Our Seven Tips for a Successful British-American Marriage

You say tomato...   By ... (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library [1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
You say tomato… By … (Ronald Reagan Presidential Library [1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Your love formed in spite of coming from alien worlds nestled on either side of an ocean.  You decided to cast your lot together and form a special relationship greater than when Reagan and Thatcher practically soul kissed each other on the world stage back in the 1980s.  And you didn’t need to deploy any troops to do so. Well, you are in luck.  The Boffin and I, with almost 14 years under our belts, are here with some small tips to help you on your journey into marital bliss and to generalize like crazy in the process.

1)  The language differences do not matter.  By all means, take the piss out of each other over how you each misspell “aluminium/aluminum”.  Have fun with each other over expressions like, “Keep your pecker up.”  But don’t take it seriously.  Contrary to what either side may think or try to argue, there is no superior form of the English language.  Language evolves over time, and just as long as both of you can communicate well with each other, that’s all that counts.  And if anyone sincerely tries to tell you otherwise, just remind the myopic turd that “I love you” is the same on both sides of the ocean.  (For the record, I think The Myopic Turd would be a great name for a superhero.  Get on it, Marvel.)

2)  To the American spouse, you will have to learn how to make tea.  It does not matter, if you drink it.  Your spouse may not even drink it either.  But your relatives and British friends will, so you better be damn sure you have the full kit (along with biscuits) ready to go, in case the Queen or even your spouse’s gran shows up.  Remember that putting the kettle on is the response to any crisis in British culture.  During the Cold War, the source of contention was that the U.K. was too close to the Soviet Union, so there wasn’t enough time to have that last cup, in case of nuclear annihilation.

3)  According to the Boffin, to the British spouse, your beloved will crave weird food combinations, and it will not hurt to try some of them.  Peanut butter and jelly.  Maple syrup and bacon.  Chicken and waffles.  Pretzels and ice cream.  You might like them.  You might not.  But they are no weirder than meat extract (Bovril) on crumpets when you think about it.  So lighten up, and tuck in.

4)  Accept that you will have different philosophies about healthcare, and that’s OK.  The British spouse will be baffled why the American spouse goes to the doctor so often while the American spouse will question why the British spouse hardly ever goes to the doctor about anything.  Chances are, each of you is probably using healthcare services in a reasonable way according to your respective health issues.  However, it’s your cultural conditioning based upon your respective healthcare systems that is affecting your perceptions of each other’s behavior.  At least, that is the case in my house.  It only seems like the Boffin will only go to the doctor when his arm is dangling from his shoulder socket by a skin cell.  In reality, he’ll go when the bone is still attached.  Seriously, it is the classic case of the promoted British idea that you take care of the problem as much as you can on your own before resorting to the physician vs. the promoted “see your doctor if you have questions about….” philosophy in the U.S.

5)  Another tip from the Boffin, for the British spouse, stop apologizing for everything.  You probably weren’t to blame, and all you are doing is annoying the shit out of your spouse.  So then you have to apologize for something you truly did, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.  Why do that to yourself?

6)  To the American spouse, give your spouse time to get used to the different kinds of American humor.  In spite of many shows and movies making it over to the U.K., there are so many references and subtleties that your beloved will not get.  Don’t get butthurt, if your spouse does not laugh at your jokes all the time.  It will be your job to get him or her up to speed.  For example, you will have to take the time to explain our own class system to get your spouse to enjoy Caddyshack, but he or she will be going around saying, “Be the ball, Danny,” at the appropriate times.  You will be proud.  Trust me.

7)  U.K = U.S.A.  They are both dynamic nations with rich and diverse populations and subcultures.  They are also complex and host a myriad of problems too.  You are going to go through cycles when you either love or hate what is going on over on each side of the Pond.  Neither spouse wants to hear the other cut his or her country down to size time and time again, regardless of your spouse’s feelings about his or her own nation.  The criticism has to be balanced with the compliments because that country helped form the person you love.  So neither one can be all bad.

