ever seeing her pretty face. I had a voice crush!

What was your first thought when you realized how far apart you were? And when did you think that it might be worth it to make a go of it?

Ashley: I knew he lived in Canada from the beginning, but I didn’t think about it too much. Although I did make him ask for my phone number twice, just to make sure he was serious. After a few months I was all-in. It helped that I love to travel and I wasn’t committed to staying in Texas forever, so I always assumed I’d be the one to move eventually.

Peter: Early on the distance didn’t seem like a big deal to me. I felt the connection and I just needed to get to know her better. I had to find out if we’d hit it off. It was only once I was completely smitten that I realized how far away Texas is. Our feelings grew quickly and grew big. She was always worth taking a chance on.

Tell us about your first in-person meeting!

Ashley: I went up to Canada for a few days to stay with him. It was strange because we had been friends for 3 years and dating (via Skype and the phone) for a while, but I was still so nervous. My stomach was in knots and I was shaking. We hugged for a while and then kissed. It was better than I had ever imagined. After about 30 minutes, the nervousness went away and it was like we had always been together.

Peter: I was mildly surprised at how composed she was in the face of my spectacular good looks. Actually my feelings went like this:

“Wow. She’s gorgeous.”

“I get to make out with her soon!”

“My heart is beating really fast.”

“I should make out with her right now.”

How often do you talk/write/skype each other? And how do you stay ‘present’ in your day-to-day life when you’re apart – instead of just thinking about your far-away partner all the time?

Ashley: We talk every day, and probably a lot more than most couples. Since we both work from home, we’re able to be on Skype as much as we want, whenever we want. Sometimes we’ll have to go longer periods of time without talking, if one of us has guests or is out of town, but we try to talk at least once a day. It was a struggle for me to be present in the beginning, but now I’ve relaxed a bit and I know he’ll always be there, so it’s easier to enjoy the moment when I’m out doing things and not talking to him every five seconds, ha.

Peter: We’re on Skype as much as humanly possible. And when we’re not, we’re on gchat/google hangout, Whatsapp or the phone. With the technology at our disposal, there is no excuse for not keeping in touch. Sure it’s not nearly as good as in person, touching, but we do our best to feel like we’re in the same room.

I’m sure a lot of people would struggle with trust issues having their partner so far away. How have you dealt with that?

Ashley: It’s crazy- this hasn’t really been a big issue for us. From the beginning, we made it clear that we were in this together and on the same team. When we go out with friends, we’ll send each other a text and try to keep them in the loop as much as possible. I want him to feel like he’s important and part of my life, even if he can’t physically be here with me all the time.

Peter: We trust each other. We’ve never given each other any reason not to. We communicate well. We check in. We have had jealous moments. But we’ve done our best to make sure they are small and infrequent. And we’ve allowed each other to be jealous, and feel comfortable admitting it. It’s all about communication.

How do you deal with the, um, intimate aspect of your relationship when you go three months without seeing each other?

Ashley: With so much technology, we find ways to make it work, if you know what I mean. It’s not the same as being in the same room, but it works for the times when we’re apart.

Peter: Yes and Yes girl, you’re naughty! My word. I wonder if I type “SKYPE BOOTY!” if Ashley is going to delete it before emailing you. We’ll see. I guess I would sum it up by saying that I am a writer who is very good at describing details, and Skype does nothing to take away from Ashley’s remarkable hotness.

What’s keeping you from being together full-time? Do you think that will be resolved anytime soon? How long are you willing to keep up the 3 months together/3 months apart arrangement?

Ashley: Being from different countries makes it challenging. With just a passport, we’re only allowed to visit for 3 months at a time. Plus, we’re both building our own businesses, so that’s our top priority at the moment. Within the next year, I’m planning on applying for a visa so that we can spend more than 3 months at a time together.

Peter: Citizenship stuff. Work stuff. We’ll resolve it soon enough. Then I’ll continue my Canadianifying of a Texas girl. Eh, y’all?

What are the benefits of a long-term, long-distance relationship? The drawbacks?

Ashley: The benefits are that you really get to know the person on a deeper level, because there aren’t as many distractions like superficial dates watching Iron Man. Plus, it allows you more freedom to live you life how you want, without always accounting for your partner. I can eat s’mores and watch The Holiday on Saturday night and he won’t care. And I don’t have to shave my legs as often! The drawbacks are that it’s hard being apart for so long. Your family asks questions, especially around the holidays. You don’t get hugs whenever you want. Plane tickets are expensive. And you can’t curl up in bed with your love after a long day.

