Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

And So It's Divorce...

I am sorry, dear readers, to end our journey with this post. I had not anticipated it.

I would not say that every Balkan-American marriage will end this way, not even most I hope. Just this one.

It's hard for me because I am giving up not just a marriage and close relationships with step-children, but also two countries. Croatia, the country of my husband's birth and his soul's home, and Serbia the country of his adulthood and in many ways the home of my dreams.

Often the cultural differences held us together, so we were never bored with each other, as much as they impaired our ability to communicate truly. One thing's for sure, you'll never gain a certain perspective on your own culture until you marry someone from another.

Some very basic concepts, what is a wife, what is a husband ... are profoundly different in everyday life, although perhaps not in their greater meanings. The Puritan work ethic, a moral fabric of the region I'm from, is considered nonessential, even absurdly silly, by many people from my husband's region. While Balkan-style drinking, well that's judged differently here. The whole Slavic dark moodiness, not to mention the Serbian sense of destined "victim-hood", well, we Americans just don't have those in our think-positive ethos, which must sometimes seem simple-minded to those outside of us.

We also shoot straight with our words, like John Wayne with his gun. You can't read between the lines, or see a conspiracy, or decipher a deeper, different message. We say what we think and that's it. It must be confusing for someone for whom every conversation has Byzantine layers of meaning. They're sifting for what you really meant, when it's plain in front of their faces. In return, I'd take conversations at face value, to learn later I'd been making assumptions that were 180 degrees from the truth.

I've gained a lot from this marriage. I know that. Travel, meeting new people, looking up from my desk to the sunny skies above, the family singalongs, you name it. I'll miss Sombor most of all. I look at pictures of it online and they move me to tears. I even have fantasies about moving there by myself... but without speaking fluent Srpski that's a crazy dream.

I want those of you who are personal friends of mine to know everything's alright. I have my family, my friends, my lovely home in the US, and a career that fits me well. For me right now it feels like the sun after a hurricane. Pleasant and sweet. The landscape seems strange, with big old trees blown down. But soon enough it will feel normal again.

It's time to build a new life. And American that I am, I just went out and bought a new car. I'm going to have fun tooling around in her, exploring a new life here.

I really truly enjoyed writing this blog. Sometimes when I was adrift, traveling about in foreign places, it helped anchor me. And I adored meeting so many of you who wrote comments and letters, as well as being a sort of mini-spokesperson for Serbia for those who wanted to know more about the country. But that's it for me now. I'd feel a fraud if I continued. Perhaps someday I'll begin again. But not, I think at this URL.


Anonymous said...

If this a joke, it's a bad one. If this is true, sorry to hear that but I am pretty sure you had good reasons.

Good luck, it was fun reading your blog.

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear that! I did enjoy visiting your blog and reading your musings on differences on life in Serbia and here.
Serbia is not going anywhere, you can always come & visit as a tourist, except that you're already in on all of the coolest places to check out. Huge advantage :)
Best of luck to you!!

Anonymous said...

This is horrible news, an American definitely cannot marry a Serb as they have extreme ways of thinking and doing stuff, which is def not compatible with hard rooter American thinking/lifestyle.

Ivan K. said...

I'm very sorry about this.

I really, really :) enjoyed your contributions over the years.

I hope that you'll keep connections with our region, with less involvement of course, but with more permanence.

Now, to the conversation, which I relish:

"We also shoot straight with our words, like John Wayne with his gun. You can't read between the lines, or see a conspiracy, or decipher a deeper, different message."

Yes, generally speaking.

But, it doesn't apply to your ruling classes.

And Woody Allen couldn't have been so interesting to the public if he didn't insinuate deeper messages in what ordinary Americans say, in ordinary situations.


Anonymous said...

Keep blogging, keep the url, but change the blog name? RBB's Divorced from a Serb blog? :D
Have more luck with your new car! :D
I enjoyed your blogs too.

Bojan Djordjevic said...

Seems someone is dumped, sorry to hear that.

Sandrina said...

Sorry to hear of the sad news. I wish you all the best in the future and a big THANK YOU for all the smiles you put on my face :)

Anonymous said...

Oh Rosemary, I've enjoyed reading your blog but never left a comment before. So sorry for the bad news. All the best to you and hope life bring you somebody more compatible soon.

tinica said...

Surely you'll get a book out of this terrific material? I sure hope so.

Sorry to hear this news, but I'm nonetheless cheered by your good old "Jenki" get up and go.

Anonymous said...

Wow..., that sucks, I just stumbled upon this blog in dec 2010, looked forward to every new chapter, This seems to be happening to everyone. Good luck on everything.

Anonymous said...


I have been reading your blog for a year now but have never commented. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your life with us and teach us about another culture.

I love the quote "sometimes something good must end so something great can enter". All the best to you and I have no doubt something great is just around the corner for you.

Anonymous said...


I, too, have been reading your blog for a year without commenting--and now I'm sorry I didn't pitch in sooner to say how much I looked forward to your posts and how often they mad me smile. They also made me think, and for that I'm particularly grateful.

