Living in a culture other than you own adds stress to marriage. It is already tough when you are busy and tired and constantly interrupted to remember to keep the spark alive. It’s important to take a few minutes every so often to just think about romance and its importance to your marriage.
Distractions from work, children and even your calling can squeeze any romance out of us. Unsettled disagreements cause tensions to rise. Sometimes we just get too busy to deal with the little irritations. Disappointment over what our mate fails to do chills romance. In some situations we look like we are shirking our responsibilities or not taking our work seriously if we take time to be alone together. Let’s look at each of these problems a little closer. When we have spent the whole day putting out fires it can be hard to spark romance. Many times though, if one of you begins wooing, the other will find there really is a little left to share.
Our minds may be on a thousand different problems and we have loose ends that still need to be dealt with the next day. Try writing down a to-do list for tomorrow so that you can free your mind tonight.
“Don’t let the sun go down upon your wrath.” That was good advice from Paul. We have only let unsettled disagreements last to the next day twice in our thirty years of marriage. The reason we know it was only twice is that the tension between us the next day was unbearable. By then we had forgotten what we were upset about, but we didn’t forget the distress! Take the time to ask forgiveness or to talk about your grievance before you sleep. You’ll both sleep better.
It is so easy when living in another culture to have unrealistic expectations for your husband. You may expect that he can easily pick up some milk on the way home from his meeting and he may expect you could keep the living room neat since you have domestic help. Both of you can be ignorant of the other’s limitations in this new setting. Unless you talk about what you expect, you may never understand why your spouse isn’t meeting your expectations.
If we only had to deal with our own misconceptions and unrealistic expectations, we could probably work those out after a while. But the others we are working with come from a different world. What they think is important and what we think is important may be two very different things. They may misinterpret our need for privacy as our being exclusive. Or they may believe that unless we work 80-100 hours a week we are lazy or uncooperative. We must find ways to communicate our basic needs for family time and privacy if we are going to succeed long-term on the field.
Now for some principles to keep romance in your relationship. Keep up your physical appearance and personal hygiene. When no one knows what a white woman’s hair is supposed to look like, it is easy to get careless about styling it. But your husband knows what looks nice on you, so fix it for him. Americans at home seldom bathe more than once a day, but when living in the tropics, two or three showers a day is not an extravagance.
Stay creative in the ways you romance your husband! Since you are living in a different place, it’s a good time to try some new ideas to make him feel really special.
Find some things you enjoy doing together. You may have never tried a hobby together. This may be just the time. TV is seldom in English and usually they choose to show the worst of American fare, so read books together or work jigsaw puzzles or crossword puzzles together. Friends of ours would rearrange their furniture about once a week to provide variety in a lonely outpost.
Remember that romance comes from knowing you are special to one another. Let each other know that if you were choosing today, you would still choose each other. Romance grows with special secrets and special moments. Find ways to surprise each other once in a while.
Luanne said, “It is VERY important to take time to do something special at regular intervals. Living and working together 24/7 can make it feel like you are just room mates and co-workers. It is often very hard to find local restaurant. We take time to go overnight to a hotel in the nearest town. It is worth every penny!”
Shari sent a list of fifty ways to enrich your marriage. She excerpted them from “Understanding The One You Love” by Steve Stephens. Some of my favorites were:
- Start each day with a kiss
- Be polite
- Smile often
- Give back rubs
- Do what they want before they ask
- Cuddle (Editor’s note: even if you have to use talcum powder and a ceiling fan.)
- Celebrate birthdays in a big way
- Watch sunsets together
- Say “I love you” frequently
- Wink at them
- Send a card for no reason