I’m about to marry a man who I talk to about almost everything, but who doesn’t always talk back. In the world of happily ever after, that’s not okay. Relationships are about a two-way communication, right? But in my world, that’s just fine. I’ve learned a lot about relationships in the past two years, and especially about the one I’m in a relationship with. Mostly, I’ve learned that a lot of what I thought before was “normal” or “healthy” really isn’t. That’s technically impossible because everyone’s version of normal is different. For example, you think it’s not normal to sniff your food before eating it, and I think, “That’s strange, why isn’t anyone else sniffing their food first?”
Even within American relationships, people have different ways of expressing themselves. In an intercultural relationship with a Chinese guy, this is truer than ever. To be honest, I don’t like to talk about stuff like feelings and problems and how to solve those problems. When I’m upset, I would rather not talk about it and just let it ride out until I’m feeling better, which normally just takes a day. Sometimes only a few hours. But when cultural differences started to emerge (like him refusing to come to dinner with some of my acquaintances because he didn’t know them and I wasn’t that close to them anyway. Wouldn’t an American boyfriend go if his girlfriend asked him to?), I figured we should talk about them. Because that’s what we’re supposed to do. Talk it out.
Which is why it bothered me that most of the time, I did all the talking while Alex listened. On his end, he never had any issues to bring up with me. But I expected him to at least say something, anything, when we talked out our issues. At the end of the conversation, he’d say “Okay” and that was it. I had said my piece, yet still felt somewhat unsettled, as if the conversation wasn’t finished.
Over time, I started to notice that while Alex didn’t say a lot with words, he was communicating constantly with his actions. If I vented about how I was having a bad day, he’d take the time to cook and clean for me. He doesn’t tell me often how much he loves me, but he bought me gloves because he knows how cold my hands get in the winter. While he didn’t acknowledge my words with a response when I talked to him about certain issues, I noticed that he did things differently the next time around. Even in our daily communication, I’m more attuned now to the non-verbal cues. When we are out walking on the street and see something funny, it just takes one look at each other to convey our amusement. Sometimes we go an entire dinner without saying a word, but it’s completely comfortable. None of that awkward silence nonsense. And now, when I feel the need to talk to him about certain things that bother me, I no longer feel uncomfortable with his lack of response. I know that that’ll come later. I just need to keep my eye out for it.