Peter: I think the drawbacks are obvious. No touching. No kissing. No hugging. Benefits are harder to find. I think in the beginning, it made us have to get to know each other. We couldn’t just hop in the sack. We talked. We shared. I courted her.

What’s one thing you’ve learned from this that any of us could apply to our day-to-day live?

Ashley: Everything worth having is worth fighting for.

Peter: You gotta work hard to make any relationship work. LDRs are no different. But if it’s the right person, it’s worth it.Thanks so much for sharing your story, guys! Are any of you in long-term, long-distance relationships? How have you made them work?

P.S. How to date a younger man and 4 little ways to show people you love them

Love Them Enough To Leave Them Alone

if you really, actually care about someone you'll give them the space they need to decide how (or if) you'll be part of their life. Don't call your ex. //

Around this time last year, I was dating A Very Nice Guy Who Just Wasn’t Right For Me.

I did all those things you do once you discover that someone’s not your person. I made it painfully clear to him that I wanted to ‘take things slow’. I only saw him once a week. I instituted a ‘no sleepovers’ rule.

But, eventually, I realized that it wasn’t particularly kind to string along a sweet guy who wanted to be my boyfriend when I was more interested in Dollywood and moonshine than my relationship status.

I spent a month crying in restaurants to my girlfriends, practicing break up speeches, and googling things like “how to let someone down gently.”Also: eating carbs and cheese in various combinations. I finally worked up the nerve to end things and closed the conversation with ye olde “but I’d like to be friends.”

And then, dear readers, to the horror of us both, I actually tried to do that.After what I thought was a suitable amount of time, I sent him an email. When I saw his hometown in the news, I texted him. I asked him out for breakfast.

Was I interested in getting him back? Not at all! Did I miss my friend? Yes. Was there a hip hop show companion-shaped hole in my social life? Yes. Did I worry that he hated me? Yes.

Now, if you’re keeping track, exactly none of those concerns had anything to do with Very Nice Guy I Dumped. They had everything to do with me, my needs, and my ego.When we end things with someone – a romantic partner, a friend, even someone we’ve employed – we become a source of discomfort.

As much as we’d like to stay in touch, stay friends, stay in the loop, we need to put the ball in their court. When you’ve ended something, you no longer have a say in how that person spends their time or directs their feelings.

If you really care about someone you'll let THEM decide how (or if) you'll be part of their life. Click To Tweet

So what does this look like in real life?If you know he’s having a hard time getting over your breakup, don’t text him those inside jokes you used to share.If you know she’s still hanging on, despite the divorce papers, don’t tell her that she looks great and you like that haircut.

If you know he’s still holding out hope that you’re ready for a serious relationship, stop it with the late night booty calls.

If you don’t want the best friendship that she does, stop inviting her out for one-on-one drinks while you unload all your problems on her.

Sometimes love comes in the shape of space.
A tough but clean break.

Mentally wishing someone the best and then letting them go after it – without you.How do you deal with exes? Do you give them space? Do you wish they’d would let you be so you could get on with your life?

P.S. You also have the right to be left alone. If someone hurts you or ends things and then wants to be part of your life, you can tell them that you’d prefer not to be friends. You get to choose who’s in your life!

P.P.S. If you’re trying to break your “stalking your ex on social media” habit, this will help. And it’s free!

Photo by Tiraya Adam on Unsplash

True Story: My boyfriend is quadriplegic

What's life like when your boyfriend is quadriplegic? One woman shares her story. //

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Paige and her boyfriend Steven.

Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m originally from Lincoln, IL and have been living in Tucson, AZ for two and a half years. I’ll be 25 this week! As far as my career goes, I am an 8th grade Language Arts teacher in southern Tucson. I love my job and for fun I really enjoy reading (surprise surprise) cooking clean and healthy foods, working out, and basically enjoying Tucson’s amazing year-round weather. Anything that allows me to be active outside will be something that I’m interested in.

What’s your partner like?

Steven is a 26-year-old Junior Architect at an architecture firm in Tucson. When Steven was 15 years old he broke his neck snowboarding. He broke his C6 vertebrae and there has been a C6 quadriplegic for the last 10 years. What I love most about Steven is that being in a chair hasn’t affected his quality of life, or his positive outlook and personality.

He plays wheelchair rugby (nicknamed Murderball) for the University of Arizona. He is still very much into “extreme” sports. He enjoys off-roading in the desert, adaptive wakeboarding, working out his upper body and pretty much anything that allows him to be active. He grew up wakeboarding, skiing and barefooting on the lake in Michigan and loves being outside and in the water.

