During college, my boyfriend and I (now husband of 9 years!) attended an interracial dating seminar. I called my Dad that weekend and excitedly told him about the seminar. My Dad interrupted me and said, “Wait, why did you go? You’re not in an interracial relationship. He is Taiwanese American and you are Dutch American!”
I explained that while our citizenship may be the same, our experiences and cultures were very different. After a couple specific examples, my dad started to realized more and more what my husband and I were learning about each other!
While there are lots of unique challenges with intercultural relationships, I wanted to first write a post about the ways we’ve found intercultural or interracial marriage to be easier than we expected. Not better or worse than monocultural marriage, just easier. (I’ll next post a post about ways we’ve been challenged!)
**I would love to hear from those of you from intercultural or interracial marriages. Do you relate to our “findings” or have different experiences?**
- We start with the assumption that there will be differences. All relationships have differences between the two partners because everyone is unique. Everyone comes with a unique set of experiences, cultural norms, and ways to relate to the world. In an intercultural or interracial marriage, we just assume we will have differences. We know we grew up very differently so when a disagreement arises we can quickly pinpoint if its a matter of a different approach to something. I’ve seen some friends and family in monocultural relationships assume that the other person has the same approach to an issue as they do. They may have very different ways of looking at an issue but they don’t realize that at the beginning.
- A wonderful bonus to falling in love with a person from another culture is the joy of learning intimately about their culture. You may have seen this diagram of culture depicted as an iceberg where the visible parts of culture are above the surface (I.e. Language, food, holidays). But the majority of the cultural markers are below the surface such as expectations, family roles, biases, beliefs and assumptions. It’s easier to ask questions in a loving intercultural partnership because you are coming from a place of genuine interest and curiosity.
- There is an openness to try new things and new approaches. Both my husband and I are first born knowitalls. But through our experience in an intercultural marriage, we’ve taken a very open approach to working through issues. For example, my mom is a registered nurse and I never had any experience with traditional Chinese medicine, accupuncture or herbal methods. My husband on the other hand is the opposite, and my MIL will fill capsules with powders from the Chinese herbalist and use medicinal teas before he grabs the Tylenol. If I wasn’t in a relationship with my husband, I don’t think I would ever had found the incredible benefits of TCM. However I still have my medicine cabinet 🙂