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Let me share this great article with you.
The Unique Challenges Of Multi-Cultural Relationships And Marriages
Aug 09 '00
All relationships and marriages are challenging, and rewarding as they can be, they
all require hard work and skills, and ample doses of love and friendship.
My high school classmates from my days in Kathmandu – many of whom are now in the United States - and I often get together in our private corner at and shoot the breeze. Recently I brought this topic of inter-racial relationships up for discussion.
Friendships are tough enough. Marriages are tougher if only because a successful marriage is the most rewarding kind of relationship there can be.
No pain no gain.
And it can get trying at times
And cross-cultural marriages/relationships are even tougher as far as I can tell.It is hard enough dealing with a partner at the interpersonal level. But then you bring in the partner's collective identity and the equations become even more complicated.
It so happens to be that most people do not opt for inter-racial relationships for whatever reason. I guess if shared interests can be reasons to get together so can shared cultures.
Even for those who might get into one, there are chances the interaction at the level of collective identities might sometimes get misunderstood for shortcomings at the interpersonal level and there is a greater strain on that understanding quotient, maybe.
But in most cases it is about the other. Maybe some friends and family who never graduated beyond their narrow worldviews and make it half their career to tell you maybe you should find someone like yourself.
And mostly those who are not your partner, not family, not friends, but that non-person other who shows up in those god-knows-what faceless polls saying they do not approve of inter-racial marriages.
Those stares at the mall, at the gas station. Race Relations continue to be one of the touchier topics of discussion in this country as in all others.
When society finds itself having to deal with the diversity it is inescapably composed of, it does not always seem to do so with a smiling face.
For the purposes of this review, I would like to restrain from flying off that tangent about the other, and instead focus on the partners themselves.
How are the challenges of inter-racial relationships and marriages different from those between people of shared cultural backgrounds?
I will guess the challenges are more similar than different, but they are not same all the way. Talk of emotional capital and emotional infrastructure, of social capital! "I was not unhappy before I got married, but I am happier now."
I have also looked around online to see what others have to say on this topic.
(1) MOSTLY, THE CHALLENGES ARE SIMILAR
Leo Tolstoy – another of those “great” men who had lousy marriages – said, “All happy families are alike, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
What are good relationships and marriages made up of?
Each relationship is unique as is each individual, so it can be self-defeating to look for some formula, but even so, the same stuff that makes into happy marriages between people of shared backgrounds also makes into marriages between people of different cultural backgrounds. After all, a marriage is an arrangement between two individuals, and not two groups of people.
(2) THE INTERPERSONAL INTERACTION SHOULD NOT CROWD OUT THE COLLECTIVE IDENTITIES OF THE PARTNERS
The interpersonal nature of the relationship does not change the fact that perhaps both partners are attached to cultural backgrounds that they are proud of and that they would prefer to keep that pride alive. And some deeply held beliefs, if not identified as culture-specific, in some cases, can lead to serious misunderstandings.
It is often said the first few years of a marriage are often the toughest. People used to thinking just of themselves now find themselves having to think about some other person as well. Bye bye vagabond existence. It is almost like going to college and suddenly finding, lo, you have a roommate. You have to recognize someone else exists around you. Maybe the roommate example is bad, since you do choose your marriage partner, and you are head over heels into him/her, but living together does bring in many factors not accounted for before.
Now transport that to the level of collective identities. My first Christmas in the U.S. I found myself in front of the television screen. The pope was all over the place. Rituals at the Vatican were being televised. I remarked to my roommate,
“Something major seems to be happening. The pope seems to be all over the place.” It totally escaped my mind that it was precisely because it was Christmas time that I was not having classes for over two weeks!
If the roommate had instead been a girlfriend/wife, and a Christian, as opposed to the formerly Hindu and now Buddhist me, perhaps that remark might have ended up being a sore point of sorts.
As in forgetting the anniversary and paying the consequences thereof.
(3) KEEPING THE COMMUNICATION CHANNELS OPEN AND VIBRANT BECOMES EVEN MORE IMPORTANT
People are prone to misunderstand each other. It is hard enough to maintain understandings when people actually are talking to each other, making efforts to explain themselves, taking the time to listen and ask questions so as to seek clarifications.
Communication is a tough job.
We spend entire lifetimes trying to explain ourselves, understand those others around us, trying to communicate.
So imagine the magnitude of misunderstandings when the communication channels are not kept open.
(4) DON’T SHOOT FOR HOMOGENEITY, CELEBRATE THE DIFFERENCES
I, for one, think for one partner to start to erase her/his cultural background to gradually adopt that of the other can be a sure recipe for failure. If differences in personal background were the cause for failures in relationships and marriages, the dullest ones would survive the longest. The very fact that a relationship is about two people as opposed to one person ensures differences will exist, starting from the differences in opinion going all the way to differences in backgrounds.
And, to my mind, the healthiest ways to respect them would be to actively celebrate them.
Festivals would work great for someone like me, but plenty of personal
customizations can be made. To tolerate might not be enough, to accept might be okay but still not enough. To celebrate might be the way to go.
(5) IF THE KIDS CAN HAVE THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS, THEY WILL END UP THAT MUCH THE RICHER
I am not exactly the product of an inter-racial marriage – both sides of the family speak the same language Maithili and are Hindus both, but the fact that my father’s side of the family is from Nepal and my mother’s side of the family is from India was a mild curiosity of sorts while I was at high school. I grew up in Nepal but India has never felt like a foreign country to me. And I feel that much richer. I would not have it any other way.
When I look at my identity, at who I am, at the cultural heritages I relate to, I am happier for all that “wealth.” No amount of college courses can fill in where childhood memories occupy the shelf of identity. That makes me think children of cross-cultural marriages would be doubly and many times over blessed and they would have more of that heritage to draw from. Bring enough of them together and
the very term inter-racial marriage will look archaic to them, the way we resort to the phrase African Americans and think the term “Negro” to be rather historical and not contemporary.