Tale of 2 States: How Marriage Counselling Can Bridge Differences In Multicultural Marriage
Can Love Survive Cultural Differences?
With Marriage Counselling, It Can!
India is a land of diverse cultures. Every culture has its own set of values, traditions, and beliefs which play a drastic role in shaping a person’s personality and life. In the context of marriage and relationships, culture is often seen as a dealbreaker. For many centuries inter-caste marriage was frowned upon, even seen as an evil act or taboo.
Fortunately, that scene is changing. People are more open to the idea of cross-cultural marriages. On one side it is refreshing to see that love is winning over cultural differences, one cannot deny the fact that it comes with its own set of challenges and obstacles.
In this article we explore some of the most common issues in a cross-cultural marriage, and how marriage counselling can help couples navigate them and emerge stronger together.
How Does Culture Affect Marriage?
Jatin and I come from completely opposite cultures. At first, we were adamant in believing that these differences would not affect us in any way. However, as our marriage progressed many conflicts erupted between us, especially after having kids. I felt that my culture was not practiced enough while he was of the opinion that his religious values should be prioritized.
Kalpana’s honest confession about her cross-cultural marriage highlights the profound impact of cultural differences on the dynamics and challenges faced by couples.
Here are some common barriers and issues that can surface in cross-cultural relationships:
Communication styles: Communication patterns and expectations vary across cultures. Language barriers, different communication styles, and varying non-verbal cues can lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations. Couples may struggle to effectively express their needs, resolve conflicts, or even understand each other’s perspectives, which can strain the relationship.
Gender roles and expectations: Cultures often have different expectations regarding gender roles within marriage. In some cultures, traditional gender roles are deeply ingrained, while others promote more egalitarian values. Differences in expectations regarding household responsibilities, child-rearing, and decision-making can create tension and conflicts if not addressed and negotiated.
Family dynamics: The role of extended family and the level of involvement in a couple’s life can vary significantly between cultures. In some cultures, the extended family plays a central role, and decisions are made collectively, while in others, individual autonomy is highly valued. Balancing the expectations and demands of extended family members, managing cultural obligations, and finding a middle ground between different family dynamics can be challenging.
For instance, Radhika and Martin declared their marriage as a huge mistake simply because their family values were poles apart. Radhika who was born and brought up in a big Indian family expected Martin to build the same rapport with her family members.
Now, Martin preferred being private and quiet and did not see the need to constantly involve everyone in everything. Gradually these differing family values started drifting them apart until they found a middle ground in marriage counselling.
Religious and spiritual beliefs: Religion and spirituality are deeply rooted in culture and can significantly impact a cross-cultural marriage. Differences in religious beliefs, rituals, and practices may require compromises, understanding, and respect for each other’s faith. Interfaith marriages can face unique challenges related to religious ceremonies, raising children with different religious backgrounds, and navigating cultural celebrations.
Social norms and taboos: Cultural norms and taboos surrounding topics such as sexuality, intimacy, and personal boundaries can affect the dynamics of a cross-cultural marriage. Expectations and comfort levels regarding public displays of affection, privacy, and openness about sensitive issues may differ, leading to potential conflicts and misunderstandings.
Values and priorities: Cultural values and priorities, such as individualism versus collectivism, materialism versus simplicity, or career focus versus family focus, can impact the couple’s goals and aspirations. Divergent cultural values can lead to disagreements about lifestyle choices, financial decisions, and long-term plans.
Identity and belonging: In a cross-cultural marriage, individuals may struggle with their sense of identity and belonging. They may face challenges in integrating into a new cultural environment, adapting to new social norms, and reconciling their cultural heritage with their partner’s culture. This can lead to feelings of isolation, cultural identity crisis, and a sense of not fully belonging to either culture.
“Everyone had their set groups in the mosque. I felt like I had grown an extra pair of eyes every time I would go there. It was awkward and lonely. I missed my people and wondered if I had made a huge mistake by doing intercaste marriage. Fortunately, I had my husband’s support and gradually it got better. I found my place and even made genuine social connections” says Mahima.
How Does Marriage Counselling Help In Sorting These Differences?
Marriage counselling aims at bridging the gap between couples who come from different religious or cultural backgrounds. Many couples opt for marriage counselling because it offers an unbiased and non-judgmental space, and gives them an objective perspective of their problems.
Here are some ways in which Marriage counselling fosters stronger and happier inter-caste marriages:
Facilitating communication: Marriage counselors create a safe and neutral space for couples to openly express their thoughts, emotions, and concerns related to cultural differences. They help improve communication by teaching effective communication techniques, and active listening skills, and promoting empathy and understanding between partners.
