Any relationship is hard. However, breaching two distinct cultures only adds another, complicated layer to the relationship schematics. While most of the guys I dated before I met Ryosuke came from a different country (three from Mexico, one from South Africa, one from France), I never really had any idea I was going to enter an interracial marriage.
But then I met Ryosuke. We knew each other a couple months before we started dating; less than a month after we made our relationship “Facebook Official,” he unofficially proposed and we started planning our lives together. Now we’ve been together for almost two years (engaged for 8 months), and we’re still finding new things out about each other each month.
But the more we learn about each other, the more we learn we are inherently and culturally different. My dad always told me to marry someone with a very high ability to “change” or adapt to a new environment; both Ryosuke and I have done a great deal of changing for each other. But we’ve also done a lot of learning.
I think one of the most rewarding aspects about being in a cross-cultural or interracial relationship is the fact that I am forced to examine my own culture (and values). Every time Ryosuke and I disagree about an aspect of our relationship, we are forced to confront why exactly we believe we are right (and I’m not allowed to say “Because I’m a woman, therefore I’m always right!”).
I wanted to make a mini-series about all the things Ryosuke and I seem to disagree with culturally. I wanted to do this partially for reflection, partially because I thought it might interest people who have no experience with Japanese culture, partially because I thought it might interest or align with what people with a great deal of Japanese cultural experience have noticed, and partially because I wanted to help future foreign women dating Japanese men. I wanted to give them a list of things to expect with their Japanese boyfriend. So far I have six things on this list, but I will probably find more later.
The main thing my Japanese Boyfriend (now fiance) and I have different ideas on is…
I like to fight. Or, I don’t actually like to fight, per say, but I think constructive fighting and arguing has a very vital role in any healthy relationship. I believe both sides should be able to safely confront the other about behavior that bothers them, issues they’ve been holding in, or other concerns without bottling it up. In a perfect world, we would be able to sit down once a month or so and just talk about the things that were bothering us – and such a conversation would rarely lead to actual yelling. I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve actually yelled at each other during a “fight” in the last year and a half. We didn’t start out that way, though.
Needless to say, Ryosuke’s views on fighting and arguing are quite different. He was raised in a somewhat non-confrontational society. While he is one of the most confrontational Japanese people I know, sometimes he will shy away from conflict. Especially when said conflict seems to be rocking an otherwise stable boat (hint – the boat is our relationship). This also isn’t a uniquely Ryosuke aspect, most of my friend who have dated a Japanese man or have Japanese boyfriends have complained about this: Japanese men don’t like to fight.
If sometime bothers Ryosuke, he would prefer to keep it in. When he’s sad, mad, frustrated, or angry with me, he will kind of shut down, and I have to awkwardly sit across from him for the next half an hour or so, waiting for him to compose himself and gather his thoughts. All of my friends have complained about similar things. It seems like most Japanese boyfriends have inherent problems with effectively communicating their feelings. In my opinion, this isn’t good.
I knew an American girl who had been dating this Japanese man for two years. She was bragging to me how not once, in their two years together, had they ever gotten into even a simple argument. “We always agree on everything,” she bragged, “we’re not like those other couples who fight all the time!” I started to wonder if maybe she was right, was I pushing Ryosuke to fight too much? Would we be better off not confronting each other that often?
Three days later, she went to meet up with her boyfriend. She was very excited because they hadn’t seen each other in a month or so. She thought he was going to propose.
But he dumped her.
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