Most people agree that the first year of marriage is definitely the hardest! And, well, I, personally, emphasise strongly on the DEFINITELY!
Add uncertainty to the mix, and you’ve really got the year from hell! Reza and I often joke, that if we get through this year, we can get through any thing; and he is right! Honestly; I went through a first marriage (which sadly failed), and countless other prospective situations, which subsequently failed, and even though Allah (SWT) has now guided me to the right one, its not all a bed of roses! Marriage is a really tough business, and I think its important to stress that, particularly to those who are looking in to it, or who perhaps skim this blog and imagine us living in some sort of Persian/British Utopia! Trust me, that couldn’t be further from the truth! I think it is hard to admit struggles when you are in a cross-cultural relationship, because you often spend so much time fighting for basic things; family acceptance, immigration rights; community acceptance, conflicting cultures within the home; and so on, that you build a constant subconscious line of defence around yourself at all times! Sure; not every one wants to air their disagreements on the net, and we all know of the dangers related to displaying dirty linen in public! But all the same; there is a need to acknowledge things can be hard! Admitting it takes the pressure off from both parties, it enables you to start defining a path forward; and of course, for any one reading this who is considering a cross-cultural marriage, you’ll either see that you are not alone, or else be prepared for the struggles and not freak out when they happen!
So, our current struggle? Well, its not new; it’s the same one we started with really! Immigration; more than immigration; where we will live, reside, put down routes! This has rather shifted up a gear in the last couple of weeks for varying reasons. As I write this, I am reminded of the song; ‘where shall you and I sleep my love, where shall you and I sleep!
Re: Georgia, I didn’t want to go! I knew we had to deal with the civil stuff, but honestly; I knew that 7 days with my husband would only exacerbate my feelings of isolation and sadness at being without him. After Iran, I felt sad, but I got in to a routine of sorts; getting by; doing what I needed to, but Georgia brought it all back to the surface, and after the euphoria of getting our certificate, it was down to earth with a bang! One thing got me through it though; the power of 6! Let me explain; now that we are both Islamicly and civilly married, there is only one final obstacle standing between us living together here in Scotland; WORK!! See, in order for Reza to be granted a visa; he needs a sponsor (his wife), to be in work, and for the marriage not to resort in any kind of recourse to public funds! If you’ve been following the blog, you’ll remember the Inclusion Scotland saga, and how that cost me my position; and the following job offer that fell apart! Since all of that, I’ve applied for more jobs than I can even remember, and while I’ve secured enough freelance work to make ends meet, its not been enough to demonstrate a decent income, or to prevent resorting to public funds to pay the bills! The power of 6? Well, I had 6 key job applications in the pipeline. 3 were jobs with companies owned by friends who had been ‘putting in good words for me, 2 were with positive action programmes run by the government for disabled people; and the final one was a company who had already shortlisted me through a gruelling 3 interviews! We had high hopes, and knew that all we had to do was swing one of them! None of these were really dream jobs, and let me be clear; I’m way past the ego thing about work equalling my qualifications, (work that pays will do fine!), once I’d got it, we could submit our documents to the homeoffice, and within 2/3 months or so, Insha Allah, all would be over; visas, together; tranquillity, and …, starting a family maybe?
I past the post-Georgia period by thrusting every last ounce of my energy in to the pivotal power of 6, and waited! Slowly, ever so slowly, the results came in! 1 rejection, 2 rejections, 3 rejections and 4, 5 rejections, 6 rejections; could I take any more? 6 rejections, game over! the final nail in the proverbial coffin of 6 came last Monday, and I admit it; I absolutely fell apart! Call me irrational, ungrateful, whatever, but I actually fell down in sajda weeping! Crying out “Allah what did I do wrong! Do you hate me? What did I do wrong! All I wanted was halal rizq! And not for the money, just so that I could live in peace with my husband! I know I am not a good Muslim, I know I could be so much better, but am I that evil? Am I that hated?”. This was the tone of the whole day, and when the evening came, I could hardly get the words out when Reza called; that’s the thing about distance! How do you express ‘broken on a long distance skype line! What is the point of showing your tears; only to distress the other person! How can you derive any comfort, when you can’t share a hug, a cup of tea, or just that reassurance that comes from not being on your own! How do you work out solutions when you can’t go for a walk, cook some comfort food or spend a whole night talking it out till you both find peace at the end! At most, Reza and I talk for maybe 1.5 hours a night! We are both on totally different schedules and have a 4.5 hour time difference to contend with; neither of which can be changed much, and which only hinder communication to the maximum! I must say here, that we both have very different ways of resolving conflict, (or not, as the case appears to be!). We don’t really fight, we are not in to that, and avoiding fights was one of the things we promised in our marriage contract, especially when we are living like this! So no raised voices or indecencies here; but while Reza is effortlessly optimistic, I am not! I wouldn’t describe myself as negative necessarily, (though maybe I am!), but living alone for so many years has developed an introverted response to tension; I hide; disappear, cut off from the world, go to bed and drag the blankets over my head (literally!), till the dust settles! I contain so much inside myself that, when it does eventually spill out, (as it did last week), I realise just how spiritually and emotionally tired I am, and that what I’m actually dealing with is something more like a miniature breakdown rather than a pretty average upset! But again, how do I convey all of this at a distance! The thing is, one of the many endearing qualities that drew me to my husband was his iman! He has one of the strongest, unshaken, most routed forms of faith I’ve ever seen! He actually doesn’t worry, stress or flap, he says he isn’t sad, and he means it! his stock answer to most things is, “there is a solution, its just that we haven’t found it yet!”, or, “Allah has something better in store for us, we just have to be patient, sit it out and wait!”, or, “haven’t we both faced so much worse? We will have our entire lives beyond this year; it isn’t such a big deal at all!”.
