What a marriage, a sabra and non-sabra, the best of both worlds - or so one would think. Or is it instead a culture gap par excellence?
While initially the couple may seem so in love that nothing else matters, cultural differences really do make one sit up and take notice. If not addressed within the relationship, at some point when the honeymoon ends, they can ultimately destroy it.
He thinks this country is great and she is not so sure; he doesn’t mind the beaurocracy, and she is driven insane by it, he makes her sit with his extended Israeli family and linger over the long meals where she understands little, and she is happiest in her native English with her English-speaking friends.
These mixed marriages can also be wonderful. They provide a full opportunity to explore many value systems, different cultures, and a chance to blend these in the most wonderful of ways and pass them on to future generations.
But wait - do Israelis and those from outside of the country think differently? Do they really care and become impassioned about different things? Can you as a couple work together to actually have a good relationship in spite of your differences?
I certainly think so and so would most of the couples that I see in my practice. It does take work to make it all come together smoothly, and all would admit that some days are easier than others. While this can be said of any relationship, the truth is that many of the couples facing difficulties come from these so-called mixed marriages.
What can one do to ensure smooth sailing?
1. The key to any relationship is good communication. It is important to be able to express how you feel and voice any concerns in an open and supportive environment. If your foundation is strong, the relationship can be built with lots of love and understanding.
2. There will be times in a relationship where differences based on background will seem insignificant. There will however, be times when these become highlighted. Family events or a desire to change country of residency are just a few of the times when chaos could rule your life.
3. While it is often assumed that only the non-sabra will have difficulties, this is rarely the case. In spite of familiarity with the country and knowledge of Hebrew, both may have difficulty. I hear repeatedly, it is not the same old Israel we left behind. Things are just not the same anymore. No one can ever really go back "home" again, but we all forget that.
While it is often easier for the native Israeli, if they, too, have “returned home,” they also have adjustments to make and often these are with little understanding or support from outside. They come "without rights," yet face many of the problems of new olim. It is assumed that they know things they may not, and one cannot simply slip back into old friendships with army buddies who now have their own lives.
The sabra partner may have family here and this may cause additional stress, which needs to be worked out as a couple. He often is thrown into a work environment quickly, so neither have time to adjust. Often however, the sabra is more laid back, is less concerned and takes things more in his stride. The "it will be okay, yeheyeh beseder," attitude prevails.
While overall this can be very helpful, this may feel as if he neither cares nor takes you seriously, when in fact he does but has other issues that he is struggling with.
4.For any couple considering making aliyah, many assume that it will be an easier process than it is and become very disillusioned and disappointed. When that happens, we frequently blame our partner. There are several differences between our new Israeli culture and our old world. These range from the education and health systems and the language, to the fact that no two businesses are closed in the afternoon on the same day at the same time.
The pace, the stresses, our living and financial situation, the caring and directness, and the amazing feelings that one has in moments when we really do all come together as a country are all new and different.
5. One can see the relationship as a celebration of differences or as having insurmountable obstacles. Every relationship involves lots of give and take. Try and be empathetic and put yourself in your partner’s shoes. Now try walking around in them for a day. And remember, both of you are walking on uncharted territory. There is much to be thankful for and as a couple, you can work just about anything out if you both truly care enough to try.
6. If you are having difficulties, don’t sit on it and just wait for things to improve. Get some professional help from someone who can give you a different perspective and help you put sparkle back into your relationship. Every minute counts.
Dr. Batya L. Ludman is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Ra'anana, Israel. She works with adults and couples in short- term solution focused psychotherapy around communication, marital and sexual issues. Send correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org , or visit her website