What do you do when you fall in love with a person that is not from your culture? What are the challenges and the chances for this relationship to work? What are the steps to take in order to have a healthy long lasting relationship? These are some of the questions most people ask when they finally find someone they want to spend the rest of their lives with. There are some difficulties that are important to consider before jumping into marriage.
1. Acceptance – One of the hardest things to accomplish is acceptance. Acceptance means that you perceive reality accurately and consciously acknowledge what you perceive. Most of the times we have illusions that we can change people or make them adapt completely into our own culture. I like to say that we can adapt, but our heart will beat with a different rhythm. It seems difficult for humans to accept that God has made us unique, so we are ALL different from one another. Even people from the same background could think and act differently, so it is important to be open to accept differences. Every individual on Earth has a different baggage and a different background that they carry on into a new relationship. Thus, if there is acceptance there is love and understanding. 2. Language – Living life in a second language can be mentally exhausting. Couples who share a language will find that lack of a common mother tongue will add a layer of difficulty to their relationship. One person in the relationship will always be at the disadvantage of having to use a language that is not his or her native language. In order to communicate it is important to express feelings in your own language because they would come from the heart and not from words. It is important that in the beginning couples emerge into each other’s culture as much as they can in order to learn each others languages and expressions. Visiting each other’s country is also very important, so there is no resentment built on. It is also crucial to find a counselor who can speak the native tongue, so if there are any issues to be resolved the counselor will be able to communicate better with the partner.
3. References Points – Most of us do not realize how essential our cultural background is to who we are until we are living in another culture. It could be challenging for you and your partner not to have references to build topics of conversation. Lacking shared cultural reference points can sometimes make a negative impact in your life with your partner. It is important once more to be knowledgeable about each others reference points by visiting and experiencing what your partner is talking about.
Using your five senses in order to get closer is going to help in the process of getting to know each other and building a life together.
4. Clashing philosophies – It is important to understand that if you are a multicultural couple most likely there will be clashing of philosophies and beliefs. There will be times when what you know to be true, due to upbringing and background, is totally at odds with your partner’s own personal truths. It is important not to fight over who is right and who is wrong, but instead it is important to explain your thoughts and feelings on the subject and compromise when possible. There are some issues that will truly challenge the relationship so having a counselor to sort things out is essential for a healthy, long lasting relationship.
So, before couples make the decision to get married it is important to consider counseling and praying about such an important decision. If God is involved in the decision making process, things tend to be easier to manage.
Article by Renata Cerveira, MA, LMHC, Qualified Supervisor