Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Tag: marriage

Can Romance Turn into a Disease?


The pest control guy came over this morning, ready to spray away the carpenter ants. These ants had built a colony in the heating vent, he explained, and survived in what felt to them like summer. When they were hungry, they came out to my kitchen to pick up crumbs.

As he sprayed the edges of the house, he stroke a conversation about the importance of family. He said he had been married for thirty years and had three adult children who were healthy and well educated. He said that other people in his family were not as fortunate, that they had divorced, which had a negative impact on their children when they grew up.

The Americans for Divorce Reform estimates that “Probably, 40 or possibly 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce if current trends continue.” This once did not apply to the Chaldean (Christian Iraqi) community in America. But nowadays, divorce has become a trend to a people that once were determined to make it work, especially when children were involved.

“People spend a year or two preparing for the wedding,” said the pest control guy. “They pay tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars going all out. They have the wedding reception, and then the marriage lasts as little as a year.”

In his case, it took thirty days to prepare for his wedding. It was just a matter of calling the priest, calling a local restaurant to make a reservation, inviting the closest people and reserving most of the focus on the marriage, not the wedding.

I remembered something my yoga instructor said last week. She’s a beautiful Asian woman that looks as though she’s 24 years old. But when she said she’d been married for 34 years and has two children, I figured she’s much older than that. As we groaned while holding a position for what felt like forever, she said, “The challenge is learning how to become comfortable in what sometimes feels uncomfortable. That’s how my marriage with my husband has lasted this long.”

Most of the divorces that he and I witnessed were for petty issues that could have been worked out. I thought about something that Stuart Wilde once said, “What makes anything sacred is the fact that we concentrate on it and say, ‘This is sacred.’ You make it important. In fact love is actually concentration. Romance is actually a disease that comes from over concentrating on another person.”

The best article that talks about this is by Axinia, a Russian born blogger and photographer who works and lives in Austria.

Romantic Love vs. True Love and Why Happy Marriages are so Rare in the West

By: Axinia

Romantic love is the single greatest energy system in the Western psyche. In our culture it has supplanted religion as the arena in which men and women seek meaning, transcendence, wholeness, and ecstasy…We are so accustomed to living with the beliefs and assumptions of romantic love that we think it is the only form of “love” on which marriage or love relationships can be based. We think it is the only “true love”. But there is much that we can learn from the East about this. In Eastern countries, like those of India and Japan, we find that married couples love each other with great warmth, often with a stability and devotion that puts us to shame. But their love is not “romantic love” as we know it. They don’t impose the same ideals on their relationships, nor do they impose such impossible demands and expectations on each other as we do.

Romantic love has existed throughout history in many cultures. We find it in the literature of ancient Greece, the Roman empire, ancient Persia, and feudal Japan. But our modern Western society is the only culture in history that has experienced romantic love as a mass phenomenon. We are the only society that makes romance the basis of our marriages and love relationships and the cultural ideal of “true love”.

One of the greatest paradoxes in romantic love is that it never produces human relationships as long as it stays romantic. It produces drama, daring adventures, wondrous, intense love scenes, jealousies, and betrayal; but people never seem to settle into relationship with each other as flesh-and-blood human beings until they are out of the romantic love stage, until they love each other instead of “being in love”.

Romance, in its purest form, seeks only one thing – passion. It is willing to sacrifice everything else – every duty, obligation, relationship, or commitment  – in order to have passion.

The Blessings of a Henna Party

My husband’s niece had her henna party last weekend and it was fun and meaningful. For me, henna parties have become much more exciting to attend than weddings. Aside from the fact that they are filled with so much tradition, in our Chaldean community henna parties are much more intimate (with about 200 guests) whereas the weddings are, in my opinion, a bit overcrowded (at 500 guests and up).

Despite the small number of guests (at 200), one of the most important pre-weddings ceremonies in Arab and Hindu weddings is the Henna Party. A Henna Party represents the bond of matrimony and signifies the love and affection between the couple and their families. It is believed that henna gives blessings, luck, and joy.

The ceremony is a colorful, musical and lively event. The women dress in extravagant, heavily embroidered gallabiyas and the men wear a dishdasha and a 3-piece head cover. Large trays of fruits and nuts, sweets, and chocolate are carried by the women as they lead the future groom to his future bride.

The bride and other females get decorative henna designs on their hands. According to tradition, the darkness of the henna color on the bride’s hands represents the deep love between would-be-couples. Another tradition says that the bride is not allowed to work in her marital house until the time her henna fades away. Then it is work nonstop (no tradition says that, but any wife or mother understands what I’m talking about). Any wife or mother also knows that it’s all worth it, and the henna and other pre-wedding celebrations are beautiful steps that walk us into our new world with enough blessings to last us, and our children, a lifetime.

