Ten Tips for Dealing with Family Against Your Intercultural Marriage

in Intercultural Marriage, Marriage Tips


dealing with families against intercultural marriage

While intercultural marriages are more common an acceptable these days, they can still be more difficult than the typical common-culture marriage. For one thing, those marrying someone from another culture have even more potential communication issues to overcome, and parties from different cultures are likely to have different ideas of how a marriage works or what it should look like.

This doesn’t mean that an intercultural marriage can’t be successful, of course! However, a successful marriage often depends on the support of a couple’s social network, including the family. If your family is against your intercultural marriage, it will only become that much more difficult for you and your spouse to have a successful, happy life together. If you’re dealing with familial resistance to your intercultural marriage, here are a few tips for dealing with the problem.

1. Have a plan

Many couples start an intercultural marriage or relationship without any thought as to how their families will handle it. At first, this is normal, but as things progress, it’s a good idea to have an actual plan for dealing with the resistance of your families. Use the following nine tips to form your plan for dealing with your families, and then revisit your plan once in a while to see what isn’t working and what you can improve. You don’t need to necessarily have a detailed, written action plan, but you should both be on the same page when it comes to how you deal with your families.

2. Understand one another’s families

Chances are likely that your families won’t deal with an intercultural marriage in the same way, so take time to understand where each family is coming from. This means having honest, and probably painful, conversations about your own family’s beliefs and values. As individuals, you need to understand your own families’ objections to your marriage, and then you need to take time to talk about those various objections as a couple, too.

3. Allow one another to vent

It’s important that both spouses in an intercultural marriage have space to vent about family problems – with either their own family or their spouse’s family. If your spouse is frustrated with how she is being treated by your family, you should listen to and understand her frustrations. This may mean turning off your own natural desire to defend your family and hearing your spouse’s underlying emotions rather than the potentially incendiary words coming out of her mouth.

4. Try to maintain contact with both families

If possible, maintain contact with both families. Even if your families are frustrating you because of their reaction to your marriage, you’ll want them to be part of your lives in the future. Get a credit card with airline miles so you can spend time with each side of the family, even if they are far apart!

5. Divide and conquer

Each spouse should primarily deal with his or her own family. This means that the husband is responsible for making plans to see or speak with his family, and the wife is responsible for doing the same with her family. The tendency in many marriages is to place all of the social planning on the wife’s shoulders, but this can leave the husband’s family feeling neglected, whether rightfully or not. Divide and conquer works best for most marriages, especially intercultural ones.

6. Stand firm

If necessary, lay ground rules with your families, and stick to them firmly. Stand up for one another and for your own happy relationship. At times, it may be necessary to take one or two family members aside and let them know that certain words or behaviors simply will not be tolerated. If your family is constantly denigrating your spouse right in front of him, you can have a calm, private conversation where you firmly state that such behavior is unacceptable and that if it continues, you will no longer continue to spend time with your family.

7. Lead by example

Sometimes, people are against intercultural marriage because they believe it’s impossible for an intercultural couple to have a truly happy marriage. Here, you must lead by example! Show your family that you are happy together without faking happiness during rough times. In this way, your family may gradually come to accept your marriage because they truly do want what’s best for you.

8. Be educated

Cultural mores can lie at the heart of family problems for intercultural marriages. Sometimes, you can offend your spouse’s family without even realizing you’re doing so. Before a visit or phone conversation, talk with your spouse to brush up on what is polite in his or her culture. For instance, in the Russian culture, it’s traditional for well-wishers to bring a mother flowers on her child’s birthday! A husband who remembers to do this when celebrating his wife’s birthday with her family will gain favor with his in-laws much more quickly!

9. Negotiate and renegotiate

Making an intercultural marriage work is all about negotiation – where you’ll live, what food you’ll eat, what language you’ll speak, how you’ll teach your children, and how you’ll deal with family members. When it comes to dealing with family, you’ll need to negotiate and renegotiate as the years go by so that you can both be satisfied with the situation.

10. Stick together

The most important piece of dealing with family who is opposed to your intercultural marriage is to stick together, especially in front of other people. It’s normal and natural to have a few discussions about how to deal with family members, but these discussions should take place behind closed doors in your own home. In front of your family members, come on as a united front, and you’ll be much less likely to fall apart in the face of opposition.

Remember, pretty much all marriages are intercultural, since each spouse was raised in a different familial culture. Intercultural marriages just have an even steeper learning curve than most!

Ashyia Hill is a blogger with CreditDonkey, where parents and students can compare student credit cards. She reminds you that setting out with a plan to help your children become bilingual is a good start to their education, and it can help them become more successful later in life.

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White Bhabi

Very good insight. Some of it is hard for most couples to follow though. I myself had a mildly hard time accepting that my partner wasn’t telling his family about me early on. He was nervous and scared and I didn’t understand the weight of such an announcement in his culture. Now that I understand it I’m able to help others in similar positions learn to just wait and be patient rather than pushing. I find intercultural relationships are a constant learning experience. This suits me because I love to learn new things but it will not be as welcoming for everyone.

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