Within every marriage there are differences. Yet those differences can be much more troublesome in a marriage that stretches beyond the barriers of our own culture.
In the beginning it is always nice, new and fresh to find a person that has interesting cultural differences. But when the relationship starts to become more serious, that is where the differences truly become the problem.
Often times these differences end in divorce. Why don't we see these differences early on? The main reason is a couple tends to not see the bigger picture of a relationship until it starts to become more serious. They tend to just focus on each other and not the outside interests that have influenced their upbringing. Below are three areas that can greatly affect a relationship that cross culture barriers.
Problem: No matter how hard you try, a couple is often influenced by the external family members. A mother or father may not be convinced that a daughter or son has chosen their partner properly. They may not be in agreement. This can permanently harm a relationship if not dealt with in the beginning.
Solution: To overcome something like this, the couple must address the concerns of the family before marriage. Find out why there is a conflict. Is it religion that is causing the conflict? Possibly there is some stereotypical behavior that is being played out on the part of the mother, father or siblings. Whatever the conflict it must be addressed before the couple can become comfortable with the situation. If the relationship proceeds without the family's consent, there can only be turmoil and hurt feelings ahead.
Problem: Does your significant other come from another country? If they do, then you can bet they have traditions that you may not like or may not be interested in supporting. This can be an issue for a couple that wants to build a strong and healthy relationship.
Solution: To overcome this, find out early on what traditions your significant other currently likes to be involved in. If it is something you would prefer not to do, then make it known early on in the relationship that you will not be participating. A big mistake couples make early on in a relationship is participating in traditions they are not in agreement with or prefer not to do. The spouse to be believes this will continue after marriage. Yet, as we all know what happens after marriage is something very different. Most of the time the participation stops and there is conflict. Communicate your intention early on to avoid these issues. Do not be afraid to voice your concerns to your spouse to be in an constructive way.
Problem: If you both come from two very different religious backgrounds, then be prepared for some conflict. No matter how hard you try, you will run into conflicts when it comes to religion. If you choose to try and work out the difference, there are some things you can do to try and alleviate the tension.
Solution: Now this is not a solution for everyone, but it can alleviate some of the tension with your potential spouse. First make it very clear how much time you devote to your religious activities. Does that devotion allow time or even a place in your life for your potential spouse? Communicate what religious traditions you celebrate.
Finally allow your significant other to voice their concerns. If the tension is too great, then you can bet it will be ten times the tension once married. Go into a relationship slowly and don't be surprised if it does not last. The hardest thing to overcome in a relationship is culture differences and religion. It can either be a thorn or a blessing. It all depends on how tolerant you are and how much you are ready to devote to the success of the relationship.
Illustration from Clyde Mendes column at MetroSexual LA