Skype vs. Sufi whirling for our Turkish-American “marital moments” of woe

As with any couple, we have disagreements. OK, and we have arguments that are, ahem, occasionally heated.  I am sure many of you can relate? Well, add to that two mix two different culturally imbued communication styles – and you get what another American wife in a Turkish-American marriage refers to as a “drive-by” moment.

Let me explicate – the tagline for this blog is “A road-trip through one Turkish-American marriage with backseat-driving Karagöz puppets,” you know, sort of like a drive-through? A drive-by, in gangstah parlance is a shooting.  I *howled* with laughter when she made this comment in my blog a few days ago.

Esma, the hippie puppet, steps in at this point and reminds me that what I really need is to go on a retreat with a bunch of female Sufis and whirl myself to peace and love (such as the women are in the above left photo, dancing in Bursa as pictured by Hurriyet Daily News). She may be right, this tiny little puppet, but she isn’t married to M. in our most challenging moments. And as he might say back to me, Esma isn’t married to Liz (me) in hers! On a more serious note, I am sure I could learn a lot by joining the Sufi search for love…and maybe the time will come for that. Who knows.For now, I take it as a well-deserved suggestion to get back on the path to peace.

Yes, this is part of life with a partner, arguments, the need for patience and good communication. BUT – I write today with some good news. Skype may be of assistance to us all in slowing down and listening to one another – and checking ourselves when “triggered.” This winter break, I spent some time with our dog down in Provincetown while M. was in the city working. We spoke on Skype each night. We were in the flux of making a decision about something big – and were having some disagreement moments.

But I started to notice something important.Usually, I fly by red flags I set up for myself when making an argument – probably unduly influenced by all of the courtroom arguments I used to have to make as a forensic social worker in New York City in my past career. But here, in the quiet of Provincetown, sitting at the dining room table on Skype, I was able to catch myself a slight bit more by noticing that “red flag” that tells you to slow down your speaking, lower your voice, check the attitude and filter the tone in the voice as a deep ravine is around the corner and you are about to flip over the guard rail (i.e. argument hence!).

Fast forward to last night, we got into a murky marsh around a difficult issue we have not been able to resolve about the use of space and the management of time.  I almost suggested that M. go upstairs to get on Skype while I logged on in the living room so that we could try arguing virtually – almost. 🙂 I tried whirling a bit per Esma’s suggestion, but I got dizzy and gave up. I don’t mean to treat a sacred Sufi rite lightly, but giving it a whirl was all I had at that frustrated moment.  I managed to just leave the whole topic well enough alone until the conversation was ready to finish, but it was tough to do it.

Today, it resolved itself (for now).  We had a wonderful resolution conversation and made some next step plans.  One of the things we realized was that when we get tense – M.’s ability to comprehend the larger context in English (although he is almost fluent) flies out the window and I get impatient.  I need to accommodate this more.  We need to slow down.  We need to do better about listening – and putting things on the table.  What couple doesn’t? It’s been a tough week, full of my flu, the struggles of a young friend of ours we are very worried about – and all the usual as well – work-family-choices-in-life.

[Side note: Kenne the Queen of Manners and Proper Ladylike Behavior is wailing in the corner with rage – she is horrified that I would even DEIGN to argue with my husband – not a lady’s role, she tells me. She tells me to use my Granny’s line “Whatever you say, dear,” delivered with a slight bit of disdain. Esma just tells me to meditate more. Hacivad Bey reminds me that relationships are all about the process, Skype or no Skype, whirling or no whirling.

So, cross-cultural couples out there, what do you have to say about how culture – and language – filter into your arguments? Let’s break the barrier of talking about what is REALLY challenging – seems to me so many cross-cultural relationship discussions don’t step into the gap…

This entry was posted in Cross-cultural learning moments, Turkish-American Matters, Visits from the Karagöz puppets and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Skype vs. Sufi whirling for our Turkish-American “marital moments” of woe

  1. Alan says:

    J regularly asks me to slow down – talk calmly – stop jumping to conclusions – pre-empting – you name it. I think I need a visit from your inner voices whenever I start to get agitated or intemperate. What I loved about this post is that it made me take a peek at how I react to cultural difference (J is totally open and honest which can be difficult to deal with at times – in that respect we too have a cross-cultural relationship).

  2. Rozzici says:

    i Know all about cross cultural relationships as i have been married to a Pakistani muslim for 45 years and still counting lol

  3. Liz Cameron says:

    I am a firm believer that culture can be used more broadly than the technical definition. I also think that there is the whole “venus mars” thing going on re: gender and communication. I’ll tell the puppets to send a crew Okcular way 🙂 Open and honest while cringe-producing at times in some ways saves the long term partnership, I am beginning to think. We have the same debates, A., ty for sharing. Part of my goal with this blog is to get into DEEPER exploration on these topics than the surfacey bullshit in so much of the cross-cultural relationship literature. In the end though, sometimes it is more about relationship than the cross-cultural part. 🙂

  4. Liz Cameron says:

    Welcome Rosamond! I am IMPRESSED at 45 years of marriage – much less cross-cultural marriage!!!! I can’t wait to hear more from you. What are your secrets to success in a 45 year cross-cultural marriage – waiting with bated breath!!!!

  5. Pingback: Global warming and diving ducks: Our “cultural iceberg” looms « Slowly-by-Slowly

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