By Kelly Caver, M.S., Doctoral Intern
In 1967, it became fully legal in the US for individuals of different races or ethnicities to marry. Since that time, more individuals have crossed racial, ethnic, and religious boundaries to date someone of a different culture. What was once forbidden and taboo in our society is becoming increasingly commonplace. In the United States, 1 in 7 couples who decide to marry are of different races or ethnicities. Similarities and connections with another person aren’t limited to someone of your same culture. Connections can be made with individuals from differing backgrounds and experiences.
While every romantic relationship can bring its own set of challenges, intercultural relationships can bring unique challenges as individuals may find that their ways of doing things and seeing the world are different from their partner’s culture. This can bring a richness to the relationship, as partners learn from one another, learn to complement one another, and learn to accept or even take on another’s cultural beliefs and practices. These differences could also be a cause of stress when different values and practices cause conflict. Fortunately, for many couples, these differences can be bridged.
If you are in an intercultural relationship, learn about your differences and similarities! Research shows that openly discussing cultural differences early on could lead to more satisfying relationships. Be curious and interested. Learn about one another’s backgrounds. Teach your partner about your culture and learn more about why you do what you do as part of your cultural background so that you can explain this to your partner. Read up on your partner’s culture or religion and attend family or cultural events with his or her to experience her traditions.
If you have a disagreement based on different ways of doing things, remember that your way may not be better; it may just be different than her or his way. Ask questions and try to understand why she has a certain perspective or why he does things a different way. You two might find a compromise to integrate one another’s cultural practices and beliefs, agree to do things according to one partner’s culture, learn to accept and tolerate the differences without changing your own beliefs or behaviors, or you and your partner may find a third way from outside of your cultures.
The UMKC Counseling Center provides couples counseling. All of our clinicians are trained in culturally competent therapy. If you and your partner are struggling with relationship concerns or want to grow and enhance your relationship, then contact us to set up an intake appointment.
As a young woman in an intercultural relationship said, “The world is changing, let’s embrace it!” As our world becomes more accepting of differences, individuals will continue to find attraction and love with others from outside of their own race. Let’s look beyond the differences that confuse or frustrate us, and look for the value we can find in our partner’s, friends’, classmates’, and coworkers’ cultural backgrounds as we seek to better understand our own cultures.
On the local morning news this week, I heard a statistic that stopped me cold in my tracks. I don’t even remember what the story was about, but the reporter cited research that, on average, girls’ self-concept peaks at around age 9. They didn’t cite the study, so I can’t comment on its validity. But I’m not surprised to hear this, knowing that more than half of ten year-olds wish they were thinner, 80% of children are afraid of being fat, that by age 17, 70% of girls have been on a diet, and over half of girls would rather be hit by a truck than be fat.
Think back to when you were a little girl or a little boy. Can you remember a time when you didn’t think about the way you appeared to others? A time when all you cared about was how long mom and dad would let you run free outside before it turned dark? A time when you relied on your legs to pump your bike faster and faster down the hill and your arms to pull you up and over the fence? Why have we forgotten about such things? Could it be due to the multi-billion dollar industry that preys on our insecurities? The industry that does everything in its power to convince us that without this product or this procedure our worth is somehow diminished? That if we don’t have a particular (and usually unachievable) body shape and size we are not acceptable? Is there another way to look at our bodies above and beyond a hyper-focus on appearance? To me, it’s getting to be pretty old and quite damaging.
You can’t turn on the radio these days without hearing a song by Adele. If you tuned into the Grammy’s a few weeks ago, you couldn’t miss her six-Grammy win or her much anticipated vocal performance. And yet, about a week before the Grammys Adele’s name was all over Entertainment News for another reason, Chanel head designer Karl Lagerfeld called her “a little too fat.” He has since apologized for his comment, but I mention this situation for several reasons.