Ask Amy: Husband speaks Welsh, wife says ’na’
Dear Amy: My husband and I have been together for 20 years (married for 12). He is from the UK (Wales).
When we visit his relatives and friends in Wales, everyone is kind enough to speak English while I am in the room (Welsh is their native language).
When we are in the States, my husband speaks to his family and friends frequently on the phone — always in Welsh.
I find this rude, and when I mentioned it, he said he was not talking about me and that therefore it shouldn’t bother me.
I often hear my name mentioned in his conversations and although I am sure it is not malicious, I am still uncomfortable as he babbles on in his native language.
Is it too much to ask that he speak English while I am present and in my own house? What is the etiquette for these types of situations? — Not from Wales
Dear Not from Wales: If someone can speak multiple languages, it is most polite to speak the language of the more linguistically limited speaker in the room. But this is Welsh!
If your husband was a Spanish speaker, he would have many opportunities to speak his native language in many different contexts, outside the home. Welsh, however — “dim cymaint” (not so much)!
Welsh is one of the oldest spoken languages in Europe, and, outside of Wales, it is extremely rare to hear it. (My research for your question revealed that there are only about 2,000 known Welsh speakers in the United States — many of them, curiously, living in Florida.) Furthermore, the language was in danger of dying out altogether until concentrated national efforts in Wales have resulted in something of a revival.
Your husband is not being deliberately rude. I think he is trying to communicate with his landsmen using expressions that are unique to a very small population. He is seeking a sort of verbal “cwtch” (a comforting hug). In doing so, he is also defying centuries of English cultural and language dominance (and often, outright oppression).
There are many Welsh primers available to study the language. I have also checked a popular language-learning app; Welsh is one of the languages they offer for instruction. It would serve multiple purposes for you to become conversant, and I hope you will. (I just finished my first lesson — so “lechyd da!”)
Dear Amy: I have been in a long-distance relationship for a year. My boyfriend and I live in different countries.
We used to meet once a month, but since the pandemic, we have not seen one another for seven months.
We keep in constant communication through texting, video calls, and voice messages. This has helped to maintain our bond.
Unfortunately, when we have a very simple misunderstanding, he withdraws and goes silent on me for days — even for a week — where he won’t answer my calls or respond to text messages.
This has happened more than 10 times over the course of the year, and it really drains me emotionally.
Recently we had a pretty innocent disagreement, but he said that I have abused and disrespected him, and that he won’t stand for it.
He said our relationship is fatigued and needs a breather.
He then said that we need a “health break.” He never defined how long this break should be.
Since then, total radio silence. He won’t respond to any of my efforts to reach him. Of course, I apologized for what I said through a voice message.
Prior to this, we haven’t had any unresolved issues.
Please tell me why he behaves this way. If a man says, “we need a break,” is he ever coming back to the relationship? — Break, or Break-up?
Dear Break: I don’t know why your boyfriend behaves this way, but you don’t need to understand or decode his motivations. You need only to accept his actions as an authentic reflection of how he operates when he is uncomfortable, and ultimately respect his wishes.
When someone asks for a break, they should receive it. You should consider it permanent, move on, and — if he contacts you — weigh your options.
Dear Amy: Thank you for your response to “Worried Daughter,” who was concerned because her stepmother was overwhelmed caring for Worried’s father (with dementia).
My husband and I thought your suggestion that the two women switch houses for a week (to trade-off on care) was genius. — Grateful
Dear Grateful: The large response to “Worried Daughter” illustrates how compelling this topic is.