I Don’t Know


My husband and I have only fought once since December.  All  the anger, all the arguments dissipated after the denial of our hardship case.  The tension of the hardship packet hanging over our heads and the carrot of residency dangling in front of us were gone, and we were finally free to move on with our lives and our dreams.

I have been thinking about those days of anger–and even outright hatred–because their ugliness is so pronounced in their absence.  I want to remember those moments because I do not want to repeat them.  I also seek to understand what informed my reactions and the feelings I carried with me.

What I decided to write about today is a single phone conversation where my husband said something that was honestly stupid, but it became much bigger than that due to the stress of our situation and external expectations.  It is one of the many moments that neither of us are proud of, but I think it speaks to what many couples in similar situations go through.


“They ask me all the time, ‘Why isn’t your wife here with you?’ and I tell them, ‘I don’t know.'”

My husband said this to me one day this past fall.  It had been about 4 months since I had last seen him and we were waiting to hear the results on the additional evidence we sent in for our hardship case.  It was a very tense time in our lives in general and our marriage in particular, and when he said this, I was spitting mad.

He had told me his family had been saying–or at least implying–that I should be there with him rather than remaining in the US.  Dropping him off in Mexico City and saying goodbye was apparently not what a good wife should do after her husband is denied his visa.  I was very sensitive about these questions and expectations.

I wasn’t with Salvador in Mexico because I had to finish my college degree.  I had been in college for over 6 years at that point, and I was not about to stop.  Besides, quitting wouldn’t make my student loans go away and a degree could get me better pay and a track to administration in bilingual schools.  I wasn’t staying in Missouri simply for my own comfort–I was there for our future.

I also wasn’t with Salvador because I needed to be in the US to do the best job I possibly could on our hardship case.  There is so much of myself that went into that document, hours and hours of writing, conferences with lawyers, begging friends/family/co-workers to write and re-write letters, locating artifacts, and money for the fees that I could only keep up with in the states.

Why wasn’t I there with him?  He didn’t know.  That hurt, and that angered me.

He knew why I wasn’t with him.  He knew all about the denial, the immigration process, my obligations in the United States, and what all I was doing to give us the best life I possibly could.  He knew that I wasn’t choosing to be away from him; I was doing what had to be done.

In a stream of angry, bitter words, I told him all of that.

“I know, Sarah,” he said to me.  “I know all of this.”

Fed up, I replied to him, “Then you know what to tell them, don’t you?” I then hung up on him.


8 responses »

  1. Am I the only one who doesn’t feel the obligation to pay back my student loans if our hardship waiver is denied? What causes this profound sense of duty in paying back a debt to a society that has told you that they don’t want you and your husband in their country? I spend my days researching bankruptcy and student loans so that it won’t take me as long as to wrap up my affairs and get the hell out of this country when we get denied. This country is the one who doesn’t want us here working and paying taxes and being contributing members of society so I don’t share that same burden of guilt.

    On the other hand, I have traveled back and forth to Mexico so many times without my husband that I hope his family understands why I won’t be staying with him throughout the 4-6 months that it takes from first appt to final approval/denial. If he or anyone should forget, I’ll remind them that their spouses leave their families for years at a time to make a better life for their families and I’m just killing time doing the same 🙂

    • My father signed for my loans. I have very little in government loans as I did not qualify with due to my parents income; most of mine are private. If I decided to default on them, my father’s wages would be garnished, and he does not deserve to have that happen to him. He signed for them so that I could reach a level of education that few in my family ever have. It is a profound sense of duty, but it is not to my government, it is to the man who raised me and has given all that he can for me. However, I fully intend to pay back my government loans as well. In ten years, I just may want to try to come back, and I do not have a desire to leave any stains behind me.

      The reaction that people have had also bothered me for the same reasons you stated. He was gone for four years and it was considered normal. But he was also sending money home quite often, while I could not.

  2. O. M. G. I feel your pain. That sounded exactly like an interaction Jose and I would have. Some times I think he’s torn between talking too much about “our business” and not wanting to blow off the family. An “I don’t know” in a way gets them off his back and he doesn’t have to talk about our business. I say they’re weird. 😉

    • I get that, I really do. Sometimes the easiest way to get people off your back is to play ignorant, but perhaps he could have been a little smoother about it with me, lol!

  3. Ahh, my loans are all government loans as I was a single parent working my way through college while raising my kids and my parents had no money. We’ve thought about what a bankruptcy means to us but it’s not that big of a deal. We already have our own home here and we most likely won’t lose it since my adult daughter or mother can take care of it for the next 10 years. He will be getting a brand new social with a clean record so anything we do in the future can be in his name for a change. I’m at the end of my career, etc so when we come back, I look forward to enjoying a retirement and driving around the US in an RV or travel trailer, ha ha. After the recession here, people with bankruptcies aren’t going to be an oddity, more like the other way around. I can understand your position though, I wouldn’t do anything that would affect anyone else in my family either.

  4. I can’t tell you how much I identify with this post — not the occurrences quite as much as the dynamics that lead into those conversations. I think you’re speaking for pretty much all of us… Thanks for your honesty! We’ve certainly been there.

  5. The whole immigration proccess is so stressful you would be lucky to make it out without some fighting/upset feelings.

    When I read what he said I immediately understood why you would have gotten so mad! That would have burned my butt, too! 🙂

    I am the lazy one that hasn’t learned Spanish. My husband has learned a lot of English over the length of our relationship. But, still I think he gets confused on how to say certain things, or he says them how he thinks he should and I understand him differently than he intended.

    So, even with him speaking English, we still have that language barrier. I could see my husband saying that because he doesn’t want to have to explain it to people. But, at least that is behind you and you can move past all that type of stress.

    Sometimes I find myself apologizing because I jump to the wrong conclusions of what he actually meant.

    • I was really an angry and horrible person throughout the immigration process. To be honest, I think I am lucky to still be married to him after how awful I was.

      Certainly afterwards, with some space between myself and the moment, I could see that what most likely was happening was Salvador just not having the right words to express what he needed to say and possibly just not wanting to let everyone in on our life. It wouldn’t have been the first time that these were issues and it wasn’t the last.

      And I have done a lot of apologizing as well!

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