"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Marrying into another culture

Lots of questions for you.  I do have a reason for asking this that I will get to later.

How much of another culture would you be willing to adopt if you chose to marry someone and live in that culture?  Where do you draw the line?  How OK are you with bringing your own thoughts into that culture knowing they are quite different from the prevailing attitude? Do you find it arrogant (or fill in the blank) of someone to come into another culture knowing she won't obey all the cultural rules? knowing she may disrupt the norm and possibly cause other women to get radical thoughts that might, oh, challenge (or change!) the cultural norm?

How well do you think cross-cultural marriages work? Do you think it definitely works better in some and not others? Why or why not?  Do you have any experience with this in your own relationships or with people you know or have read about?

Any other thoughts on this?

7 comments:

LK said...

How much of another culture would you be willing to adopt if you chose to marry someone and live in that culture?

Within reason I could adopt some clothing, food, and practices. I would not adopt a religion due to culture.

Where do you draw the line?
Religion and needing to change who I am as a person and my identity to fit the culture.

How OK are you with bringing your own thoughts into that culture knowing they are quite different from the prevailing attitude?

I'm fine with it. The people of the culture usually aren't.

Do you find it arrogant (or fill in the blank) of someone to come into another culture knowing she won't obey all the cultural rules?
knowing she may disrupt the norm and possibly cause other women to get radical thoughts that might, oh, challenge (or change!) the cultural norm?

Not really but those of the culture often take that perspective. It can be a hostel environment especially for a woman.

How well do you think cross-cultural marriages work?

I don't think they work if one person isn't willing to bend or blend cultures. It also doesn't work if the person's family is so heavily engrained in that culture that they cannot accept someone from outside of it. I do not think they are a great idea overall.

Do you think it definitely works better in some and not others? Why or why not? You can cross say European with American. But its much more difficult to cross say Pakistani and American. If the cultures are drastically different you will have issues.

Do you have any experience with this in your own relationships or with people you know or have read about?

My experience was with a Muslim Pakistani man. He was very American in practice but his family was very traditional. We started out with him saying he and his family could accept me as I am. It ended with I must be Muslim and even if Im an amazing hijab wearing Muslimah I still won't be good enough because I'm not Pakistani. We ended it after 1.5 years because I felt I was lied to, betrayed, and belittled. Who I was would never be good enough for his culture.

Susanne said...

LK, thanks for sharing your thoughts on all this. I remember your story well and it was always sad to me that his family could never accept you simply for something you could not help (you aren't Pakistani). I know you tried and did your best, but you can't help who you are.

I appreciate your answers.

sanil said...

To a much smaller extent than this seems to be talking about, I think every marriage is a blending of cultures. The first time I dated my fiance, we had a lot of problems because our families were so different and couldn't understand each other. Even growing up fairly close to each other and both having "American" culture, there's a lot of variance in that. His family is loud and talkative, and when they met me they thought I was cold and disliked them. I just couldn't get myself to that level of energy and socialization, and it was very overwhelming for me so I spent a lot of time in the corners, even though I liked them and enjoyed being there. My family is much quieter, and they had trouble adjusting to my fiance's tendency to talk a lot. We broke up partly because our respective cultures couldn't handle each other and saw the differences as character defects, and it was too hard to handle the criticism from our families.

When we got back together years later, we'd thought about it a lot and worked through what happened that first time. We know neither of us could adapt to the other's culture, and so living too close to either family would be a problem. We needed to be on our own and create a new, blended culture that works for both of us.

So while I don't have the experience with a totally different culture and don't know what it would be like to be surrounded by it, I don't think it would be a good idea for someone who doesn't want to adapt to the culture to move into it. One person against a whole family, let alone society, is not going to have an easy time. They're going to be misunderstood and villainized, and it just seems like a very stressful situation.

Amber said...

I've been rereading these questions and in almost every one of them my answer includes 'it depends'. I think that it's hard to make a blanket statement about what you will or will not be willing to accept or change because it would depend greatly on what the change is, how you feel about your 'default' cultural position (are you very strongly a believer that the way you do things is the way the things should be done?) and how you feel about the other party.