How did you two meet?

Steven’s sister was in my sorority in college. We decided to visit her brother for Spring Break 4 years ago who was living in Tucson and attending the U of A, and luckily for me it was Steven 🙂 We’ve been together ever since. We did long distance for one and a half years. Finally when I graduated college in the winter of 2010 I packed up my car and moved to Tucson to be with him.

What was your first impression of him?

My first impression was that Steven was super sarcastic (which I loved) and that he was way more active than I would have imagined. Steven drives his own car, dresses himself, and really does take care of himself. He lived alone for a year before I moved in with him so he’s pretty self sufficient.

That surprised me at first because before him I had never really known anyone in a wheelchair and had some pretty stereotypical ideas. Just like every able-bodied person is different, so is every quad/para. Everyone’s injuries are unique, which means everyone’s needs and lifestyles are different in terms of function and self sufficiency.

Were you at all nervous about dating someone in a wheelchair?

I wasn’t nervous about dating someone in a wheelchair simply because it was Steven. When I met him I immediately liked him and the issue of his chair never really came into play. I had some questions but it didn’t scare me off or make me too nervous.

If someone had maybe set us up beforehand I might have been pretty nervous because I wouldn’t know what to expect, but when I met Steven there was an instant attraction and so his disability wasn’t an issue.

I was a little nervous when we decided to move in together, because I wasn’t sure exactly what that was going to entail and what kinds of parts of my life (and his) would change, or exactly how much “help” he would need. I knew there were certain things he couldn’t do but I didn’t know how that would affect my day to day life.

How have your friends and family reacted to your relationship?

I have had overwhelmingly positive responses about my relationship. My parents and friends are really supportive. I think more than anything else they are curious. Quadriplegia isn’t something that most people know about, so everyone always has a lot of questions when they find out my boyfriend is in a wheelchair, which I think is fair.

Have you faced any particular challenges?

One of the biggest challenges is people’s perception of his disability. People we’ve never met will come up out of nowhere in public and ask incredibly personal questions (i.e. how do you go to the bathroom, how did you get hurt, can you have sex, etc).

People assume that because he is in a wheelchair he can’t do ANYTHING, that he needs to be pushed everywhere, that he possibly has a mental disability because he is in a chair, etc. Those are challenges that obviously Steven faces, but being his girlfriend and living with him, they’re challenges that we both deal with.

One thing people say often to me, including people I don’t really know that well, is that I’m such a good person, or I’m so strong, to be able to deal with being with him and loving him. That’s definitely a challenge, because even though I know people that say that mean well, it’s just so ridiculous.

He’s no different than anyone else and him being a quadriplegic doesn’t make him weird or anything. I love him. He’s a wonderful person, with or without the chair, so “loving him” or “being able to deal with him” don’t make sense to me. I don’t know many people that would leave their spouse or significant other if they broke their neck and had to be in a wheelchair.

The only difference with us is it happened to him before we met. It freaks me out to have people tell me that I’m the strong one or the good person, because I don’t do anything! Steven is the strong one by far. He lives a better life, happier life, and more adventurous life than most able bodied people. Not everyone in his situation can be so positive.

How does your partner’s physical issues affect your life together?

His physical issues affect our life in a few ways. Usually when we’re going anywhere new we have to check to make sure it’s handicap accessible. Sidewalks are tricky- if there isn’t a ramp close by I have to pull him up (I’m 4’10; Steven is 6’3 and about 180 lbs…we had to perfect that technique). The biggest physical challenges are really the things that I would normally take for granted.

We have to plan vacations to make sure that 1) his shipment of catheters has come in in time before we leave anywhere and 2) that wherever we’re going will have access to a restroom that he can use privately when he needs to go to the bathroom. We’ve definitely had issues before where he has thought he had enough catheters to stay in town or what not, and he’ll run out and our plans change.

As far as living together goes, he can take pretty good care of himself like I said earlier, but I always help out when he needs it, whether it’s help getting dressed, getting his shoes on and off, helping him shave/cut his hair, opening bottles/jars/boxes/etc.

Living in Tucson makes getting around easy because it’s mostly flat, but once, after we had been dating for about one month, we went to the St. Louis Zoo for a day. It was a hilarious day because of how crazy the whole ordeal was. I think that’s the day I realized that committing to a relationship would mean that parts of my life would change. If you haven’t been to the St. Louis zoo before, it’s the hilliest zoo in the country.

