The thing is, I don’t speak Croatian. I plan to, in the long run, but for now I only understand a few words. He wants to visit his family and friends every year, which I totally get. Last year I went with him, and stayed for one week while he was there one month. In this week I met his friends, who didn’t really bother to speak English although they can. He says it’s because they find it exhausting on their holiday. That means I felt like the third wheel the whole time. His family was no different, albeit very friendly and nice. I like his mom a lot.
He wants to go again this summer. And he wants me to come with him the whole two weeks he’ll be staying there. We would stay with his parents, as he always does. But, I feel like it’s not really a holiday for me, but more of one for him. I feel stressed out a lot during the year. I feel like I’m entitled to a relaxing holiday as well. So I told him I’d be glad to come for a week and then part ways. I am a very independent person who’s always traveled far and at times alone. I also want to meet up with girlfriends I don’t see very often anymore. But he’s really pushing the stay for two weeks together, even suggesting I stay home a few nights with his mom, as he goes out to party. Yeah, I’m not really feeling that one.
Also, the fact that we both live together and work together makes me feel a bit closed in. Is it selfish of me to want to take a holiday alone? Even just BE alone? Or should I do everything I can to meet his needs and fit in with his friends and family whom I can’t even speak to (save for his mom)? I feel kind of conflicted. I also asked him what would happen if we had kids? Would we always go there? And would his friends keep excluding me?
I could really use some advice. — Cross Cultural Divide
First of all, regardless of language and cultural boundaries, visiting one’s in-laws is rarely a “holiday,” so adjust your expectations on that front. For most people, part of being married does entail spending time with in-laws. If your in-laws are long-distance, you can pretty much count on traveling to see them at least once a year. That’s just the way it goes. Would it be selfish of you to refuse to accompany your soon-to-be husband on one of these trips? Not necessarily. My husband didn’t come to Germany with me this month to visit my parents, but his reasons were more financial than selfish. You aren’t even asking whether you can skip the whole visit. You just want to skip part of it, and I say that you’re entitled to that. Two weeks is a long time to spend with people who not only aren’t “your” people, but who also don’t speak a language you understand.
Frankly, I think it’s pretty selfish of your boyfriend, who met you in Belgium, to expect you to spend so much of your vacation time visiting his family in another country. And that he’s already planning to exclude you — i.e. leave you home with his mom while he goes out with his friends — is a red flag. If he wants time to spend alone with his boys, why is he so insistent that you not go home after a week? What is he afraid you’ll do left on your own? That’s what you need to find out. It almost sounds as if he wants his mother to babysit you or something.
And speaking of babies, it’s smart of you to begin a conversation of what travel to the in-laws will be like once you have kids. Does he still plan to visit his parents for several weeks every year? Would he want to bring kids for that whole time? Would his family be willing to help care for them? Would they be willing to come see you in the early years (traveling with babies is hard) instead? Do you have room to host them? There are no real right or wrong answers to these questions, but they’re definitely questions you need to ask now before you walk down the aisle and begin a family with this man.
The short answer to the question you’ve asked here, though, is: no, you are not being selfish in wanting to retain some individual free time away from your betrothed and his family. You met a men in your home country who happens to have grown up somewhere else. By marrying him, you will have to make some compromises that you wouldn’t have had you married one of your own countrymen. But it isn’t fair to think you should be the one making all the compromises. If your fiancé has chosen to marry a woman from his host country, he needs to be flexible with her travel schedule, patient as she learns his native language, and grateful that she’s willing to tackle the work necessary to bridge some of the gaps that exist in an international relationship. And if he isn’t those things, you better remind him to be before you marry him.