The Nyab Series: Marriage in Your 20's
This week's interview comes from a Hmong nyab in her early 20s. She is courageously honest about her own experiences as a nyab in under 2 years. Hear her story.
We want to preface with the fact that we are not against being a nyab. Our goal is not to turn people away from the reality of the burden that comes with being a nyab. But, we do want to "pass the mic" and hear the truth that the generations of nyabs who've come before have never shared. We know there are nyabs out there that have figured out this balance, and until then, we want to keep this conversation going.
1. How old were you when you got married?
22 years old
2. How long have you been married?
Almost 2 years
3. How did you meet your husband? Were you in love?
We met through a mutual friend in high school. We got to know each other for 3 months before we actually became a couple. I was his first girlfriend. We dated for 2 1/2 years then we broke up due to his family not liking me. After 6 months passed, we connected again during my freshman year in college and we've been together ever since. Yes, I would say that we were in love from the start. He made me feel secure in the relationship which I had never felt before. During our break up, we both still loved one another but couldn't be able to be with each other because he thought he couldn't be able to provide a stable future for me. Despite all the ups and downs, we love each other very much and always will.
4. Did you know your in-laws prior to meeting them? Did you get along with them?
I did not meet them until we got back together after our break up. Before, I only heard them say negative things about me through the phone or messages being passed around from him and siblings. After meeting them, I got along with all his siblings except for his father. His father never liked me from the start because I was not from a Christian family. I tried my best to get along with everyone when we were dating since I knew that one day, I'll be married to him, my boyfriend.
5. What are the expectations that you had prior to becoming a nyab? What did your parents teach you about being a nyab?
Some of the expectations I had prior to becoming a nyab was that my husband and I would be able to move out on our own with our own privacy. But that was not the case. My husband was the only one working while I was attending college full-time and working part-time. We had to take care of everyone else even though he was not the oldest son. All our income went to bills and we struggled every day for almost a year straight into our marriage. Brought so many hardships that I cried all the time. I felt like no one was going through the same situation except for me. I was also pregnant and had to do everything by myself with no help from his siblings or his parents. If I didn't do it, no one would. If I didn't do it, his parents would talk bad about me to his older sisters that lived out of state. All the sisters thought that I was a lazy and greedy nyab since I was always in my room when my husband was away at work.
What my parents taught me about becoming a nyab was to always be the bigger person and "Ua siab ntev". No matter who said or did it, I must stay calm and make sure I remain neutral therefore there won't be any drama or tension. Also, to always cook and clean even if I'm tired. My mom always reminded me that even if I know no one is going to eat, I still must cook just so they can feed themselves later. What my dad taught me was to not rely on anyone to help my husband and me when it comes to building our lives because all they will do is either hold you back or use it against you. That's right! My husband and I learned to switch out old furniture, utensils, and buy our own car with our own money when we got married. Even though we were on a very tight income, we made it work.
6. Was it what you expected? Why or why not?
Nope. It was worse. Every nyab has their own story and experience. I thought it would be easy to "ua sia ntev" but no. Marriage tested my emotions and anger when we first got married. I didn't think I would spend my first year as a nyab crying every other day about being a nyab. But these tears were not all from my husband, the majority was because of his father. Always had nothing better to say about me. Cursed about me, gossiped about me, watched every move I made and tried to basically have me stop going to see my parents and family. Every day he would be on the phone with someone one and all I can hear is "nyab is always in the bedroom...nyab is always at her parents...nyab never cooks for me.." I could only take so much since I was always home.
7. What are the pros & cons of being a nyab? Explain.
The pros: to have the title as a nyab is to receive respect from relatives and learning how to start and build your life with your husband. This is important to me because as a girlfriend, no one really acknowledges you until you receive the title as a nyab. Also, learning how to build my life with my husband was the hardest. One motivation that I had to keep telling myself was that I had to work hard and make it work with my husband because I can no longer go back to ask my parents for help. They can help me emotionally and sometimes financially but not all the time. This was a big eye opener for me as a nyab.
The cons: the saying, "ua siab ntev." To wake up to a messy kitchen knowing that even though you didn't do it, you will have to clean it. Having to hold back your tongue when your in-laws are speaking horribly about you and your actions. Learning how to act deaf just so you can lie to yourself that it doesn't hurt you if you can't hear it.
8. Did you marry the youngest son or oldest son? What is that experience like?
No, I married the second to the last son. The experience is not what I thought it was going to be. We had to become and act like older siblings to his older siblings because they couldn't provide for themselves. Had to be the support system for everyone even though we had no stable income. Everything was thrown onto my husband when we got married since his two older brothers moved out with their own families. If we didn't keep up to par, we would get looked down upon. Didn't matter anymore that he was the second to the last son. What only mattered was that he was now married and had to take responsibility for everything and everyone.
9. What is the relationship with your fellow nyabs in the family? Do you wish you could be more open with your fellow nyabs?
Our relationship is not bad but not great. We're not close but we respect each other. We only see each other once in a while which I think it's a great thing. I'm the type of person who I don't like to be close to anyone that I need to maintain a relationship long term so there won't be any tensions or gossiping. The only people I am close with is my sisters and a few friends. I do wish we can be more open but only to a certain extent. I love how we can talk and laugh when we see each other. We just don't text or phone call each other every day like others.
10. Describe what has been the biggest struggle for you?
The biggest struggle for me is to speak freely and express how I feel. I have to always hold myself back. I don't know how long I will be able to do this but as for now, this is my biggest struggle.
11. Do you live with your in-laws? Would you move out? How would this affect your relationship with your in-laws?
I used to when we first got married, but now my father-in-law moved out to live with my husband's sibling. My husband's other siblings now live with us. I still want to move out and have my own home. I don't think it would affect anything.
12. What is your relationship like with your mother-in-law?
We're good. She is now re-married to her new husband so we see each other once a while. She's very helpful when needed.
13. Does your husband stand up for you?
Yes, always, unless I'm wrong. He does not hesitate to tell me when I'm wrong. He is my biggest support system!
14. What is your husband's role in the family and how does that affect you?
As I mentioned, his role was the sole provider for everyone, but now I am the sole provider for everyone since I have a higher paying job than everyone else. How it affects me is that everything falls onto us. If something needs to be replaced, we have to replace it and etc. I hate being the bigger person sometimes, but my husband is very patient and giving when it comes to his family. Something I'm still learning to adjust to.
15. How is your relationship with your brother and sisters-in-law?
I don't have a relationship with any of his sisters besides his brothers' wives. I have a good relationship with his brothers.
16. How would you rate your relationship with your in-laws on a scale of 1-10? 10 being very good. Explain why.
I would say 6. Not great but not bad. We don't see eye to eye about many things when it comes to becoming stable and taking responsibilities.
17. What kind of advice would you give to a younger nyab?
I would say always have the line of communication with your husband. Without your husband's support and love, there's really nothing much for you there. He's the main key to help your life as a nyab especially if you live with your in-laws. He is your voice to your in-laws.
18. What do you love about being a nyab?
Haha idk. As of right now, nothing.
19. If you could go back and give your younger self advice, what would you tell yourself, as far as being a nyab?
Don't be a nyab. If I can tell myself again, I wouldn't choose the nyab life. I would not want my daughter to choose the nyab life if the standards are still the same.
20. Knowing what you know now, would you marry at the same age, or wait until you're a little older? Why?
I don't think it matters anymore. To me, it is all about the support you are able to receive and responsibility that you can adjust to. If you're able to adjust to taking the role of being everyone's sole provider, then age doesn't matter. All it matters is income, patience, worth, and your husband's support.