So, you’ve found yourself in an intercultural relationship. All seems well on the surface and the first few dates, but you soon find yourself embroiled in matters that have more to do with your cultural differences that your actual relationship.
As much as we’d like to accept that everything will be fine and dandy as long as you and your partner love each other, there are still external forces that existed long before you met each other. Some of those may change within the next few years, like with so many positive upheavals that have already happened, but some things can’t be changed so easily.
That’s especially true when you’re faced with ancient traditions that you or your partner were raised to adhere to. This includes religion, marriage customs, local laws, and even family traditions.
Why you should be concerned about your intercultural relationship
Being concerned denotes an air of negativity or even futility. What we mean to say is that you should arm yourself with knowledge in order for you to work your way through a system that has existed for a very long time.
You may feel that there won’t be any issues between you and your partner in terms of culture, but these things pop up out of nowhere. It won’t cause you to break up, per se, but ignoring these issues will lead to resentment–not just from your partner, but from the people closest to you both.
Taking time to learn about each other’s culture and how it affects your relationship shows that you care about each other’s roots and belief systems. Apart from that, it also shows that you respect your partner’s family and their cultural traditions.
The same goes for your partner. They should also be sensitive to your needs. Whether or not you adhere to a modern way of thinking, your partner should respect your beliefs.
What are the inconvenient truths about intercultural relationships?
Here are some of the things you may need to work through in order for your intercultural relationship to work.
#1 A lot of cultures have meddlesome families. That’s why it’s a culture. Most tendencies to meddle are derived from the family values they have espoused since ancient times. Although you and your partner should be allowed to make decisions on your own, some immediate and, most of the time, extended members of the family will want to put their two cents in. [Read: The non-Asian guy’s guide to dating an Asian girl]
#2 There’s still the case of following certain rules for marriage. Some marriage customs are difficult to adhere to. Like giving a dowry, for example. The problem with this is that some marriages don’t receive the welcome they deserve because the couple failed to follow the customs of said wedding. Imagine having to get circumcised just so your partner’s parents will allow the marriage. If you are hoping for smooth sailing, don’t just ignore the traditions unique to you and your partner’s respective cultures.
#3 Religion is almost always a crucial discussion. What religion will your future children follow? Why do you have to stop eating pork? Which of you is going to convert? Those questions are gravely important to some people, and they can affect your relationship more than you realize. There is also the issue of the practices that each religion follows, and how these will play a role in your daily lives.
#4 Racism still exists and affects your lives. As much as we’d like to deny that fact, racism still affects us in some of the most important aspects in our lives, like marriage, career, and community. Denial is dangerous, especially if you live in a place with fewer open-minded people. You and your partner need to take precautions, or at least stand up for your right to be in an intercultural relationship. [Read: 10 FYIs for dating someone from another culture]
#5 Genetics are a sticky subject. Unfortunately, one of the most heartbreaking truths is that certain races have a predisposition for rare genetic diseases. You and your partner will need to be tested for these types of things, especially if you want to have children.
Most people ignore this fact, thinking they’re the exception. It is better to know what you’re facing in terms of health, than to turn a blind eye and be shocked when something bad happens to your health or your baby’s. [Read: Things every couple needs to talk about in a relationship]
#6 There’s still a significant amount of cultural bias among minorities. Most of the facts come off as a joke, but it is still true that there are underlying biases among minorities, like not wanting to date someone from their culture. For example, some Asian women don’t want to date Asian men because of their typical family values. This can be damaging when it’s discovered that your preferences lie in societal biases, and not genuine attraction to a person.
#7 At this point in time, parenting intercultural children can be challenging. The world can be a scary place for children born of intercultural relationships. It’s difficult to explain to them why people fight because of their skin color. They might also get confused as to what color or culture they identify with.
This makes parenting difficult, in the sense that you’re teaching your children twice the knowledge necessary for growing up. Sometimes, you might leave something out, but you should still do your best to teach them about equality and their unique indentities.
#8 Semantics can sometimes make things worse. There will be times when you make an offhand comment that’s uncalled for, and it can cut a person deeply. If said joke pertains to race or culture, it could signify that your relationship isn’t as clear as you thought it was. We’re still learning how to be completely sensitive to each other’s cultures, which means mistakes can still happen.
#9 There’s also a chance you might move to the other side of the world. If you think culture is your only point of contention, think again. There is a chance that you will need to move for your partner. Some will do it for work, while some move just so they can feel closer to home. Of course, this isn’t usually the case. But if it is, it’s going to be a really tough decision to make.
#10 Love sometimes isn’t enough. Remember when people would ask you to rate what you love most? Most people will answer God, then family *that may or may not include your significant other*, and then everything else. When it comes to the point where that scale needs to be proven, someone may end up with the short end of the stick–especially when culture is involved.
Love can only do so much, but years of conditioning and beliefs can actually bite you where the sun don’t shine, and you won’t be able to do anything about it. You can fight for your relationship, but winning is not always guaranteed.
It’s tempting to think that everything will work out the way you want it to, but there are forces out there that some of us can’t overcome. But don’t lose hope. If you give up from the start, you won’t find out if there was anything you could have done to change your feelings or your situation.
[Read: 5 things to remember when you enter an intercultural relationship]
You have to do what’s right for you and your partner and trust that you love each other enough to fight for your right to be together, regardless of what your culture dictates. As you engage in an intercultural relationship, remember these common pitfalls and navigate them honestly and realistically.
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