I spent the entire day pushing him up and down hills, and a lot of the exhibits weren’t even accessible at all. It was exhausting but it must have been pretty funny to see me pushing this kid up these huge hills and we definitely still had a great time.

What advice would you give to others dating (or interested in) someone who has mobility issues?

The best advice I can give is to go into it with an open mind. There are things I’ve done to help Steven with that I would have never considered doing to help someone before, but when you love the person those things don’t phase you or seem weird.

Dating someone in a wheelchair isn’t anything like I had thought it would be, but in a good way. Being able to help Steven when he does need it makes me feel like we’re more of a team because we work together. I would do anything for him, and most couples don’t get the opportunity to really show that to their partner. I do often.

Also, his disability has turned him into the person that he is. He is so positive and doesn’t take anything for granted. He also doesn’t ever complain, because he knows what it’s like to actually go through hardship and life-changing events. He’s my biggest role model and I’ll always look up to him because he inspires me. My advice is to not be scared of the chair 🙂 If you really love and care for the person, it just won’t be that big of a deal.

Thanks so much for sharing, Paige! Do you have any questions for Paige?

P.S. True Story: My husband used to be a woman + True Story: My marriage was arranged by the Unification Church

True Story: I Had A Cross-Culture Marriage

This is one of many True Story interviews, in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Elizabeth and her 22 year marriage to a Lebanese man.

Note: Elizabeth and her husband eventually divorced. Obviously (obviously!) I’m not publishing thisinterview as anti-cross culture marriage commentary. Elizabeth was simply the first person who responded to my interview request. Of course, there are a gajillion happily married cross-culture couples.

Tell us a bit about yourself!

My name is Elizabeth Hammoud and I’m 50 years old. I’m originally from the south suburbs of Chicago, but I live in Burnsville, a suburb of Minneapolis/St. Paul. I work for Planned Parenthood where I run the Purchasing and Inventory department.

How did you meet your husband?
We met in the basement “bar” of a foreign students’ dorm in Munich, Germany. We met in ’85 while I was living in Munich, pursuing my dreams by working in Germany. He was doing an internship and educational exchange program when we met. The dorm would have these mixer events in the bar they had setup in the basement of the dorm. I remember thinking that we were the least likely to hit it off at the time because those were the years of kidnappings of Americans in Lebanon. We seemed more like natural enemies.

What’s his background?
He came from a little village in south Lebanon that was under Israeli control in their “south security zone.” Because Lebanon was in a state of civil war, he had been living with family in Beirut rather than in his southern village because the fighting was problematic and there were more opportunities in the city.

Prior to meeting your husband, had you ever dated anyone from a different culture?
I found people from other countries totally fascinating and I gravitated toward them as friends from high school onwards. In college I dated a guy from Vietnam, someone from Malaysia, and a Turkish guy before meeting my husband.

How did your friends and family feel about your relationship?
I’m pretty sure my friends thought I was a goof bucket for dating foreign students (gaaaaa!) My family is not one of those touchy feely types of families, so I don’t know that they even noticed that I was hanging out with people from other cultures. They never really mentioned anything that I can recall.

How did his friends and family feel about it?
Lebanon is much more family-centric, so his family was very interested in the people with whom he was spending time. That being said, however, their culture frowned upon dating per se. One would normally get to know one another if the families knew each other and the relationship flowed from that basis.

Have you two ever had any cross-cultural miscommunications of your own?
Of course! Coming from such dissimilar backgrounds we couldn’t help but run into opportunities for miscommunications. Something as simple as “oooh, I can’t wait!” connoted to me anticipation and excitement whereas it connoted to him “I can not wait,” i.e. “I would not wait.” That’s a very literal miscommunication, and those types of things were an issue due to our language differences. His native language was Arabic, with French as his second, and German as his third language. I speak fluent German (and English, of course,) so we conversed in German for the entire first year and then some of our marriage.

Other miscommunications resulted from cultural differences. For example, I didn’t know that it’s kind of bad luck to compliment things such as a nice house, or beautiful baby, or lovely jewelry. It is something about the “evil eye – type” superstitions, and I had no clue.

Another thing was that I was raised to be totally independent and self sufficient. They are raised to be selfless and family-centric, which was for me very foreign. I viewed the ever-present family as intrusive and counterproductive. They viewed my family as cold and unhelpful when they let us alone to work through our own issues rather than having them interfere.

