Monday, April 28, 2014

Planning for Long Term Intercultural Relationships

Love is a four letter word. It blinds you, it deceives you...it leads you to places you thought you would never go. It's critical that once you think you love someone, that you think deeply about your future and begin to plan for your life ahead. Be true to yourself and realistic with what you will face.

Intercultural relationships depend heavily on the personality and skills of the individuals involved more than they depend on the backgrounds. You both must be open-minded, have good communication skills, reasonable expectations, an exceptional ability to compromise, knowledge of each others culture and the motivation to work through the challenges you face. Of course, we all think we are those things already but I've found there is always something we thought we knew but really didn't know. You learn a lot after you begin the adventure. You need to plan and be ready for those things.


Learning the Cultures
Start your relationship off by learning whatever you can about the other person's culture. If you already know some things, great. Now go find out some more. Make sure they're learning about your culture too. The easiest way to do this is to talk directly to each other about culture. Talk about their family traditions, which holidays they celebrate and how their family household is ran. Talk about their childhood, their upbringing, etc. This is the easy part and most of you would do this anyway as part of the getting to know you process. I highly recommend that you also spend some time searching online as well.

As hard as it may be, you need to learn about things that upset you, things that excite you and things that bore you. Don't just look for the fun and happy things about the culture. Knowing the less desirable things helps you understand your partner much better and provides you clues as to why they get angry when certain topics come up or why they vote with a certain political party. For these things, I would start with research and find avenues to communicate with your partner about them. Research both their city and state, its history and what the current news topics are.

That's where keeping an open mind comes in. I can almost guarantee you that your laws, your political incites, your ideals and your morals will be different than those you read about in some way. You will find things you disagree with and you must approach those topics from an objective standpoint. Avoid discussing any overly-emotional topics too early on in the relationship. Know about them, but don't bring them up until your relationship can withstand it. Unless of course it's to gauge your partners' stance on a subject in which the relationship would not survive opposing viewpoints.

temple, intercultural relationships, India, Punjab
Communication
You and your partner will differ in everything from social skills and styles to the way you speak your common language. Most Indians learn British English which causes some unnecessary misunderstandings when you speak in American or other version of English. Slang words and body language further complicate the communication process.

Some common communication problems between Indians and other cultures include the use of irony, sarcasm, stereotypes, use of trigger words and statements (like weight issues and skin tone). A problem I find often between American and Indian cultures is the use of slang words and cultural terms. Many of those terms I don't know how to accurately describe, nor does he when it comes to Indian cultural terms. I find it both refreshing to be able to learn new things but frustrating that there's no dictionary to explain them and I believe he feels the same.

Motivation 
A key element in any relationship, you must be motivated to make the relationship work even when you don't feel like it. There will be days you don't want to put in the effort and if you really need a day off, take one. Just remember you have to come back and keep working at it the next day and taking too much time off is a sure sign you're no longer actively participating in a relationship. This applies to both of you. You both must be working at the relationship.

Use that motivation to learn to embrace the differences between you and your partner. That includes the parts you don't like such as the morning yoga rituals or watching cricket for hours on end. Remember that you don't have to participate in every facet of their life. If you don't want to watch cricket, then it gives you the perfect opportunity for some down time with your favorite book or a night out with the girls.

Let Go
The key to a successful intercultural relationship is letting go of things. Sometimes that means letting go of your ideals and principals. Determine early on what you can compromise on and what you cannot.

Let go of all of the small misunderstandings. Nothing is worse than holding onto anger or hurt feelings over something as small as a misspoken word. Free yourself by openly stating to your partner that you forgive them. I know that's not a custom in India and often times these words are not used in relationships but there is a certain magic to saying them out loud that changes your outlook and attitude toward the other person.

Let go of the differences. So what if your partner likes to sit in his bed and eat and not at the table. Embrace it rather than letting it bother you. You might just find you like it. Whatever the difference is, that doesn't make it bad. All too often Americans relate the word different to bad or unequal and it's unrealistic to think that way.

Value Your Partner
What do they bring to the relationship? What do you bring? Do you complement or complete each other? Yes, I know that's a sappy line but it works. Remember what drew you to your partner in the first place. Think of the qualities that attracted you. Find new qualities about your partner to like as you grow your relationship. 

All of these things make it easier for you to face adversity head on. Eventually there will be someone out there who gives you and your partner a dirty look or makes a nasty comment. If you're grounded in your decision to pursue this relationship, you won't feel intimidated by them. You won't feel the need to hide your partner or your relationship from the public eye.

What valuable skills do you feel are necessary for a long term intercultural relationship?

36 comments:


  1. Nice post, i hope everyone will like your post..

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  2. Alexandra MadhavanApril 28, 2014 at 5:04 PM

    Excellent post. Learning each others' cultures is #1 for me!