Sally's Henna

Committed Happily Ever After

Committed: A Love Story is the latest audio book I’m listening to. In it, author Elizabeth Gilbert gives a colossal account of marriage. From the tribal women in Vietnam to modern day Americans, she observes, compares and contrasts marriages, their success and failures, and comes to the conclusion that love is not enough to make a marriage work. You need to also put some thought into it. That’s what differentiates infatuation from real love. Furthermore, she highly recommends that men and women do not rely on their spouses for happiness. Each person is responsible for his or her own state of mind and spirit.

In a memoir I listened to last week, Three Weeks with My Brother, author Nicholas Sparks has a conversation about marriage with his brother Micah. Micah believed that the most important thing to a successful marriage was communication. Nicholas responded, “What’s the use of communication, in the case of an affair for instance, if you are not committed? If two people are committed to the marriage, if they really want to make it work, then they’ll find a way to do it. No matter what happens in life.”

Both Gilbert and Sparks give good old fashioned advice which I would like to share with newlyweds in general, particularly the newlyweds I attended the wedding of last Sunday – where in the midst of a storm and while the power was out inside our home, my family and I enjoyed the ambience of a fancy and beautiful wedding, delicious food, and more food, and my favorite, a violinist who during dinner played famous classics, like the Godfather love theme.

Cheers to healthy, happy marriages!

Firas and Nora's Wedding2

Love, Greece and the Movies


I was nineteen years old when I first watched Shirley Valentine, a comedy about a 42 year old bored housewife in England who takes a trip to Greece and while on holiday, decides to change her life forever. As a result of the beautiful scenery of the Greek islands in this film and the message it gave, that we should love ourselves and go after what we really love before it’s too late, I began following my desire to travel – first and foremost to Greece.

Today I went to the Main Arts Theater and enjoyed watching an intelligent and mesmerizing film. Before Midnight is an American romance drama film and the sequel to Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004). It takes place in Greece and it’s about a couple who ironically are in their early forties (guess I have this thing for the 40s). This couple gets a little time off from their twin daughters and end up confronting each other with some interesting conversation that challenges the questions of commitment and acceptance.

It was exciting to see that such wholesome smart stories still get created, even though they are put in one theater. It’s unfortunate that only certain types of people go to see them. Today, for instance, the majority of the twenty audience members watching this film had grey hair. Still, all that really matters is that they are being made and there is an audience for them!

I don’t want to be married!

Before the start of “civilization”, people got married in a simple manner. The man said, “You’re my wife.” The woman said, “You’re my husband.” The union was consummated, the two had babies, and everyone lived happily (or semi-happily if not miserably) ever after. Today is a different story. People take months to years to prepare for their wedding. Shortly after they have children, half of the couples end up getting divorced and in and out of court fighting for custody, property and assets. Then they remarry.

Recently, marriage has become even more complicated. A few days ago France passed a historic same sex marriage law. Some people were happy about that, others were outraged. The battle for such law still continues in the United States.

My son has his own theory about marriage. I decided to post it, although I’m not sure it’s appropriate today since today is my eight year wedding anniversary.



Food, Prayer, Marriage

Wedding rings

Ever since snow arrived, my children wanted to build a snowman. So Sunday we gave them a substitute snow activity – sledding. Needless to say they had a great time. Myself, who as a young girl rode roller coasters at Cedar Point, simply videotaped their adventure. Yes, I was too scared to slide down the hill that my three-year-old and six-year-old thought nothing of.

Yesterday was so packed with activities there was no way I could write a new post at night. We bought the children snow gear, took them sledding with their cousins, I discovered black tomatoes at the produce market and we attended a small 500 guest Chaldean American wedding (usually they’re 700 plus). And most importantly, church!

“The Life of Abraham” lecture series started at Freedom Christian. As the pastor spoke of Prophet Abraham, I thought of my ancestors’ land, Ur of the Chaldees in Iraq, where Abraham originated. This city, which is mentioned several times in the Bible was one of the great urban centers of the Sumerian civilization of southern Iraq and remained an important city until its conquest by Alexander the Great a few centuries before Christ. Ur was eventually incorporated into Babylonia. The Ziggurat of Ur, believed to be 4,000 years old and originally a temple to the moon god, has become a symbol of honor for Iraqi ingenuity and culture, as well as being the birth place of the prophet Abraham.

During the lecture, the pastor said something very important about marriage.

“Your marriage is not your true identity. It is not the job or your wife or your husband to make you happy, not that they should attempt to do otherwise. Your hope of who you are should be based on your relationship with God.”

I agree. Many marriages fail today because a lot of pressure is placed on what spouses should do and not do for each other. In the movie Eat, Pray, Love, Julia Roberts plays a married woman who is not happy in her marriage. She wants a divorce to go out and find herself but her husband desperately does not want the divorce. He asks her, “Why can’t you find yourself inside our marriage?”

She could have.

“Enjoy your vacations,” said the pastor. “Enjoy your relationships, enjoy your work, but don’t make them the source of our joy or your status. God is the source.”