Open Phones: Mixed Bag on Mixed Families

Thursday, December 19, 2013

We end today’s conversation on mixed families with a mixed bag of topics we didn't get to. The phones are now open for you to talk about how you navigate diversity within your family of any kind. Mixed diets, mixed geography, mixed immigration status, mixed sports fandom... anything we missed. Tell your story of your mixed family -- call 212-433-9692 or post below...

Comments [35]

frances Friedman from Manhattan

Every person has this problem, if not with a sibling then with a partner, a friend, a parent, a child, i.e. lots of the time, people we love are not going to be who we want them to be. After a long period of choosing not to speak, my sister and I learned that if we could find a way to accept each other for who we are, we could have a relationship and we had learned that having a relationship was very important to us. Patricia, if you listen to your call, you'll hear how you believe your values (books vs cars) are superior to hers. You must know that as long as you feel that way, you'll never have a successful relationship. Try to figure out what's really going on with you at those family gatherings, because we both know it's not about books and cars.

Feb. 10 2014 01:07 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Wendy from Montclair - It sounds like you're plenty judgmental, accusing them of being "firmly in the school of victimization." Maybe you don't make audible utterances, but you don't have to--sounds like they know well where you stand, and roll their eyes about their "rabid libertarian sister." You haven't taken any high road until you can accept them, not complain about them.

Feb. 10 2014 12:07 PM
spnyc from WaHi

Once had a fiancé who HATED my two beautiful cats. He was mean to them behind my back and sometimes in front of me too. I told him that he needed to learn to like them because if I ever had to choose between him and the cats, I'd choose the cats... And that's just what I did a few months later.

Feb. 10 2014 12:02 PM
George from NJ

Mixed education seems to be a big issue with many, and I have found that those successful people without education believe the need education and those who have the advanced education find it doesn't matter. I have a bachelors in Accounting and a PhD in Global Marketing; my wife has two years of college. She taught herself accounting and has held positions up to CFO of global companies. Yet she still believes she needs more education. She will run circles around most CPAs.

Feb. 10 2014 11:58 AM
thatgirl from manhattan

"Kosher style?" Sounds like someone has an issue being honest with himself, the rest of his family--especially if one is copping to eating seafood in the home. Why not simply free yourself to saying you like what you like, and not making your wife the reason the family's "uncomfortable?"

To the woman who's vegan (or was it vegetarian?) to her birth and boyfriend's families: take the responsibility to bring a vegan or vegetarian dish you like--enough for everyone, and turn them on to how delicious that can be. You've then contributed to the whole meal, rather than calling too much attention to your preferences, which is usually what wigs people out. We had a friend who brought a sealed container to gatherings for himself, based on his own, very strict diet. There's nothing as antisocial as that!

Feb. 10 2014 11:55 AM

I am in a mixed marriage. I am female and my husband is male.

Still, we have many other things in common and manage to get along very well.

Feb. 10 2014 11:53 AM
kate from Glen Ridge

From a very multi culti existence. In my life the call prayer ringing from cell phones, Ande Rand (dis)agreements discussions to my son's elaborate Mundun, my daughter's baptism, nappy hair problems, enjoying lunch and music at gudwara. Holy crap I am so happy!
I just know and know that others in my family know how we want to be delt with after death.

Feb. 10 2014 11:11 AM
Nick from UWS

Amazing...these people denied themselves having their own child to appease the complete nonsense of religion.

Feb. 10 2014 10:39 AM

My husband is Jewish and I am not. He really is indifferent to holiday. So I am the keeper of family traditions and holidays so I blend my favorites from both our backgrounds.

Interestingly, I have lived and worked in many countries in Asia and Africa and people rarely guess that I am American. I have even been asked if I was Chinese or Vietnamese even though I no of no one who is Asian in my ancestry. On the subway I will often have Russians try to speak to me in Russian - and again no knowledge of any Russians in my ancestry either.

Feb. 10 2014 10:33 AM
Ann from Minneapolis

My husband was an extrovert and I am an introvert. We needed different things in a home: he needed a place where his friends could drop in anytime, and I needed a quiet retreat where I could recharge. What made this difficult was it took us a long time to realize and name this difference. I adapted by getting up early and having quiet time then, and eventually renting a studio where I could go to be alone.