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  3. Love is love no matter what you know about their culture. Of course it helps when meeting their family. Luckily here it is so common the dirty looks are very few.

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  4. Those are some great tips. Open your ears and listen carefully to your love before you leap into a permanent relationship was advice from my grandfather. That advice sounds like he read your post.

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  5. What great tips about learning about others and sharing love. So glad you shared this

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  6. Great post! my hubby is Italian and I'm Haitian. For most part we do not have any issues since we both grew up in Canada and do not really follow a specific religion.

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  7. I think taking the time to learn about each other's cultures is huge. Understanding where they come from and their beliefs helps you get closer.

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  8. Great tips for an intercultural relationship. I imagine it would be a lot of fun exploring a new culture under these circumstances!

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  9. Very wise words. I am going to share this with my children, two of whom are in serious relationships right now.

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  10. touristmeetstravelerApril 29, 2014 at 3:37 PM

    Love is a weird thing, you can feel love for any person and when you do it's best to get to know them better.

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  11. I imagine communication would be difficult, because slang is hard to get across to someone who didn't grow up with it. My daughter's fiance is from another region of the country and still doesn't understand some of our regional sayings.

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  12. Thrill of the ChasesApril 29, 2014 at 3:59 PM

    This is such good advice. So many times we think "Love conquers all" but there is sometimes a knowledge of etiquette involved as well. You point out a lot of important things that are often overlooked.-alice chase

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  13. I have never been in an intercultural relationship but I imagine there are many obstacles that you have to overcome. I guess respect for differences would be a must. No only for the couple but for the extended family members.

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  14. I too believe that love is love. Eventually everything else will fall into place. Great post!

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  15. It's great advice. Too often younger people today jump into a relationship based on that first feeling of love and infatuation and they don't realize how serious the commitment is. :)

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  16. That's great. You both have something in common having grown up in similar circumstances. That helps a lot even when cultures are different.

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  17. It does! Having different cultures gives you many new ways to break the ice, start new conversations and grow as a person individually and as a couple.

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  18. Often it is a lot of fun. It's quite fascinating to learn about the different things in other cultures. Even simple things like how they eat, dinner times, driving customs, etc. There's always something new to learn.

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  19. I find slang and idioms the hardest. My husband is trying to learn some of our southern idioms now and he has trouble remembering the words so he mixes sayings. It's even more difficult when he wants me to explain what they mean.

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  20. Jennifer WilliamsApril 29, 2014 at 9:54 PM

    I have known a few intercultural relationships that have failed because when it came down to it the beliefs were so completely different. You think love conquers all but sometimes it can not. These are things you need to think about long and hard.

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  21. You're right, beliefs are a huge factor in whether or not the relationship will survive. Many people wrongfully assume their partner will have the same values and ideals they do and no discussion of the topics happen before the marriage takes place. This is not a good thing at all.

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  22. This is valuable information to have before embarking on a cross-cultural relationship or marriage. I love learning about new cultures.

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  23. This is such great advice! I think it's important for both partners to respect each other's culture. That's really the only way it can work.

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  24. Liz @ A Nut in a NutshellApril 30, 2014 at 12:42 AM

    I imagine there's a period of learning how to communicate and adjust to different ways of doing things. My daughter is doing this right now with someone from Greece.

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  25. It's definitely hard getting used to new things, especially an entire new culture. But it's worth it if you really want to be together.

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  26. Learning the language and definitely the culture I am sure are great places to start. Thanks for the great advice and tips

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  27. It's definitely a process. I think after about a year you finally settle into things and have it mostly figured out. Which is interesting because that's about the same timeline as same culture marriages.

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  28. Lots of good advice here for any relationship, even if it's not intercultural. :) We've got a culture difference between my husband and I that's pretty big, but we work around it through being respectful to one another's opinions.

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  29. I had a conversation yesterday about how when we get complacent in our relationships and forget the reason why we fell in love in the first place. This is a perfect post to share with my friend. Love isn't something to mess around with.

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  30. Learning the language and culture have to be one of the hardest things you'll do. Love the advice you shared here.

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  31. Valuing your partner is so very important. Learning their language is so important as well, without doing so communication is virtually impossible

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  32. Communication is crucial! So is valuing your partner. Sometimes a good reminder is what we need!

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  33. This is such a wonderful post to talk and read about, thank you.

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  34. Respectfully accepting the other's opinion is vital to a relationship. :)

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  35. I agree. Sometimes we do forget why we fell in love and we need to try and stop and reflect back on that from time to time.

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  36. With airplanes and social media making distance just a number, intercultural relationships have boomed. The most important thing is to keep an open mind, but to never forget where you came from.

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