I also don't think that it's as black and white (for the most part) as one person marrying into and adopting another culture. A marriage should be a blending of the two parties' cultures.

How much of another culture would you be willing to adopt if you chose to marry someone and live in that culture?

It would depend on the culture and what I was being asked to accept. And if I liked it. :) For example, I would be pretty good with eating specific ethnic foods, incorporating them into the family diet, but not to the exclusion of my own foods. Dress? Well, let's go with hijab, since that's the only one I can think of that's a major departure from the way I dress now. I've adopted it in the past, I would wear it in the future. If it was the norm wherever I lived, I'd wear it.

How OK are you with bringing your own thoughts into that culture knowing they are quite different from the prevailing attitude?

My thoughts are going to go with me no matter where I am. I think the key, for all parties, is to understand that one way is not the *right* way. You can't expect that from everyone you meet, of course, but it's something that I think would be necessary in your spouse at least. But for the person going into the new culture, it would be necessary in order to not butt up against the ideas incessantly.

Do you find it arrogant (or fill in the blank) of someone to come into another culture knowing she won't obey all the cultural rules? knowing she may disrupt the norm and possibly cause other women to get radical thoughts that might, oh, challenge (or change!) the cultural norm?

Is she going in to purposefully change the culture? Or simply refusing to change her entire mentality for the sake of those around her? I think it's one thing to walk into another culture, declare that you know better than they do, and start fomenting change. It's another to be respectful of the culture around you while still appreciating the aspects of your own culture that are important to you.

How well do you think cross-cultural marriages work? Do you think it definitely works better in some and not others? Why or why not?

I think they probably work about as well as any other kind of marriage. The issues may be a bit different or more extensive, but the success or failure (in my ivory tower opinion) is entirely dependent on the people involved.

Do you have any experience with this in your own relationships or with people you know or have read about?

I don't personally, but I've read about them in various blogs. Some work, some don't. And from what's been shared, it really does just come down to the people more than the cultures.

Amber said...

*And* I have to agree with sanil. There can be clashes not just between cultures as we tend to think of them (American to Russian or Scottish or Canadian or what have you), but just between families, or between areas of the country.

For example, I once dated a young man from up North. Wisconsin. In spite of being from the same country, which you would think would give us the same culture, there were a lot of differences between how we thought things should be done. Both of us being younger, it of course was nowhere near 'marriage' serious and ultimately didn't last, but I still remember my complete incomprehension as to why he did things so backwards! :)

jaraad said...

In some countries that keep records the divorce rate is 50%. That is, between two marriages one is going to fail. But, I don't think there is a study about divorce rate among interculture or interfaith marriages.
Some cultures or religions are more strict than others.

I think when two fall in love they have to pass the love moment and talk logic. One of the most difficult issues is when the couple divorce with kids. The difficulty of the situation escalates when one of the parent decides to go to his/her home country. with whom the children should go?
Yesterday, someone posted this on facebook in Jordan.
http://www.facebook.com/notes/heidi-sides-alsaleh/missing-in-jordan-3-american-children/4067369373927
Such tragic story is happening again and again. I also have seen on American TV many times. An American father struggles to get his son from his Brazilian inlaws or a custody between an American and Cuban parents.

Nevertheless, I don't think marrying into another culture is a bad idea. On the contrary, if the couple are open to other cultures I think it is even better than marrying into the same culture. But as I said the couple need to halt the love heat and discuss some serious issues before marriage. Love alone is not enough in a successful marriage. But then I am single so I might be wrong :)

Susanne said...

Sanil, what a great comment! You make a wonderful point about each family being its own culture in a way. Thanks for sharing a personal example like that, and how you and your fiancé worked through it.


Amber, thank you for your thorough answers. Good stuff! Oh, and I love the bit about the guy you dated from Wisconsin...hehe.


Jaraad, I'm so sorry about the missing children. Actually the book I read that prompted this post involved a mother taking her young daughter from the father and out of his country with him thinking they were only going back to her home country for a visit. I cannot imagine the pain for him in her doing this. I understood why she left this man, but really thought she should have gone into the marriage a little wiser. But, they say love is blind so I guess that's why she didn't. Thank you for chiming in! Great advice about discussing some serious issues before marriage - true, true!