Now, I love these sentiments, I know they are correct, I know they are the Islamic way of responding to things; and when I’m feeling positive, I can see, respect, and act upon all of them! But when my back is against it and I’m low, it just bugs me to pieces! Now, you might be saying, ‘come on! Its just a job! (or 6), and you would be correct! On the surface these are just jobs; and I know very well they were not in my naseeb! When I applied for each of them, I took out sadqa, and simply prayed “oh Allah, if these are good for me, give them to me; if they are not, help me to accept that and be patient with whatever you decide for me!”. I accept that, for reasons I do not know, these jobs were not right for me, but this doesn’t change where we are now! Without these jobs, (or something similar), we can’t move forward! We don’t have the support of my family, or any one else here who can support Reza! (you know the script; if you want something doing, then do it yourself!).
So, where are we now, and what do we have?
We can still submit a marriage application to the homeoffice based on what we do have (though, there is like maybe a 2% chance of it being accepted!). We can sit it out, continuing to live like this and praying I find work, (keeping in mind that, its been over a year already, and nothing; and as a visually impaired person, like it or not, I am bottom of the unemployed pile, which mostly contains non-disabled folk who are deemed better catches!). We can wait, and see if Reza can come here by other means, some other kind of visa (HSMP etc, though such visas are becoming even harder to get in the current climate). Or, we could move!! As you know, Reza and I always had moving on the cards! The UK was not necessarily a long-term solution! Our plan had been; to come here, sort out his UK nationality and my Iranian Passport; work for a few years, save some money, Insha Allah start a family, and then, think about where to go next! Perhaps back to Baku if he got a decent job in oil; Perhaps back to Tehran if politics and the like got better; perhaps somewhere different entirely! But now? Well, moving now is a very different game entirely! First off, we are from 2 different countries, with different immigration rules, we have nothing to bind us other than our marriage certificate! It may be that I can stay easily in one country, but Reza’s passport doesn’t allow him to. Should we have children overseas at this point, their nationality will be a massive problem for us! Where will they go; who’s nationality will they inherit! There is something else too; if we move now, the UK won’t grant us both entrance for 4 years! Yeah, 4 years! This is the only further claws they have regarding UK citizens marrying foreign nationals; the foreign spouse is granted right to remain, if the couple have been living together for 4 years in some other country! This will mean leaving my family, leaving my mother to deal with the care responsibilities she has to my Grandparents, and knowing all the time that there is no one else to help her. Both of us are only children and therefore, very dependent as a result. My Grandparents have never really got past the idea of me being 5! And so can’t comprehend marriage, let alone moving away! I still remember one of the late night calls I got from them in Karachi; “If we die, while you are away, its your fault, because of the tension you caused us!”. While I know all of this is emotional blackmail, do I really want to cause such upset to elderly people, and to my parents at a time when they are still not very supportive of Reza and I? So many questions, so few solutions! So, I prayed, and prayed, and continue to pray, and its almost like there is an internal battle within myself; sometimes I am so committed to just getting on a plane and leaving! I.e., another incident with the paan brigade last night made me think, “is there any point in fighting to be here?”. Then at other times, I think of the potential struggles that will come from leaving now, and more importantly, returning with nothing! How will we cope, how will we get through it! And so it is, that Reza continues not to worry! Over the past week, we’ve discussed so many options, I’ve even gone so far as to question him on the relationship; i.e., whether he thinks it is worth suffering so much? not because we don’t love each other, but because I just wonder if his life couldn’t be easier in another way! I love him, and want the best for him!
I don’t have much in the way of a conclusion to speak of, accept to say that this is a work in progress! We are sort-of waiting, and sort-of taking matters in to our own hands. I do realise that one should not question the wisdom of Allah (SWT), he is the best of planners, the one who brought us together and the one who will define where we should be, but I am interested in your thoughts on this, particularly if you’ve faced similar relocation or immigration challenges; how did you face them, how did you reach decisions about where to base yourselves. How do you keep the relationship stable and vibrant when there is so much uncertainty and negativity around!
I went for a walk yesterday, and got lost in the trees, (as you know from my poetry!). 2 of them, had become twisted; tangled up resulting from a bad storm! They were still strong and growing correctly, but twisted together so that it became hard to decipher which was which! Insha Allah we will be the same as a result of this experience; and when we emerge, wherever that may be, we will be 1 entity instead of 2, who value each moment and never take our blessings for granted! For now, we just have to huddle close, and struggle against the storm!