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Spring 1990 · Vol. 19 No. 1 · pp. 49–51 

The Ways of Passion and Peace Do Not Often Fit Together Perfectly [Vignettes of a transcultural marriage]

Ayde Janzen and Stan Janzen


Looking back over the last twelve and a half years, it is easy to see how Stan’s Mennonite and my Mexican culture affect our marriage. Stan and I discussed this before we decided to marry. I knew that a commitment to this man who stood lovingly before me would involve all who came before and with him. He knew the same about me. Our decision and our commitment has been every bit as challenging as we anticipated.

It has been a very enriching experience.

Intercultural marriage was not forbidden in 1977, but it was less common and acceptable than it is today. Once our parents recovered from the surprise of our {50} announcement, they too began the journey of learning to accept someone beyond their group as a family member. Both of our families are loving and supportive now. But growing acquainted was difficult in the early years. It was easy for me to see a hesitancy in the trust extended to us by our families. My hopes were high that all of us would become a family, and yet I had reservations of my own.

Stan and I lost our first child and will be unable to have other children. Since for both cultures children are extremely valuable, this loss was acute. The way in which our families responded was both similar and varied. Since I am an only child, my parents felt the loss deeply. They were beside us during our grieving, but with very little open dialogue. My husband’s family dealt with our grief differently. We never had a family discussion about our loss, but we were encouraged to discuss our feelings when there were quiet times with the individual family members. I can remember being somewhat surprised, then relieved at this freedom. One of my greatest joys is that with time a sincere desire to love one another has created a strong relationship for us all.

The growth of our marriage relationship has required the usual amount of effort, together with attention to several additional needs. The typical expectations of married life take on a slight twist when cultural boundaries are crossed. Each of us has a working knowledge of the mores that have made us who we are now. Had we married within our respective cultures it would have been easier to intuit each others’ expectations. This union constantly demands the renewed respect for a partner who has lived in a different way.

I do not want to give the simplistic impression that crossing cultural boundaries demands continuing effort without its own benefits. There is an immense richness added to our lives as we explore each others’ backgrounds. Throughout the diversity of our marriage, however, there is one pervading factor—our love for Jesus Christ.


I grew up in a small Mennonite Brethren farming community. Two scenes come to mind when I think of our marriage of twelve years. One is the time I first met my Mexican father-in-law. I informed him of my intention to marry Ayde. After some {51} general considerations about our future plans he looked at me intently. “If you ever hurt my daughter, I’ll slit your throat;” he said quietly and meaningfully. I remember thinking that this was going to be a very different family relationship as I nodded and put on my best pacifistic smile.

The next scene took place at my home the next day. I was there alone talking with my mother. I told her that Ayde and I planned to be married. There was a moment of significant silence. She had met Ayde but not in the role of my intended wife. She became tearful as she said, “Well, if it’s God’s will” She went upstairs to be alone with this news. I remember thinking that she would tell my father and things would move on from there.

These two scenes point out what has come to our relationship from Ayde’s Mexican culture and my Mennonite culture. In a very important way I have been attracted to the soulful passion that is a significant part of my wife’s heritage. It is this feminine passion of the individual soul that is expressed in the overt macho stance of the masculine. There is always the readiness to take on life “mano a mano” (hand to hand) and think about consequences later.

Such an attitude is in tension with my own cultural heritage. In my past is the overt patriarchal seeking of the will of God in the rational and spiritual journey of peace. The readiness to act comes after the individual’s thoughtful and spiritual consideration of God’s will within the community. Within this reality frame it is often the matriarchal that expresses connection within the boundaries of the spirit. In my heritage, boundary is a very important word. Consequences are weighed and then the best way is chosen.

For Ayde and me it has been a very enriching experience to attempt to honor both of these ways in our lives, our love and our relationship. The ways of passion and peace do not often fit together perfectly. There have been times as a couple that we have had to choose one over the other. There have been times as individuals that we have deferred to the other’s choice and given up our past ways of being. This has been accomplished through the focus on Christ that we have been given by both of our cultures. Our relationship in marriage is guided by Christ’s power, both the passion and the peace.

Stan Janzen and Ayde Flores Janzen live in Fresno, California. Ayde is currently enrolled in California State University, Fresno, majoring in psychology with an emphasis in child development. Stan is a graduate of the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary and the Pacifica Graduate Institute. He is a therapist at a treatment center for addictions, teaches psychology courses at West Coast Christian College, and is a crisis assessment worker in a program for the homeless mentally ill.

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