Breaking Down Cultural Barriers in Your Relationship

Breaking Down Cultural Barriers in Your Relationship

Cross-cultural relationships are now more common than ever. In this new era of increased travel and enhanced communication, it is more and more likely that you will get involved with someone who is from a different country or has a different cultural background than your own. These kinds of relationships hold the prospect of opening up new doors of opportunity and new ways of thinking to you, but they can also contain some unique difficulties.

Though it may not feel like it to some westerners, "traditional" values still exist in th e world, and even in places such as the United States and western Europe. Many immigrants bring at least some of their old customs along with them, and with these customs often come traditional values that are passed down to their children . To most westerners, it's not unusual for teenagers to date each other and go out alone together, nor is it strange for casual couples to have sex. For many traditionally-minded people, on the other hand, such customs are unthinkable.

If you're in a relationship with someone from another country or cultural background, you may soon find yourself facing some issues that you'd never considered controversial before. Here are some suggestions for those who want to have a happy and successful cross-cultural relationship.

1) Determine whether the differences are really that important

Some cultural differences aren't that big of a deal when examined more closely. Even some different religious practices often have a lot more in common with each other than it might seem at first glance. If you're facing any difficulties because of the cultural differences between you and your partner, sit down with them and try to directly address those points. You may end up deciding that the issue wasn't much of an issue to begin with.

However, some cultural issues can be serious. Differing opinions regarding the "proper" sort of interaction between men and women can cause relationships to break up for good. If a clash between the traditional and modern concepts of gender roles seems imminent, talk with your partner about the conflict and try to work out a compromise. It is also often the case that men or women who keep close to the traditional concept of proper gender roles are doing so to meet t he expectations of their families. Take this into consideration when discussing a solution with your mate.

2) Be honest and open about the possible cultural obstacles to a long-lasting and stable relationship

When you and your partner are identifying potential cultural conflicts, you should both make sure to be honest with each other about them . It is very easy, when a relationship has just started and seems to be going well, to dismiss or overlook possible issues, whether knowingly or not.

Be careful, however. If an unanticipated problem arises between you and your mate somewhere down the line, it can do a lot more damage to your partnership than it would have had you identified it early on and gotten prepared for it. For example, you might end up having children and clashing with your partner or spouse over what religious tradition to raise them in, or whe ther to raise them in a religious tradition at all. The potential issues can extend to what sort of education they should be given and even to whether to give them hyphenated last names. Cultural differences aren't just related to children, though. You might also disagree with your partner over your prospective career paths. These are all questions that should be answered early in the course of a serious relationship.

This is one case in which you shouldn't let optimism get in the way of honesty. Even if it seems like a buzzkill to talk about potential problems between you and your significant other when you're happy together, it is worth it in the long run.

3) Find compromises wherever possible

Some cultural issues can be easily worked out, but those that aren't quite as clear-cut may require some compromises on the parts of both you and your partner. Some couples are very religious and come from traditional families, and if each half of a couple professes different religions, this difference can become a serious source of conflict later on. Asking a strongly religious partner to convert to another religion can be a deal-breaker, and such requests can and do end relationship s. In cases such as this, ask yourself how you would feel if your partner had asked you to give up your own faith instead.

Gender-related issues can be equally divisive. Women involved in relationships with traditional men sometimes face the unwanted prospect of a life in the home, taking care of the children. Similarly, men with traditional gender roles in mind might be resistant to going against the norm as they understand it.

Many of these potential points of conflict can be dealt with through open communication and compromise. If the issue stems from family expectations, you might even want to bring relevant family members into the discussion if your relationship is serious enough.

Above all else, remember not to agree to an arrangement that you're not comfortable with just for the sake of maintaining your relationship. These problems will reappear at some point, and they can become explosive given enough time. Be open and honest about what you want from your partnership and listen to your mate's needs and desires, and you should be able to make it through just about anything.

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Learn about each other culture before diving in.
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