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What I Learned Teaching On Multicultural Marriage


Here's the thing about marriage: no one is an expert.

At least, I can't imagine ever calling myself an expert on this crazy ride that is trying to do life with another person. On top of just the regular give and take of relationships, we've got cross-cultural communication, expectations, and differences to layer on top. Like a delicious tiramisu.

Last week Billy and I attended the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) Conference in Memphis. CCDA is a gathering of folks committed to people on the margins and community transformation. Attendees travel from all over the U.S. (and internationally) to learn about justice issues, reconciliation, practical ministry insights, soul care, and community development best practices.

We led a workshop on multicultural families with our friend David, who is Korean-American and his wife is Indian-American (South Asian). It was so. much. fun. I can't even tell you. I am constantly struck by how much I enjoy meeting and hearing from other cross-cultural couples. (Super cool party people in the hiz-ouse!)

Can I just say that we're a fun group of people? And actually, that's kind of true. I learned a couple things through our research for the presentation and our conversations that really stuck out to me. Here's 3 of my takeaways.

#1 We're an adventurous crew.


Billy really jumped on this one, reminding everyone no matter how boring your marriage is now, you were originally excited about the differences and the excitement of joining in with a new culture. I kept asking him to revise the part where he said, "I GUARANTEE it'll lose some of that original thrill," but he said it anyway. Ha!

But it is interesting that people who enter cross-cultural marriages tend to be open to new experiences and a little risk. I'm not going sky-diving or anything, but it's helpful to remember that we share that desire for adventure.

#2 Self-reflection is a valuable skill.


David noted that in much of his research there was a theme about the importance of self-reflection. Of course, being able to assess your background, perspective, and influences is helpful in any marriage. But there was a particular emphasis that cross-cultural marriage will be significantly more challenging if you struggle to self-reflect.

I love to over-analyze, so this seems right in my own wheelhouse. But I actually really like this quality being named because I think it helps to identify what's needed in particular marriage moments. Sometimes a call to step back and evaluate can be game changing.

#3 We can't stop laughing.


This workshop was filled with non-stop laughter. It helped that David and Billy are two of the funniest people I know and someone gave them a microphone. But I'm not even joking when I say that there was so much fun and laughter in the workshop, and I was reminded of a book I read that listed "10 Factors for a Successful Intercultural Marriage." Humor was #10.

At the end of the workshop, an attendee pointed out how much we'd all laughed. He gestured towards our slide presentation and said, "My wife and I have cried together over every topic you all brought up. It was really good to be with people who understand and we can all laugh about these things together."

I was so grateful for the opportunity to attend CCDA and connect with other multicultural couples and families. There was definitely a desire among the group to stay connected, so the three of us are currently brainstorming some ideas to continue conversations and laughter among multicultural families. Stay tuned!

What do you think? Do these characteristics sound familiar or not so much?

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