How do you incorporate both of your cultures into your day-to-day life together?
Well, we lived as much of a Lebanese life as we could while living in the States. I was always cognizant of how hard it must have been for him to be the only person from his relatives that was in the States, so I deferred mostly to the Lebanese culture. We ate Lebanese, we listened to Lebanese music, we had Lebanese satellite TV, we got together with other Lebanese that we met along the way. We celebrated the Muslim holidays and vacationed at his family’s places in Canada, where they had settled.

Tell us about your three (!) weddings!

Our first wedding was the official one in Germany. Since we were living there when we met, we got married the first time there. The ceremony was at the justice of the peace (“Standesamt”) in the Solln district of Munich. The office was housed in a little mansion of sorts. It was very historic, and architecturally beautiful. I wore a Loden Frey original white 2-piece, ¾ length dress. Neither of our families was there. But we both had friends that stood up for us and witnessed the wedding. We had a little celebration dinner at the local Hilton Hotel and home-made wedding cake back at our apartment. Our rings came from Lebanon and our marriage license/certificate was in something like ten languages!

The second wedding was in the States. My parents threw us a big vow renewal at the Presbyterian church close to my hometown in south Chicago. I was raised Lutheran, but the church decided to throw me out because I married a Muslim. Talk about religious fanaticism! Mom’s job had a clergy on staff and he agreed to do us a Presbyterian ceremony. Anyway, I got a second wedding dress, a big reception and lots of professional photographs.

Our third wedding was in Calgary, Canada about two weeks after the 1988 Winter Olympics were held there. We were on our first ever visit to his family. I had never met anyone of the family until then. They had a dinner for us and had us dress nicely. There was a Muslim sheikh invited for dinner and soon he had us engaged in conversation about our future plans etc. Then we signed our names in Arabic and surprise! You’re now married with the blessings of Allah! It was very sweet, but a little ambush-y. It was well-intentioned though and very culturally important so that they didn’t feel like we were “living in sin” having not been married by a sheikh yet.

How many children do you have?
We had two kids, a boy and a girl. They’re nearly grown now. Our daughter is in college and our son is in high school. They were both raised understanding Arabic and eating Lebanese food. Naturally, they answer Arabic questions with English answers. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law lived with us intermittently for about five years when the kids were young. During that time I picked up a lot of Arabic skills dealing with my in-laws. They saved us a lot by providing the daycare while we both worked.

How did you incorporate both cultures into their upbringing?
We associated with many Lebanese families that we had come to know over the years, so the kids were always exposed to socializing the Lebanese way. We also took them to Koran classes so they got a basic introduction to Islam and praying the fetaha. We celebrated Ramadan, cooked Lebanese, visited relatives and went to Lebanon three times for extended vacations over the years.

What advice would you give to someone who’s dating across cultures?

It’s not for the faint of heart! It takes a whole lot of give and take to make it work. And it’s best if you come from as similar of backgrounds as possible. For example, if you’re both from farm life, it will be easier. Or if you’re both die-hard city folks it will be easier. You have to have an open mind to doing things “the other way” on any given occasion.

You may have to alienate your family by doing things in favor of his culture. If that will be hurtful, it could lead to disagreements. Know your tolerance for interfering in-laws if his culture is like that. Understand what role he’ll have to play in the future, because you’ll be going down that path too! And you should have similar feelings about saving and spending. So basically you need to be ready for everything you’d run into getting married in the same cultural, then add in the language differences, the cultural differences and about a billion other things, then you get the picture! But if you can handle it, you will learn so much and have such a rich life.

Thanks so much for sharing, Elizabeth! Are any of you dating or married to someone from a different culture? What benefits/challenges have you found?

cake topper by molly clark, for sale here.

True Story: I’m 4 Inches Taller Than My Husband

Don't let height stop you from dating someone awesome! A super sweet interview with a woman who's taller than her husband.

Tell us a bit about yourselves!

Cadence: Hi! My name is Cadence, I’m 32 years old and I’m originally from a small town in Iowa. I live and work in Minneapolis where my husband, Eli, and I own a photography business. I love sharing meals with friends and family, perusing design on Pinterest, running, and travel.

Luckily I get to share all of that with Eli (except for Pinterest, he doesn’t dig it as much as I do.) I’m currently dreaming of a trip to Scandinavia and scheming of ways that Eli and I can live abroad during the winter months.

Eli: I grew up in St. Paul. We’ll move to that side of the river and start a family sometime coming up here. Right now, we’re in Minneapolis, though, being married we don’t go out so much as we used to.

How tall are you guys?