Dec. 29 2013 11:22 AM
RZangpo2 from Rockland County

My wife and I have two distinct styles of relating to money. I'm a spender (Jewish), she's a saver (Scottish). When we married we combined our finances, but a few years ago - after innumerable arguments over money - I separated our finances again. Now we never argue about money. Problem solved!

BTW, my standard joke about our Jewish/Scottish kids is that they'll be able to both make money and save it!

Dec. 20 2013 12:49 PM
Agalma from NYC

I tried to share this before, but it was placed in the wrong section. Sorry.

Patricia, it was moving to hear you speak so authentically about your feeling of loss regarding your sister. As I listened to you I was thinking that, on some level, she must have experienced some loss of you too, though maybe not consciously. The qualities that went into your call, including an ability to reflect about yourself and your feelings, must be part of what she's missed out on in losing a connection with you.

I have a similar rift with a family member whose way of being also includes a nearly complete lack of self-reflectiveness, and since he's pathologically narcissistic, there's also no opportunity for other family members even to say on the simplest level something like: I miss the connection I feel we once had, and I miss you, and I'm trying to find a way back to some of that connection.

I guess I'm saying all this partly because I have a question for you: can you successfully share your feelings with your sister, letting her know that you feel a loss and that you care about her? By "successfully," I mean more or less: in a way that gets a baseline-respectful acknowledgement of your statement from her--rather than something painful like a brusque "I have no idea what you're talking about" or a defensive "great, so you feel superior to me," or a withdrawing, evasive shrugging-type response? Or (roughest of all) a more complex response that nevertheless amounts to one or more of the foregoing (yuck). If your answer to the question is "yes" or "maybe"-- that you can share this with some success-- then I'd like to suggest that you try connecting with your sister on the level of feelings, along the lines I mentioned. If your answer is No, I hope your draw support from your ability to relate within yourself (which may sound silly but IMO is nothing to sneeze at), and by extension to connect with others in the way that you wish you could with your sister.

This would be in addition to the more obvious (important) option of finding simple common ground with your sister without articulating the above. And the other piece that seemed present in your call-- that you don't feel recognized by a culture that dominates at family gatherings-- would be a limit to try to accept and accept the pain of.

Thanks for your call to BL. It helped me think more about my own situation and gave me a chance to put some of these thoughts together, and that's in turn a help to me.

May you be happy.


Dec. 20 2013 08:51 AM

Can we talk about regional differences? When my relatives from the Bible Belt come to visit NY they're totally not interested in discussing what excites me about my job (jobs in general are not up for discussion) -- but they always want to see "where I live". I think it's their way of gauging how well my life is going? But since my bedroom is the size of a closet, it's always so embarrassing for me (in their minds I seem not only unsuccessful but also disingenuous). Maybe this is part of that same under-valuing of nonmonetary things that's so prevalent in american culture.

Dec. 19 2013 12:24 PM

Jeez Brian! If you MUST know, I turned to evil Advil when I was 13 because I was tired of using yam paste and homeopathic chamomile to deal with menstrual cramps, and getting (surprise surprise) no results.

Dec. 19 2013 12:09 PM
Wendy from Montclair, NJ

My sisters and I have distinctly different worldviews. I believe we are all responsible for our own emotional states. They are firmly in the school of victimization. The key for me is to be completely non-judgmental, enjoy my own point of view and be creative how to get it across. I realized years ago that the most important thing for me to be able to openly and happily express my perspective.

Dec. 19 2013 12:03 PM
Amy from Manhattan

What about same-faith, different-observance-level marriages? I know 2 couples who go to a Conservative synagogue, each w/1 member who's observant & 1 who isn't (or is much less so). 1 of the couples also has a vegetarian/omnivore mix!

Dec. 19 2013 11:58 AM
Joseph Cavalieri from east village

advice for Patricia-
I have the same problem of having little in common with my family. My solution is to spend time with friends that have similar interests. This happen to me years ago and I am doing it again this year. ALL your time is important, and it is okay to be selfish.

Dec. 19 2013 11:55 AM
Elaine from Baltimore

To Patricia: No need to find common ground. Everyone has goodness in them. Find what is "good" in your sister and elevate that, bring it to the relationship. And give. We come to love another when we give to them. A teacher once taught me, no matter who the person is and how we may find them different, or even offense, the question we should always ask ourselves is "what can I give to you and what can I learn from you." Everyone has that story.

Dec. 19 2013 11:55 AM

Advice for Patricia. Get over yourself and learn something from your sister. You don't have a car? Good. Then learn something about cars from your sister. You can a learn a lot from just about anyone -- but you need to be more open about the topics.

