If cooking isn’t your forte, and homemaking isn’t even on your list much more keeping a VERY clean house, you might want to rethink your plan of marrying an Italian man. You don’t need to compete with his love for his mom but you must at least equal if not surpass her ability to pamper him with good food.
To meet an Italian is a dream of many women especially the Europeans not only because he’s known for being witty, noisy and naturally resourceful but also because he lives in a country of masterpieces that’s almost a paradise. But while he admires the fine beauties from the West, he is also drawn to the family-oriented culture of the exotic beauties from the East.
The offbeat Couple
Franco is a production engineer in a microchip factory who likes to spend his spare time gardening. Jem is a blog enthusiast. She shares tips and tutorials on everything related to blogging and making money online at Eezy Blogging – a guide for newbie bloggers and pro-wannabes. On her spare time she likes cooking and baking and when she’s off her laptop keyboard, she refuses to take other less effective means of releasing stress than hitting the perfect notes on her piano keyboard. They’ve been married for 2 ½ years and they’re currently putting down roots in England.
What makes your marriage offbeat?
He’s Italian, I’m Filipina. He was a Catholic and I’m a Protestant.
What made you end up in an interracial/interfaith marriage? What was your motivation in deciding to marry someone of different culture and faith?
Probably on my part, my decision was shaped by Hollywood romantic movies and those romance novels (Mills & Boons) which made me pattern my ideal man to be someone with a blonde hair, blue eyes, and towering. They also gave me the notion that Western chaps are romantic (dine & wine), loving (they are not afraid to show their affection even in public), and just the perfect Romeo kind of thing.
For him, it was the family-oriented culture of the eastern girls that made him seek an Asian wife. Eastern women are known for their loyalty to their husband which is what every man wants.
I think the best answer I could give that will cover both issues (culture & faith) is that in the Philippines there are more women than men. So basically, it’s very difficult to find that “Perfect Romeo” let alone who also shares the same faith.
Tell us about the wedding. Did your different religious and cultural background affect how you planned the wedding?
We got married at the Civil Registrar’s Office. That was the wedding plan. I arrived in the UK with a marriage visa and we had to be wedded before my 6-month visa expired. I didn’t plan on a big wedding in the UK. It would have cost us a fortune. Besides, I didn’t have my family and close friends here. So what’s the point?
I was planning to have a proper wedding in the Philippines but then my priorities have changed. The money we would spend for it is better spent on our house improvement. If things were different, our interfaith background would have stood in the way for a church wedding. However, I have never really fancied a church wedding. My ideal was a garden wedding just like Adam’s and Eve’s.
What are your biggest challenges (as an interracial/interfaith couple) and how do you solve them?
Nothing major, major LOL! Well, at first we were going shopping on Saturday afternoon or Friday evening (which violates our strict observation of the Sabbath, sunset to sunset of the seventh day). But then I realized that I have better told him what I believe and observe and thankfully, he concurred. Probably, my biggest challenge is when there are activities in the church that involve a family strengthening program. Because he doesn’t go with me, I feel that I am not benefiting completely.
Being in an interracial marriage, we are constantly confronted by differing language and cultural orientations. We Filipinas are used to being treated like a princess and this could be a dangerous whim if marrying a westerner or any foreigner outside the Philippine archipelago. If our mind is not open enough, we might think we are being disrespected or disregarded. I, to be honest, struggled with this in the beginning. However, my exposure to other cultures in Bangkok has helped opened my mind and accept this reality. It helped me to, sort of, balance myself and meet my husband half-way. Now, it doesn’t even bother me anymore. Not that he is inconsiderate. It’s just his culture. On the other hand, when he realizes that he has, somehow, toed the line he steps back right away. Also, I am learning to develop a kind of behavior that would make him respond the way I want. It takes a lot of learning and growing up.
Italian men are the best. There was a saying I heard twice before marrying Francesco and it goes like this, “Italian men respect their wife, pamper their mistress, and the only woman they love is their mother.” Italian men are closer to their mother than their father of which my husband enthusiastically admits.
