Sheryl Sandberg is all about leaning in. A concept for workplace empowerment, especially for women. In just over a year, leaning in has already become an old phrase and old debate. But leaning in is taking on a new meaning in my life as my husband and I’s marriage grows.

This is important because my change of heart into wanting to be a wife came unexpectedly. Neither of us were much into dating, but we were into taking a risk to see where things would go.

Yes, our marriage is young, just a half year so far. It is international, interracial, inter-religious…even though we don’t think about those things. Our marriage is arts and activism focused. Balanced in many ways and ad hoc in others. Foreign and homey.

It is It is cliche and badass.

It is in no ways easy. But in one sense, it is extremely easy, it is natural.

In our new marriage, we are leaning in.

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I often get asked about the treatment of women here, in the Middle East and North Africa. This question makes used to make sense. And I used to answer it. But now that I have been here for a little time and married into the culture, the question has become somehow odd. Way too difficult to generalize. Honestly.

It’s a marriage.

The biggest differences I see are the wedding start times. In Egypt, it is common to start a wedding at 10:00 pm and to open the buffet at 1:00 am or later. There are often two to three bands as well as a DJ and a bellydancer. Sometimes the performers are legendary. Sometimes the bride makes a flying entrance.

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My husband and I married six months ago: vows and celebration on the winter solstice, official paperwork filing a week later. We wore jeans and t-shirts that said, “I will” on the sleeve. And in these first six months, we have gained more clarity on what we will do.

Let’s use Sheryl Sandberg’s words and put our spin on them.

  1. The Leadership Ambition Gap: What Would You Do if You Weren’t Afraid? – Do big, good things. And then leave the fears and cynicism for when our love is the boldest.
  2. Sit at the Table – Yes, the dining room table. We will sit there, together, often. We have yet to agree on the role of the couch and TV in our marriage, but we definitely agree on the role of the table. We both sit there.
  3. Success and Likeability – Let pride in the other person overwhelm us, at least quarterly.
  4. It’s a Jungle Gym, Not a Ladder – Have some flexibility with our two career paths. We will both continue to be amazing.
  5. Are You My Mentor? – Love both our families. And let them love us. Have a marriage his late father would be proud of.
  6. Seek and Speak Your Truth – Have the difficult conversation within 24 hours of any difficult situation or any difficult feeling.
  7. Don’t Leave before you Leave – Let the other person know when you feel yourself going in a negative direction; towards being a coward, a martyr, a cheater, a conceder or a quitter in the relationship or in life.
  8. Make your Partner a real Partner – Take turns driving.
  9. The Myth of Doing it All – Both  of us will do at least one thing we don’t want to, everyday: be it dishes, or mopping, or paperwork, or giving the other person space.
  10. Let’s Start Talking about it – Subscribe to the same definition of cheating, TLC, and  blog-appropriate; then stay honest to yourself and to those definitions.
  11. Working Together Toward Equality – Know each other’s ticklish spots and be prepared to use them.

We will lean in.

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