Saturday, June 4, 2016

My Intercultural Love: Tom & Rachel

My name is Rachel. My family is Polish/Hungarian and I'm from Toledo, Ohio in the USA. My husband's name is Naresh (but he likes to go by Tom) and he is from Hyderabad AP in India. We currently live in the USA in a small town in Michigan, called Woodhaven. My husband and I have 3 fur-babies named Alex, Ivy and George Bush. In January we lost a baby, but hope that God will give another one soon. 

Three words that describe you...
Adaptable, caring and friendly.

Favorite childhood memory...
My favorite childhood memory has to be weekends at my grandparents cottage in Round Lake, Michigan. We would spend just about every weekend from April to September when I was a kid. 

Where/how do you feel most inspired?
I feel most inspired when I'm sitting alone in our bedroom. As a kid I loved to sit in my room alone, so as an adult that's pretty much where I go when I need to think or get upset I go and write in my journal or do my daily devotionals.

Where/how did you meet your spouse?
In Early 2010, I decided I wanted to go to India on a missions trip and work in an orphanage. Tom and I have a mutual friend who went to college in the UK together and when he found out that I was going to India, he contacted Tom. Tom's uncle owns an orphanage in Southern India and our friend thought he might be able to help me plan my trip. So Tom sent me a message on Facebook, and to be honest I almost deleted it because I was so sick of getting inappropriate messages from random men! About 3 days after he sent me the message, I actually read it and it was very simple: "Hi, I'm Tom, If you need any help planning your trip I can help you"...

I emailed him and we decided that we would Skype because I had a lot of questions about India and orphanages in India. We Skyped for the 1st time for 4 hours and NEVER talked about the orphanage, not even one time! So we made another time to Skype and again we didn't get a chance to talk about the orphanage again - by this time I remember thinking that I really liked this goofy guy, he was nice, and polite and made me laugh. 

I went to India in March of 2011 and Tom - who I still never met in person yet - flew from the UK into India when I was done with my missions trip and asked me to marry him! He had already asked my dad via Skype if he could marry me and that knocked the socks off my dad!!!! I said yes on March 16th, 2011 and exactly 2 years to the date  - on March 16th 2013 - we got married. 

How long have you been together?
We have been together for a total of 6 years. We dated for 3 years and just celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary this past March. 

What qualities do you admire in your spouse?
The qualities I admire most about my husband is his caring heart! He would give anyone the shirt of his back if they needed it. I love that when I'm upset, he will stop everything and sit with me, hug me, and hold me. 

Favorite memory together as a couple...
My favorite memory as a couple has to be the day we lost our baby, obviously not the losing our baby part, but how my husband handled the whole situation. The day after we lost of our baby, my husband came home from work with flowers, a card, and candy for me, and he said "when your heart is hurting so is mine". He sat on the couch with me and let me cry for hours and just held me. 

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?
I really didn't know much! 

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
This relationship has enlightened my life by teaching me that just because I do things one way doesn't mean that it's the only way to do things. My husband has very good at opening my eyes and showing me that my way is not the only "right" way. 

Who proposed and how?
Our official proposal was at the airport in Chandigarh, in Punjab, India. It was the very first time we were able to actually touch each other. He gave me a hug and said he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me and I told him the same. In our eyes we were engaged and because Indians are not like Americans, he didn't know about the whole "proposal with a ring" thing. I do have to say he did ask my father via Skype if he could marry me though and I thought that was awesome! My Dad just said "Well...I don't understand this whole relationship but if you love each other then you have my blessing!!" My husband took that as a yes and prepared to ask me. 

Describe your wedding...
We had 3 weddings total. Our first one was what we call our "paper" wedding on Feb 2, 2013, where we had our pastor legally marry us 2 days after Tom arrived in the US. We are both Christians and we didn't want to live together before we were married. Our official wedding was on March 16th, 2013 - it was a small wedding with our close friends and family at our church in Toledo. This wedding started at 12:30 pm in the afternoon and lasted till about 3 pm in the afternoon. We had a nice little lunch after our ceremony, ate our cupcake cake, took pictures, then my family and Toms family went and played pool. After, we went back to our home and had a bonfire in our backyard and just had a nice relaxing evening. It was a very simple wedding but one of the best days of our life and I wouldn't change anything about that day. 

Our 3rd wedding was an Indian wedding in my sister-in-law's living room with my mother and father in-law and my best-friend there. To be honest, I have no idea what was going on with that wedding. My mother in law dressed me in a saree, put makeup on me, and covered me with gold. My husband and I went into the living room and the priest talked for about an hour we played a few games after that and then it was over. I do hope that one day we can go back to India and have an actual reception with all of his family and friends. 

