Carolyn Hax: Bilingual woman will not agree to speaking English among friends

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Hello Caroline: I got married a little over a year ago for the second time. My second wife was born in China and has lived in the United States for about six years. Before we got married everything seemed great. A number of problems are now beginning to manifest themselves.

Her main language is Chinese, but she also speaks English very well. When we are alone, she speaks English to me, but when her 22-year-old daughter, who speaks English very well, or friends are around, she speaks almost exclusively Chinese. The friends also speak both languages. She makes no effort to include me in the conversations and when I bring up the subject she tells me it’s a personal conversation and I don’t need to know.

My mother recently visited. My mother found this behavior rude and I agree. Mom even said something politely, but she was essentially ignored. What can I do?

— A stranger in my own house

A stranger in my own house: You take it or leave it.

If you want sympathy, I have it. (Two bilingual husbands!)

If you want validation, I have that too, mostly: I think you ask a lot that she exclusively switches to a second language with a daughter — too deep a bond — and when a friend gathers in your kitchen you’ if you don’t actively participate and trust that your wife is not putting you down, then be glad that you are having a relaxed conversation. However, barring those exceptions, I agree that it is aloof and rude to routinely have conversations that exclude others in the household/marriage. (If you don’t trust her, oops.)

However, they discussed this. They campaigned to be included. She is unperturbed.

That rules out some options. A woman who agrees with you, apologizes and invites you to her talks? no A woman who disagrees but makes an extra effort to speak English around you for the sake of harmony? no A marriage undamaged by a stalemate? Haven’t seen the unicorn yet.

By my count, here’s what’s left: 1. Embrace the marriage you have in which you accept a fair amount of separation between your times together. You’d have to want that, of course, but many couples thrive on these conditions, especially remarriages. 2. Pull the plug. Sometimes you go out with a facade, marry the truth, and depart from your mistake.

That’s what you have in the take-or-leave aisle. But also consider this option in the course of self-conquest:

3. Learn to speak their language.

If you think it’s up to her to do all the extra work of communicating with you and making you feel welcome, then maybe I’ll just take my sympathy and go home.

Dear Caroline: How can you “politely” tell people who sneer at job changes that you don’t value their opinion? I’ve had a difficult few years with my career and I find that some people judge my situation very much without knowing the reasons for the changes. I also don’t think I owe anyone an explanation for my situation.

Change of job: “New joke, please. I’m tired.” A calm, to-the-point line is a gift, even if it’s a twist on “shut your cake hole.” That’s because anyone in good faith wants to know it’s about is dealing with a sore point so that he can leave it alone. Carolyn Hax: Bilingual woman will not agree to speaking English among friends

Chris Estrada

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