I'm very sorry to hear of the breakup of your marriage, but given what I think I've learned of you over the past year, you're a trooper and will be on to your next adventure in good time.

Best wishes on that next adventure. God(dess) speed! And do remember to tell us all about it!

Anonymous said...

I second previous comments' on making a book about this. I've read your blog for 3-4 years now and would be sad to see you quit. I wish you well and am very sorry to hear about your breakup. Whatever you do, don't stop writing!

Anonymous said...

He's a punk! Simple as that, and I'm a Serb. His poor English shielded him for too long. Not getting "This is Spinal Tap"? That's a ground for divorce right there!

John Medan said...

I truly enjoyed your blog as you had a perspective on Serbs that can only come from someone outside the culture. As a Serbian America, I found that you wrote things which were truly insightful and funny and at times very funny. I am sorry you could not make the marriage work, but being married to a Serb is not easy. We are the greatest people and at the same time, our own worst enemies. I wish you the best!

Anonymous said...

Could the marriage be saved? There is no perfect relationship.. Why so sudden? It seems like yesterday you were excited about buying a flat. It can be stressfull the process of buying it... I wish you all the best and if possible please reconsider (both) your decision. Unless there is violence in the marriage I would reconsider you had too many good memories it seems to me. In any case I wish you and your husband all the best. Even though I don`t know you I believe you guys are ment to stay together and this is just a passing phase. I am looking forward to reading the future post titled "divorce is off" In the psychology books the marriage goes through crisis 1,3,7 year and after that usualy it is smooth sailing... hang in there and use conflict mediation skills... It can be repaired.... best wishes Nina

Rob R. said...

Very sorry to hear about that. Been through divorce myself fifteen years ago and it really sucks. It will get better, trust me.

My Serbian wife and I often discuss if it is better to be with somebody of your own kind. As she puts it: "you could marry a moose and go back to Canada". These cross-cultural relationships are seemingly always explosive and entertaining at the same time, and as you rightly point out, you get a lot out of them even if they (sadly) end.

Take care, keep your chin up, and keep blogging. You have a following.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the Spinal Tap comment, and I'm a Serb too. My first thought was, man, that's a fine specimen of homo peasanticus balcanicus primitivus. Sometimes behaves unpredictably when removed from its natural habitat, but almost always easy to spot in a crowd. Must have some *hidden* qualities though that somehow attract the ladies if you get my drift.

jeju said...

So sorry to hear the news Rosemary, but it seems its all for the best. Goodluck, I enjoyed the blog over the years!

Anonymous said...

Glad to see I wasn't the only one with a negative impression of this guy (I'm the "spinal tap" commentator and was starting to feel guilty about it).
Cultural differences are such a complex area and cannot all be simply filed under one label. Nationality and ethnicity play a big role only if that's where you as a human being primarily place your identity. A Serbian geek might have more in common with an American geek than with a fellow Serb with different interests. Understanding each other's origins is certainly important but not enough. You have to go beyond those very broad, general markers and transcend them to really connect with someone. That goes for any couple of any nationality. "Speaking each other's language" applies just as well when both parties share the same native language. That being said, a lack of basic literal understanding can cover up a lot as well. It all comes out eventually, one way or another.
I enjoyed your blog very much and I hope you find joy and happiness wherever life takes you.

Tamara said...

I am a Serbian girl, dating an American. He 'discovered' your blog some time ago in his search of materials about Serbia. Since then we are your faithful followers. It has been such a pleasure reading your posts. As someone already said, your observations are truly insightful. They made us analyze our differences on a deeper level, especially since we are planning to get married and possibly move to Serbia. Your posts raise some very important questions and issues for those in multicultural relationships.
Serbia is still there. Being such a wonderful person I believe you are, you will always be welcome there. We love Amerikanke like you. I feel that Serbs need more of that - your straightforwardness, honesty, confidence, etc.
I can't even express how bad I feel to hear your news. I wish you the best of luck in your life journey. :-)

Jessica said...

Oh, no! Rosemary, I'm sorry to hear this. I've been reading your posts for a few years. Good luck to you, and please keep blogging even if it's on a different subject. You're a good writer.

Bubamara said...

Dearest Rosemary,
I've really enjoyed your blog and it has truly helped me understand the many differences between myself and my husband (Croatian). I am sorry if things have truly had to end for you two.
I know that my own similar marriage is incredibly difficult. There are bright spots and fun (he's the best in one category for sure) but the daily differences on tiny basic things are so stressful. Living with the constant uncertainty of when and what will trigger the next sudden outburst.. well, that really is wearing on one.
You have my deepest sympathy and understanding as well as best wishes. Hugs :)

Anonymous said...

That's really unfortunate. :(

Vanya 011 said...

you`ll be fine, you are strong woman with great sense of humor. Wish you the best. Tank you for helping me to see us from the other angle.

regards from Belgrade

Anonymous said...

