When I announced my engagement to Billy, I unintentionally opened a door for people to tell me their concerns about cross-cultural marriages.
I want to clarify that these comments weren’t in the vein of narrow-minded, “you should marry your own” type of concerns. It tended to be folks with first-hand experience of a mixed marriage between loved ones (or themselves) that had ended badly. And it was known or suspected that ethnicity played a role in the break up.
The challenges were fresh on their minds. Was communication simply too hard? They never understood each other’s backgrounds. In-laws. Money. How will your marriage affect your kids?
Their experiences were raw, and I can appreciate the hurt that was evident in the responses. Still, as a giddy fiancé, I was (more than) mildly terrified. And since I didn’t have a ton of “successful” cross-cultural couples present in my life, worry began to creep in.
So from one married cross-cultural couple to any engaged folks out there, I want to say, “Go for it!”
Are their challenges in marriage? Of course! Communication? Baggage? In-laws? Money? Kids? All this and more! (Oh, wait… I’m not really making my case here…)
Here’s the thing: all marriages have challenges. You know this. Growing a deep and vibrant partnership takes some work. And I hope for you that it’s also a lot of fun.
But I believe healthy cross-cultural couples can have one important edge. We approach our relationships knowing, expecting even, that we will see things differently, say things differently and experience things differently.
Hopefully, on our best days, we can give each other grace in word choices during an argument. It is, after all, your second language.
We can be quick to say, “Oh, that’s not how I grew up,” while hopefully keeping an open, global mind that recognizes context over harsh lines of “the right way.”
We ask questions. Ideally, we listen to the answers.
In reality, most marriages have elements of cross-cultural experiences built in. All of us are joining our lives with people who didn’t grow up exactly the way we did.
But cross-cultural couples have the opportunity to walk in very aware of this fact. And I think it makes our differences less of a surprise and more of a joy. We chose this multicultural life on purpose.
I’d love to hear from other couples. What fears you had (or others had for you) before marriage or what ways you’ve seen your cultures become a strength in your relationship?