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Our favorite anecdotes are around “false pairs”, where the same word, spelled the same, means very different things in each language.(Try putting a word you know and use into a sentence where it means the opposite and examine your immediate reaction to it.This takes a lot of the pressure off of the relationship. It’s not fair expecting him to be able to read into what I’m saying. I think it’s important to have a respectful conversation with someone if their behavior is somehow bothering you.If I ask my husband “does this dress make me look fat? He doesn’t know that certain English phrases have hidden meanings (or, in this case, socially acceptable answers). regardless of whether that’s what I want to hear or not. When he sent that message, he meant “I don’t want to hang out with any friends tonight, I just want to chat with you about anything – like that movie we saw last week or where we should go for Spring Break.” Whereas I took it as “Don’t plan anything tonight because I have something serious that I need to talk to you about… Or break up.” Ryosuke occasionally says loaded statements or asks loaded questions in English. We’ve learned to take what the other person says at face value. ” And I answer “I’m fine,” then it means I really am fine. He doesn’t have the same upbringing or cultural expectations. I think that you should chat with your significant other if specific needs aren’t being met in your relationship – or if the gap between expectations and reality is causing your problems.I also planned the majority of our honeymoon (again, in America). Most of the “couple friends” I find speak English fluently… Or have one partner who is foreign (like me) and one partner who is Japanese (like Ryosuke). He can keep up with the conversation – even lead it (if he wants). One of the first things his father did was turn to me and ask “And how do you feel about this decision?And when we lived in America, I was in charge of planning our vacations, booking hotels, organizing transportation, and doing all the other “technical” stuff. In a perfect world, everyone would be able to speak every language. Most of the “couple friends” Ryosuke find don’t speak English. Of course, I prefer hanging out with native English speakers. Everyone always thinks he’s hilarious, clever, and cool. These days, we have a nice assortment of “couple friends” with various language abilities. ” It’s hard to convey my (true) feelings in Japanese.The burning desire to be able to communicate with his family better is the only thing keeping me going through the hundreds of hours of self-study.I’m bad at learning languages; I always have been (something I talked about quite a bit in this post).
And I don’t understand half the jokes he tries to make in English. Because apparently white people can’t speak Japanese. I can’t count the number of times someone has talked about me (in front of me) in Japanese, assuming I didn’t know what was going on. A good example of this was several years ago, when we first started dating. Weirdly enough, this makes life quite a bit easier. But when both sides are trying to “win” the argument, everyone loses.Around our one month anniversary, Ryosuke sent me a text that said “Don’t plan anything tonight, I want to talk to you about something.” Needless to say, I freaked out. I ran back to the dorm after my last class finished and asked him what was wrong. When Ryosuke and I argue, we are careful to stay away from name calling, dragging up past mistakes, taking cheap shots, or trying to trick them into saying the wrong thing. Neither of us fell in love with a tale the other was spinning. You need more than pretty words to build a relationship.Knowing that the default mode for everything is different.
When we disagree about something, that’s not a sign that we’re incompatible as a couple, it is the sign of two people who were raised in radically different environments.Now that we live in Japan, Ryosuke is the one who compares flights, finds hotels, and plans our vacations. No matter how much we study the other person’s language, the fact of the matter is that both of us spent the first 20 years of our life only knowing language. I knew how to say that Ryosuke’s happiness matters more than money, how we had plenty of money saved up, and that I honestly believe he should quit and look for a more fulfilling job.We moved back in March and he was stuck doing the vast majority of the technical stuff – finding a new place to live, getting all our documents in order, figuring out moving companies, etc (all the while, dealing with his last couple weeks at his old job). I tried to help out when I could, but over-all, I felt pretty useless. Japanese is never going to come as easily for me and English is never going to come as easily for him. But it was hard to convey how I supported Ryosuke’s decision 100% (and wasn’t just saying that to make him happy).I can able to open a bank account by myself in Japan but I still needed Ryosuke to accompany me to the tax office during tax season. And I knew I couldn’t say that I thought times are changing and the Japanese lifetime employment system is stupid (especially to a family full of people who thrived in the lifetime employment system).