Because an Italian wife stays at home, makes good food and keeps the house nice—I mean really nice—and clean, there was this kind of expectation from me by my husband that I wasn’t well prepared. For one, I hated cooking. I could clean a house but to make it nice—I sort of fall short on this category. But it did something good to me. In the beginning of our marriage I would always hear my husband say, “My mother used to cook this and that and I loved it.” I was like, “Where in the world am I going to find that recipe?” I wanted to please him but I felt helpless. It was discouraging and I could only breathe deeply until I met his sister. Gabriella taught me how to make Sicilian style Italian food, you know, the kind of food that their mother used to make.
What are the benefits of an interracial and interfaith marriage?
Requiting those challenges are the equal, if not greater, amount of benefits of what I call mix marriage. So far, the best benefit on me is developing my cooking skill not to mention making Italian foods. Tapping into my culinary talent that I never thought existed is tantamount to striking gold. Also the growth and learning it afforded us in order make each other happy is immensely beneficial. Learning a new language and embracing the culture inherent to it is something like nothing comes close to. I could go on and on about the many benefits of an interracial marriage but I don’t want to bore you.
However, I have yet to find a good reason why interfaith marriage is beneficial.
What compromises are required in order to make your marriage work?
For both of us, we have to leave our comfort zones at some point. We can be us with each other but there are things we simply need to outgrow or leave behind in order to make the marriage work. First, I have to leave my comfortable teaching job in sunny Bangkok and join my husband here in wet and cloudy UK. Because I can’t teach here I have to accept non-professional jobs like data-entry, baby-sitting, factory. I always long for my old life as a teacher but that would mean leaving my husband behind. I wouldn’t want to teach here in the UK. It’s so complicated. Children have too much freedom, even the freedom to disrespect their teachers which I’m not going to allow happening to me so I better not go into teaching profession.
On his part, he has to disregard biblically unclean foods from his diet.
If children come, of which culture and religion do you plan to raise them?
Ideally, it’s my religion because I’m the mother and I’m the one who’s taking them to church. With regards to culture, it’s best to expose the child to the best of both worlds but guide him/her how to filter the acceptable ones in any society. Besides, my husband doesn’t go to any church which is a better situation to be in, otherwise, the child will be confused during his tender childhood years.
What’s your favorite way of spending time together?
Holidays! When we get some time off we like to go on a holiday. But domestically, we both love gardening—he planting veggies and fruit trees and I planting flowers. We also occasionally see a movie together or just dine out when the weather is good.
What are your secrets in keeping the romance alive?
I believe that it’s important to keep in mind important dates and to treat each extra special. My husband is not the kind of a showy person. But I let him know what I want him to do for me to make me feel special.
According to Dr Gray, author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, men fall in love through their eyes while women fall in love through their ears. Like I said, my husband wouldn’t express his feelings towards me. He’s too shy to initiate that kind of conversation. So I always ask him to tell me that he loves me which he willingly does all the time. But you see, I have to push the button.
This is how the conversation goes:
Me: Tu ami mi? (Do you love me?)
Him: Si! (Yes!)
Me: Dimmi (Tell me)
Him: Ti amo (I love you)
Me: Quanto? (How much?)
Him: Tantissimo (Very much), Immensamente (Immensely)
Me: Per quanto tempo (For how long)
Him: Per sempre (Forever)
What advice would you give to other Offbeat Couples?
When you expect something from each other, don’t just sit there and wait. The other might not know what you want and you will end up waiting for nothing. Meet each other half-way. Remember, you come from different cultural backgrounds so it’s good to know both and try to compliment each other.
Marriage should not look to changing your spouse to conform to your ideal figure of a better-half. Acceptance is a key and you should and let your spouse make the initiative to change. If there was something you wanted to change it should come before marriage. Otherwise, if you married your spouse with his/her idiosyncrasies then you must learn to accept him/her that way and focus on each other’s strength rather than weakness.
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