Cadence: I used to say I’m 5’10” and 3/4. Now I just round up to 5’11”.

Eli: I’m 5’7.” So Cadence has 4” on me. When we stated dating she always wore heels out, so it was 6” or so.

How did you guys meet?

Cadence: We met nearly 5 years ago at First Avenue in Minneapolis. At the time, I was going dancing there every Saturday night. One night, I ran into several friends who happened to be there with their friend, Eli.Between the noise and the constant dancing, we didn’t get an opportunity to talk that night but we were definitely making eye contact. I was really interested in him (his hair! his eyes! his rave-like dancing!) so the next four Saturdays I ditched my weekly dance habit and kept inviting our mutual friends out.

I kept hinting that they should invite “whomever they wanted” hoping they would bring Eli, but they never picked up on the hint. On the fifth Saturday, we bumped into each other at a photography/fashion event supporting our mutual friend. We spent the entire night talking, he asked for my number, and two years later we were married.

Eli:We had both been going there just about every week, but had never seen one another – you know, because I’m short. 🙂

The night we met we had a mutual friend that was there and pointed Cadence out to me. I was totally into her, but wasn’t sure that she was interested. By the end of the night, I broke off from the group, not wanting to be TOO into her. Happily, she found me to say goodnight. I was going to be back next week to find her! I was back there for a month, all lone-wolf style looking for her. When I finally did see her again, it was a total surprise at a photo event a month later; I was elated.

My inner dialogue was literally “YES! CADENCE IS HERE!” We spent the whole night together, and within months I was confident that I wanted to marry her. There are pictures from that night somewhere. Cadence was crouching down in all of them; she has since stopped that. 🙂

Before you met each other, what were the heights of your previous partners?

Cadence: Everyone was pretty close to my height; I’ve never been with anyone who’s much taller than I and some were definitely uncomfortable if I wore heels.

Eli: First tall lady – It’s not like it’s a fetish or something!

Were you at all put off by the height difference?

Cadence: I was never put off by our height difference. In the beginning, it wasn’t something that I really noticed–I think I was too head over heels for him to give it much thought. Since I was wearing heels the first two times we saw each other and he still asked me out, I was fairly certain it didn’t bother him. However, we never mentioned the height difference so it kind of felt like the elephant in the room until one of us made a joke about it one night.

Eli: I was a bit insecure about it for a while. I felt like it reeked of a Napoleon Complex, heck, maybe it does. Whatever. Now, she’s my wife and a great partner how am I going to complain about what package that comes in?


Do people ever comment on it? How do you respond?

Cadence: My friends tease me sometimes, but it’s certainly not in a hurtful way; we’re able to giggle about it. I feel strangers stare at us just a little bit longer, especially when I’m wearing heels.

There was one particular time we were in an elevator in Las Vegas and I heard a woman stage whisper, “She’s SO tall!” I had imbibed in a few cocktails that evening so my response was probably sharper than it needed to be.

Eli: Nobody ever comments to me. I’d give ‘em a look.

Are there any challenges to dating someone who’s four inches taller/shorter than you? What are the benefits?

Cadence: We’ve never really mastered the art of slow dancing and I can’t wear his jeans as “boyfriend jeans” (but he could wear mine, I suppose).There are times when I feel vulnerable and I want to feel dainty and small…but those moments of insecurity are usually fleeting; Eli makes me feel strong and beautiful.

As far as benefits, Eli tends to be much stealthier than I am so it certainly helps when we’re shooting weddings together. (I’m hoping our kids get his mad gymnast skills.) And, of course, I can reach the top cupboards in the kitchen–which is where I hide all the good stuff.

Eli: I’d say the only challenge would be getting over a mental hurdle if you had one. People are wired to like and look for some particular things in mates though, and if it’s a ‘deal breaker’ for somebody thenI guess that’s that.

What do you guys think when you hear people talking about height as a ‘deal breaker’ for who they’ll date?

Cadence: I can’t imagine ruling out an entire segment of population, just because it doesn’t fit into a socially constructed norm.

Eli: I don’t think I’m quite qualified to be giving much dating advice. But, I’d say that too many ‘deal breakers’ and a person is liable to wind up alone or struggling to make their partner into something they aren’t.

What advice would you give to tall ladies/short dudes who are dating?

Cadence: Embrace it–and laugh a lot.

Eli: Keep it real.

Thanks so much for sharing! Do you guys have any questions? Do you have height hang-ups about who you date?

P.S. How to date a younger man + Love your ex enough to leave them alone