Marriage represents the convergence of two people and their individual cultures creating a unified culture. The process of forming this new marital culture is difficult and poses many challenges.

Evaluate the Differences

Marriage partners who vary greatly in their backgrounds tend to have more issues that need to be examined. The backgrounds may include ethnic and national differences that involve traditions, politics, economics and religious beliefs. The differences in family dynamics can include roles, values, beliefs, communication and emotional expression. If you don’t examine each of these factors you become blind to the potential conflict that will arise in your marriage. There are tests that can be taken to evaluate how wide the discrepancies are between partners in these areas or in your personalities.

Communicate the Expectations

You don’t necessarily have to agree on everything but expectations need to be discussed. What is important to each partner needs to be understood and basic values need to be established for your relationship. How are you going to handle your finances? How you do define intimacy?

Conflicts over money and sex have been the top reasons that lead to divorce. If you are unable to find common ground on these issues consult with someone who can be objective and help define some standards.

My Story

My husband and I have a bi-cultural marriage. I was born in India but grew up in New York City. My husband is Caucasian and grew up in Northern Wisconsin (that’s all I need to say about that!). We met in graduate school and we decided to date. Dating was not acceptable in my culture.

I had to override the expectation of a traditional arranged Indian marriage instilled in me by my culture and family. Although, I grew up respectful of my parents’ wishes, I was willing to fight this battle for the sake of love, but that was only less than half the battle. My husband’s view of fun was going fishing or hunting in Wisconsin while I would rather go shopping on 5th Avenue or attend a Broadway show. We had disparity about our spending habits, dealing with conflict and becoming independent from our families.

It was important for us to iron out our values for our marriage. We realized we couldn’t do it alone. We accessed counseling from mentors, seminars provided by our church, and a couples’ group that promotes growth in our marriage relationship. After 5 � years we are still working on and refining our marriage. We still have conflict, for example, how we should handle some details of our finances or how we should discipline our children.

We may not always agree but we have the commitment to just keep working through it with the support of others around us.

Reap the Rewards

If you are willing to do the work, you will experience aliveness and adventure that your diverse backgrounds bring together. I have come to realize there is nothing like a crimson sunset on a northern lake or the adrenaline rush of a big pike on the end of your line. My husband will tell you that there is nothing like watching that same sunset touch 3 oceans off the southern coast of India or eating fish curry so spicy he is still sweating from it. You can choose the best of both worlds without losing your individuality and what is most vital to you.

Next Steps

If you are struggling with conflict due to differences in your relationships and want to experience connectedness and adventure, seek out supportfrom others around you, join a group, or call me for a free phone consultation.

Copyright ©  2006 The Suburban Woman of the Northwest Suburbs. Used by permission.

Shoji Mary Boldt, is a Licensed ClinicalProfessional Counselor who has a wealth of experience in adolescent and family counseling.She has a passion for helping women,couples and families attain healing and wholeness.She has a diverse background that has developed her heart for those struggling withmulti-cultural issues. Her life is a witness to how God uses adversity to build character.She is also balancing the joys and challenges of motherhood in caring for her 2-year-old daughter Priya and herinfant son Stephen. Her husband Ryan is a Community Pastor at Willow Creek Community Church.

You may contact Shoji at:

or through the Awakenings Counseling Center, 236 Northwest Highway Suite 204, Barrington, IL 60010, 847-277-9681

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