Joice + Stuart – A Multicultural Love Story

Getting married isn’t a simple decision and involves serious consideration. A couple where both individuals were born and raised within the same cultural context already has its complications, and it is normal for the two to have completely different backgrounds, even though they were born in the same country. But when people from different continents meet, the story gains a few more interesting details, surprises, challenges, but nothing that great love cannot endure and nothing that a determined couple cannot solve, when both are committed and focused on the same goal. And, of course, when they consider that involving God, the Author of love, in this whole story is essential.

Couple of afro-descent look into camera

I, a Brazilian, accepted him, a Frenchman, to love and respect until death do us part. The day we said “I do”, we knew what we were doing. We signed the papers and became one. I am glad to say that we are happy, but it wasn’t luck. We often hear that some couples are lucky and others aren’t, but the truth is that keeping the flame of love alive through the years is a constant job. You have to work on yourself to become better to serve each other as best as you can. These efforts are rewarded and are not a burden but a pleasure when love is involved.

My husband, Stuart’s, parents, left the French island “Guadalupe” and went to live in France, where he was born in Paris. Though he grew up there, each year they visited Guadalupe, so he was always in contact with his parent’s culture, allowing him to assimilate both his Afro-descendant roots, as well as Parisian life.

I was born in São Paulo, Brazil, and at the age of 3, my family moved to Venezuela. I returned to Brazil as a teenager. Growing up in another country had a great influence on the way I acted, spoke, and was, but I also absorbed my parents’ cultural background, our “Brazilianness”.

When I met Stuart, I was living in the United States. He met a very dear family from our church and went to spend a few days at their house to visit the USA, while also taking the opportunity to see me too, only I didn’t know that. In fact, every time someone mentioned or asked about him, I said we were just good friends, and that nothing would come of it. For years we had sporadically exchanged e-mails, talking about spiritual things. I always admired that about him; he always spoke of God and God’s plans for those who love Him.

He liked photography too, and that being my passion, there was plenty to talk about. One time, he bought a camera lens online and sent it to my address so I could ship it to him. It was cheaper that way. He always found these little ways to keep in touch. The next year he sent me an audio message singing “Happy Birthday” to me on my birthday, and I remember showing people how well my French friend sang. Now I knew that, like me, he also liked to sing. And so we went on speaking to each every once in a while.

When he arrived in Sacramento, California, my parents and I went to dinner at the friends’ house where he was staying, and that was where we met for the first time. I went to the dinner completely unconcerned. Some people had commented that we would end up dating, and I was sure that it would only prove everyone wrong. Once I arrived, the first look, the first smile, the first in-person conversation changed my whole perspective of that friendship, and I had to accept that I was wrong about everything and about him. I will never forget that first impression.

We started talking every day and seeing each other often, and he didn’t take long to ask me to be his girlfriend. I accepted. I remember asking, “Don’t you think you’re going too fast?” To which he replied, “Why waste time? I like you.” And that’s how our story began. We got to know each other better because up to that point I didn’t know much about him, but I knew that he was a man of God, and that was important to me. The two of us had come out of previous relationships, and seeing how God guided each step on our path was beautiful. He led us towards our happiness.

God does everything well, we are the ones who get in the way and make a mess of things, interrupting His plans.

When we met, everything made sense. He told me how he had admired me for a long time, ever since he had seen my photo through a mutual friend 10 years before and said, “I’m going to marry this girl”. But then, thinking that I wouldn’t give him the time of day, he kept that thought hidden for years. But I think God has blessed us and allowed everything to happen at the right time. After he had declared he liked me and I had accepted, I said, “Let’s pray?” And he reminds me to this day that this was the sign from God that he was waiting for to know he was making the right decision.

The 3-year long-distance relationship was not easy, but we remained firm in our decision, knowing that now that we were putting God first, this relationship would be like no other.

We got engaged. Wedding planning was full of twists, reconciling what his family and mine wanted, and what we wanted since it would be a French and Brazilian wedding taking place in the United States! Imagine the details, haha. But in the end, everything went well. After we got married, I moved to France and many discoveries began.

We saw how different our every-day lives were, down to details like how we cooked and what we did or didn’t keep in the refrigerator. Our first argument was about this, actually, one thought it was normal for tomatoes to be in the refrigerator while the other thought it was absurd. Homemade cough syrup with onions was normal for one, while the other had never seen such a thing. I ironed his shirts and hung them on the hanger, while he was used to them always being pressed and folded. It took me a long time to get used to the idea, and he accepts my way of doing it today, but whenever I can, I try to do it his way, because it’s not about being right or wrong, they’re just different ways of doing things. Love and respect are able to solve these small conflicts, and through conversation, we will always find a way to understand each other.

It doesn’t matter where you come from when you come with sincerity and a deep desire in your heart to make each other happy.

Multicultural relationships work. In our case, we are both Afro-descendants, but even when a couple is interracial unless there is an incompatibility of personalities and the two don’t really understand each other, there is no reason why it won’t work. With a lot of communication, understanding, patience, and respect for each other, anything is possible.

There is always someone who will have an opinion about your relationship, but when God is your Guide, making the decision to unite your life with someone else will not be difficult. True love always wins.

Photo: Isabel Ollinger

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