Marriage in general is an exciting time filled with unforeseen obstacles of combining the lives, beliefs, and opinions of two people. Marrying someone from a different culture comes with its own unique set of challenging variables, but it provides enriching opportunities for personal growth as well. All married couples make adjustments and compromises in order to facilitate each other, but when these adjustments feature negotiating religion or culture, it adds another layer to the process of understanding and developing the relationship.
About everything in life is patterned in regard to culture; be it parenthood, meals, or even the basic beliefs on self-expression. What may begin as a fascinating difference may evolve into a stubborn barrier when a relationship goes under pressure.
The following is a list that was developed after working closely with many couples struggling with the challenges of establishing new cultural norms in their blended families. You may find some useful pointers that will make the process a collaborative experience rather than an uphill battle.
1. Assume Nothing
Your culture and upbringing have conditioned you to think in a particular way. Your undying love and acceptance of your partner will not automatically change all this.
There should always be open channels of communication and not taking a difference of opinion or norm as a personal attack is essential in making a rational choice.
2. Unite in Opposition
Most have at least a small need for acceptance from those around them. When their marriage to someone from a different culture is not met with approval, it would be easy to allow that to impact their own beliefs about the marriage.
Instances where the objection from others is based only on the difference of race, religion, or culture rather than the observation of your spouse as a person, are two very different types of concerns. For example, an individual who doesn’t like your new wife whom they’ve never met because she is Jewish versus not liking your new wife, who just happens to be Jewish, because she often speaks poorly of you when you aren’t there. In moments where there is no reason for the dislike, other than prejudices, allow it to bring you closer rather than pull you and your spouse apart.
3. Humor goes a long way
Not everything has to be a tedious analysis of cultural differences and negotiations. Shared humor is key in any relationship regardless of any other circumstances. Holding on to the joy you have in your partner will help sustain the most needed quality in a marriage—love.
4. Communication is Essential
Be patient with yourself and with each other. Life in a constant series of events that teach us new things about ourselves and the world around us, and navigating the cultural differences in a marriage is just another one of those events.
Using the 4 tips above will assist in creating a place that feels safe to speak openly with one another to create new cultural norms for your family.
Samantha Reynolds-Battrell MA, LPC
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About Sam Nabil
Sam offers therapy in Boston and Boston Marriage Counseling for adults suffering from relationship challenges, life transitions and anxiety. Sam Nabil was featured in many prestigious publications. Check out his interview with Aljazeera English, The Washington post, The Boston Globe, Fatherly magazine, Women's health magazine, Cornell university, Yahoo News, USA Today, Marriage.com
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