Cultural Differences In Your Relationship 

This posting is a beginning discussion of differences people might bring into their relationships.  Other postings will address class, education, religious, and geographic differences.  There are some common ways to address these differences, and some require special handling.  You should have your therapist help you sort out how best to proceed.

The saying goes, “Loves Conquers All.”  Maybe.  Cultural differences can be sharp and fraught with conflict.  They can extend to all areas of a relationship.  These differences may say that each partner should do this or that.  In heterosexual relationships, a person’s culture might say that women should do this and men that.  Most often, it means that men should run things and women follow along; men should be the primary breadwinner (even in these days!) and women shouldn’t work or work for household money only.

At a minimum, if you’re contemplating a relationship with a person with such sharply defined ideas, you should agree to those concepts before you proceed into legally and religiously binding arrangements.  You should know what the score is: don’t expect the person to change.

These differences may foretell your possible conflicts over children, including what girls and boys should do with their lives, how they dress, what they eat, and how to discipline them.  Again, if the differences are great, you should know them beforehand and whether they can be bridged.  This is especially true if there is a chance children may be taken out of the country by one partner.

These differences may extend to how you deal with in-laws and other relatives.  Are there culturally defined expectations as to how you’re supposed to behave and dress and where you live and next to whom you sit at family events?  Be wise and know beforehand.

In addition, there are more subtle differences.  You may fight over how your house looks—styles of decorating, neatness, what kinds of pictures and where.  You may fight over what foods you eat and when.  You may fight over how you talk to each other.  First stages of love aren’t necessarily a guide to how it might work later, especially when stresses are involved.

You can work to overcome these differences.  Bring them up, bring them to your therapist, and work on them.  Having differences can be enriching; they shouldn’t be threatening.

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