So maybe you’ve met a handsome guy – or a gorgeous gal – but this stunning stranger is not exactly from your neck of the woods. Maybe it’s race, culture or even a different country that divides you. You’re smitten, but you’re also wondering whether it’s worth pursuing a deeper relationship with someone so different from you.
Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), there’s no quick and easy answer. I know people – including yours truly – who have decided to marry across cultures (“transculturally”? Should we make that a new word?). Others have for equally valid reasons decided not to marry.
If you’re thinking about multicultural marriage, here are a few thoughts to consider:
- Make sure your “unities” outweigh your “diversities.” For us, that included our shared love for Jesus Christ and his church; similar senses of humor; and an aversion to PDAs (public displays of affection). 🙂
- Try to see the other person on his or her home turf. This is especially important if your significant other is from another country, but it’s still relevant for people who come from different cultures. How do they interact with their parents? Siblings, neighbors, etc.?
- Secure the blessing of your in-laws. I strongly believe this is not only Biblical, but also essential, to the success of your marriage. How can you honor your father and mother by marrying someone they can’t stand? One couple I know had a brutally hard time getting the approval of the bride’s father. He didn’t like that the groom came from a humble background; he had very strong, cultural biases against the groom’s profession; and it took years of pain and misunderstanding before he allowed the marriage. But both husband and wife would tell you it was worth it.
- Discuss life goals and financial obligations. Wow, try to lump those together during a romantic night for two! But seriously, if you don’t see your life and career goals dovetailing or at least complementing, there’s no point in going further. And you might be surprised at familial expectations that involve money: for example, supporting your parents-in-law after they retire (common practice in countries where the economic system is not very developed) or paying for the education of your spouse’s immediate siblings.
- Don’t sweat the bathroom towels. A lovely couple whom I talked to while we were engaged (they were family friends of my fiance) gave me advice about marriage that I want to remember my whole life. The woman told me she used to get mad at her husband because he would leave soap on the bathroom towels after washing his hands. “You have to realize they’re not doing these things just to annoy you!” she said. Hard to imagine, I know. But true, nevertheless… 😉
- Eat (and enjoy) food from the culture you might marry into. There’s a Yoruba proverb: “No god is more demanding than your stomach – it requires a sacrifice every day.” Well, I wouldn’t exactly call it a god, but it doesn’t make sense to stay in a place where you can’t stand the grub. And sometimes there’s no faster way into your mother-in-law’s heart than praising her cooking!
Do you have any other tips? Feel free to leave them in the comments or let me know what you think.