Dear Ate Anna:
My sister and her husband came to Winnipeg two years ago. They have two children who are doing well in school. Both my sister and her husband found jobs soon after they moved to Winnipeg. My sister is optimistic about their future in Canada but my brother-in-law talks about going back to the Philippines. This is causing a big conflict in their marriage. I am worried that their marriage will not survive. Ate Anna, do you have any advice I can give them?
All marriages have challenges. Research tells us that the most common areas of conflict for married couples are: money, sex, work, children and housework. Your sister and her husband are also dealing with the many challenges of adapting to a new culture.
It is a good thing that both of them have been able to find jobs. Sylvia, did your sister work outside of the home in the Philippines? If not, this may be contributing to the conflict in her marriage, as well. Work and family are the two most common sources of men’s identities. From the Canadian perspective, your sister is making a positive contribution to the family by getting a job. However, her husband may feel that she is “taking over” some of his responsibilities. Or he may worry that he will have to do extra work around the house – which he sees as women’s work.
Every couple has their own dreams and ambitions for their marriage and their family. Your brother-in-law may think that his wife no longer has the same goals or beliefs as when they first married. Many men worry about the new freedoms that their wives have in Canada.
It is common for couples to have difficulty with the changes that are required when adapting to a new culture. Communicating about these issues and working together to find solutions is one way couples can make life better. However, this may be a new and unfamiliar way of solving problems. Many men are used to being the problem-solvers in the family; they tell their wives what to think and do.
It is the transition from old ways to new ways that is the difficult part of any change. As time passes, the “new” way of doing things becomes more familiar and feels more comfortable. Statistics show that women often adapt to the new way of doing things more easily than men.
Men often hesitate to get support when they are having trouble coping with change in their lives. Some men feel ashamed that they are having difficulty finding a place in the new society and so their family traditions become more important to them as one thing that is familiar. It might be helpful for your brother-in-law to talk to other men in your community who have already been through this kind of change in their marriages.
Ate Anna also has another suggestion. SERC is offering a series of 5 workshops called Issues for Couples in a New Culture. These workshops are free and will be held on 5 Thursday evenings from 6 – 9 pm, starting February 19th. The workshops will cover topics like: changing gender roles and responsibilities, how to handle conflict in your relationship, dealing with anger, Canadian laws, relationship well being (including the sexual relationship).
Attending this workshop could help your sister and/or brother-in-law realize that they are facing the same issues as many couples. People can attend on their own or with their husband/wife. Participants will have the opportunity to discuss these issues in a safe, but friendly environment. Anyone who is interested in these workshops can contact Linda at 982-7804 by phone or e-mail: email@example.com.
Ate Anna welcomes your questions and comments in English or Tagalog. Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Ate Anna, 2nd floor – 555 Broadway, Winnipeg MB, R3C 0W4.