What does being married mean to you?
Being married means having someone love me and be by my side for the rest of my life. I have to say, I have had to get used to having someone with me all the time. I'm more of a "do it by myself" kind of person so it took me a little while to get used to having someone with me all the time. 

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?
Our ultimate marriage goal would be to be able to retire and travel around the US in an RV with our cats. I know that sounds like a faraway goal, but we both love traveling and we love RV's and some days, I think my husband loves our cats more than me!

What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?
The best marital advice we have received from an elder is to not take out what our family members say or feel on each other! To remember that neither myself or my husband can control our families' way of thinking or acting. That has helped me tremendously!!! 

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship (from your own culture)?
I think one positive cultural value I bring to our relationship is that my parents taught me to try anything and that I was good enough for anyone! 

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse?
We have been married for 3 years, so on each of our anniversaries we try to travel out of town. Whether it is 3 hours away or 13 hours away - its our time together. We also have random "Rachel Days" or "Tom Days" where we do what the other person wants to do. I feel like we have more Rachel Days though, than Tom days for some reason! 

In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
I guess Tom and I are lucky because we are both Christians and he lived in England for 6 years so we really didn't have to adapt to each others cultures very much. When we are with my in-laws we do go to the Temple and participate in some Hindu celebrations, but we don't do anything Hindu at home. 

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?
I can be honest and say that in the beginning I didn't like going to the Temple at all, it actually made me sick to my stomach to go into it. That was just my ignorance - not anything my in-laws said or did. As a Christian, I was raised to not bow down to statues and not to eat fruit offered to God, so I struggled with that every time we would have to go to my in-laws home. My husband said to me one time that it was hard for him too, but he knows that our God knows where our hearts are and he knows that we are not bowing down and worshiping these Gods. 

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?
The most challenging time in our relationship for me was probably the first 6 months we were married. My husband wasn't allowed to work in the US and we were living off my tiny salary and we could barely make it financially. We had gone from being in a 3 year long-distance relationship to living together and being together all the time! That was very hard for me, because I like my alone time and once you are married you have another person to think about. 

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
The best part is listening to my husband talk about India and being lucky enough to have traveled to India myself! I am also very proud of myself that I can cook pretty good Indian food for my husband and all his friends. 

The worst part of being in an intercultural relationship is the different language that my husband and his family speak. The worst thing for me is the not feeling part 90% of the time. That's hard for someone who speaks Telugu and English to understand because my husband can understand both languages rather we are with his family or my family and its not like that for me. 

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?
One of the biggest misconceptions that people have about the Indian culture is that my husband only married me for a Green Card. I'm sure that's what a lot of people get, but oh my goodness so many people said that to me! All I have to say to that is there is no way my husband would of put up with me in a 3 year long distance relationship if he didn't really love me and only wanted to come to the US. To add to that, my husband didn't even live in India when I met him - he lived in the UK and didn't need a green card. He would have been just fine with us living in the UK. 

What are the biggest misconceptions about American women?
The biggest misconception about American women is that we are only with Indian men for their money and that we are whores! You wouldn't believe how may people said to me - that I only want an Indian man for his money! Like they can't see my heart or something. I get random Facebook messages from Indian men and women who say things to me like I'm a whore or I stole their husband from them! Just ridiculous things. 

Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them?
Tom and I have both come across people who disapprove of our relationship for sure! Before Tom arrived in the US, I had a good friend come over to our home and sit me down and tell me that she had been praying for us. I told her "Thank You for praying for us we really appreciate it". She then went on to say that she didn't think I should marry Tom, and that she had a really bad feeling about him and she felt I should call off our wedding. She felt like God was telling her to come over and tell us that. Now I believe in God and I do believe that he tells us things, and I know that she believed she needed to come over and tell me this. I listened to her and when she was done, I simply said "Thank you for coming over and telling me. I really do appreciate your kind words, but I am still going to marry Tom." That was that...she left and she never said anything else to me after that! 

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
If I could tell anyone in an intercultural relationship some advice it would be to listen to your spouse - always remember that he/she knows their family better than you!! If your spouse says they need more time to talk to their family, believe them because that's probably the truth! There were many times that I wanted to scream, "TELL YOUR FAMILY ABOUT ME!!!" but I couldn't, because I knew that my husband knew his family better and I had to wait for his timing and not mine.


1 comment

  1. Tom and Rachel,

    You both are a beautiful couple together, thanks for sharing your story with us. My wish for you both, a long and happy life.



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