In this guest post for the Expat Bookshop, Shelley Antscherl shares her own experience of cross-cultural family life and how she could identify with Wendy Williams’ recently released Globalisation of Love.
Love and other creatures
As the retired veteran of a Six Year War with my Jewish Mother-in-Law I’m fascinated by the trouble and strife that can dog the path of true love when marrying into another class, faith or culture, even when couples share the same nationality.
For my own part, I’d tried and failed to get along with the trickiest of creatures in the early days of my marriage but it was only years later that I finally understood that the catalyst for our discord wasn’t just personal, it was also cultural.
Although I was not Jewish when we met, my husband and I are both British with similar backgrounds, and as non-observant Liberal Jews my husband’s family initially welcomed and accepted me into the fold, and to begin with everything looked peachy.
But one cultural trait was observed religiously at all times, and that was my Mother-in-Law.
At first I relished being part of a close family unit and even enjoyed playing the role of dutiful daughter-in-law, especially as my Mother-in-Law could be fun and entertaining company.
But this self-appointed matriarch was feared and revered by the rest of her family and determined to be involved in every aspect of her adult children’s lives, invited or uninvited.
Before long her compulsion to control everyone around her, including my husband, began to jeopardize our wedded bliss and ultimately our future together.
Our views on my position in the family pecking order were just irreconcilable, and eventually this stark realization combined with my husband’s gradual awakening to her more vindictive tactics led to years of bitter estrangement.
Of course I wasn’t blameless. As a young woman joining a very close family I could have capitulated occasionally to keep the peace, but instead chose to stand my ground whenever I thought I was being undermined, which felt like all the time.
So when I stumbled across a new book called The Globalisation of Love about mixed marriages in the modern age, it really struck a chord.
Canadian author Wendy Williams has written a highly evocative, yet humorous guide to relationships that cross all frontiers. And given the fact she’s married to an Austrian and now living in Vienna, she’s certainly no stranger to the concept of mixed marriage herself.
With increasing numbers of people moving around the globe to live and work, love now overcomes barriers like never before and blended unions in all their forms are now everywhere we look.
With amusing anecdotes and witty repartee throughout, Williams has succeeded in writing something that is both enlightening and amusing.
So instead of bemoaning your bad luck for acquiring some ghastly old relatives along with your perfect partner, sit back and count your blessings. I know I did.
Because although I don’t miss my Mother-in-Law, I owe her two big debts of gratitude: firstly for producing my wonderful husband, and secondly for unwittingly giving us the push we needed to immigrate to British Columbia…
Shelley Antscherl – Journalist, expat and mother of four living in British Columbia.
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