The Offbeat Couple
Names: Élan and Amir
Location: Minnesota, USA
How long have you been married? 6 months
What makes your marriage offbeat?
We are from different countries. Amir is from Iran and I am from the United States. We dated and got engaged in Malaysia and then flew to the USA together once Amir received his visa.
What made you end up in an interracial marriage? What was your motivation in deciding to marry someone of different culture?
I have always been interested in other cultures, but I never thought I’d fall in love with an Iranian guy living in Malaysia. Strange things happen, though, and now we’re married.
An international relationship is difficult from the beginning. Early in the relationship, we were already talking about who would move where if the relationship went well. That’s a lot of pressure for two people who have just started dating! If I hadn’t thought Amir seemed like the perfect guy, I wouldn’t have entered such an “offbeat” relationship.
Tell us about the wedding. Did your different religious and cultural background affect how you planned the wedding?
When you arrive in the USA with a fiancé visa (K1), you’re only allowed 90 days to get married and submit your application for permanent residency (green card). We chose to have a courthouse wedding and plan to have a small ceremony and reception later. At the later ceremony, I hope to feature Persian food and a small Persian wedding tradition. His immediate family was unable to attend our legal wedding and cannot attend our upcoming ceremony. Difficult visa situations are the worst part of our relationship.
What are your biggest challenges and how do you solve them?
Sometimes we go round and round about an issue that seems so simple and then realize it is a difference of culture and cannot be ‘solved’ so easily. This relationship has forced me to become more laid back: most cultural differences are not a big deal when you see them as an exciting quirk instead of a road block.
Amir has faced the biggest challenge in our relationship: moving to a new country. Until his move to the US seven months ago, he’d only lived in big cities. Now, we live in a small town in Minnesota. Lots of little challenges (and some big ones) have come with this move but he has taken them all in stride thus far. I think the best strategy for dealing with a big move is realizing you probably aren’t going to be 100% happy at first. Give yourself at least six months to get acquainted with your new surroundings before you begin to worry that you’ve made the wrong decision.
What compromises are required in order to make your marriage work?
I spent seven months in Malaysia to be with Amir, but the hideously long flights were the only bad part of that arrangement. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to live in a different country for a short while. I am learning Amir’s first language, but that is a pleasure as well. My husband, Amir, is the one who has had to do the compromising. He left his family, friends and career to start over in the United States with me.
Did you ever encounter people who frown upon interracial marriage? How did you deal with them?
I have never encountered anyone who frowned upon our marriage for racial reasons. I have, however, encountered many people who wondered aloud if my husband was just marrying me for a green card. It’s hurtful since they are not only questioning my husband, but also questioning my judgement. I generally assure these people that we are marrying for love, not immigration and see if they press the issue. If they still don’t believe Amir’s intentions, I avoid them. Plenty of people support us and realize our marriage is true, so why make time for the skeptics?
How did your in-laws and extended families from each side react to your interracial marriage?
Our families were excited! The visa process was stressful for everyone (in-laws included), but all of our family members were encouraging and happy for us.
What are the benefits of an interracial marriage?
There’s always something new to learn an explore in my marriage. Whether it’s a cultural difference or a Persian word or a childhood story, I am always learning about my husband’s culture. I’m so lucky to have a walking dictionary and cultural handbook in the form of a man I love dearly.
What are the things that you learned about each other’s culture? How does learning about each other culture benefit your relationship?
Most people marrying an American are already well versed in American culture. You can’t escape it: American television shows, movies and music are broadcasted around the world. While not every television show is a good representation of American culture, if you watch enough of them you’ll have a decent understanding of American life. Amir, a television and movie buff, knew all about my culture when we started dating, but I didn’t know anything about Iranians.
What’s your favorite way of spending time together?
We are both adventurous eaters, so we love to try new restaurants together. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia should really be called the food capitol of the world, so we were constantly going out to eat while we were dating and then engaged. We have tried to keep this tradition alive in the US. We also like to play video games together—it’s much more fun than watching TV at night!
What advice would you give to those who are planning for or are new to an interracial/interfaith marriage?
Think of every cultural difference as a fun learning experience instead of a major challenge. With a little understanding, you can get through nearly any problem that might arise. Enjoy your “offbeat” relationship: not everyone is lucky enough to be part of one!
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