Dear Rosemary, I'm so saddened to hear the news. i have to admit though, that i admire your resolve and courage to see that things weren't working, and to end the relationship before you got bitter. (That is another way in which the srbi and the jenki differ!) I will miss reading your blog and i hope that you will not sever ties with your adopted countries entirely. I wish you all the best in whichever direction life takes you, Olja.

RHOB said...

I wish you luck, happiness, and a speedy journey over this "bump in the road." You blog was inspiration for my move to Belgrade and to start my own blog. I hope you keep writing-please let us know if you start a new blog/book!

Anonymous said...

I hope there will be one more post here telling us where your next blog is! I am so sorry to hear this and I hope at some point you have enough emotional distance from it that you can keep visiting Serbia. I'm an American who loves Sombor and Novi Sad. You can definitely navigate them, at least as a visitor, with very little Srpski.

StoryTeller said...

Honestly, I have no idea how I ended up on your blog... But I am really sorry to hear about your divorce.
I read a dozen of your posts in mere minutes; some were really harsh (but true!), other made me laugh and for that I thank you!
I am a Serb, as you may have guessed so far, one of those teens you described even though I'm 23!), I'm someone who hates everything about this country, but now, after reading your blog, your thoughts about it - your optimistic attitude about it, it makes me not hate it a bit less :) That's another thing about us Serbs, we almost never see the good in things until someone else points it to us.
Anyway, you're shutting it down? Just my luck! :)
Hope that you're ok, that you had a lovely experience in Serbia and that you'll visit...

Anonymous said...

First, I want to say that I am one of many here who have stated that they read and enjoyed your blogs but wrote nothing; just appreciated your words, insights and stories. But what brought me here today is that I wanted to re-read some of your blogs as I will be in my beloved Belgrade in two weeks, and I needed a "pep" talk of sorts, as my Serb man of three years and I parted ways in July and I really do not fully understand why. AND what really helped me were your words that "sometimes something good must end so something great can enter" and maybe this will happen to me when I am there. Bless you, dear lady, and I hope, too, that when you find your "something great", you will again share that experience with us! HVALA!

Anonymous said...

I hope that you keep blogging somewhere about something. I love your writing!

Good luck with everything!

anneth said...

well I know you close your blog but I will like to make a comment.
Note: Im sorry if my english is not so good because Im not american.
Actually I'm latin married to a serb and we are living in my country. I think it will be hard for any different culture to get a long since the marriage itself its complicated but for some reason I think IT HAS BEEN HARD. I mean latin womens we are not easy going, a little bit to passionate. We dont want to let go the small things. but serbs They are stubborn and the sense of "victim-hood" totally agree. The few times I met his friends we didnt get along so much....who knows maybe was just me. Saying what I think and say my point of view. Who knows. We are trying to solve our problems, trying to get along. I hope I dont get a divorce because I love him but as you say if its like that life goes on and we have to make the best of it. Thanks for the blog. Now Im reading and understanding a little bit more. =)

Steeny Lou said...

I guess this means you will not be posting anything new? And I just discovered this blog tonight, having seen a link for it here:


I wrote a little humorous blog entry which you might appreciate. My dad is Serbian but has lived here in Canada since he was about 20, in the 1950s, long before my birth. He has still not lost his heavy Serbian accent.

Here's a link to my Serbo-Canadian silliness: http://holy-sheepdip.blogspot.com/2012/02/g-magazine.html

Steeny Lou said...

Oops, I forgot to click the box for "email followup comments..." so just adding this to do so.

Anonymous said...

Ive been with a Serbian woman 15 years. Bosnian-serb. She can be wonderful and charming and is of course tall and good looking. But she can also be arrogant, brutally rude, toally self centred and a very good liar.

I encouraged her to speak Serbian to our children and she used it finally as a means of being able to speak to them without me understanding. She minimises the wrong she does and maximises the good. If she is hurt or offended she goes into silent sulks for days. She never ever apologises for anything and never forgets any slight or insult against her.
She will act as if it is forgotten but she will bring it up many times later.
Her family are/were fantastic but you only hear from them when they need something.
She was very good at doing things that were wrong and then blaming her actions on me because she did them in response. She never took any kind of responsibility for hurt or damage she caused. She was very good at charming people into doing things for her and was very good at using people. She expects a man to provide for her in a tradtional serbian way but then will not take on the traditional womans role - picking and choosing from the Balkans and West society to suit herself.

She would wih she was with a serb but her sister was and they were divorced before us. Her sister would parade in front of me half naked or in see through lingerie. No values.

Thank God you did not have children. It is a personal experience that you can walk away from and dont have to carry on contact.

Take care.

Steeny Lou said...

Hmmm... Mr. Anonymous, I don't know if I'd blame the fact that she's Serbian. I'm only half Serbian and I don't think I'm at all like the way you describe (except for being tall and good-looking - LOL!)

My dad, who is 100% Seriban, has his own set of attitudes, some of which match with the description you give of your wife, but his relatives in Serbia with whom I've had contact are nothing at all like him.

Steeny Lou said...

Ack! My darn typos. Of course, that should say "Serbian" and not "Seriban".