23 thoughts on “Our Seven Tips for a Successful British-American Marriage

    1. Pecker in this case means mouth, as if your mouth were a beak.

      Funny story a long lost English friend in the MoD told me. She was married to an American serviceman who was going through some personal troubles, and her mother wrote him a card to send him some well wishes. She ended the card with “Keep your pecker up.” It was the first time he ever heard the phrase. Imagine the shock of reading that from your mother-in-law.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. And you will have truly succeeded when the Boffin says “See if you can guess what I am now?” with a mouthful of mashed potatoes. Maybe at Thanksgiving this year?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “During the Cold War, the source of contention was that the U.K. was too close to the Soviet Union, so there wasn’t enough time to have that last cup, in case of nuclear annihilation.”

    Well, one must have priorities after all. It is the mark of civilization! Well, that and Starbucks.

    “However, it’s your cultural conditioning based upon your respective healthcare systems that is affecting your perceptions of each other’s behavior.”

    Slightly serious tangent – I don’t know how widely understood it is that cultural differences like this make comparative measurement of healthcare systems across countries (heck, even across states sometimes) quite impossible. If you haven’t yet, I would be very interested in a more detailed look into this between you and your spouse (or even between your family and his family).

    Loved this post – great advice even for American-American marriages!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Athena. I know the Boffin and I get frustrated with the press coverage on both sides of the Atlantic when discussing our nations’ respective healthcare systems and the problems with each. There are people here who put a halo on the NHS and see that as a solution to our issues when the reality is its funding problems and modern demands from the population are making it burst at the seems. Meanwhile, the NHS is sacrosanct in the U.K., and any mention of the American system is akin to hydrochloric acid on skin. Massive changes are needed on both sides.

      The Boffin and I will put our heads together because this requires a blog post that will require us to walk on a tightrope. I think we can do it though. Thanks for the push.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. To me, the phrase “tuck in” means to fold someting under someting else, like pushing the bottom of your shirt under the waistband of your pants, or puting the edges of a blanket under someone’s back, when they are about to go to sleep. What does it mean in relation to food in England?

    Liked by 1 person

        1. They use the word the same way as we do. You tuck in your shirt and tuck your children into bed.

          Tuck can be a substitute for the word “food,” especially sweets, but it is a very dated British word. A sweet shop used to be more commonly called a tuck shop.

          Sorry…the Boffin just told me that “tuck shop” is still used…like the “tuck shop” at camp.

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  4. We have a Canadian American marriage and almost every one of your points fits us. Except of course everyone hears me talk and just assumes that I’m American, until I say ‘sorry’ (the right way – sore-ee not sahreee).

    Also seriously, the whole healthcare thing is impossible to compare. Canada, like the UK, has, for lack of a better term, socialised medicine. Many Americans I’ve talked to assume a) it’s free (of course it’s not, taxes pay for healthcare), and b) it’s a better system. As you said better than I will, Americans have very different expectations of the healthcare system than Brits/Canadians. Apples & oranges.

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    1. If you follow an account called Very British Problems on Twitter or Facebook, you can see how the apologizing thing can play out, Elyse. The apologizing in England is absolutely wonderful in day-to-day society when you are dealing with strangers bumping into each other and other scenarios like that. However, when you are dealing with intimate relationships, the overuse of the apology just rings hollow because you have no idea whether the person actually means the apology. The word “sorry” actually takes on several meanings, and you have to work out the code depending on the context. It completely defeats the purpose of the apology in the first place.

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    1. Milk in your tea is a beautiful thing. I am so glad you agree, Scott.

      It is not quite a gender thing, Scott. When you have more of socialized system of healthcare, you don’t want to want to “waste taxpayer’s money” by using healthcare services needlessly. It is a different, not better or worse, line of thinking than the consumer mindset that we have.

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