Addressing the Challenges of Intercultural Marriage

Marriage, with all of the joys involved, is known to our MD couples therapists to be a difficult process due to the melding of two lives, two personalities, and two families.  We bring our own set of values, expectations, and traditions that may or may not be in line with our spouse’s. Despite any differences, your love and connection was strong enough for you both to say “we can do this and want to do this, despite our differences.”  However, for couples who come from two different cultures, these differences are often much more significant and cause more stress in a marriage despite your good intentions of making your intercultural marriage thrive.

Prior to marriage, couples should embark on conversations about factors such as gender roles, finances, parenting, social lives, and overall expectations of marriage.  When you are entering an intercultural marriage, having these conversations–either in premarital counseling or at home– is even more important due to the significant level of potential differences that might arise.  Unfortunately, many couples do not explore these issues thoroughly and are surprised when their spouse, for example, has expectations that their parents will move in with them when they are elderly or feels that children should be seen and not heard.  Your spouse may not even realize that factors such as these are not a given for you because it is simply a way of life in their culture.

Understanding your spouse’s culture and honoring what is important to them is extremely important from the time your start dating, to the planning of your wedding, and throughout your life together.  Learn about your spouse’s culture and talk to them about what traditions and values they feel are important and/or a “given.”  For successful unions, you must learn to appreciate those qualities and traditions in your spouse and your spouse’s family that are unique to their culture and that are going to be incorporated into your new family.  However, also be aware of what you might be uncomfortable with and voice these concerns to your spouse.  Difficult choices have to be made if your significant other wants to adhere to a religion, parenting style, tradition, etc, that you are not comfortable with.

Intercultural couples may not have premarital counseling readily available to them through a place of worship because coming from two different cultures often means two different religions and, therefore, a secular wedding ceremony.  Prepare/Enrich is a premarital program offered by the Bethesda MD therapists in our practice to address just these issues mentioned above as well as for any couple preparing for marriage.  Please contact us to find out more information about this important program.