Are you thinking about marrying someone from another culture? You can be more – or less – prepared for what awaits you. It all depends on you.
Let’s stop and think about what it really meant to experience love without borders.
In her book Intercultural Marriage, Dugan Romano analyzes 19 factors that international couple just might want to consider before – or after – they tie the knot.
Cross-cultural couples can use cross-cultural training just as much – or more – than anyone who needs it for work or living abroad. A good course will help you identify numerous cultural and personal values that will impact your relationship for happily – or unhappily – ever after.
Food and Drink
These two little areas have immense power in our lives. You might think you can each just eat and drink what you like, but you might be surprised at how often issues surrounding food and beverages will pop up in ways that demand attention.
If you think think everyone does the way they do it back home or in mainstream Hollywood movies, watch “The White Masai” and consider what kinds of hidden, culturally-conditioned expectations, appetites and tastes might show up over the years.
Have we achieved equality of the sexes? Life as a couple often indicates we still have a long way to go. And if you marry someone from another culture you might discover surprisingly different interpretations of “equality”. Fortunately, there are practical tools for reaching international agreements.
Does your culture value action, productivity and efficiency all else? Does your partner come from a culture where everything revolves around relationships? Or is it the other way around? There are millions of implications – big and small – for your relationship. Prepare for an adventure.
Where will we live? My country or yours? Or should we try something new to both of us? Every international couple decides this question differently. Sometimes the answer is obvious; many times it’s not. This is an important issue to explore in depth because feelings will probably change over time.
Your countries don’t have to be at war for politics to play a role in your relationship. Political systems represent deep cultural values, and even if you disagree with politics at home – and feel more respect for your partner’s political background, you will probably find areas that clash over the years. Cross-cultural training can bring hidden issues to the surface and allow you to lay a peaceful foundation for your future.
International couples can agree on finances. But it’s good to understand the challenge: if money is the greatest source of “challenge” in same-culture relationships, then it will probably be an even greater challenge in cross-cultural relationships. Knowledge is power so don’t hesitate to get educated in this area.
Friends and Friendship
Friendship is a universal phenomenon, but like everything else it is conditioned by cultural values, beliefs and unwritten rules. Studies show that many aspects of friendship vary around the world. Compare notes with your partner to understand each other better.
We marry a person – and their family. This is possibly the greatest challenge for cross-cultural couples: they may agree, but their families may not. On what? Just about everything, from whether or not they should be together in the first place, to where they live, how often they visit, how they raise their children and what they do with their resources (yes, that includes money – and personal, “free” time). Get ready!
Funny, but seems it’s not politically correct to even suggest that this could be an issue where love is involved. But yes, social class affects our values, customs, tastes and much more. International couples often need to learn to overcome and manage differences in social class.
Whether you are religious or not can unite or divide, depending on each person’s position. Love may be blind, but religion could be an eye-opener if it’s not discussed from the word go.
The moment of truth in any international relationship is the arrival of the first child. Deep instincts awaken and you will feel a desire to share your most treasured values and traditions with your child. The same goes for your partner… Now, more than ever, you will appreciate every scrap of cross-cultural knowledge you can get your hands on.
Language and Communication
Learning your partner’s language is a way of entering his or her world and seeing life from that perspective. This is a great way to increase understanding and intimacy. It’s worth every ounce of energy you expend.
Stress and Conflict
The perfect problem-management formula doesn’t exist – it depends on your personal and cultural context: in some societies you need to put your cards on the table and deal directly with the situation. In other places the key is discretion and indirect communication. The potential for personal growth in this area is phenomenal.
Sickness and Suffering
It’s odd to think that even sickness and suffering could be affected by where we were born and how we were raises, but it’s true! You only need to live in another country for a few year sto see how even medicine is influenced by culture – to a degree (often a large one). International couples that understand this area can craft solutions that work for both of them.
Every human being believes his or her cultural values, beliefs and rules are the standard by which all else is measured. Everyone seems to know what “normal” means. However, breaking this claustrophobic bubble is key to peace and happiness in your global relationships.
At least one someone has to leave their country behind in order to form a “couple without borders”. It’s fascinating to analyze all the possible positive and negative consequences this person will experience. What will be gained? What will be lost? How often will the expatriate be able to afford “going home”? It’s better to face these issues head on at each stage of the relationship.
Death or Divorce
Nothing lasts forever and when the end arrives, culture will also play a role in how that end is managed. Partners need to talk about the values, customs, traditions and even laws that affect these life events.
Love without Borders
Cross-cultural love might be more challenging than “ordinary” love, but it also offers richer rewards. Every day is an adventure as you learn not only about being a couple but also about really crossing cultures into the world of truly global citizenship.
If you’re in an international relationship, contact Cultural Intelligence for personalized training and support that will transform your relationship and point the way to shortcuts to happiness.