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Cross Cultural Marriage and Relationships

Marrying someone from another country

In the following article Vince Appleby, the staff writer at International Pen Pal, looks at starting a cross cultural relationship or cross cultural marriage and the pitfalls and benefits of such relationships. Whether you are a Christian marrying into an Arab family abroad, a man seeking a woman from an other Latin country, to give two examples, or even if you are just moving to another country to work, the cross cultural perspective here should be of interest to you.


So, can cross cultural marriage with people from other countries work? Well yes of course cross cultural marriage can work, but there are both advantages and disadvantages to think about when considering starting a relationship with someone from a different culture or country. It all depends on what you expect when marrying someone from another country and whether that someone can give you what you expect -- and whether you can meet their expectations too, of course. Not to mention an awareness of cross cultural differences, perspectives and issues. Some of these cross cultural issues apply, and in differing ways, to online pen pals relationships, but this article will concentrate on cross cultural dating relationships, that is cross cultural relationships that can lead to long term commitments such as marriage.

To begin with, whether any cross cultural marriage or relationship works or not depends first and foremost on the individual personalities of the people in the relationship, their communication skills, and not on their culture or country. However, culture and country can have an influence on the relationship. For example, if someone from a particular culture has a certain perspective or expectation of a marriage relationship (which expectations come from the way they have brought up and what they have been led to expect from such a relationship) then that will be bound to affect the cross cultural relationship, however slightly. On the whole though, relationships depend upon the people in them, not where those people live or the country or culture they come from.

Starting a cross cultural relationship with someone from another country or even inside your own country can be very exciting. If you are a man you may feel as if you are dating all the beautiful women in that country, or perhaps one of the finest examples of a beautiful girl which that country can offer. A word of caution here. Relationships work at the individual level, so your relationship must be based on how well you get on with the personality of the individual girl concerned, whether there is communication between you, and not the fact that she is either a) beautiful or b) from a certain country, culture or background.

Nevertheless, even allowing for this, a cross cultural marriage or similar love relationship can be extremely exciting. The cultural background, visits to the other country, the language of the country and learning to speak it, the different habits and ways of doing and saying things that people from other cultures have, are all very exciting indeed. A relationship can feed off these cross cultural differences -- tempered with understanding, communication and awareness -- for some time, even for years. But as mentioned above, in the end any cross cultural marriage type relationship must be founded on the same things all successful relationships are founded on, such as trust, mutual respect and understanding.

So what of the disadvantages of a cross cultural marriage or love relationship with someone from another country or cultural background? The obvious one that still needs stating is that if your relationship is to exist on a face to face level then one of you must live in the other's country. Aside from the practical problems of securing visas, resident status, moving to another country and so on, there are important emotional concerns here. Living in another country is exciting for the first year or two, but what happens when homesickness grows to the extent that you've had enough and just want to go home?

No matter how much you love your husband or wife, no matter how high your level of cross cultural awareness, cross cultural communication and respect for differences, that longing for your home country will still be there. Of course this homesickness factor is reduced in some people and magnified in others, depending on their personal history and what their home country means to them. Some do find though that after a few years the ongoing background strain of living in what will always be at root an unfamilar and alien country or culture becomes too much. Holidays and visits back home are not enough (not to mention the ongoing cost of them) and the distance from family becomes too great. Cracks in the relationship then often lead to separation and a moving back to the home country, whereas such 'cracks' might have been successfully healed in a situation where both partners are living in their home country.

Sometimes we have no control over who we begin a love relationship with, it seems to just happen when we meet someone new or begin an online relationship, and blossoms quickly out of our control. But if you are actually planning to find and begin a cross cultural marriage or love relationship -- because you love a particular foreign country and find it an exciting place to visit or work, for example -- then you must go into this process with your eyes open, fully aware of the pitfalls as well as the advantages.

You must be prepared to live abroad if that's the way your cross cultural marriage turns out, limiting yourself to visits home and the possibility of not seeing family or close friends for long stretches at a time. And you must really be prepared to do these things, not just tell yourself that you are, because you are in love. Love changes over time, the initial excitement changes into a deep-rooted mutual respect, a different type of love, in the best relationships. In others it simply melts away. So be prepared, go in with your eyes open, be clear what your family and roots mean to you before you are prepared to leave them.

 

Copyright 2005 Vince Appleby ( )


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