Living in France put our relationship in jeopardy

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«Our relationship as a couple was fragile. We even talked of separating. The love we had for each other was still there, but our problem came from how differently we each experienced living abroad». Martha and Alan were in their mid thirties and already didn’t share much with each another. They didn’t really know how they had reached that sad point in their relationship, but the three years they had spent together in Paris had created a gap between them that was proving difficult to bridge.

«We met at Berkley and came to France as soon as we could to realize our childhood dreams, live in a country rich in history and arts, and experience a culture that we thought, at the time, was exactly what we wanted». Martha and Alan both had successful careers in finance and shared a beautiful apartment in the 16th arrondissement. Life had treated them well and yet they felt like strangers to each other.

«Together and individually, through the American community or with our Parisian friends, we’ve taken full advantage of the city’s euphoric energy, fun and creativity. Unfortunately, though our careers were going very well, I had the impression Alan was gradually hiding his American background, because of how America is perceived from abroad. He was trying to be someone else, some kind of a Parisian caricature of himself. I found this both ridiculous and unattractive», laments Martha. «For my part, I saw my wife behave like a shy, clumsy, provincial California girl, unwilling to blend in with this exciting city», adds Alan. The former lovebirds were no longer in sync with each other. They were even contemplating a divorce, where Martha would go back to her native Oakland and Alan would stay in Paris.

Sitting at a table in Chez Mimi, their favorite neighborhood restaurant, they decided to talk to each other as openly and sincerely as possible, in the hopes of getting out of their painful situation and enjoying life together again. They took turns to explain what fascinated or bothered them in the City of Light. Alan went first. What he likes the most here is that French don’t talk about money all the time, they know how to appreciate life, good food, good wine, and real friendships, «I also love their manners. When I open the door for a woman here, she smiles at me and says thank you. In America, eyes roll, and I feel guilty for being chivalrous and therefore misogynous». His positive attitude to France was addictive, «Here people find me elegant, educated, intellectual and they don’t look at me with contempt and disgust when my accent tells them I’m from Trump country!» Martha shrugged. Contrary to what her husband thought, she felt happy and comfortable living in Paris and could see herself staying here for many years. What annoyed her was her husband’s ultra-negative attitude toward his native country, «Alan, sometimes I wonder why you’re are so ashamed of your origins, and why do you like being called ‘Alain’ so much? It seems so immature to me. You’ve always been my elegant, intellectual and well mannered ‘Alan’, but as soon as you landed in Paris, it seemed the opinion of those who didn’t know you at all was more important than mine».

Being an American in France is much more fun and stimulating than being an American in America. However, this natural enthusiasm can sometimes be a hindrance to professional, intellectual or emotional growth in a foreign country. Alan may have felt French, but he wasn’t. The discussion at Chez Mimi made him realise this, «I was overdoing it. Since there is a long and precious history between our two countries, I don’t have to act like a born and bred Parisian to be welcomed and loved here».

Fortunately, what once separated this couple has since become the cement that binds them together. Alan stopped calling himself Alain, and started sharing his discoveries with the woman he loves. «I don’t want to lose you through living in the beautiful City of Light. I want to charm you again. I want to be your Gene Kelly, your American in Paris, forever and ever ! »

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