Dec. 19 2013 11:55 AM
Allison from Connecticut

I found that a different history, understanding and approach to mental illness was not conducive to handling the life events.

Dec. 19 2013 11:53 AM
Francisco from Los Angeles

Mixed education I believe is the toughest divide......I live it every day.

Dec. 19 2013 11:51 AM
Sadie from Manhattan

I hit a trifecta with my husband: we're different races/ethnicities(one is ethnically Chinese, one is Northern European); we're different economic classes (he is a corporate lawyer who earns three times as much as I do in public service); and I am vegetarian and he is not. What strikes me is that none of these things have really caused us much angst in eight years of marriage--I think because none of those things is hugely identity-defining for either of us.

Dec. 19 2013 11:49 AM

Kosher?? There is such a thing as science, these days!


Dec. 19 2013 11:49 AM
Ralph from NYC

My wife is the child of a Holocaust survivor. I just recently discovered that even though her father was not Jewish, but an Italian soldier who was captured by the Nazis, my wife still has characteristics as the child of a holocaust survivor. We have been married for 30 years and I have a new perspective of why wife is the person she is. Now I understand the dynamics of our relationship. I am reading the book "Children of Holocaust Survivors"

Dec. 19 2013 11:49 AM

What about the obvious family difference: age. Where you are on the age spectrum raises all sorts of issues, particularly regarding ageism -- and that works both ways. From viewing someone older as doddering and viewing those younger as naive, and the auto-discounting of the views of those not in your cohort.

Dec. 19 2013 11:47 AM
Naomi from Brooklyn

Mixed mental health outlooks... My mother is passive aggressive and manipulative. My sister and I have conversations about how to navigate our tense, difficult, emotionally draining relationship and how I don't want it influencing my baby's emotional development.

Dec. 19 2013 11:47 AM

What about the obvious family difference: age. Where you are on the age spectrum raises all sorts of issues, particularly regarding ageism -- and that works both ways. From viewing someone older as doddering and viewing those younger as naive, and the auto-discounting of the views of those not in your cohort.

Dec. 19 2013 11:47 AM

Veganisim: The absolute WORST religion of ALL!!

Dec. 19 2013 11:46 AM

I grew up in a mixed-medical-attitude (?) household! I was raised by my naturopathy/homeopathy/reiki-practicing mom who is convinced that "western medicine" is all a giant conspiracy. When I was 13 I discovered the wonders of Advil and haven't looked back! I try not to talk about the placebo effect too much while I'm home for the holidays. ;)

Dec. 19 2013 11:45 AM
mike from nyc

In my family two brothers are model good looking and one is not. It's shocking how much this is commented on and referred to. It leads to very bad feelings.

Dec. 19 2013 11:45 AM
Farah from Park Slope

Something that can be difficult is a mixed background in having a difficult childhood. My partner had a pretty seamless childhood, his parents have been together forever, and didn't have many troubling scenarios. I prefer not to remember large portions of my childhood. Sometimes it is difficult for him to understand that and the anxieties I experienced growing up.

Dec. 19 2013 11:45 AM
mike from nyc

I my family two brothers are model good looking and one is not. It's shocking how much this is commented on and referred to. It leads to very bad feelings.

Dec. 19 2013 11:44 AM
mike from nyc

I my family two brothers are model good looking and one is not. It's shocking how much this is commented on and referred to. It leads to very bad feelings.

Dec. 19 2013 11:43 AM
Sheila Gordon from NYC

Two religions in one family: the new reality! A growing number of couples want to remain connected to their traditions and pass them on thoughtfully to their children. With strong, authentic education and a like-minded community, these families will thrive. The Interfaith Community makes that happen. Visit

Dec. 19 2013 11:06 AM
Leyla Nakisbendi from Pleasantville NY

I am the daughter of a Muslim man from a very old Sufi family and a Catholic mother. I married a Jewish man and am raising our children as Jews. I converted three years ago but have been married 20 years. we decided to raise our children as Jews so they could learn how to participate in their religion. I went to Catholic school for 5 years but never could fully participate. People actually think I was the one who was Jewish and my husband wasn't. When we got married my mother kept telling me to pick one ad raise our kids with a religion. She didn't care which one.y kids can go on and choose to participate or not but at least they can.

Dec. 19 2013 10:52 AM

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