I Need a Honeymoon
The honeymoon stage of our marriage lasted the length of the honeymoon itself, though I remember it fondly: we were walking on clouds through the streets of Miami Beach, even though we lost both of our credit cards. We felt the adventure in every excursion even when it was exchanging money we had wired to us through Western Union or buying toiletries at the tourist shop when the airline lost our luggage. We made dog-shaped cupcakes on the cruise and held them proudly, as a kid coming home from summer camp, as we took the elevator back to our postage stamp sized room. It was magical.
After our honeymoon, we lived in three countries during our first ten months of marriage. We fought, cried, acknowledged and adjusted expectations, we felt lonely and misunderstood. Our marriage-culture shock (you can read more about the stages of cultural adjustment here) was rough and we dove right in.
In the Philippines, I don't recall the honeymoon stage being so long either. There were moments of magic, to be sure, but with traffic and the heat, reality smacked me in the face daily. It seems I didn't pack my rose colored classes.
In both discussions of newlywed bliss and cultural transition, we hear talk of that honeymoon stage: the period of time before reality sets in. That period of time where everything feels like a magical adventure, possibilities endless, and minimal problems. It's the calm before the storm, the season when your spouse (or this new culture) can do no wrong.
Maybe, to some extent, I'm a realist or maybe I don't want to be so naive. As a new wife and as a new expat, I knew the honeymoon stage was superficial. I knew marriage wouldn't be easy. I knew I'd be confused and frustrated by Filipino culture. Why not skip the pretenses and dive right in? Yeah, we have similarities; but I'd rather acknowledge the differences so I can adjust as soon as possible.
We are moving to a new country, a new culture, in just under a month. This time, I want to experience that honeymoon stage. I want to see everything as lovely and magical and mysterious. I'd be glad to have my lack of understanding shield me from culture stress. Before, I thought of it as weakness; now I see it as grace. I know my soul needs the breathing room to adjust, the excitement to explore, and the positive experiences to dig new roots.
The honeymoon stage seems to me like a rhythm to lean into, rather than to rush through. We don't hurry the autumn just to grin and bear the winter. I savour the leaves changing and the cooler winds; the practice of delight helps me through the snow filled dark days.
I know that our time in this new place will challenge and stretch my heart and soul (my body too). The language will sound foreign and my fears will creep in, I'll crave sushi and miss ordering a BLT. But I also imagine the delight in those first few months: the smell of the sea and the feel of the cobblestone beneath my feet, and I feel grateful for it.
Here's to a new adventure, and the many ups and downs it will bring.