Increasing cultural awareness: Marriage counselors can educate couples about each other’s cultural backgrounds, values, and norms. This increased awareness helps couples develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for their partner’s cultural perspectives, reducing misunderstandings.
Providing a neutral perspective: Marriage counselors can offer an unbiased and objective viewpoint, allowing couples to gain insight into their own biases, assumptions, and cultural expectations. By highlighting the influence of culture on their relationship dynamics, counselors can help couples identify areas of potential conflict and work towards finding mutually acceptable solutions.
Mediating conflicts: Cultural differences can lead to conflicts and power struggles within a relationship. Marriage counselors act as mediators, helping couples navigate these conflicts by facilitating compromise, negotiation, and finding common ground. They assist couples in developing strategies to address cultural differences constructively and avoid unhealthy patterns of communication and behavior.
Developing coping strategies: Marriage counseling equips couples with practical tools and coping strategies to manage the challenges arising from cultural differences. Counselors can help couples explore creative solutions, establish shared values and priorities, and develop adaptive ways of integrating their cultural backgrounds into their relationships.
Building cultural competence: Marriage counselling can foster the development of cultural competence within the couple. By promoting open-mindedness, respect, and appreciation for each other’s cultural perspectives, couples can build a foundation of cultural competence that supports their relationship’s growth and resilience.
Providing a supportive environment: Cultural differences can sometimes lead to feelings of isolation or frustration within a relationship. Marriage counselling offers a supportive environment where couples can share their experiences, concerns, and emotions without judgment. This validation and support can strengthen the couple’s bond and help them navigate the challenges of cross-cultural marriage.
It’s important to note that the effectiveness of marriage counselling depends on the willingness and commitment of both partners to actively engage in the therapeutic process. By working collaboratively with a skilled marriage counselor, couples can address the cultural differences causing tension and conflicts, fostering understanding, respect, and harmony in their relationship.
Tale of Two States: A Real-life Case Study of Cross-Cultural Marriage
It is crazy how we believe that India is a progressive country, but still, we find ourselves stuck in orthodox beliefs and values. I suffered the brunt of these beliefs when I fell in love with a man who belonged to a different caste.
My father sat me down and gave me a detailed pep talk. He assured me that he was not against our relationship. He was only concerned about the challenges that come with an intercaste marriage. In my heart, I knew that he was making a lot of sense but I was consumed by the power of love so I reassured him that Vivek and I were ready to face it all.
The entire journey of getting married was not easy. Convincing the parents, convincing the extended family members, and then convincing the neighborhood aunt who would pretend to be blind only so she could avoid us.
It was mentally exhausting but Vivek and I were not ready to give up on each other yet. Miraculously things worked out and we got married in a small and quiet ceremony.
The real battle started after we got hitched. And this one was more tough because it was not us v/s others, but me v/s Vivek. It was not smooth sailing. We had constant arguments about each other’s values, religious practices, family interference, expectations, and the tirelessly endless list of problems.
My father’s words echoed in my head, ‘Love is never enough’. Was he right? Love had taken a backseat in our marriage. It was a constant power struggle and we both were getting weary of it.
But we were not ready to give up on each other. After all, we had been through hell and back to get married. And so, we decided to go for marriage counselling. It was not an easy decision because of all the stereotypes attached to it. We shrugged off these stone age thoughts and went for marriage counselling.
For the first time in my life I could actually speak my mind without the fear of being judged. I had discussed my problems with my family but there were always some or the other bias and loud opinions. But in marriage counselling Vivek and I could be raw, honest, and transparent with each other.
Marriage Counselling changed the way we communicated with each other. Instead of being defensive, we learned to accept each other’s perspective and create a safe space for each other. It helped us to become more mindful and respectful of each other’s culture.
By the end of Marriage Counselling at the Holistic Living Wellness Studio, our relationship improved drastically. The love, affection and care we had once shared came back two folds! We can now tackle these difference without letting it hamper our connection.
Cross-cultural marriages are a beautiful amalgamation of diverse cultures, but they also require intentional effort and understanding to thrive. Marriage counselling provides a valuable resource for couples to navigate the complexities of cultural differences, fostering effective communication, cultural competence, conflict resolution, and personal growth.
By seeking marriage counselling, couples can build strong, resilient relationships that celebrate their unique cultural backgrounds while nurturing love, respect, and harmony.